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Like The Apostles Her Preaching Is Biblical[an error occurred while processing this directive]
by Richard Powlus
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God told Jonah: "Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee" (Jonah 3:2). The only kind of preaching that pleases God is preaching the things he bids us to preach. Unfortunately, in the denominational world today, this kind of preaching is not commonly found. Preachers are often more concerned with pleasing their audience than with pleasing God. First century preachers were only concerned with pleasing God in their preaching (see Acts 4:20 and Galatians 1:10). Preachers in the churches of Christ depend upon God's Word as the source and power of their preaching. Our concern is the saving of souls, not the "tickling of ears."
Ray Hawk, now a preacher in the church of Christ, was a licensed preacher in a denominational church prior to his conversion. In a series of articles he wrote entitled, "Are We Preaching Damnable Doctrine," he states: "If I rejected the (Methodist) Discipline, it meant I would have to leave the Methodist church. My license to preach stated that I was appointed a Methodist preacher to 'preach the gospel according to the Discipline of the Methodist church.' I could no longer do so, for the Methodist Discipline would not allow me to preach simple Bible truths." Most denominational preachers are in this position today. They are committed to their church creeds more than to the Bible as the source of their teaching.
Even more astonishing is the attitude many denominational preachers have toward the Holy Scriptures. Christianity Today (October 13, 1967), reported the results of a poll taken among 7,441 Protestant preachers in the US. In this poll 89% of Episcopal priests, 82% of Methodist preachers, 81% of Presbyterian preachers and 57% of American Lutheran preachers rejected a literal interpretation of the Bible when asked if they believed the Bible is the inspired word of God. Time Magazine (December 30, 1974) in an article entitled, "The Bible: The Believer Gains," discusses this same unbelief in the literal inspiration of the Bible among denominational leaders and teachers.
Now let us examine the attitude of preachers in the New Testament church toward the Bible.
They studied the word of God. In 1 Timothy 4:13, Paul instructed Timothy to, ". . . give heed to reading. . . " It is obvious from the context as well as from 2 Timothy 2:15 that the word of God was the subject of that reading. They knew that they must handle the word of God properly in order to present themselves as approved workmen unto God. This requires diligent study! In Hebrews 5:12-14, we learn that those who study and use the word of God are able to understand it and to teach others. In 2 Peter 3:15-16, we have an obvious reference to the apostle Peter studying the letters of Paul. Preachers in the church of Christ must give diligence in studying God's word in order that they can proclaim it effectively.
They used proof-texts from the Bible to support their preaching. In his sermon on Pentecost, Peter used Joel 2:28 to prove that their speech was from God, not wine. He used Psalm 16:8 to prove that David had looked forward to Christ's coming and his resurrection. He used 2 Samuel 7:12 and Psalm 132:11 to prove Jesus was now on his throne in heaven. Stephen used the Old Testament scriptures to prove the hard-hearted rejection of truth by the Jewish leaders in Acts 7. When Philip taught the Ethiopian eunuch about Christ and the plan of salvation Acts 8:35 says, ". . . and beginning from this scripture (Isaiah 53), preached unto him Jesus." In Acts 18:28, it is said of Apollos' preaching, "for he powerfully refuted the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ." It is written of Paul and Barnabas, that they, ". . . tarried in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also" (Acts 15:35).
They believed the Scriptures alone were sufficient. They had no need of creed books, in fact, they condemned the creeds and doctrines of men (Galatians 1:6-9; 1 Tim. 1:6-7; 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 2:16-18; 3:5-9; Titus 1:9-11). In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul (by inspiration from the Holy Spirit) makes it very clear that New Testament preaching relied upon the Scriptures as all sufficient to make us complete and furnish us "to every good work." It is even said that we should learn in them, ". . . not to go beyond the things that are written" (1 Cor. 4:6). Of those who feel that we need more than Christ has given in his doctrine, it is said that they, have not God. "He that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son" (2 John 9). Jesus promised to guide the apostles into all truth (John 16:13). In 2 Peter 1:3 that apostle said, "seeing that his divine power both granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that called us. . . " In 1 John 4:6, that apostle said, "We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he who is not of God heareth us not. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." You can mark it down that anyone or any group who is not content with the sufficiency of the Scriptures and not willing to "contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3), is not representing God's church.
How different the attitude and preaching of the New Testament church was from the preaching in denominational churches today. The church of Christ patterns her preaching from the example of these News Testament preachers. The power of their preaching was derived from the Scriptures.
Many preachers depend on wisdom of words to give their preaching power. Philosophy is required in many schools training preachers. Some preachers depend on theatrical methods to entertain their audience. Some resort to extreme emotionalism to stir up their audience and thus feel they have preached powerfully.
New Testament preachers relied upon the gospel as their source of power in preaching. "For Christ sent me . . . to preach the gospel: not in wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made void. For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved, it is the power of God? (1 Cor. 1:17-18). One should read Romans 1:15-17, which also declares the power of the gospel. Paul said,
". . . when I came unto you, (I) came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming unto you the testimony of God" (1 Cor. 2:1). Yet he was successful in converting the lost to Christ and in building strong churches. He succeeded because he relied upon God's power through his word. "Which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual words" (1 Cor. 2:13).
The power of apostolic preaching was their willingness to declare the "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). Preaching that does not include scripture falls short of declaring the whole counsel of God. Teaching only part of the gospel has no more power to save than teaching error.
The power of their preaching was also their willingness to declare unto their audience everything that was profitable (Acts 20:20). That is, whatever the church or the lost needed to hear, was what they preached. We need preachers with the same courage today! Too many today are like those Paul describes in 2 Timothy 4:3-4. How sad it is that so many profess godliness today while at the same time they deny the power thereof (2 Tim. 3:5).
The result of this kind of preaching is given also. "Take heed to thyself and to thy teaching. Continue in these things; for in doing this thou shalt save both thyself and them that hear thee" (1 Tim. 4:16). May God help us to always pattern our preaching after the example of New Testament preachers.
What kind of preaching pleases God?
Discuss the attitude of many denominational preachers toward the Bible and how this would affect their preaching.
Why must preachers and teachers study the word of God?
How can we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error in preaching?
What was the power of New Testament preaching?
When preachers preach after the New Testament pattern, what will the result be?
Note: This material is copyrighted (1981) by Star Bible Publications, Inc., P.O. Box 821220, Fort Worth, TX 76182 and is used with the express permissiT9f Mr. Alvin Jennings, owner
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