By Donnie V. Rader
Preaching is important. It helps make us what we are. If we feed upon weak preaching, we will be weak. If we feed upon strong preaching, our lives will correspond to that. If the preaching is out of balance, we can become out of balance as well.
Let’s consider a few points about the preaching that preachers must do and Christians must demand. Why do we need to take note of what Christians demand? It is just as important for Christians to desire the right preaching as it is for preachers to preach it. The kind of preaching that a person wants is what he will find (2 Tim. 4:3). The type preaching that we encourage is the type we want to hear. What we criticize, is what we do not care to hear. While the Christians within a local congregation may not determine what a particular man preaches, they do decide what is preached in their pulpit by the selection of meeting preachers as well as a local man.
Preachers must be sound in their preaching. Christians must demand that preachers proclaim sound doctrine.
1. We are commanded to preach sound doctrine. Paul instructed Timothy to “hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me” (2 Tim. 1:13). Titus was told to “speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1; cf. 1:9; 2:8).
2. What is sound preaching? The word “sound” means “whole or healthy as in being sound in health” (cf. Vine 4:55). Thus, sound preaching is that which is spiritually healthy and wholesome. Paul equates “sound doctrine” with the “gospel” (1 Tim. 1:10-11). Thus, sound preaching is according to the gospel. The book of Titus which focuses on soundness (1:9, 13; 2:1, 2, 8), begins with the basis and standard for soundness: the revelation of God (Titus 1:1-4). Thus, sound doctrine is that which is according to the revelation of God.
3. What does sound doctrine include? It includes any and all that is in the gospel or revelation of God. From the book of Titus we see that it includes such subjects as God’s nature (1:2), eternal life (1:2; 2:23; 3:7), the grace of God (1:3; 2:11-12; 3:4-7), elder’s work and qualifications (1:5-9), refutation of false teaching (1:10-16), personal godliness (2:1-10), home relationships and responsibilities (2:4-5), our speech (2:8), our example (2:7), the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (2:13-14), obedience to civil law (3:1), how to treat others (3:2-8), baptism (3:5), the work of the Holy Spirit (3:5) and dealing with a heretic (3:10).
Elements of Bible Preaching
There are a few things that will be true if a man is giving Bible preaching. This obviously is not an exhaustive list.
1. Preaches the word of God. The faithful man of God must not preach his opinions or his own thinking, but “speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11). Paul said his message was the word of God (1 Thess. 2:13).
It is easy for preachers to think that their words of wisdom and their own strong opinions should be received by their hearers with the same open ears that the gospel is. I have heard a few sermons that gave very little Bible reference. Bible preaching is just that: preaching the Bible!
2. Points to God. Our preaching should point to God as source of all creation (Acts 17:24) and the authority of our lives (Acts 17:30-31). We must point to God as the object of our faith and trust. Paul preached so that his hearer’s faith would not stand in the “wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:2-3). Gospel preaching is not designed to please men, but God (1 mess. 2:4-6).
A sound preacher will convert men to God and not to himself. If his preaching causes men to have more faith in him (the preacher) than in God, it will take very little to destroy that kind of faith.
3. Refutes error. Timothy was charged to “Preach the word. . . convince, rebuke, and exhort…” (2 Tim. 4:2). Titus was to instruct elders to stop the mouths of false teachers and rebuke them sharply (Titus 1:9-13). Bible preaching defends the gospel (Phil. 1:17), at times militantly (Act:17:6). A casual reading of the New Testament will reveal that the Lord and his apostles dealt with the errors of the day (both in and out of the church) and answered the arguments of the false teachers.
4. Reproves sin. Proclaiming the word leaves no room to tolerate sin. Thus, the preacher must reprove (2 Tim. 4:2). Worldliness must be clearly denounced (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19- 21; 1 Pet. 4:3).
5. Leads men to salvation. Preaching must tell men about God’s grace, the sacrifice of Christ and redemption available through his blood (Eph. 2:5, 8, 13, 16). Further-more, it must tell men what to do to obtain salvation by the blood of Christ (Acts 2:22, 36, 38).
6. Instructs in right living. The inspired word instructs in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). Being taught right living is a part of going “on to perfection” (Heb. 6:1) or maturing in the Lord. God’s people must learn about the home, marriage, prayer, worship, personal godliness, honesty and attitudes.
