Monday, October 08, 2007
The Kind of Preaching We Need By Dr. John R. Rice (1895–1980)
We are told in the Bible, “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (I Cor. 1:21). So God cannot get along without preaching, if He is to get men saved. All the Sunday school organization, all the educational and social work the church can do cannot substitute for God’s plan. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
Lost men cannot get along without preaching, because they cannot be saved without the preaching of the Word.
It is true that an individual may preach to an individual. A Sunday school teacher may preach to her pupil. A father or mother may preach to a child. But the Bible plan is also that there shall be preaching of a God-appointed and God-anointed man before congregations. That is the example and precept of the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments.
Preaching, then, is of surpassing importance in God’s plan of saving men. Nothing can take the place of preaching. Hence, we need a revival of great preaching. Christianity flourishes when preaching flourishes. When men stand in pulpits and give book reviews or moral essays instead of preaching in the Bible sense, then Christianity languishes. When men, timid men, give little sermonettes instead of bold and powerful and commanding discourses, Christianity is on the wane.
The individual soul winner is a preacher too. The Great Commission command in Mark 16:15 is that every Christian is to have a part in going to all the world and is to “preach the gospel to every creature.” That means preaching to individuals by individuals. So the soul winner needs, in some degree, to preach or teach the same Gospel and the same warnings and press for decisions just like the preacher in the pulpit. The soul-winning preacher and the personal soul winner need to know what kind of preaching of the Gospel God wants.
Since preaching is of such momentous importance in God’s plan, it is worthwhile to study earnestly what kind of preaching we need. And we can find the kind of preaching we need by turning to the Bible and considering the precepts and the examples given by the Word of God for preaching. What does the Bible say men ought to preach? And how did the Bible preachers preach? The answer to these questions is sorely needed today.
Let us turn to the Bible, then, and see the kind of preaching needed.
I. We Need Preaching of the Gospel of Salvation by the Blood of Christ
Here is the first and strongest of all requirements concerning preaching. Every preacher is to preach the Gospel, for it is the Gospel alone that saves. In Romans 1:16 Paul tells us by divine inspiration, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
And what is the Gospel? In I Corinthians 15:1–4 Paul tells us the Gospel he preached and by which his converts were saved: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and was buried and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. That is the Gospel. That is the Gospel Paul received, the Gospel he preached, the Gospel by which his converts were saved. It is the same Gospel that every preacher everywhere should preach today. No preaching is Christian preaching that does not preach salvation by the atoning death of Christ.
A horrible curse is pronounced on any who preach any other gospel than that of salvation by the blood of Christ. In Galatians 1:6–9 is this apostolic declaration in the inspired Word of God: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
Even if an angel from Heaven should preach any other gospel, “let him be accursed”! Even if Paul the apostle himself should come and preach another gospel, “let him be accursed”! And again the curse is pronounced: “As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
Any man who preaches salvation by character is a condemned, lost sinner with the curse of Almighty God upon him! Any man who preaches a so-called “social gospel,” which is no gospel at all, “let him be accursed,” let him be damned. He is a doomed, Christ-rejecting sinner. He is not even a Christian, and he has no right to preach. He is a blind leader of the blind. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, Jesus Christ Himself being witness. To men like him, Jesus said, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matt. 23:33).
In II John, verses 9 to 11, is another plain command of God about those who do not bring the true Gospel, or the true doctrine of salvation by Christ: “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”
Again we are told that anybody who does not stand true to this doctrine that Christ Himself, God’s Son, is come in the flesh to save people, that He died and rose again—anyone who does not receive that doctrine—does not have God. He is not a Christian. He is a Hell-bound, wicked sinner. The curse of God is upon him. No Christian should ever go to hear any such man preach. No Christian should ever give a penny to his support. Such a man should not even be entertained in your home. You should never bid him Godspeed. To support him, to lend your encouragement, to give him fellowship is to be a partaker of his wicked deeds in damning souls by denying the true Gospel.
