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Preach!

The gospel age began with preaching. To prepare the way for the church John the Baptist preached to the people. How did he preach and what did he say? He told the people to repent of their sins: “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). He confronted false teachers: “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matt. 3:7). He preached hell fire: “He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12). Is this the kind of preaching we are hearing today?

Jesus was a preacher. Like John, He said, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). Like John, He rebuked false teachers: “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:7-9). And, like the Baptizer, He preached on hell. In fact, He said more about it than anyone. He warned about the “damnation of hell” and “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 23:33; 25:41). Do preachers today preach like Jesus?

I understand that we must preach on the love of God. I realize that the gospel is the good news about forgiveness of sins and everlasting salvation. It is true that a preacher can spend so much time rebuking sin and exposing error that he fails to emphasize the mercy of God. But in most pulpits that is not the problem. The other extreme is much more common. Preachers are afraid to preach against sin. They are afraid to deal with controversy. They fear criticism and losing their job. Instead of preaching like the godly prophets of the Old Testament and the Son of God, they crack jokes and tell sob stories. Instead of heeding Paul’s order to “reprove, rebuke, exhort,” they speak “smooth things” that offend no one (II Tim. 4:2; Isa. 30:10). Rather than preaching the Bible, they tell shallow stories and give pep talks.

The attitude of many preachers reminds me of the Jews in Jerusalem who were attacked in Isaiah 22. When their enemies breached the wall, God told them to humble themselves and mourn. The Jews instead called for a celebration and said, “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die” (Isa. 22:13). Today the walls of spiritual Zion have been breached. Worldliness has broken through our defenses. Members are drinking, looking at pornography, and committing fornication and adultery. Yet instead of hearing a Bible sermon that pierces their conscience and calls on them to repent, they love for a preacher to tell them he understands their depression and give them a soothing message that makes them feel better but leaves them comfortable in their sins! The Israelites said never mind danger and death—just think positively and enjoy your day. Today preachers say let’s not talk about sin and judgment because people have enough stress and need encouragement!

The beginning of Jesus’ preaching stressed repentance (Matt. 4:17). One of His last instructions to the disciples was to preach repentance and remission of sins (Luke 24:47). In the last book of the Bible He told five of seven churches to repent (Rev. 2-3).

Preachers, are you preaching like Jesus?

Kerry

West End church of Christ bulletin article for October 16, 2022

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