In this passage we see the major characteristics of a sound preaching and teaching ministry.
Few things are more needed in Bible-believing churches today. A sound preaching/teaching ministry is a major part of producing disciples of Jesus Christ and disciplining the church. It is a major part of building godly homes and raising up youth who know and serve Christ.
A really strong, effectual preaching ministry can often build a decent church even when some other things might be lacking. I have seen this many times. I don’t mean to refer to preaching merely as shouting and story telling and reproving. I don’t mean to refer merely to a “good pulpiteer.” I mean preaching that is solidly biblical, with biblical depth, preaching by a man who enriches his messages with a lot of study, both of the Bible and of life in general. but also preaching with zeal, enthusiasm, real exhortation, reproof, and rebuke.
I think of Pastor J.B. Buffington and Calvary Baptist Church of Lakeland, Florida, in its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s. Buffington was a powerful preacher. He was enthusiastic. He was forceful. He reproved and rebuked. But his messages were rich and had a lot of depth. He preached with doctrine. There nothing soft or shallow or frivolous. There was almost no joking around. And his preaching was interesting; he could hold the attention of an audience for long periods of time. The church practiced what I called “Quick Prayerism,” and was not careful about salvation and church membership and was therefore very much a mixed multitude, because Pastor Buffington graduate from Tennessee Temple and followed the Lee Roberson model of church philosophy, and that made the ministry weaker than it could have been, but the strong preaching in itself had tremendously good fruit. That preaching built many good Christian lives and homes. It separated many from the world. Many young people surrendered to Christ in those days and attended Bible college and entered full-time ministry.
How we need good preaching!
2 Timothy 4:1-2 instructs us that there are many necessary elements to an effectual preaching ministry.
Biblical preaching is CONSCIOUS OF GOD’S SOLEMN CHARGE.
The preacher must be conscious of the fact that he will give account to God (2 Ti. 4:1). The call to preach is a solemn obligation that is laid upon him. Paul impressed Timothy in the most imposing manner possible of the seriousness of his calling.
This is the main thing that will keep a preacher straight in his ministry and that will give him the courage to preach the hard things of the Scriptures as well as the “positive” things, to preach the things the people like to hear and the things they don’t like to hear. If a preacher’s eyes are on man, he will compromise.
We see that Christ is coming. He can come at any time, and we must stay alert and not sleep and grow weary in God’s service. We see that Christ is God. He is God manifest in the flesh. He is the only God we will ever see. We see that Christ is Lord. It is impossible to know Him as Saviour without also knowing Him as Lord. We see that Christ is the Judge who will judge the living and the dead. He will judge His people at the Bema and will judge the unbelievers at the Great White Throne. We see that Christ will establish His kingdom. We must look beyond this present world and its follies and keep our eyes on these eternal, future things so that we will live wisely in this present world. We must not compare ourselves with other men; we must compare ourselves with God’s perfect will.
Biblical preaching is CONSCIOUS OF DIVINE AUTHORITY.
The preacher is the spokesman of Jesus Christ. He must not preach his own message; He must preach God’s message. He is not proclaiming his own judgments; he is proclaiming the judgments of God, and as he does this he has God’s authority. He is to preach as the “oracles of God” (1 Pe. 4:11). In Romans 3:2, Paul calls the Scripture “the oracles of God.” The preacher must make sure that he is God’s man with God’s message, then he must preach with “all authority” (Titus 2:15). The preacher is not to make suggestions or to share opinions; he is not to preach with apology and hesitation and uncertainty. He must not soften the effect of God’s Word by jokes and laughter. If a man is not convinced of his call to preach and if he is not convinced of the divine authority of his message, he should not preach. “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (James 3:1). The preacher must not fear the face of man, or God will confound him (Jer. 1:17; Eze. 2:6-8).
2 Timothy 4 plainly implies that a preacher can know the truth for certain and can therefore preach with conviction and authority. Timothy was instructed to study so that he could rightly divide the Word of God (2 Ti. 2:15). He would not have been so instructed if it were not possible to know for sure how to interpret the Scriptures properly. Christ promised that a man can know the truth if he continues in God’s Word (Jn. 8:31-32). It is a promise. John said that the believer has the Holy Spirit as his teacher and that he can know all things (1 John 2:20, 27).