No Christian should ever support or encourage or receive into his home a modernistic preacher, one who does not believe the Bible and who has not trusted in the Christ of the Bible, the virgin-born Son of God who died for our sins and rose bodily from the grave and ascended to Heaven and is coming again. One who does not believe this Gospel is not a Christian and is not fit to preach.
In every church in the land where there are sincere Christians, they should immediately oust any preacher who does not preach the Gospel of salvation by the blood. If they cannot oust the preacher, they should themselves leave and never give another penny to the support of such a church and such a modernist, unbelieving infidel.
The first essential thing about preaching is that it is to be Gospel preaching, true to the blood, true to the Bible teaching of salvation by faith in Christ, who died an atoning death and rose from the grave to be our Saviour. Oh, beloved preachers, preach Christ and His blood and His salvation freely offered to dying sinners!
II. We Need Preaching of the Word of God, the Bible
We need Bible preaching! A slanderous and unscriptural book against evangelism by a seminary president says that evangelists ought to preach nothing but the simple Gospel of how to be saved. But when Paul wrote to Timothy telling him to “do the work of an evangelist,” he gave him a solemn charge to preach all the Word of God.
“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 longsuffering and doctrine.”—II Tim. 4:1,2.
That is in the same passage where Paul commands Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist.” The evangelist as well as the pastor is to “preach the word.” The foreign missionary is to “preach the word.”
You see that the Gospel of salvation is not all of the Bible. The Bible has other things besides the plan of salvation. The Ten Commandments are not in the plan of salvation. The Sermon on the Mount is beautiful and good, and it ought to be preached, but it is not the plan of salvation by the blood of Christ. First Corinthians 13, the love chapter, teaching brotherly charity, is in the Bible, but it is not the plan of salvation. A preacher should preach the whole Word of God. His preaching should be Bible preaching.
A Bible preacher is to “preach the word.” He is to reprove with the Word of God. He is to rebuke with the Word of God. He is to “exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (teaching); that is, his exhortation should be on a Bible basis and made in Bible terms and backed up by Scriptures quoted or read. Preaching should start with a Bible text or passage and expound that text or passage. Preaching should make clear the meaning of the Scriptures. Points made should be proven by the Scriptures and illustrated by scriptural examples. There is room for logic, there is room for illustrations; but these are secondary. The Word of God itself must be preeminent in preaching.
I have before me a sermon submitted by an eminent and greatly used man of God for publication in the sword of the lord. But I cannot publish it as it is. It starts off without a Scripture as a text. It is not based upon any Bible passage. Later it uses two Scriptures to prove a point or two, and there is mention made of three or four other Scriptures, phrases from the Scriptures. But it is not a Bible sermon. It is true and good. But the theme itself was not found in a Scripture, and the outline was not found in the Scripture. It is not a Bible exposition. It has some Scriptures in it, but it is not a Bible sermon in the sense that it is founded directly and obviously on the Word of God.
I believe that some preaching ought to be topical preaching, that is, preaching on a subject. But in such a case, the subject ought to be found in the Scriptures, and then the points the preacher makes under that subject ought to be proved, every one, from the Scripture itself.
A beautiful example of Bible preaching is found in chapter 8 of Nehemiah. There all the people were gathered together in the street that was before the water gate, and Ezra the scribe brought the Law of Moses. There Ezra stood upon a pulpit of wood and opened the Book in the sight of all the people. Then a number of godly preachers helped to explain the Scriptures. “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (Neh. 8:8). That was Bible preaching. They read the Word of God and explained the sense and caused the people to understand the meaning. And it was not dry-as-dust preaching either, for the people were so moved that they mourned and wept and repented of their sins.
At Pentecost we have a great example of Bible preaching. Peter stood up before the people and quoted five verses from Joel, chapter 2, and preached a marvelous sermon on the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and the plan of salvation. Read that story in Acts 2:14–39, and then remember that “with many other words did he testify and exhort.” And in the brief part of the sermon which is given, there is also a clear exposition of Psalm 16:8–10. Peter started with Scripture and expounded that Scripture and other Scriptures and added fervent exhortation and explanation.
