Failing to Preach Christ (completed)Thursday, March 10, 2005
The reason why preachers must not preach in such a way as to try to be original or philosophical or well thought of is because that is preaching with the wisdom of words. And the result, according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 2 is that the cross of Christ is made of no effect. When preachers try to tone down or water down the gospel message so that it is not an affront to the lost, then preaching that is, as Paul said, in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power is totally absent. That kind of preaching tries to reach the natural man who by nature cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God because he thinks they are foolishness. But without the Spirit and the power of the gospel of the cross of Christ, that natural man will remain in his natural state, and in that state he will go to hell. Does the preacher who is supposed to be a preacher of the gospel want that on his head? Here are the problems with this kind of preaching, according to Charles McIlvaine in his book, Preaching Christ.
"They that hear to be pleased with a show of mind are perhaps gratified. They that come to be elevated in their affections to things above, and to be fed with the bread of heaven, are sorely disappointed. They came to see Jesus. They have seen only that man in the pulpit and his empty abstractions. They asked bread, and he gave them a stone.
"There is much of such wretched work in various degrees; and some people have become, in their appetite, so reduced to it, that if a minister be not of that sort, they turn away from him, as one who is not deep enough for their minds" (p. 19).
John Holt Rice, president of Union Seminary in the earlier part of the 19th century preached in a sermon in 1828, "We want plain Bible preachers - men, who instead of thinking that they have made wonderful discoveries which will cause the pepole to admire their ingenuity, will be self-denying enough to tell them just what is in the Bible, and no more, nor no less." These are words fitly spoken by an American preacher who echoed the Scottish preacher, McIlvaine.
In conclusion, "the task of the pulpit," as Maurice Roberts has written, "is to declare the sinfulness of sin and the one divine remedy for its removal" (The Thought of God, pp. 121-22). He writes further that "there is among all sorts of persons a crying need to take a dose of moral courage. The need is...for more straightforward speaking. It is for more openness. It is for more boldness to call things what they are and to set them in the light of God's Word...This is what every pulpit should be doing. It is the glory of the pulpit that there a man speaks as the interpreter of heaven's mind, no matter what the world may say."
May God grant us mercy for failing to preaching His Son. May He grant us the grace to get it right, and the patience to put up with the consequences from those whom we have probably trained not to hear of Him.