Speaking with authority means the preacher must teach the people to respect God’s Word and God’s messenger. See Neh. 8:2-8. They must be taught to sit quietly and listen carefully, and try to capture a message for their lives. They must be taught to turn off their cell phones, to not talk with their friends, to keep the children quiet, etc.
Biblical preaching is TO PREACH THE WORD OF GOD.
The preacher is not to preach his opinions or extra-biblical traditions or extra-biblical prophecies; he is to preach the Bible. That Book and that Book alone is the God-called preacher’s Textbook.
The preacher must be careful to avoid corruptions of God’s Word, such as translations based on the Egyptian text and translations that use corrupt methodologies such as paraphrases and dynamic equivalencies.
Biblical preaching is TO PREACH ALL OF GOD’S WORD (2 Ti. 4:2).
Timothy was instructed to “preach the word.” Paul did not designate which part of it, because he was referring to the whole Bible. The preacher has no authority to pick and choose what he will preach and what he will not preach. Billy Graham once said that he was only responsible to preach the gospel, but that is not true. Every preacher is responsible to “preach the word,” and those who narrow their message for the sake of a broader fellowship and a wider ministry will give account to God.
Biblical preaching is “INSTANT” (2 Ti. 4:2).
The preaching must be active, aggressive, confrontational, stalwart, unyielding. The Greek word “epistemi” is elsewhere translated “assault” (Acts 17:5), “come unto” (Acts 12:7), “stand by” (Acts 22:20). It means “stand up to it” (Robertson’s Word Pictures). It is used for the Jewish leaders’ confrontation with Jesus (“came upon him,” Lu. 20:1) and the arrest of the disciples (“came upon them,” Acts 4:1; 6:12).
Likewise, the preacher confronts the people with God’s Word. He supports God’s Word before his hearers. He must exercise enthusiasm, energy.
“Men are apt to be drowsy in hearing the Word, and the liveliness of the preacher is a means to stir up the attention of the hearers, and beget suitable affection in them” (Solomon Stoddard, “The Defects of Preachers Reproved,” 1723).
Biblical preaching is to preach “IN SEASON AND OUT OF SEASON” (2 Ti. 4:2).
This refers to preaching when the preaching is popular as well as when it is unpopular, when men want to hear God’s Word and when they don’t.
It refers to preaching when people have gathered for the express purpose of hearing the Word of God and preaching when people are not so gathered. Paul preached in church meetings and he also preached in the marketplaces.
It refers to preaching when the preaching is legal and preaching when it is illegal, when it is safe and when it is dangerous, in times of peace and in times of persecution. We see this example in the ministry of the apostles (Acts 4:19; 5:29). Paul preached when he was free, and he preached when he was bound.
It refers to preaching when there is obvious fruit and preaching when nothing appears to be happening. It was admonitions such as these that kept Adoniram Judson preaching for six years before he saw his first Burmese convert and ten years before he had 18 converts.
It refers to preaching in times of encouragement and preaching in times of discouragement. “It is easy for the preacher to let the attitude of the congregation control him and to allow himself to become discouraged, but he must strengthen himself in the Lord and lift the congregation up” (Bruce Lackey).
Biblical preaching is TO REPROVE (2 Ti. 4:2). This is from the Greek word “elegcho,” which means “to confute, admonish.” It is elsewhere translated “convict” (Jn. 8:9), “convince” (Jn. 8:46), “tell a fault” (Mat. 18:15). It means to show people their false ways and to convince them of the right way of God’s Word. This is a difficult task, because human nature does not like to be told that it is wrong. The natural response to reproof is to become offended and to justify oneself and to lash out at the reprover. Giving reproof implies a responsibility on the part of the preacher to make judgments based on God’s Word about the condition of the people to whom he is preaching. Today the popular cry is “judge not,” but those words in Matthew 7:1 are taken out of context and made to mean that it is not God’s will to judge sin and doctrine, but in Matthew 7:1-5 Christ was warning against hypocritical judgment. He was not saying that the believer cannot judge anything. Elsewhere we are told that the believer is to judge sin and doctrine. In 2 Ti. 4:2, the preacher is commanded to judge things that are wrong and to reprove and rebuke them. In so doing, he is not exercising his own judgment; he is exercising God’s judgment.