Read Matthew 5, part of the Sermon on the Mount. There surely you will be impressed with the preaching of Jesus, that He again and again took an Old Testament Scripture and expounded the deeper meaning, more than was apparent on the surface. Do not be misled by the teaching of infidels and modernists that Jesus was doing away with the Law. He plainly said, ‘I am not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it.’ He plainly said that not one jot or tittle should pass away until all should be fulfilled. But in each case, He used the Scripture and explained the deeper meaning of the Scriptures.
So, preacher, start with the Scripture. Find the theme, the real subject itself, in the Scripture. Find the outline in the Scripture; or if the outline itself is just logically deduced, then find Scriptures to back up every statement and quote them. Use many Scriptures to make clear the point and use Bible illustrations wherever possible. There is living power in the Word of God. The Scripture itself brings conviction to people who are not convicted, brings light to people in darkness, brings salvation to those who are lost. We need Bible preaching.
III. We Need Preaching Against Sin
Bible preaching would necessarily be preaching against sin. Paul commanded Timothy, “Preach the word…reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” There has to be scriptural rebuke and reproof for sin if it be true Bible preaching, preaching like that of the great men of God in the Bible.
Consider the preaching of the prophet Isaiah. In chapter 1 of his prophecy is eloquent and beautiful yet startling preaching against sin. With burning words, with bold onslaught, Isaiah reminds the people of their desolate country, their cities burned with fire, the land devoured by strangers, the nation stricken and sore and wounded. He denounces their hypocritical sacrifices and says that God despises their oblations, the incense, their holy days and feasts. He says that God will hide His eyes and will not hear their prayers because their hands are full of blood. In that one chapter, he denounces them for oppression of the poor, for their rebellion against God, for their spiritual harlotry. He says that their princes run with thieves, that everyone looks for bribes, that leaders do not give honest protection to widows and orphans. And that is only one example from many in the preaching of Isaiah. He preached against definite sins.
When Nathan the prophet came before David, he gave a thrilling example of a God-called and God-anointed preacher preaching against sin. Before him was King David in his robes, with the power of life and death over every subject. Yet Nathan boldly preached him a sermon, using a parable to show the wickedness of David’s sin. Then when the anger of David was aroused against the hypothetical rich man who had taken his neighbor’s little ewe lamb, Nathan with crushing and powerful effect pointed his finger in the face of King David and said, “Thou art the man”
(II Sam. 12:7), and showed him the horrible sin which he had committed in taking Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, and murdering Uriah. It was a tense moment. Nathan might have lost his life. But he stood up for God and openly denounced sin. God give us more Nathans today in the pulpit, as well as in private conversations!
How painfully sharp, how pointed and untactful was the preaching of John the Baptist! “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” (Matt. 3:7,8). Then he warned leading Jews that they should not be saved just because they were children of Abraham and that they were likely to be hewn down like fruitless trees to be cast into the fire of Hell.
And the preaching of John the Baptist was just as bold when he faced Herod the king and told him plainly that he had no right to take his brother’s wife (Matt. 14:3,4). The preachers today who plead that they must preach only “a positive message,” that preaching against sin is a “negative message,” certainly do not follow the pattern of this great man of God, one of the greatest ever born of women, as Jesus said. John the Baptist preached against sin, against particular sins. And he did it boldly. He hurt people’s feelings, he made people angry, he caused a disturbance. But he was faithful to God and to the Bible.
Oh, preachers, witness the preaching of Stephen! That day he had on his coronation robes! I think he must have whispered sweetly in his own heart, O Lord Jesus, today I will see Thy face! Today is the day of my martyrdom and of my crowning and of my glory! Acts, chapter 7, tells the story.
What an array of Scriptures Stephen recalled and summarized in telling the history of how Israel had rejected the prophets of God and resisted the Spirit. What a scriptural sermon! And the thrilling narrative mounted to its climax, and the people stood spellbound when Stephen suddenly turned upon them with the fire of God in his eyes and in his voice and said: “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.”—Acts 7:51–53.
“Murderers”! “Betrayers”! ‘Persecutors!’ “Stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears”! “Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost”! That is Bible preaching against sin!
