First Corinthians 1.21
1. Last Sunday morning I preached to you about the tragic de-emphasis of Church thatís taking place. And the numbers support my contention that Church is de-emphasized, with some 3000 Churches a year closing their doors in the United States. But Godís Word shows beyond doubt the importance of Church.
2. As if the de-emphasizing of Church isnít enough of a tragedy, the tragedy within this great tragedy is the de-emphasizing of preaching thatís currently going on in the de-emphasized Church services. And this is the reason, I think, why some 3000 Churches a year are closing their doors in the United States.
3. Oh, itís a wonderful thing when a pastor is a strong administrator or a fervent prayer warrior. Itís marvelous when the Churches have great music and committed Sunday School teachers. I would not ever discourage a preacher from studying long and hard to ensure that he is rightly dividing the Word of truth, and itís always beneficial for Godís people to be taught the Bible.
4. But what did Jesus tell His apostles to do, Mark 16.15? "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
5. What did Paul command young pastor Timothy to do, Second Timothy 4.1-2? "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."
6. And do you folks realize that the one thing Christianity has that no other non-Christian religion has is preaching? Mormonism doesnít having preaching. Jehovahís Witnesses donít have preachers. Muslims donít have preaching. Hindus donít have preachers. Buddhists donít have preachers. Christian Science doesnít have preaching. The Church of Scientology doesnít have preachers. No one has preachers except Christianity, and yet pastors all over the place are abandoning preaching in favor of teaching, which is the commonest feature of all false religions.
7. Please turn in your Bible to First Corinthians 1.21, where Paul writes to deal with the confusion the Corinthians were experiencing as a result of their unspiritual behavior and lack of consistent direction. When you find that verse please stand for the reading of Godís Word: "For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."
8. I want you to notice three things suggested by our text:
1A. First, NOTICE THE IMPERATIVE OF PREACHING
1B. Do You Want To Know The Imperative Of Preaching? Consider That The Most Obvious Result Of The Protestant Reformation Was The Reintroduction Of Preaching Into Christian Worship. And As The Protestant Reformation Continued Its Progress The Pulpit Replaced The Altar At the Center Of The Sanctuary, Showing The Centrality Of Preaching To Reformed Christian Worship.
2B. Another Indication Of The Imperative Of Preaching, Besides The Lord Jesus Christís Command To Preach The Gospel To Every Creature (Which Iíve Already Reminded You Of), Was Paulís Cry, "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" First Corinthians 9.16. What Paul Did, More Than Anything Else That He Did, Was Preach The Gospel. Let Us Not Forget That.
3B. Though Baptist Churches Have Always Been Primarily Places Of Preaching, And Protestant Churches Reintroduced Preaching As Their Mainstay During The Reformation, It Needs To Be Mentioned That The Preaching Referred To Here Is The Preaching Of The Cross, The Method And The Message. For Without The Saving Message Of The Gospel Of Jesus Christ No Method, Not Even The Divinely Instituted Method Of Preaching, Would Suffice. What Must Be Preached Is The Gospel.
4B. And This Is For Two Reasons: First, Because Gospel Preaching Is So Obviously Godís Will As To Need No Proof Here. Only An Ignorant Fool Would Deny What Gospel Preaching Is And That Gospel Preaching Is The Distinctively Christian Means Of Conveying Godís Saving Truth. Second, Preaching Is The Commonest Means Of Grace. More People Who Are Genuinely Converted Got Saved Under Gospel Preaching Than By Any Other Means. Thus, The Imperative Of Preaching.
2A. Second, THE IMPACT OF PREACHING UPON THE LOST
1B. I Want You To Ponder, For A Moment, Scriptureís Depiction Of The Lost, Of Unsaved People In First Corinthians 1.18 Paul writes, "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness."
1C. Those who have not believed the Gospel that is preached, those who have not reacted properly to the preaching of the cross by coming to Jesus Christ, are them that perish.
2C. That is, they are going to Hell. They will someday burn in fire. They will be banished forever from heaven and suffer an eternity of torment in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.
