Friends, it has been my experience during my tenure as a gospel preacher that most people are very happy when you preach against sin….just don’t be very specific about it. This mindset is that of Satan. Satan loves it when preachers generalize and gloss over the sin problem. However, in order to truly reprove, rebuke, and exhort one must be specific. It has been said that God’s chosen method to bring man face to face with Him is preaching and without such a confrontation then true preaching has not taken place (Koller, 13). Preaching is not effective if it does not reprove an audience or individual of sin. How can we be reproved of sin if preaching is so general that we are never able to stare into the perfect law of liberty and know the blemishes we need to correct (cf Jas. 1:24-25)? The answer: we cannot. Sadly, all too often, people’s reaction to good sound direct preaching is to lash out. We tend to defend by attacking. We hear a preacher preach about sin and because our toes are tender we start dissecting that man and come up with all manner of fault. Question: Does the fact that the preacher sins disallow or disqualify him from preaching against sin? I wont insult your intelligence by answering that. You know that if that were so then there could be no preacher at all.
Why, you ask, am I writing this article? Well, for one, I preach against sin in a very direct manner. One can not sit idly in the pew week after week and listen to my preaching, any preaching that is godly, and do nothing or change nothing. Something I will not do is preach the truth in such a way that someone can wear a smile as they travel to hell. Good preaching, Bible preaching, godly preaching, should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. If we are Sunday only Christians then there is no comfort that can be found from the pulpit from which I preach. I pray to God that it always be so.
Now, one might well ask, what if you run people off? That is a very good question. The answer: some people need to be run off. Please, study through the new testament and see how many times the trying of one’s faith is mentioned. Two places are found in James and 1 Peter (Jas. 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 1:7). The trying of faith is compared to gold being refined in a smelter’s fire. The idea is that the impurities are burned off and what is left is pure, much more valuable. Well, the same is applied to the Lord’s church as a whole. In fact, this could be said of the building materials in 1 Corinthians chapter three and then, also, about the reference in James chapter one. I know that the immediate context of the trying of your faith working patience is individual, but he is writing to the church as a whole as well. What one endures doesn’t the whole endure as well? So, when the Lord’s church is tried some will be found wanting. Those who are wanting are consumed in the fiery trial and we are saddened. However, the whole building is much stronger for it. The same goes for people who are in open rebellion to God. Friends, one does not have to have married his father’s wife to be on open rebellion to God (cf 1 Cor. 5:1-ff). It could be something as “little” as attendance of service. The elders have set certain times of service by which we are fed, which is their duty, because they have charge of our souls and we are to submit to them (Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:7). So, the answer to the posed question, what if you run people off, is simply answered. God is just as satisfied with running people off as He is with drawing people closer (Deut. 28:63; Rom. 11:22). God’s justice is satisfied and He is glorified either way. Those who remain are stronger and more faithful because of preaching that runs some off. Those who are in open rebellion to God can not exist and function in the Lord’s church and not be disciplined. There is no more explicit command in all of holy writ than that of church discipline (II Thes. 3:6). The commandment to preach the Word and the commandment to discipline is in there for a reason which is to strengthen the body (2 Tim. 4:3; 2 Thes. 3:6).
Now, we have established the authority of direct, pointed preaching. How does someone take this preaching? This goes back to the question of the article. Can a man who commits sin effectively preach. The answer, again, is simple, yes. Did Paul sin? Did Peter sin? Did Apollos sin? How many names do I list along with this rhetorical question before the brotherhood gets the point? Here is the crux of the matter: When we are convicted of sin we must change and it doesn’t matter from where the teaching comes that convicts.
As you know I teach online to massive audiences. Sometimes I am asked to cover things like social drinking. It never fails that someone will attack when they are convicted and cry “gluttony.” Friends, as a whole, we don’t know what gluttony is. I will either preach a sermon or write an article on the subject later but, for now, its not important. The spirit behind the cry of gluttony is, “you are fat so you are in sin….you cant convict me of sin.” This could not be farther form the truth and the person who has this attitude is no longer covered by grace.
As James said, “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be (Jas. 3:10).” We should gladly take the correction and chastising of the Lord. Without it we would not be able to make heaven. Remember, the grace of God teaches….are we humble enough to learn (cf Tit. 2:11-15).
In love of the truth (Eph. 4:15),
“Koller, Charles W. Expository Preaching without Notes ; Sermons Preached without Notes. Baker Book House, 1962.”