It is true that it brought the wrath of the crowd upon Stephen. It is true that he was beaten into a bloody mass, stoned to death in their anger. But he went home to Heaven that day, and Jesus, who usually sits on the right hand of the Father, rose to receive him! (Rev. 3:21; Acts 7:56).
Oh, to go to Heaven like Stephen did! Oh, to go with lips purified by bold preaching in Christ’s name, preaching against sin, preaching in the power of the Holy Ghost!
How Jesus preached against sin! He preached against covetousness; He preached against unbelief; He preached against adultery or even looking on a woman to lust after her. He preached against grudges and said that if men did not forgive, neither would the Father in Heaven forgive them. He said to the Pharisees and scribes, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.” He told the religious leaders who were impenitent that they had been granted the use of God’s vineyard, the leadership over His people, but that they would be cast out and the vineyard rented to others. Men hated Jesus because He preached against sin. God forgive us preachers who never anger anybody by preaching like Jesus!
Some preachers preach on love but never preach against sin. The Lord Jesus loved men, loved sinners enough to die for them, but how He hated sin! Remember when He made a whip, drove the traders from the temple, overturned the tables of the moneychangers, scattered the money on the stone floor! Preaching ought sometimes to be like that. With holy boldness preachers ought to hate sin and expose sin.
How sharply Paul the apostle preached against sin. On his first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas came to Paphos. When Elymas the sorcerer withstood them and tried to keep Sergius Paulus, the deputy ruler of the country, from being saved, Paul faced him, filled with the Holy Ghost, and said, “O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:10). And the hand of God came on him as Paul by faith foretold, and the man was blind for a season for his sins, and the deputy was wonderfully saved.
Young preacher, do not be taken in by the sophistry of the time-serving preachers who do not preach against sin. Do not be influenced by denominational leaders who fear you will cause a disturbance in your church. Do not be too much moved by the pleadings of your wife, who is afraid that you will have your salary lowered or that you will be out of a job with no place to go. Be faithful to Christ, and Christ will be faithful to you. “Them that honour me I will honour” is the promise of God (I Sam. 2:30).
It is true that a preacher ought not to be a coward, to say in the pulpit what he dare not say to an individual who needs it. It is true that preachers ought to preach with love and compassion and tears. But that does not change the fact that we are plainly commanded to rebuke and reprove, that we are to preach the Word about particular sins. The preacher who never has a word to say against drunkenness and adultery and lewdness and covetousness and blasphemy is a dumb dog who cannot bark. He is a Balaam preaching for profit. He is fallen into the snare of the fear of man. We need preaching against sin, against particular sins.
IV. We Need Preaching About Hell and Judgment
It is not honest preaching of the Bible that does not preach Hell. Man is a sinner. If he does not repent, he will die unconverted, forever away from God. Men ought to be warned of the horrible fate of dying without Christ.
I am sick of hearing people say, “I do not believe in scaring men.” I do! I wish I could have scared Hitler and told him what would happen to him for his crimes against mankind and against God. If I could have told him the truth and could have made him believe it, I would have saved the world the horrors of World War II.
I wish I could warn every boy of what will happen if he goes into a life of crime. I wish I could make people afraid of crime.
I wish I could scare every girl about the dangers of the dance and petting, and the horrors of the life of a harlot and the damnation that will come to her.
I wish I could scare every lad about the terror that is in whiskey and beer and wine. A man who is not afraid of liquor is a fool.
I tried earnestly and was successful in making my children afraid of the fire when they were little. There are some things of which any sensible person in his right mind ought to be afraid. And there is nothing in the universe as frightful as the fact of Hell, a Hell full of Christ-rejecting sinners, who went to Hell because they would not repent. I am for the kind of Bible preaching that makes people want to avoid Hell.
There is coming a judgment when Christ-rejecting sinners will be dragged out of Hell to face God and give an account of their sins. That is a horrible and fearful thought. It ought to be preached.
All Bible preachers preached on these themes of Hell and judgment and the wrath of God.
