Plain Bible Teaching, 7 September 2011
Some might wonder how it is that someone like myself – a thirty-year-old with no “full-time” preaching experience – would be so bold as to hand out advice to young preachers (many of whom would be my peers). I am not so arrogant as to think that I have wisdom that compares with a man who has been preaching the gospel for decades. But I do have the Scriptures – the inspired word of God (II Timothy 3:16). Therefore, when I teach the things that come from God (cf. I Peter 4:11), I can do so as Titus was told to teach – “with all authority” (Titus 2:15). So let us briefly look at some of the Bible instructions on preaching that young (and old) preachers need to always remember.
Preach the Word
Your role as a gospel preacher is based simply upon the work of preaching the gospel. Paul told Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season” (II Timothy 4:2). As a preacher, you are obligated to preach this message in its entirety (Acts 20:27) without any additions (II John 9), subtractions (Acts 20:20), or changes to the divine pattern (Galatians 1:6-9; II Timothy 1:13).
Study Your Bible
Paul also told Timothy, “Give attention to reading” (I Timothy 4:13, NKJV). In his second letter to the young preacher, Paul wrote, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). Sure, you can read articles, commentaries, and other resources to help you learn; but always use the Bible as your primary source. You are to “speak as the oracles of God” (I Peter 4:11, NJKV), not as the oracles of some human commentator.
Test All Things Carefully
“But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil” (I Thessalonians 5:21-22). This passage is often used to cover a broad range of matters, but the context is referring primarily to testing things that are being taught. The lesson here is that you should not blindly accept any teaching, but carefully examine it in light of the Scriptures. Just because a view is traditional does not necessarily make it right (Matthew 15:6) – nor does it make it wrong, either. On the other hand, there are new ways that man has devised of looking at the Bible and changes in approach to the work and worship of the church that appears innocent at first but are dangerous if we get caught up in them (Romans 16:17-18; II Corinthians 11:3).
Preach Plainly and Distinctly
Paul wrote, “Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness (plainness, KJV) in our speech” (II Corinthians 3:12). You must preach plainly so that all can understand. Earlier, Paul wrote, “For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?” (I Corinthians 14:8). You must preach distinctly so that the difference between truth and error is clearly seen and there is no way to mistake which side you are on.
Seek to Please God, Not Man
Your responsibility is to please God rather than men (Galatians 1:10). If you preach the truth plainly, accurately, and in its entirety, you will have some people who will not be happy with you. There will always be those who want “to have their ears tickled,” but you must not change your message to accommodate them (II Timothy 4:3-5).
Guard Against a Party Spirit
A party spirit had taken hold within the church at Corinth. Paul described the problem in this way: “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (I Corinthians 1:12-13). This kind of party spirit which prefers some over others can exist both within the congregation and among preaching brethren. You are to be loyal to Christ, period. Do not blindly support or reject someone based merely on how some group perceives him. Instead, you must “examine everything carefully” (I Thessalonians 5:21). Timothy was told, “Do nothing in a spirit of partiality” (I Timothy 5:21). As Jesus said, “Judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
Know When and When Not to Compromise
You should be willing to compromise on matters of personal opinion (I Corinthians 8), provided the one with whom you are compromising is not trying to bind his opinion as if it were a matter of divine law (Matthew 15:6-9). But you must never, ever compromise on matters of faith (Galatians 2:4-5, 11-14; Titus 1:10-11; II John 10-11).
Do Not View Preaching as a “Job”
The work of preaching the gospel is not the same as a regular job. Unlike a secular job, preaching is a work to which one devotes his life (I Timothy 4:15) and one that has eternal consequences (I Timothy 4:16). Of course, in doing this work you might receive wages for your efforts (II Corinthians 11:8). But when Timothy was told, “Do the work of an evangelist,” Paul added, “Fulfill your ministry” (II Timothy 4:5). Preaching the gospel is more than just a job. It is a work and a ministry.
Do Not Gauge Success by Numbers
Paul said he was not sent “to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (I Corinthians 1:17). His point was that a preacher’s responsibility is to plant and water and let God take care of the rest (I Corinthians 3:6). Success in preaching is measured by your faithfulness to God and fulfilling your work. If this causes numbers to go up, great! But if not, do not be discouraged; instead, strengthen your resolve to continue your work.
Put the Brethren in Remembrance
Paul told Timothy that one of his primary responsibilities as a preacher was to “put the brethren in remembrance” (I Timothy 4:6, KJV). If you are a young man, then in most congregations there will be members who have been Christians longer than you have been alive. You will rarely teach them something they have not heard before (and it is likely that what I wrote here is nothing you have not heard before). That is alright. Peter thought it was “right, as long as [he was] in this earthly dwelling, to stir [the brethren] up by way of reminder” even though they were already “established in the truth” (II Peter 1:12-13). So do not keep looking for something new. Instead, seek out “the ancient paths, where the good way is” (Jeremiah 6:16).
These things that I have written here are not bits of wisdom I have gained from years of experience. Rather, they are instructions that can be found in the word of God. Whether you are young or old, if you are striving to do the work of an evangelist, follow the instructions that are revealed in the Scriptures. Let all those who endeavor to preach the gospel heed the charge that Paul gave to Timothy: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (II Timothy 4:2-5).