By Cecilio S. Galosmo
Bible preaching involves teaching all of God’s word. In fact, God’s word clearly sets forth that at times there must be negative preaching in order that the positive may take place. There can be no doubt that exposing error is preaching the gospel as is the presenting of the positive precepts of God’s word, and he who fails or refuses to do it fails to declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20.27). This fact is undeniably proven by the following Scriptures.
God’s Instruction to the First Man
The very first instruction from God to man was in the form of “Thou shalt and thou shall not.” The first man had positive things to do. “And the Lord God took the Man, and put him in the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Gen. 2:15). Then came the negative instruction: “But the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17).
God’s Commission to Jeremiah
The Old Testament prophets were spirit-guided preachers. Please notice the scale between the negative and positive preaching in God’s commission to Jeremiah: “See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build and to plant” (Jer. 1:10). In this verse are found six terms: four negative and two positive. That is two-thirds negative and one-third positive. This is the same process that preachers must need to use in preaching and teaching the truth and dealing with error.
Paul’s Instruction to Timothy
Interestingly, this same scale obtains in Paul’s instruction to Timothy, another evidence for the need for balanced preaching. “Preach the word, be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2). This verse contains three terms. Two negative and one positive. So both the negative and positive types of preaching are necessary to carry out the Lord’s orders. Unfortunately there some preachers who spend two-thirds of their time, or maybe more, in negative preaching, not in fighting error though but those who expose it! Often gospel preachers think they can convince others of their soundness when they fellowship and/or compromise with error, and fraternize with those who espouse error while destructively criticizing those who expose error! They don’t believe in criticizing the denominations, but they criticize those who criticize the denominations. Some think the credentials of their soundness as gospel preachers are how long they have been preaching and how well-known they are in the brotherhood. A sound gospel preacher is not measured by how long he has been preaching or by his popularity among brethren. Soundness is determined whether he preaches the truth or not! Often, the most popular preachers are just that because they carry on a public relations campaign among the brethren; promoting themselves and standing for almost nothing. “He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips” (Prov. 20:19; 11:13). Some brethren will swallow just about anything he preaches. We must not “think of men above that which is written” (1 Cor. 4:6). Our love for men must not overrule our love for the truth.
Preachers Should Be Balanced in Preaching
1. Must Be Combatant “Soldiers of the Cross.” Those non-combative “soldiers of the cross who have, more sympathy for the espouser of error than for the exposer of it need to spend more time taking inventory of their own preaching. You better check to see if they are following the divine pattern for preaching the gospel.
I grew up and lived with my parents on a farm, before coming to Manila for my college education. I remember before we planted the seeds, it took more time and energy to clear a new ground of the trees, stumps, briers, and noxious weeds in order to be much more pleasant in planting the seeds. The same is true the spiritual realm. It is much harder and far more unpleasant and time consuming to unteach people of their error than to teach the truth. It is foolish to even think of going into an uncleared new ground and planting seed without first clearing it. It is worse than ridiculous to think of implanting the positive truth of God’s word in the heart of men still infested with moral and religious errors (Luke 8:14).
In the early centuries of this era, the church accepted people from false religious without clearing the new ground of the noxious weeds and thorns of paganism. Once the Roman emperor Constantine came to power (A.D. 321) and “accepted” the “Christian religion,” unconverted well-to-do pagans poured into the church by the thousands to be members of the same church that the emperor belonged. Pagan temples were turned into church buildings. Some of the pagan idols remained in place, and are still there today in another form — the result of that apostasy, namely the Catholic Church. I am sure there was much rejoicing over the “growth of the church”! But we must realize that not all growth is good — it may just be a swelling from infection! Growth is good only when it is the result of sowing the certified seed of the kingdom, the word of God (Luke 8:11; Gal. 1:11).