2B. But You Should Also Ponder The Lost Manís Depiction Of Preaching
1C. The Bible tells us about those who are lost, but the lost also have their own opinion about Gospel preaching. According to Paul they think itís foolishness.
2C. In other words, lost people donít like real Gospel preaching. It offends them, makes them mad, irritates their sensibilities, troubles their consciences, ticks them off.
3C. So, because they are lost and must justify their wickedness, and explain away the discomfort they feel when they hear strong preaching, they must conclude that itís nonsense, that itís foolishness. Thus, they reject both the message and the method of delivering the message.
4C. Oh, what a mistake it is, what spiritual stupidity it is, how very dishonest, and what a sin against God, to discount the all-wise Godís chosen method of bringing sinners to His Son for salvation. For, you see, when they reject the message and the method they are rejecting the grace of God.
3A. Third, THE IMPACT OF PREACHING UPON THE SAVED
First Corinthians 1.18 concludes, "but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." These are the people who have responded to Godís message delivered by Godís method. These are the recipients of Godís saving grace. Turn to Romans 10.9-17, where we see the effects of the preaching of the Gospel when it is properly responded to and the sinner is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ:
9That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
12For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
14How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?
17So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
This passage deals with the salvation of a Jewish person, but is entirely applicable to any Gospel preacherís ministry, so long as two things are recognized: First, the sequence of the verses is not the sequence of the events as they occur when a sinner is converted, but are opposite the chronology of events. Second, be careful to understand that the word "saved" is in reference to physical deliverance from danger, not the deliverance of the soul from sin. These things understood, letís look to the four important features of this passage:
1B. First, The Principle, Verse 17: "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
1C. Godís primary channel for the sinnerís reception of saving faith is audibly. That is, God imparts saving faith through the sense of hearing.
2C. So much for those who concentrate on visual communication. We may very well learn most of what we learn through the eye gate, but God says He works primarily through the ear gate when it comes to saving faith.
2B. The Preaching, Verses 14-15, Is Second
1C. "How shall they hear without a preacher?" "And how shall they preach," . . . "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace . . ?"
2C. Paul knew the word "teach." He used the word for "teach" many times in his writings. But when describing here how a sinner gets saved he chooses the word "preach" to describe the means by which God imparts saving faith.
3B. Third, The Power, Verse 10
1C. Here Paul writes, "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness." But in First Corinthians 1.18, to remind you once again, the preaching of the Gospel is "the power of God."
2C. So, the preaching of the cross brings to bear the power of Almighty God to cause a manís heart to believe unto righteousness.
4B. Then Come The Prayers Mentioned In Verse 9 And Verse 13
1C. Once the sinner believes in Christ he will call upon the Lord to deliver him to physical safety. So, prayer is chronologically subsequent to conversion, it really comes after conversion.
2C. The picture here is of the Jewish people listening to preaching. Through the preaching they receive faith to believe. Believing by faith, which occurs at conversion, the believer now calls upon the Lord he has come to believe in to deliver him to safety.
1. My friend, please do not lose sight of the single item of importance weíve considered to this point; the importance of preaching.
2. The preaching of the Gospel is important to the Lord Jesus Christ (He gave the great commission to preach the gospel to every creature), was important to the apostle Paul as the most important means for imparting saving faith to a sinner, and is a method of ministry unique to Christianity and possessed by no other religion.
3. I contend that once you de-emphasize the preaching of the Gospel you have started down that road that takes you away from orthodox Christianity, because you are leaving one of Christianityís uniquenesses, because you are forsaking the primary means of grace, and because you are directly disobeying the Lord Jesus Christ.
4. Now, before this morningís sermon, brother Isenberger comes to lead us in a song.
1. Preaching is real preaching when there is a marriage of both the method and the message that pleases God. When you have the method without the message you end up with a Bishop Jakes, a Jimmy Swaggart, or even Norman Vincent Peale, none of whom represent orthodox Christianity.