Reproof involves proving. It means “to bring to proof” (Robertson’s Word Pictures). The preacher must know the Word of God well enough and be so well informed about the people to whom he is preaching that he can prove to them that what he is saying is true. He disproves error and proves the truth. It involves apologetics. It requires knowledge of whatever error the people might be tempted to follow. It requires a lot of study and preparation.
Biblical preaching is TO REBUKE. This is from the Greek word “epitimao,” which means “to tax upon, to censure, to forbid.” It is also translated “charge” (Lu. 9:21). It means to tell people that that they are wrong; to rebuke them for being in the wrong; to charge them before God that they are wrong and that they are obligated to turn from their error. It is to call people to repentance from sin and error.
This requires plain speaking so that the people know exactly what you are rebuking.
Rebuking is a difficult ministry, but every preacher is obligated to do it and will give account to God if he shuns it.
Rebuke of sin and error requires courage that can only come from God. The fear of God must outweigh the fear of man. The love of God and man must outweigh the love of self.
This is a ministry that is contrary to the prevailing philosophy of the hour.
Rebuke is contrary to humanistic psychology, which seeks to build self-esteem and avoids anything degrading of self-esteem. The very popular Robert Schuller said that Christianity “must cease to be a negative religion and must become positive” (Self-Esteem: The New Reformation, p. 104). He said that it is damaging to call people sinners. He said, “I have no right to ever preach a sermon or write an article that would offend the self-respect and violate the self-dignity of a listener or reader.”
Rebuke is contrary to New Evangelicalism, which avoids the negatives and focuses on the positive. It avoids “dealing with personalities.” Typically, it deals with sin and error only in generalities.
Rebuke is contrary to the relativistic, judge-not philosophy of modern secular society.
Rebuke is contrary to feminism. It is amazing how dramatically feminist thinking has permeated society and even influenced Bible-believing churches. This has resulted in a softening effect even on the military. A masculine approach is not wanted. Strong discipline is not understood or appreciated, not even in a military boot camp. Typically, the female way is not the way of rebuke and chastening but the way of finding more gentle ways of discipline. Why rebuke, she thinks, when you can deal with things in a softer way? But rebuke is what God’s Word calls for.
The feminization effect has resulted in a softening of the preaching and the militant stance of the church. God is a “man of war,” but very few preachers are. Christ took on the Herodians, the lawyers, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees, and Paul took on every heretic that raised his head, but such zeal is foreign to most so-called preachers. Martin Luther who took on Rome and called the pope the antichrist and the pope’s bull “all impiety, blasphemy, ignorance, impudence, hypocrisy, lying.” Charles Spurgeon took on the Baptist Union and railed against “soft manners and squeamish words” in the pulpit, and called for “dinging our pulpits into blads” [break them into pieces]. Gilbert Tennent took on the Presbyterians of his day, lifting his voice in 1740 in the midst of a synod to warn that many preachers were unregenerate and calling them “rotten-hearted hypocrites, and utter strangers to the saving knowledge of God and of their own hearts” (Joseph Tracy, The Great Awakening, 1842). All of these men got into plenty of trouble for their ministry of rebuke.
This type of boldness is entirely unknown among convention Baptists, and it is exceedingly rare among fundamental Baptists. The protest has long gone out of most Protestants, and the “fundamentalism” has largely gone out of fundamentalists.
But whether people like it or not, the preacher’s job is to preach the Word of God without compromise and without narrowing down and softening the message. Compromising, soft-peddling preachers are responsible for the downgrade in the level of holiness in the churches. It was the same in Jeremiah’s day.
“Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land. ... I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings” (Jer. 23:15, 21-22).
Observe that it was because of the compromise of the prophets that profaneness had gone forth into all the land. God held the preachers responsible. They were the well-spring of profaneness. Jeremiah says that the true prophet will turn the people from their evil ways. That is still the mark of a God-called preacher.
Consider the preaching of the ancient prophet Enoch,
“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 1:14-15).