In our time the refusal to unteach denominational people by exposing their errors in the light of truth admits into the church half-converted persons. Pacifist preaching does not teach people essential gospel truths, but makes them feel good where they currently are. It does not take people from where they are to where they ought to be. Some say to stop opposing error and “let it die a natural death.” Brethren, error doesn’t die! It has to be killed with the sword of the Spirit. This is the point I am driving at. Many members of the church have come out of denominational backgrounds. They were never untaught, so they still cling to these concepts. In time, these people will become elders, deacons, Bible class teachers, preachers, etc. The consequences of such are obvious. A gospel preacher must learn what David said, “Through thy precepts I get understanding, therefore I hate every false way” (Ps. 119:104). “Therefore, I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way” (Ps. 119:128). Like David, gospel preachers must also hate every false way “because it leads into the broad way that leads to destruction” (Matt. 7:13-14). And that hate should motivate all of us to love people enough to teach them out of false ways by every right means in the interest of their salvation. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11). It’s not enough just to refuse to fellowship them, but we are commanded to reprove them. Nobody can declare the whole counsel of God and obey only half of it.
2. Truth Must Be Properly Presented. If one preaches the gospel, it certainly will not let anyone alone. In fact, nobody. Every part of it will “hit” someone, be he a Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal, Adventist, Baptist, Iglesia ni Cristo, drunkard, fornicator, etc. We have to live with these people. If we follow this pacifist principle, we will live with them in hell. Jesus preached the truth and drove away multitudes, even some of his disciples. “From that time many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him” (John 6:66). “Many therefore of his disciples when they had heard this said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” (John 6:60). If we preach the same gospel as did Jesus, can we expect a different result? If the truth properly presented drives people away, there is nothing we can do about it. We did not manufacture the truth and can do nothing that will alter it. “For we can do nothing against the truth but for the truth” (2 Cor. 13:8).
3. Never Compromise Truth. Although this is God’s plan, modernists (and even some of our own brethren) ridicule this arrangement. They do not want us to use this arrangement in preaching. They want us to be positive in our preaching. “Let’s preach love and grace and mercy.” But where does this positive approach lead? It leads to compromise. Yet Jesus our example, never compromised truth. In Matthew 15:1-9, as you can see reading the Scripture, Jesus was not only negative, but would be considered harsh in his denunciation of these people. In fact, his disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” (Matt. 15:12). This would have been an excellent opportunity for Jesus to have corrected himself by telling the Pharisees that he should not have been so harsh. But that would have compromised the truth. Instead we read, “But He answered and said, ‘Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone, they are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (Matt. 15:13-14). Truth and error are like water and oil — they do not mix. We must follow Jesus’ example: We must “root-out” error and plant truth in its place.
Warning And Explanation
Let me make something clear, before closing this article. I am not encouraging a mean spirit or the use of hateful language or vitriolic language. Arrogance has no place in the pulpit. We are to preach with longsuffering and teach ing (2 Tim. 4:2). We should not throw caution to the wind and use the pulpit of the Lord’s church to insult, belittle, or embarrass people in error, but with patience, love and gentleness, we should use every effort and right means to teach them. In light of this, please read 2 Thessalonians 2. What we want to do is convert them to Christ. We must be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves (Matt. 10: 16). The seasoned preacher will use good judgment in this and will know when and how to do it to the greatest advantage.
A preacher has upon his shoulders the heaviest responsibility ever borne by human beings because by using the wrong tactic he can lose his soul and that of his hearers. It should always be done with kindness. The pulpit is no place for the preacher to stroke his own ego or take unfair advantage of his hearers. Preaching is serious work. Any blunder or instance of poor judgment can endanger his soul and that of his hearers (1 Tim. 4:16). Preachers must give attention to the fact that when Paul told Timothy to “reprove, rebuke and exhort” he also told him to do it with all long-suffering and doctrine. It is easy to emphasize the first part of the verse and overlook the last part.
All error is serious and must be opposed and exposed at all costs. Error does not lead to heaven. If it did, the Bible would be a worthless book fit for the shredder or the dumpster. Jesus said, “He shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). I ask you candidly, what does that say about error? Error will damn the soul, and he who thinks exposing error manifests a lack of love for the person in error has a convoluted concept of love. That is like saying that saving a neighbor from a burning house manifests a lack of love for one’s neighbor!
(Reprinted from The Sword & Shield, I, 3 [Aug.-Sept.-Oct. 1999] 54-55, 61; edited by Lordy G. Salunga, P.O. Box 6, Tarlac City 2300, Tarlac, Republic of the Philippines.)