2. But when you have the message without the method you are almost as bad off, being left with dry orthodoxy and a people who are ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth, such as with the typical Calvary Chapel pastors or John Mac Arthur.
3. Folks, there has to be a proper marriage of the right message to the right method of communicating that message. Men must be told of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and of their desperate need of Christ to be saved from their sins. But they must be told in a way that is ordained by God to address the depraved soul and sin-darkened mind.
4. That message and method marriage is found only in Gospel preaching. It is not found in Bible teaching. It is not found in preaching something other than the Gospel. Only when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is delivered in a penetrating and powerful way by preaching do you have the preaching Paul was talking about in First Corinthians 1.21.
5. Such Gospel preaching has been de-emphasized in most Churches these days. Thatís one reason why so many Churches are closing each year in our country. Thatís one reason why Christianity in America is so anemic and so quickly flees from the inner cities to the outlying suburbs. Theyíre abandoning Godís plan.
6. Let me provide for you three reasons why Gospel preaching is de-emphasized.
1A. First, THERE IS THE CONDITION OF THE PEOPLE
1B. Why Is It That Gospel Preaching Is De-Emphasized When It Is So Obviously Commended And Commanded In The Word Of God? Most Church Members Are Unconverted And Are, Therefore, Opposed To Strong Gospel Preaching. And Why Should This Surprise Anyone? After All, Gospel Preaching Proclaims What Paul Termed "The Offence Of The Cross."
2B. But Why Is It That Most Church Members Are Unconverted? We Know Why Lost Members Are Opposed To Gospel Preaching. Itís Quite Understandable That Religious Hypocrites Who Are Godís Enemies Would Oppose What God Favors. But How Did So Many Church Members Get Lost? Decisionism.
3B. What Was Substituted For Real Gospel Preaching And A Careful Scrutinizing Of Lost People Was A Watered-Down Message Delivered In An Anemic Way, Then Substituting Any Response At All For A Real Conversion. The Result Was Churches Filled With Unsaved Members, Each Lost Pretender Providing A False Certification For The Others, So The Result Was Unconverted Church Members Who Frequently Thought Themselves By Comparison To Be Really Converted. Thus, A Plain Decision Was Substituted For A Real Conversion Experience.
4B. So Now, With Churches All Over America Filled With Unsaved Members, You Have A Constituency Interested In Music More Than A Good Message, Manipulation More Than Meaningful Christianity, Claiming To Clamor For Relevancy Instead Of Real And Pointed Truth. They Love To Study The Bible, But They Are Really Doing Nothing More Than Fulfilling Paulís Prophecy That In The End Such Would Be "Ever Learning And Never Able To Come To The Knowledge Of The Truth," Second Timothy 3.7.
2A. BUT HOW CAN IT BE OTHERWISE CONSIDERING THE CONDITION OF THE PREACHERS?
1B. My Friends, You Would Be Astonished At The Number Of Preachers Who Are Unconverted These Days, Just As Preachers Were Mostly Unconverted In The Days Preceding The First Great Awakening, When Gilbert Tennant Wrote "The Dangers Of An Unconverted Clergy" And Angered So Many Pastors Of His Day.
2B. But How Else Can You Explain The Pansy Christianity That We See Across The Country? How Else Can You Explain Christianityís Lack Of Impact On Our Culture, With 40 Million Abortions, An Untold Number Of Out Of Wedlock Pregnancies, The Epidemic Of Pornography On The Internet, And An Ever-Increasing Amount Of Profanity And Homosexuality On Television?
3B. Folks, At The Time Of The Revolutionary War Only 16% Of The Population Regularly Attended Church. But With A Far Higher Percentage Of Truly Converted Preachers Than We Now Have These Days, Christianity Had Far More Influence On The Society Than It Has Today. Would They Have Legalized Abortion In Those Days? Were Divorces And Marriages As Trivial Then As They Are Now? Where Is The Real Influence Of The Preachers These Days?
