Someone said that if you wanted to know how a man should preach then just ask a man who has never preached! Apparently that is the way many look at it. I’ve often heard those who have never had children of their own discuss at length about how parents should raise their kids! Many who have never studied government and politics, much less actively engaged in such, know exactly how the politicians should act. Perhaps the same thing could be said for just about any occupation.
Today when a preacher confronts sin and the sinner with the boldness that God demands, the preacher is said to be a negative bigot or an unloving scoundrel! People say that we must accentuate the positive and never be negative. Just how long would an athletic coach be successful if he followed this philosophy and never pointed out the mistakes of his team? How long will a parent shield a child from danger without warning him about the danger?
But many think that the Gospel is different. They say that we can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. As for me I am not trying to catch flies. There are fly sprays and traps that do that. My job is to preach the Gospel because I love the souls of men and love my Lord who gave us the Gospel. Some say that we should not always be found opposing people and being only negative. I certainly agree, with qualification. We do not oppose people. We oppose their false doctrines. We should never be found “only negative” because there is much positive in the Gospel of Christ.
But much of the Bible is negative. Eight of the Ten Commandments that God gave Israel were negative. In the New Testament much of the Lord’s and His apostles’ teaching is couched in the negative. Why is this so? Perhaps because the negative is always easier to understand and incorporate into action.
Consider the statement by Paul which indicated the extent of his negativism. He said to the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20:28-31: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” Paul said that he had warned for three years, day and night. But his warning is negative! Yet Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit in not only what to say, but also in how to say it! The form and the substance of Paul’s statement were a part of inspiration.
It is often necessary to warn and admonish. Paul writes instructions about preaching to an evangelist younger than himself: “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 long suffering and doctrine” (II Tim. 4:1-2). Please observe that of the three-part instructions of these verses, two parts were negative. Reprove and rebuke! Exhort is to urge to pursue a course set forth. This is generally positive but not altogether.
I think that I know the reason some (most) preachers preach the way they do today. They do it because that is the way the people want it! The preachers are not courageous enough to preach like God directs. They are hirelings who preach what man “wants to hear.” After all, it is the praise of men that they seek. Do you think that I am wrong? I would like to be wrong about this assessment. But I’m afraid I’m right! How is your preacher doing? Does he seek to please God or man (you)?
-Glenn B. Ramsey, Professor of Religious Education