Observe that Enoch was preaching about conditions that will exist in the world before Jesus returns. He is preaching about our day! And that is exactly the kind of preaching we need. We don’t need soft, ear-tickling teaching; we need the “reproofs of instruction” that will turn us away from evil and keep us hedged into the narrow way of the truth (Proverbs 6:23).
To be effective, rebuke has to be plain and forthright. All of the preachers in the Bible were plain spoken. Paul said, “... we use great plainness of speech” (2 Co. 3:12). Bible preachers condemned sin plainly; they rebuked error unhesitatingly. Consider Jesus’ message to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:13-33. Consider Paul’s description of false teachers; in 1 and 2 Timothy alone he named the names of false teachers and compromisers 10 times (1 Ti. 1:20; 2 Ti. 1:15; 2:17; 3:8; 4:10, 14). Consider Peter’s description of false teachers (2 Peter 2). Consider James’s rebuke of worldliness (Jas. 4:4).
The leaders of the First Great Awakening in America in the early 18th century complained that most of the preaching was soft and did not awaken the sinners to their plight. In contrast, the revivalists preached with great plainness and reproof. Consider the following excerpt from Gilbert Tennent’s “Solemn Warning,” 1735:
Awake, Awake Sinners, stand up and look where you are hastning, least you drink of the Hand of the Lord, the Dregs of the Cup of his Fury; the Cup of trembling, and wring them out, Isai. 51.17.
Awake ye Drunkards, and weep and howl, Joel 1.5. For what can ye expect (so continuing) but to drink of that Cup of Trembling I but now mention’d. Awake ye profane Swearers, and remember ye will not get a drop of Water to cool your cursing cursed Tongues in Hell, when they and you shall flame in the broad burning Lake, Luke 16.24. God has said he will not hold you Guiltless, that take his Name in vain, Exod 20.7.
Awake ye unclean Adulterers, and Whoremongers, and remember that without a speedy Repentance, your dismal abode shall be ever with unclean Devils, the Soul of a God shall be avenged upon you, Jer. 5.8, 29.
Awake ye Sabbath-Breakers, and reform; or God will break you upon the Wheels of his Vengeance, and torture you eternally upon the Rack of his Justice, Neham. 13.16, 17, 18. And let all other sorts of profane Sinners be entreated to awake out of Sleep and consider their Danger.
Awake ye covetous griping Nabals, and read what the Apostle James says to you, Chap 5. 1 to 6. Go to now, ye rich Men, weep and howl for the Miseries that shall come upon you. The Rust of your Gold and Silver shall be a Witness against you. Ye have lived in Pleasure upon Earth, and been wanton, you have nourished your Hearts as in a Day of Slaughter. Here we may Note by the Way, that those who live like Beasts here, and will not be induc’d by any Perswasive to repent, reform and act like Men, shall howl like Beasts hereafter, without being heard or pitied, 1 Co. 16.13. Pr. 1.26.
Awake ye secure Moralists, and lifeless, sapless Formalists, who are Strangers to the Power of experimental Religion: Remember your shadowy Appearances, can’t deceive the Rein trying God, Ga. 6.7. Nor your dry Leaves of husky spiritless Duties, secure your guilty Souls, from an astonishing overwhelming Inundation of his high and terrible Displeasure, Mat. 5.20.