4B. Leadership Is An Extremely Important Factor In The Vigor And Vitality Of Christianity. And When Problems Arise They Begin At The Top And Work Their Way Down. The Methodists Decayed From The Top Down. The Congregationalists Decayed From The Top Down. The Presbyterians Decayed From The Top Down. The Brethren Decayed From The Top Down. And The Baptists, Just Like All The Others, Have Decayed From The Top Down.
5B. So, The Reason For The Decline Of Preaching, The De-Emphasis In Preaching, Is Really Quite Simple. Lost People Donít Want Strong Gospel Preaching. But That Didnít Stop Peter On The Day Of Pentecost. That Didnít Stop Paul In Ephesus Or Philippi Or On Mars Hill. Converted Preachers Are Unfazed By What The Audience Wants Or Doesnít Want, And Never Have Been. They Care Only What God Wants And What The People Need . . . Strong Gospel Preaching.
6B. Preaching Is De-Emphasized, Then, By The Growing Numbers Of Unconverted Preachers.
3A. LET US CLOSE BY ADDRESSING THE ISSUE OF THE PREACHERíS CALLING
1B. I Believe Most Preachers Are Unconverted. That Is, They Are Lost And On Their Way To Hell Themselves. I Agree With The Now Deceased Monroe Parker, An Evangelist Who Indicated That If Half The Preachers Got Saved There Would Be Revival In America. But Beyond That, What Can Be Said About The Few Preachers Who Are Converted? My Opinions:
2B. First, I Am Of The Opinion That Many Converted Pastors Are Simply Not Called.
1C. If a man knows the truth of the Gospel and is probably saved, how do you explain the fact that he cares nothing for the flock, that he does nothing to protect the flock from ravening wolves, and he has no appreciable spiritual discernment?
2C. Oh, he may have a large congregation of people who have been added by various manipulative means and Church growth methods. But he sees no correlation between preaching law and Gospel and getting people truly converted. Or he cares nothing for the personal work that has so characterized the pastoral ministry for the last 2000 years.
3C. My only conclusion is that many of the fine Christian men who are pastors, despite the fact that they are truly converted, are simply not called. These guys are clean, but not called. They have a rich devotional life, but they are not called. They have a prayer life, but they are not called. You see, if God has called you to preach then He has enabled you to preach.
4C. So, if you donít preach because you canít preach it can only be because youíve not been called. Does that not explain some of the de-emphasis of preaching? Good and godly men who are simply out of position, never having been called? Preaching is de-emphasized in their ministries because they have no choice; they canít preach!
2B. Then, There Are Those Who Are Called Of God But Terribly Misinformed
1C. I know fellows who used to preach and preach well, but who do not preach anymore. My, how God used them when they preached, but they donít preach anymore.
2C. One fellow told me that his wife was opposed to his yelling, so he stopped yelling and went to teaching instead of preaching. That guy was misinformed into thinking that a preacher ought to listen to his wife. But Proverbs teaches a man not to be unduly influenced by the bad counsel of his wife. So, thatís one preacher sidelined by a wicked and foolish wife.
3C. And what does he do next? That guy stopped preaching because of his wife, and then persuaded his best friend to stop preaching, too. So, there are now two men who I think are called of God, both of whom no longer preach, one of whom is entirely out of the pastorate, because they are misinformed.
4C. And for every man who has been misinformed by a friend there are others who are misinformed by their schools, or misinformed by the books they read, or misinformed by the seminars they attend. And if these guys would only listen to Godís Word theyíd be okay.
5C. But no. They listen to their wives, or they listen to their friends, or they listen to the seminar speaker, or they listen to their professor, or they listen to some pollster who says people donít like Gospel preaching.
6C. Folks, people have never liked Gospel preaching, so whatís that got to do with anything? The reason the man of God preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the forceful and confrontational way that he does, is because God has called him to do it that way and because God has commanded him to do it that way.
1. Let us at Calvary Road Baptist Church insist on strong Gospel preaching. Not because we want it, but because God wants it.
2. And let us stand ready to answer those who would object to Godís way of communicating His saving truth by letting them know that we care far more what God wants than what they want. Amen?