Isaiah preached on Hell. He said, “Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming” (Isa. 14:9). He preached, “Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it” (Isa. 5:14).
Again and again Isaiah preached woe and judgment. In chapter 5, verse 16, he gave six woes upon Israel. He said that “the Lord of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.”
But Jesus was the great “Hell preacher.” He preached, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).
It was Jesus who preached that “whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matt. 5:22).
It was Jesus who preached, “So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:49,50).
It was Jesus who preached in the same chapter, “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:40–42).
Jesus announced that He Himself, the Son of Man, would one day “say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). And He said, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (vs. 46).
It was Jesus who told, in Luke 16:19–31, that horrible, terrifying story of the rich man who died and went to Hell and there lifted his eyes, tormented in flames, and begged for Lazarus to be sent to dip his finger in water to cool his parched tongue.
I say, Jesus Christ was a hellfire preacher. One who does not preach Hell and judgment is not true to Him.
It was Jesus who said that all judgment was given to the Son. Christ will sit on a throne, judging sinners, sending them away to the lake of fire.
Paul preached, like other Bible preachers, on Hell and judgment and the wrath of God. I very often preach on the first Sunday night of a revival campaign on Hell or on the last judgment. And I do it with a good precedent, for Paul, the first time he ever preached at Athens, preached, “He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).
When Paul stood before Felix, he preached on sin and judgment. “And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled” (Acts 24:25). When Paul preached on righteousness, temperance and judgment to come, that was Bible preaching. And when Felix trembled under the deep conviction of the Holy Spirit, that was Bible results. Away with these nice, easy sermons that do not stir anybody’s fears, do not bring any fears, do not bring any tears, do not lead men to repent! Away with this preaching that leaves sinners asleep in their sins, undisturbed and self-satisfied! O God, give us the kind of preaching that makes men tremble as they think about Hell and judgment to come!
V. We Need Preaching That Demands Repentance
It is foolish to try to teach men to trust in Christ for salvation, unless we include in that teaching the plain need for a wicked heart to turn from sin. Everywhere the Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” or its equivalent, it is understood that no one can turn TO Jesus Christ without turning FROM sin. Inevitably and necessarily, faith in Christ comes only to the penitent heart, the heart willing and anxious to do right and to please God, longing for goodness and purity. People who repent do not always do right about everything, but they want to do right. I do not mean that salvation is an extended process. I do not even mean that there are two separate steps in salvation, but it is foolish and unscriptural to teach any salvation without repentance.
Bible preachers all preached repentance.
Ezekiel called on Israel to repent: “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11). Every preacher ought to preach with that imperative pleading in his voice and message today.
John the Baptist preached, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). And Jesus began to preach exactly the same message: “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (4:17).
The preaching of Jesus is illustrated by Luke 13:1–5: “There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilæans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilæans were sinners above all the Galilæans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
When Jesus gave the Great Commission to His apostles, He commanded that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47).
Peter preached at Pentecost, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38).
When Peter had returned from winning Cornelius and his household to Christ and explained the matter to the apostles and brethren in Judea, “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18). It was determined then that repentance was offered to Gentiles. Even Gentiles can repent and be saved. There is no salvation without repentance. We need preaching on repentance.
Paul, preaching to the men of Athens, said, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30).
Oh, may God give us a heart to demand that men repent toward God and trust His Son for salvation. That is the kind of preaching we need.
VI. We Need Preaching That Demands Immediate Decision for Christ
The fatalists, the hyper-Calvinists who say some men are predestined to be lost, do not want preachers to give a public invitation and to press for a decision. Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, in his book slandering evangelists and opposing mass evangelism, says that it is wrong to give a public invitation for people to accept Christ, wrong to press for immediate decision. But there he is unscriptural and contrary to Bible precept and practice. Down through the centuries, the great soul winners have pressed upon people to decide, and at once, for God or against Him.