Awake every of you that are yet in a Christless unconvinced State! Are you not asham’d to sleep all the Day in Sloth, while some are trembling, troubled and distress’d about their Souls, who are not greater Sinners than your selves? Nay, perhaps not near so great; what sleep? while others are crying Night and Day with Tears, and heavy Groans to God, for pardoning Mercy, who have no more precious Souls than you. Sleep! While others are labouring hard and taking Heaven by Storm! What sleep! While some are travelling fast to the heavenly Jerusalem, and rejoicing in the Way with Joy unspeakable and glorious. What will ye draw the Curtains of a carnal Security, and false Hope about you, and sleep to Death and Hell, even when the meridian Sun of the Gospel shines full in your Face, and Life and Immortality is brought to Light, and God, and Christ, his Ministers, Word, Providences, and your own Consciences, are ringing a loud Alarm, a Peal of Thunder in your Ears to awake you: That you may consider your Ways, and turn your Feet to God’s Testimonies. Will you sleep with Fire in your Bosoms? (the unpardon’d Guilt of Sin) with the Curse of God upon your Souls, the Heavens frowning upon you, and shut against you, the burden’d Earth travelling under you, and Hell yawning wide to devour and consume you I Mayn’t I say to you as Moses to Israel, Deut. 29.4. Yet the Lord hath not given you a Heart to perceive, and Eyes to see, and Ears to hear, unto this Day. O! Is it not to be fear’d that God in Justice has left you to a Spirit of Slumber? Because you shut your Eyes against the Light, John 3. That you should sleep and never awake. Jer. 51.57. And I will make drunk her Princes, and her wise Men, and her Rulers, and her mighty Men; and they shall sleep a perpetual Sleep, and not awake, saith the King, whose Name is the Lord of Hosts. Pr. 6. 9. How long wilt thou sleep, O Sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy Sleep?
The preaching must warn about judgment and damnation. Consider another example of the First Great Awakening:
“... if sinners don’t hear often of judgment and damnation few will be converted. Many men are in deep sleep and flatter themselves as if there was no hell, or at least that God will not deal so harshly with them as to damn them. Psal. 36:2. He flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful. They need to be told of the terrors of the Lord, that they may flee from wrath to come: A little matter will not scare men, their hearts be as hard as a stone, as hard as a piece of the nether milstone, and they will be ready to laugh at the shaking of the spear. Ministers must give them no rest in such a condition: they must pull them as brands out of the burnings. It is well if thunder and lightning will awaken them. They had need to fear that they may work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Ministers are faulty when they speak to them with gentleness, as Eli rebuked his sons. Christ Jesus often warned them of the danger of damnation: Mat. 5:29-30. It is better that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. Mat. 7:13. Broad is the gate and wide is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat. Mat. 13:42. The angels shall cast them into a furnace of fire, there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. So also, Mat. 22:13. Mat. 25:41, 46. This for our imitation. Christ knew how to deal with souls, and Paul followed His example. Men need to be terrified and have the arrows of the Almighty in them that they may be converted. Ministers should be Sons of Thunder. Men had need have storms in their hearts, before they will betake themselves to Christ for refuge. When they are pricked at the heart, then they will say, What must we do to be saved? Men must be fired out of their worldliness and sloth. Men must be driven as Lot was out of Sodom. Reason will govern men in other things; but it is fear that must take them diligently to seek salvation. If they be but thoroughly convinced of their danger, that will make them go to God and take pains” (Solomon Stoddard ----)
Among fundamentalist in general and fundamental Baptist churches in particular, the preaching is growing softer and weaker with each passing decade. There are still exceptions, but the Bible-believing church that has a bold, uncompromising preaching ministry is no longer the rule.
This happened to Southern Baptists and evangelicals 70 years ago, and it is happening to Independent Baptists and fundamentalist Bible churches today.
Many people have written to me to describe the downgrade in preaching. Consider a couple of examples:
“Another issue that I see is the church letting up on preaching and teaching about hell and the consequences of living without a close relationship with the Lord. In the fifties, when I was a preteen, the airwaves were filled with hellfire sermons. These taught me a right fear and reverence for a Holy God that was not only loving and merciful but also righteous and would one day judge me. It seems to me that we have accepted a lot more worldly philosophy into the pulpit than we would like to admit.”
“Churches need to preach harder against moderation in the home with respect to media, fashion, respect, associations and language. Stand firm on the Bible’s standard and stop apologizing for the Truth.”
Preachers are toning down the message to fit the growing mood of compromise and worldliness. They are bending to the will of the people. Oftentimes the church members are being influenced by New Evangelicals and worse on the radio and in the bookstores and on the Internet and have become accustomed to soft, “non-judgmental,” “self-esteem building” preaching. They have unconsciously adopted the “don’t be so negative” philosophy. They don’t want to hear preaching against rock music and television and wicked video games and immodest dress or anything else that they love. They don’t like it when the preacher warns about popular but compromised Christian leaders, whether it is Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Rick Warren, David Jeremiah, Jim Cymbala, or Max Lucado. They don’t want to hear any warnings about their heroes.
