By Connie W. Adams
The church at Sardis had a reputation which did not match reality. “Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God” (Rev. 3:1-2). They still had a few names there which had “not defiled their garments” and were “worthy” (v. 4) but these were the exception and did not reflect the general state of that congregation.
Like Sardis, many a congregation has been praised and held in honor for its great work for the Lord, only to have many who have defiled their garments and who are the harbingers of death for well respected churches. In these same churches there are often found a few godly people who are trying their best to do the will of God. Indeed, they are worthy.
Preaching to Ourselves
Some brethren have decided that gospel preaching has minimal effect. They have either shifted their emphasis to personal evangelism, or have reduced the number of occasions annually, and sometimes weekly, when the gospel may be preached. One reason given for abandoning gospel meetings, or for shortening them to two or three days is that we are simply preaching to ourselves. I have been in nearly full-time meeting work for the last twenty-two years and still preach to some who have not obeyed the gospel. These are not as plentiful as I would like to see but still there are some. And they are worth the effort.
But if it were true that we are only preaching to ourselves, and sometimes to the strongest members of the church, is that not important? Do we not need to “strengthen the things which remain”? If a congregation only has a little strength left, should that not be preserved? If it is not, then what will become of those congregations?
Provoking unto Love and Good Works
The Hebrew writer challenged Christians to “consider one another to provoke unto love and good works” (Heb. 10:24). The following verse shows that to be related to their own assembling together. Verse 26 indicates that this would help to avoid willful sin. Verse 30 reminded all that “the Lord shall judge his people.”
1. Elders need to be encouraged and strengthened in doing what is right. All members need to be taught “to esteem them highly in love for their work’s sake” (1 Thess. 5:13). If gospel preaching will work to that end, is it not worth “strengthening the things which remain”?
2. Faithful teachers of the word need to be strengthened in their efforts. No congregation can ever be any stronger than the quality and soundness of the teaching it receives. The word has been taught to faithful men in order that they might teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2). If we have a few good teachers of the word of God in a congregation, are they not worth strengthening? Will not gospel preaching work to that end?
3. In spite of the fact that many have defiled their garments and think and act just like the world around us, there are some who are trying hard not to love the world (1 John. 2:15-17) but to savor the things of God. Their ears and eyes are daily assaulted at school or in the work place with the sights and sounds of the ungodly. They need (help to keep their balance and maintain their purity. Will gospel preaching help to encourage and strengthen them? If so, is it not worth preaching to ourselves?
4. In every congregation there are parents with children from infancy through the late teens who are concerned with training their children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:3-4). Yes, I know some parents have capitulated to the world and its standards and are neglecting to provide the spiritual guidance which is so vital. But all have not done that. I meet a growing number of parents who are deeply concerned with guiding their children through the rapids of godless education and entertainment. That is no small accomplishment. The word of God is still the best source of help they can receive. Is it not worth strengthening what remains in this regard? Why are sermons or classes on the family so eagerly received? For a number of years in meetings I preached at least one sermon on the family and would advertise it for a few nights before doing so. Without exception, that would be the best attended night of the meeting. People need help in this area and they know they do. Should we stop offering this help from the word of God because we are just preaching to ourselves?
5. In nearly every meeting there are gospel preachers who come. There are some within local churches who aspire to preach the gospel. Is it worth the effort to preach to them? I am benefited spiritually when I get to hear some faithful brother preach from the word of God. Old truths are reinforced and new insights are gained in passages of the word. I once took some brethren to hear Roy E. Cogdill. He preached that night on “Baptism.” I admit to being disappointed when he announced his topic. But by the time he was finished I had fresh insights and information on Acts 2:38, Galatians 3:27, 1 Peter 3:21, and other familiar texts and came away with my batteries recharged. If the gospel is God’s power to save, then it must be made known in order for salvation to occur. God’s plan for making it known is that it must be preached. Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-24, Romans 10:8-17. What is wrong with preaching to preachers? This preacher needs to hear it.
Frankly, we don’t have the strength among preachers we ought to have. So much of what is called gospel preaching is weak, indecisive, and rooted more in the philosophies of this world than in the text of what God said in his word. So, do preachers need preaching to? Yes we do. All of us. There are still some Bible preachers around and we need to strengthen that which remains.
So then, my brethren, if we can reach the lost with the gospel, let us do so. If we are in a cycle of history where spiritual concerns are waning, then we must do what we can to maintain our own standing before God, and not only maintain it, but “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). If the faithful do not remain faithful, then how will the gospel reach the rest of the world? “Strengthen the things which remain.”
Guardian of Truth XLI: 23 p. 3-4
December 4, 1997