7. Distinctive. Bible preaching will distinguish truth and error. Likewise it must differentiate the Lord’s church and denominationalism.
Preaching (over a period of time, not one sermon) that could be presented in any denomination without objection isn’t Bible preaching. The sermons in Acts 2, 3 ,4, 8 were distinctive enough for men to see that they (though they were religious) needed to change!
8. Demands results. The message that gets results will first demand results. The preaching of Peter and Paul called for repentance (Acts 2:37, 38; 17:30-31). A change of heart and life was demanded.
Application must be made to the people. Peter directed his charges of killing the Son of God to the Jews present on Pentecost. He said “you” have crucified him (Acts 2:21-22). John did the same with Herod (Mark 6:14).
9. With the right attitude. Paul described his behavior among the Thessalonians saying, “But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:7-8).
It is possible for a man to preach the truth and yet do so with an attitude that stinks. His disposition hinders the effect of the gospel. He can take a firm stand and do so with humility. He can rebuke sharply and yet do so with kindness. He can inform and instruct without a know-it-all attitude.
A woman complained to the elders about a sermon on hell. They asked, “Don’t you believe in hell?” “Yes,” she replied. “Don’t you think the preacher should preach on hell?” “Of course,” she said, “But he doesn’t have to sound like he’s glad I’m going there.”
1.There must be balance in our preaching. The whole counsel of God must be taught (Acts 20:27). Paul told Timothy to reprove, rebuke and exhort (2 Tim. 4:2). To fail in any one area will leave our preaching out of balance. Not only must preachers be balanced in what they teach, but churches must also be balanced in the preaching that they demand.
2.It is possible to have an imbalance in either direction. While none among us likes to think that he is not balanced, we all must recognize that it could easily hap-pen.
There are some whose preaching gives a greater emphasis to the “positive” things of the gospel. It isn’t really fair to say their preaching is “all positive,” for everyone who preaches will preach on something “negative” (at least once in a while). What these preachers teach may be true. The problem with this preaching is that it seldom deals with sin, worldliness or the errors of men. That kind of preaching is out of balance for it doesn’t preach the whole counsel of God. The results are that men are left weak and soft and are prepared for a more liberal way of thinking.
On the other hand, there are some whose preaching gives a greater emphasis to the “negative” things of the gospel or “doctrinal” matters. Again, it is unfair to say that their preaching is “all negative” for all of us preach on some things considered “positive.” But, in this preaching, most of the sermons deal with sin, error or some type of rebuke. I have been told before that if every sermon doesn’t step on someone’s toes the preacher is not doing his job. Some may feel that if the preacher is not “blistering britches” every time he mounts the pulpit, he’s getting soft.
Now, brethren, that kind of preaching fails to preach the whole counsel of God and is just as out of balance as the former! I just don’t believe that every time I’m in the pulpit that I have to be giving the brethren (or our denominational friends) a good spanking. Yes, we must deal .with sin, controversy, problems, error, false teachers, etc. The “uncertain sounds” we are hearing among some of our brethren on such subjects as divorce and remarriage, fellowship, the church and the kingdom, the role of women, and the importance of the church coupled with the worldliness that we see suggests that we must sound a warning loud and clear. If not, we are not preaching the whole counsel.
Likewise we must exhort and encourage (2 Tim. 4:2; Heb. 10:24; 6:9; 3:13). There are some subjects that must be dealt with like the nature of God, evidence of the resurrection, qualification of elders, the need for optimism and enthusiasm (in view of the pessimism of the day), the promises of God, how to treat one another and family relationships. If we do not, we are not preaching the whole counsel of God.
Some sermons will simply instruct. They may not have one word of rebuke. Other sermons will encourage while others may contain reproof and rebuke.
When the major thrust of our preaching is what we have just described it results in: (I) people being discouraged and feeling like no one can possibly live right, (2) reproof and rebuke losing its effect. (It’s like giving children a lot of rebuke with little encouragement when they do right. After a while the rebuke loses its effect since they hear rebuke when they do wrong and they hear rebuke when they do right.) and (3) breeding “positive preaching.” How you ask? By imbalance and overdose. People soon tire of it and look for something with a little encouragement.
3. How do we maintain balance in our preaching? By preaching the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). If we try, we can maintain balance.
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: 8 p. 23-24
April 20, 1995