Instead of educating and warning about such things, many preachers have backed off.
It is increasingly rare to hear ringing rebuke of worldly music, lukewarmness, worldly dating with its moral temptations, public school education which is an illicit yoking together with unbelievers, immodest and unisex dress, worldly entertainment, unfaithfulness to the services and to prayer meetings and other godly responsibilities, etc.
At the very time when the pop culture is getting ever more filthy, preachers are toning down their warnings.
And even when some rebuke is still made, it is often done in vague generalities or in an apologetic tone so that its effect is greatly diminished. Or the preacher will include a joke or a lighthearted comment at just the right time to soften the blow, so to speak, so that the people won’t get upset. When we look at Scripture, we never find jokes or lighthearted comments in the midst of reproof and rebuke. I don’t think a joke or lighthearted comment is always out of place in the pulpit, but it is out of place when it is used to lighten the effect of reproof.
In the 1990s I was invited to preach at a Baptist Bible Fellowship state meeting. I didn’t want to go, but the host pastor urged me to accept the invitation, because he wanted to “let the flag of separation fly.” He knew my ministry and wanted to sound out some corrections. Knowing the compromise of the BBFI by that time, I expected that my messages wouldn’t be well received, and I wasn’t wrong. I preached against contemporary music and some other things, and I preached on the characteristics of Southern Baptist preaching, which is the type of preaching I had grown up with and which had almost zero spiritual power. The characteristics are things like avoiding controversial issues, speaking in generalities, and dealing plainly only with those sins of which the congregation was not generally guilty, such as abortion and homosexuality. The BBF preachers didn’t express anything to me personally one way or the other about my messages, as I recall, although they bought almost none of my books and materials; but the host pastor said that he had never seen preachers so upset at a series of messages. The other preacher at the conference was well received, because though he is a skilled Bible preacher, he avoided rebuking the very things that his preacher friends at the conference were guilty of. The things he did preach on were things that the crowd could “amen.” Many preachers are geniuses at this type of thing, and though they can sound very bold and forthright and very much the warrior, they know how to be bold without being very offensive to that particular congregation.
Though not popular, plain rebuke is necessary, because we are sinners, even after we are saved, and there are fierce enemies that perpetually seek to turn us from truth and righteousness.
To warn people of things that are wrong and to call them to turn from such things is an act of Christian love. Christ said, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten” (Re. 3:19). The Bible says that parents that don’t discipline their children don’t love them (Pr. 13:24), and the same is true for church leaders.
When a preacher seeks to fulfill this obligation in the love of Christ, he is often labeled unloving and Pharisaical, but that is a slander. It is to misunderstand the nature of biblical preaching and the importance of correction. For a preacher to reprove and rebuke in Christ’s love is God-like rather than Satan-like.
The rebuke must take different forms depending on the character and condition of the people. At times it will be mild; at other times it must be sharp (Titus 1:13). The same is true for child discipline. The discipline has to fit the character and actions of the child, and the message has to fit the character and actions of the church.
Biblical preaching is TO EXHORT. This is from the Greek word “parakaleo,” which means “to call near, to invite, to implore or console.” It is also translated “beseech,” “comfort,” “intreat.” It means to plead with and encourage and invite people to come to the truth, to call them to the truth. The preacher must therefore reprove and rebuke plainly and also call sweetly. Sound preaching is a Spirit-led mixture of these elements and is not composed of only one or the other.
A biblical exhorter and reprover will not turn a blind eye to sin, unfaithfulness, and lukewarmness (e.g., members not faithful to services, men not attending prayer meetings, men not helping with church set up, teens loving the world, lack of Bible studiousness).
That the preaching is to be with reproof, rebuke, exhortation means the preaching must be very PRACTICAL. It must get down into the daily lives of the people. The preacher must learn to apply God’s Word to every part of the people’s lives. He must not preach and teach in generalities. He must ask himself before God, “What does this teaching mean for my people’s marriages, child training, jobs, schooling, friends, entertainment,” and he must apply it to these things. A great deal of the preaching I have heard has been vague and not properly applied. It might be good teaching as far as that goes, but it lacks the practical, life-changing power that it should have because it is not carefully applied to the people’s daily living situation.