When Moses, on Mount Sinai for forty days, left the children of Israel to their own devices, they asked Aaron to make them a golden calf, and then they danced around this golden calf naked and drunken and said, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (Exod. 32:4). The wrath of God burned hot against this idolatrous people. Moses, with a broken heart, set out to discipline the people. Before the leading idolaters were to be put to death, he called for a division, a public and immediate decision. “Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him” (Exod. 32:26). Then Moses commanded the Levites who would stand for God to take their swords and go throughout the camp, slaying the wicked. It was a hard decision for men to make, to come out on the Lord’s side publicly and set out to kill their own brothers and loved ones, but that is what Moses demanded, and that decision they made—made boldly for God. It is God’s plan. Bible preachers should call for immediate decision for Christ.
Joshua was an old man. Soon he would be leaving the nation Israel, and others would take over the leadership. So he called together the heads of tribes and the officers of the nation to Shechem. There he put before them a simple proposition and demanded their decision. In Joshua 24:15 it is recorded that he said to them, “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” The people insisted that they would serve the Lord, and he made the proposition harder, and they went on record that they would serve the Lord.
“Choose you this day whom ye will serve,” ought to be an under-current in the preaching of every Bible preacher. That means public invitation. That means putting people on the spot. That means insisting that they decide at once, here and now, for or against Jesus Christ.
Jesus pressed His disciples with the question, “Whom say ye that I am?” And how pleased He was when Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:15,16).
Again Jesus put His disciples on the spot and said, “Will ye also go away?” (John 6:67). The multitude quit following Jesus. They found He demanded repentance and a changed life and heart. It was not all to be easy eating of unearned food and following a King who would do all the work. So Jesus pressed upon His disciples that they too must decide. And, thank God, they had sense enough to answer, in the words of Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68,69).
So Jesus pressed upon the woman who was healed when she stooped down and touched the hem of His garment, and He insisted that she claim Him openly and publicly (Luke 8:43–48).
John the Baptist demanded immediate decision and pressed upon people to come out openly and be baptized, therefore confessing their sins and confessing their faith in the coming Messiah.
Paul went “night and day with tears,” urging people to repent and come to Christ. Everywhere he demanded repentance and got it.
There should be a compelling urgency that demands immediate decision in every gospel message. Jesus said that the man who made a great supper and bade many sent his servant back again and again and commanded him, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23). That is the way the Lord Jesus wants us to win souls and to preach. There should be a compelling note, an insistent note, a bold and powerful urgency, demanding people to decide today for Christ and Heaven.
Some years ago in Dallas, Texas, in the Galilean Baptist Church, Dr. P. B. Chenault was preaching in a series of meetings. The last night came. He preached on “Today and Tomorrow.” He had two texts. One was in Hebrews 3:7: “Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, TO DAY if ye will hear his voice…).” The other text was Proverbs 27:1: “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” The fervent, godly preacher made his final appeal. He laid upon all of our hearts that TODAY was the only day that someone present might ever have; that today was the day of salvation. He urged the folly of neglecting and postponing any duty and especially of neglecting salvation, since none of us could know what a day might bring forth. The service came to a close. After an earnest session of prayer and affectionate good-byes, Brother Chenault, with his wife and baby, drove away into the night toward another engagement in Illinois.
Mrs. Rice and I retired. But at 2:30 in the morning, I was awakened by the insistent ringing of the telephone. Dr. Chenault had had his speeding car wrecked by a drunken driver, and he, with crushed head, had gone to meet the Saviour he loved. Ah, how it pressed upon my heart that we should be faithful in preaching for immediate decision.
No man knows what will be tomorrow. I think the dear Saviour must have laid upon Dr. Chenault's heart the need for preaching that sermon his last night on earth.
We need preaching that demands immediate attention and immediate decision on the great issues of life and death, salvation or damnation, Christ or Satan, Heaven or Hell.
Let us pray that God will raise up anointed preachers; bold, Bible preachers and personal soul winners:
Who will preach the true Gospel of salvation by the blood;
Who will preach the Word of God, the Bible;
Who will preach against sin, against particular sins, preaching boldly;
Who will preach on Hell and judgment as did Christ and Bible preachers;
Who will preach demanding repentance, a heart-turning away from sin and turning toward God;
Who will preach demanding immediate decision for Christ.