By H.E. Phillips
Various attitudes characterize the preaching of the gospel of Christ. These various attitudes within the pale of the church of our Lord attest to our many failures in carrying out that great commission of Christ. Many of this age “have a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof,” as was in the apostolic days, from such we should turn away (2 Tim. 3:5). Our attitude toward obedience is just as important as the obedience itself. We should be cautious that our motive in obedience be pure, for the secrets of men will be made manifest in the last day.
In suggesting some of the various attitudes that disrupt the preaching of the gospel, permit me to read a verse or two from the Philippian letter. “Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: the one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: but the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:15-17).
Now for some of the attitudes of the church toward preaching the gospel of Christ.
1. Some suppose the gospel to be a philosophical system of teaching to support any religious organization. In this anything that cannot be explained by man’s reason is not considered a part of the gospel. But Paul assures us that the wisdom of the world is foolishness to God (1 Cor. 1:25-27). Certainly, the world’s greatest philosophers were Christ and his apostles, but the gospel of Christ contains much more than just philosophy by which men glory.
The weakness of this attitude is shown in many congregations who insist that “their minister” be a great philosopher. They seem to think that makes a great gospel preacher, but it doesn’t.
2. The attitude that the gospel doesn’t criticize anyone, but only deals with the “love of God. ” These people cry aloud: “Don’t say anything to hurt the feelings of my neighbors and friends.” Brethren, it is virtually impossible for a sound gospel preacher to stay long with a congregation with this attitude. Christ nor his apostles could have preached to them. Stephen would have suffered the same fate with them as he did at the hands of those wicked Jews. We will have something to say about the preachers who soothe such people later in this study. Paul told of such attitudes in his letters to Timothy. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3,4). The sad part is there are too many preachers and elders who will gratify this desire. This attitude is destructive both to the church and the community.
3. To the opposite extreme is that group whose attitude toward the gospel is that one must be feuding with his brethren to be sound and faithful. To those of this group the gospel is a very harsh and abusive system of teaching. These churches do not want a preacher unless he is able to “cuss and fight” in a scriptural (?) way. I have yet to find an example in the Bible where any gospel preacher so abused his charge as to wrangle his brethren in the church continually by abusive language. When Christ was reviled, he reviled not again. The gospel does not necessitate abusive and unkind language.
Do not get the wrong impression in this, the gospel is not a soft compromising system. There is much “fight” in the gospel, and to preach it requires a fight to the end. But this fight is not of a personal nature, but between the powers of darkness and the King of glory. Christ died and gave the gospel because he loved men even though they were in sin. A Christ-like spirit in preaching the gospel is to do so in love for the souls of men, but with not the least idea of compromising with error. The proper attitude of the church should be to preach the gospel in kindness and love, but in a firm, steadfast and uncompromising manner. Denounce sin without partiality or favor, but do not become so arrogant and selfrighteousness as to forget the spirit of Christ.
4. Another attitude is that the gospel is only for the popular and important in a community. So many churches today strive to convert the rich and elite to the neglect of the poor and humble of the community. Surely we should strive to convert all men who will listen to the good news of Christ, but the attitude that some are more important than others in the sight of God is a grave mistake. God, is no respecter of persons, neither should we be. The gospel is of universal application, and the attitude that is limited to a few is wrong. Let us put away this disposition from among us.
5. Some people look at the gospel as a scheme to make money. This attitude has grown out of the emphasis placed upon money in denominational institutions. Many Christians are so much like Israel of old. They want to be like the nations around them. There is a continual effort to copy the attitudes of various denominations.
But I do not believe this is the only or most outstanding reason for this attitude. There are so many tightfisted, selfish and covetous members of the church that there is needed much preaching on this subject. A faithful gospel preacher will preach on that which is lacking in a congregation more than on that part which is well established, as Nehemiah of old did in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (Neh. 1-6). These money-loving church members hate to hear the truth preached regarding giving to the Lord so much that they have cultivated the attitude mentioned here.
Friends, the gospel of Christ is not a money raising scheme, but the power of God unto salvation. However, the gospel demands every Christian to give of his prosperity willingly and regularly, and no one can worship God pleasingly without obeying this requirement.
5. Another attitude – the gopel is negative only. “Thou shalt not” do this or that. Many feel that if they don’t steal, murder, lie, commit adultery, etc., they are all right. Brethren, the gospel is as much positive as it is negative. Jesus said: “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). This is enough to include all that the Father has commanded us to do and also refrain from that which is evil. It is not enough not to do this or that. We must do positively what the Father commands of us.
Many churches have rocked themselves to sleep spiritually by assuring one another that “we do not do this or that. ” As Christ sent word to the church in Sardis: “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (Rev. 3:1), so we might have a name of being alive, but be dead. Let us awake and begin to do the will of the Father. No one will be saved by what he did not do only. This is a very dangerous attitude and should be denounced strongly.
6. Some think the gospel changes with the ages, that is, we today are not obligated to obey as in the early days of the church. Few will admit this, but evidence is too strong to deny it even in the church of the Lord. A few things will illustrate the truth of this statement.
a. The all-sufficiency of the church to do the Lord’s work. In apostolic days the church was the Lord’s only organization to do his work. Now many must have various organizations both within and without the church to do the work of the Lord. The only remedy for this is to forsake every organization that attempts to facilitate the work of the Lord and return to the ancient order, not to continue to blindfold ourselves and make excuses that we are living in a different age. The gospel is a system of teaching to deliver from sin. It is heaven born and cannot be improved upon. Sin is the same, so the gospel must, be the same.
b. The tendency to overlook sin and worldliness in the church. In the days of the apostles the church was taught to put away all who persist to live in sin. Today the church tries to overlook certain sins and even condone it in the eldership and among preachers. If this isn’t an example of the attitude that the gospel must be changed with the change of times, what is it?
7. Many within the precinct of the church have the attitude that the gospel is not complete. Certain things must accompany it to be effective. To this class the gospel does not have the power to attract and convert sinners. All sorts of entertainment conceivable have been added to make the gospel attractive to young people. When they come into the church what have they been converted to, Christ or entertainment? If you want to know, take away the entertainment and see how long they remain. The gospel of Christ doesn’t need one thing to assist it in converting souls to Christ. Just faithfully proclaim it and the results will be conversion to Christ.
8. Another attitude is that much of the gospel is unnecessary. Many congregations over the country are satisfied with first principles of the gospel, and grow weary when the meat is presented. The disposition of many today is “believe, repent, confess and be baptized for the remission of sins and sit down and wait for the Lord to come.” Paul plainly taught us that there is more to the gospel of Christ in its comprehensive sense than first principles. “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat” (Heb. 5:12). Also read verses 13,14. Obedience to the first principles is the beginning, not the finish of Christian service. The gospel is complete to serve the purpose of God. It is not lacking in a single point. Let us contend faithfully for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 19, pp. 589-590
October 5, 1989