Biblical preaching is to preach WITH LONGSUFFERING. The preacher must be patient toward the people like God is. The preacher is to have a patient and persevering spirit when he is opposed and when his preaching is not immediately heeded. “If thou do not see the effect of thy labours presently, yet do not therefore give up the cause; be not weary of speaking to them. While God shows to them all long-suffering, let ministers exhort with all long-suffering” (Matthew Henry).
Preaching with longsuffering is a matter of preaching with compassion for the people. We are to care for Christ’s sheep (1 Pe. 5:2). We are to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:25).
This does not mean that the preacher is to be endlessly patient, for Christ Himself is not endlessly patient. In His messages to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, Christ called the churches to repentance and warned some of them of dire consequences if they did not repent. The preacher must be wise enough to know when it is time to be patient and when it is time to rebuke and and when it is time to discipline. Only the Spirit of God can give this wisdom, and He gives it in answer to prayer.
Biblical preaching is to preach WITH DOCTRINE. The preacher must be a teacher. Preaching must not be composed merely of exhortation and reproof. It must be full of sound doctrine. It must build the people up in the faith. It must educate them so that they become effectual Bible students. They must be taught to rightly interpret the Scriptures. They must be shown the why of obedience as well as the way of obedience. They must be given a solid foundation for obedience, which is the doctrine of God’s Word. We see the example of this in the New Testament Epistles such as Ephesus. The first three chapters consist of doctrine, while the last three chapters consist of exhortation and reproof. Preaching with doctrine is an essential aspect of sound preaching. This flows from the preacher’s study life. The preacher who is a serious student, not only of the Bible but of life in general, will have a rich preaching and teaching ministry. He is ever learning new things that enrich his ministry, making it more effectual, more interesting. Preaching with doctrine requires expository preaching so that the Lord’s people learn to understand the Bible as a whole and how that each book fits into the whole.
Biblical preaching PROTECTS FROM APOSTASY (2 Ti. 4:3-4).
These verses dealing with apostasy are connected with the previous verses about preaching. It is biblical preaching, with its doctrine, exhortation, reproof, and rebuke, that can protect the church from end-time apostasy. No matter how dark the time, God has given the churches everything they need to stand. Biblical preaching is rejected by compromisers and apostates as judgmentalism and Phariseeism, but biblical preaching can stem the tide of apostasy in the lives of those who receive it.
Biblical preaching deals plainly with error. This is the example we see in Paul’s ministry. He dealt extensively with every error confronting the churches of his day. He named the names of false teachers and compromisers (e.g., 1 Ti. 1:19-20; 2 Ti. 15; 2:17; 4:10, 14-15). A great many preachers neglect the ministry of protection, and the result is that the churches are easy prey for errors such as contemporary music, modern versions, New Evangelicalism, and contemplative prayer.
Excerpted from THE DISCIPLING CHURCH: THE CHURCH THAT WILL STAND UNTIL JESUS COMES. New for March 2017. This church planting manual aims to establish churches on a solid biblical foundation of a regenerate church membership, one mind in doctrine and practice, serious discipleship, thorough-going discipline, and a large vision for world evangelism. We examine the New Testament pattern of a discipling church, and we trace the history of Baptist churches over the past 200 years to document the apostasy away from the biblical pattern to a mixed multitude philosophy. We also document the history of “sinner’s prayer” evangelism which has affected the reality of a regenerate church membership. The book deals with biblical salvation with evidence, care in receiving church members, the church’s essential first love for Christ, the right kind of church leaders, the right kind of preaching, training church members to be Bible students, the many facets of church discipline, building strong families, youth ministry, training preachers, charity, reproof, educating the church for spiritual protection, maintaining standards for workers, the church’s prayer life, the church’s separation, spiritual revival, the church’s music, and many other things. The last chapter documents some of the cultural factors that have weakened churches over the past 100 years, including the theological liberalism, public school system, materialism and working mothers, the rock & roll pop culture, pop psychology, the feminist movement, New Evangelicalism, television, and the Internet. There is also a list of recommended materials for a discipling church. 513 pages.
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