By W.R. Jones
Meditating on the preaching of the Master is a most humbling experience. All who preach the gospel or aspire to preach should give careful consideration to his divine pattern. I hope the thoughts that follow will bring a blessing your way.
Our exalted view of Christ the Savior may tend to obscure the fact that he was a preacher while he sojourned below. In Mark 1:14 we read, “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.” Someone remarked, “God had but one Son, and he was a preacher.” Unfortunately, preaching is not held in honor by many people, and some of those are in the Lord’s church. Their mentality toward preaching says, “A man becomes a preacher if he can’t make a living any other way.” A city garbage worker once said to me, “I’m not too good to preach and I’ve sure been thinking about it.” Of course, much of this derision has been brought about by “so-called” preachers who are charlatans in their message and hypocritical in their conduct.
However, if you have a sincere desire to preach the gospel and a reasonable degree of talent, don’t allow these despicable attitudes to discourage you. As a preacher you will be in good company. Jesus our Savior was a preacher. Noah, who built the ark, was a preacher of righteousness. Fearless John, the forerunner of Christ, was a preacher. Peter, the first to confess Christ as the Son of God, was a preacher. The logical, learned and courageous Paul was a preacher. Stephen, who became a martyr for Truth, was a dedicated young preacher. To say nothing of such men as Philip, Timothy and Titus who preached the Word of God. Jesus certainly considered preaching of supreme importance. When Jesus gave the marching orders to carry salvation to the lost, he said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15).
True gospel preaching is the Lord’s chosen method and that of his apostles. Anyone who would dare diminish the importance of preaching should hang his head in tearful shame. Saints of God should pray, “Lord, give us faithful, dedicated, courageous men whose only aim is to preach like Jesus.”
His Preaching Was to Seek and Save the Lost
There is no way to properly understand the preaching of Jesus without a comprehension of his mission. He lived under the Old Testament Law and he came to fulfill it. This he did upon the cross by, “blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:14). But, a far greater mission overshadows everything else. These words tell it all, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10). Again, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). His burning desire was, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). Jesus came to send a fire on earth. “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will 1, if it be already kindled?” (Lk. 12:49) I am impressed with these words from the Fourfold Gospel. “He came to rouse men to spiritual conflict, to kindle a fire in the public mind. The burning of this fire would excite men and stir up their passions and cause division. The opposition of the Pharisees showed that this fire was already kindled.”
Do you want to preach like Jesus? If so, you must be motivated by a burning desire to “seek and save the lost.” Preaching the gospel is not just a job to maintain, it is a mission to fulfill.
The dedicated preacher will not say, “Let me use the Lord and his church to get what I want, ” but “Let the Lord use me to accomplish his mission. ” The first is “self-centered”; the second is not. Our preaching should be motivated by a burning desire to proclaim a message directed to the hearts of men that they may have peace with God and with themselves. With Jeremiah it was a “burning fire,” and so should it be with us (Jer. 20:9)
His Preaching Was Pointed and Certain
Not Muddled and Nebulous
The preaching of Jesus was “relevant” preaching. He dealt with the great enemy of God and man, sin. When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” and “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” it rang with certainty; certainty as to the attainability of truth, the absoluteness of truth and the power of truth (Jn. 14:6; 8:32). Human philosophy seeks to cast us into a sea of indecision, but not so with the preaching of the Master. His preaching was profound in truth, but simple in presentation that all might understand. This is well demonstrated by the many parables he used. His pointed messages could be strong and sharp, yet tender and compassionate. In Matthew 23, he boldly exposed the Pharisces and scribes in no uncertain terms. Words like, hypocrites, child of hell, blind guides, fools, serpents and vipers are not words of ambiguity. On another occasion we hear his tender appeal, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, (thou) that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under (her) wings, and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37)
Do you want to preach like Jesus? If so, you must make the denouncing of sin your major theme. Preaching that spouts forth many words, but doesn’t nail anything down, is not like the Master’s. Our preaching must be kind and compassionate, but it must also be pointed. There is an old East Texas saying which sums it up very well. “You must put the salve where the sore is.” If the sore is on one’s neck and he puts the salve on his elbow, it will not help. I recently read this excerpt, “The tragedy in the church today is that the preacher has stopped meddling and started muddling.” This muddling comes, of course, from a failure to condemn sin and iniquity. Someone has said, “He who trims himself to suit everyone soon whittles himself away.” Jesus,did not preach like this you may be sure. Early into his preaching Jesus met strong opposition from the Jewish leaders. This opposition did not come because the Lord quietly quoted the Old Testament Scriptures, but because he denounced the “traditions of the fathers” which were a perversion of Divine teaching. When preachers “beat around the bush” they will draw very little opposition, but when preaching is pointed, sooner or later, the “sparks will fly.” This is no excuse to use unmerciful crudeness, but we must “put the salve where the sore is.” If we are to emulate Jesus in our preaching, we must show a sharp contrast between truth and error. In morals, we must show a marked contrast between holiness and worldliness. Let our messages be clear, not murky, our sound certain, not muffled. Let us be determined to read nothing into the Will of Christ and read nothing out of his will. I don’t believe anyone ever disturbed men and divided men with their preaching like Jesus did, yet his ultimate aim was to bring men into peace with God. Our preaching should be the same.
I believe gospel preachers should be supported well. Brethren who neglect this responsibility will be judged accordingly. In all the efforts of Jesus, he never put a price tag on his preaching. One preacher is reported to have said, “I never move unless I get a raise in salary.” Another reportedly said, when offered $750.00 per week, “I wouldn’t touch it for less than $850.00.” Does this sound like the preaching of Jesus to you? Preachers should be careful lest they become professional and mercenary.
Jesus never tolerated human doctrines and neither should preachers of our day. His answer to false ways was, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men and . . . Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matt. 15:9,13).
Jesus, the Lamb and the Lion
Jesus is presented in the Scriptures as the “Lamb of God.” “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). “The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth” (Acts 8:32-33). All such passages present him in the light of a sacrifice for ours sins. When personal attacks were made upon him, he did not seek vengeance nor did he retaliate. “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Pet. 2:22-23). Jesus is also pictured as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:4-5). I can especially see the Lion in his preaching. The Lion sprang into action when there was an attack or an abuse of God’s Word. Ample examples of this may be observed in Matthew 23.
Do you want to preach like Jesus? If so, pay little attention to what men say about you, but spring forth with a healthy recoil when they pervert the Word of God. I know some preachers who will fight you to the death if you dare challenge their ideas or criticize their conduct, but false teachers can feed the Word of God to the shredder, so to speak, and they hardly raise a finger in defense. If we are to be faithful gospel preachers, we must keep our priorities straight and our perspectives clear.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 3, pp. 75-77