The Need For Negative Preaching

By Johnie Edwards

God’s laws have always been of “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not.” As God laid down His first set of rules for man to abide by, He said what to do and what not to do. Notice as instructions were given to the first man:

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good, and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Gen. 2:15-17).

The teachings found in the Law of Moses were both positive and negative in nature (Exod. 20). God told Israel that “if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth” (Deut. 28:1). But look at the negative side. “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee” (Deut. 28:15). God simply said, “If you do what I say, I will bless you, but if you fail to do what I say, I will curse you.”

The Truth

There is nothing as important as truth. Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32). The truth has been identified as “thy word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). If men are to be made free from their sins, they must know the truth so they can believe and obey it. Truth must be preached in such a way that those who hear will not have any difficulty in understanding what is required of them in order to please God. There is a great demand for the Lord’s people to take a stand for the truth on every subject. It must be as the apostle Paul wrote the Ephesians, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that he may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness” (Eph. 6:13-14). There are just entirely too many in the church of Christ who don’t have the courage to take a stand for what they really believe to be right-and this is a shame.

What It Means To Stand For The Truth

There is more involved in standing for the truth than many realize. Standing for the truth not only involves preaching the truth on every subject but standing for the truth also demands that there be preaching against things which are sinful in the sight of God! It is one thing not to partake of things which are evil and another thing to reprove them. Paul told the Ephesians, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11). So standing for the truth means to stand for what the Bible teaches and stand against sinful things. One reason a lot of churches are weak today is that they never hear anything condemned.

The Charge To Reprove And Rebuke

The need for negative preaching can be seen in Paul’s charge to gospel preachers as he wrote Timothy. “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word, be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:1-2). Preaching the word involves some reproving and rebuking. The tendency today, among many, is to preach only the things that folks like to hear. If we are not careful, we will be preaching like some people in the Old Testament wanted. They said, “speak unto us smooth things” (Isa. 30:10). One purpose for which God gave us the Scriptures is to reprove us. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

For And Against

Standing for the truth not only involves preaching what we must stand for but likewise what we must stand against. There are things which are sinful and must be, preached against.

(1) We must stand against the wiles of the devil. Satan is out to get us and has been since time began. It is written, “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). It must be preached that giving in to the temptations of sin will cause one to be lost eternally. John wrote:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of the God abideth for ever (1 Jn. 2:15-17).

Worldliness is a threat to the purity of the church and must be preached against so that every generation fully understands what worldliness is all about. Every Christian must realize that if he is worldly, he will not be allowed to go to heaven!

(2) The works of the flesh will keep one out of heaven. How long has it been since you heard a sermon on the works of the flesh and what will happen to one who does such things? Paul gave a long list of sins which will keep one from inheriting the kingdom of God. Please take your Bible and read and study these in detail.

Now the works of the flesh are manifest which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21).

Since these sins will cause one not to inherit the kingdom of God, don’t you see that they must be condemned! As a parent, have you taken the time to talk to your young men and young ladies about such things?

(3) The church must be kept pure. The New Testament presents the church as the body of Christ and is perfect in work, worship, and organization. But man, not being content with God’s scheme of things, has added to the work, worship, and organization of the church. Fun and frolic have been added to the work of the church; instrumental music to the worship, and sponsoring church arrangements to the organization. It is not enough to just preach what the work, worship, and organization must be, but folks need to know that additions or subtractions to God’s will in these areas are sinful! To go beyond the word of God is sin, and Paul said, “For the wages of sin is death. . .” (Rom. 6:23).

(4) The unbeliever is condemned. It must be preached that “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” but please take note of the negative side of this passage. “But he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16).

Surely, you can easily see that positive preaching is good and we must do lots of that, while at the same time, a failure to point out what’s wrong will keep a lot of people out of heaven.

Guardian of Truth XXIX: 9, pp. 261, 277
May 2, 1985