Plain Preaching

The politically correct culture of the secular world has also made its presence felt in evangelism. Thus we hear less and less about sin and repentance, eternity and hell––in case any should be offended, and ‘put off’ coming to Christ. The message has to be watered down––made less strident––before there is any hope of making converts. The sheer arrogance of all this is breathtaking: who are you, who am I, to tamper with God’s Glad Tidings? Is it not, in reality, to say that we know better than God?

   The sad result of this kind of preaching––shallow and sickly––is that it tends to produce converts of like character. Here and there are exceptions thank God, but a good many seem to be “for a time only” (Matt. 13: 21), before slipping back into the world which, in reality, they had never left. Others claim to have come to Christ, but show no evidence in their lives of ever having been changed. How could it be otherwise when conversion to Christ seems to take place without conviction of sin, and a ticket for heaven is claimed without any sense of the threat of hell? It is a truism that defective preaching produces defective disciples.

   Some will resent these words, condemning it as an attack on evangelism––did not Paul, after all, rejoice even when Christ was preached “out of contention” (Phil. 1: 17)? Such miss the point. What is more important––that the current state of preaching is above comment, or that souls are truly brought to Christ?

   There was no more plain speaker than the Lord––and it is plain preaching that produces effective and lasting results. He was not concerned with numbers, or ‘celebrity’ conversions, or impressive ‘testimonies’. He was interested in winning souls––pure and simple. Thus His preaching was straight and to the point. Certainly He varied His message––what He had to say to the cultured Nicodemus in John 3 was not the same as what He addressed to the immoral Samaritan woman in John 4. The Gospel was never, however, ‘watered down’ or made more palatable. He told people how it was. This can be seen in a striking way in John 8. In addressing the cream of God’s favoured people, He makes no attempt to adapt His message to their sensitivities: “And he said to them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above. Ye are of this world; I am not of this world” (v23). All their pretended righteousness is swept aside by the dreadful pronouncement “unless ye shall believe that I am [he], ye shall die in your sins” (v 24). These were the same lips that on others occasions uttered “words of grace” (Luke 4: 22). So did the Lord hate the Pharisees? Not at all. He spoke to them in the way that He did because He loved them. It would not have been love to have diluted the message. They were in peril, and He must warn them.

   To water down the Gospel to reduce its offence is really to pervert it. True love for souls does not hold back what needs to be told. Furthermore, it is an outrageous liberty to tamper with the King’s message when a preacher is never to be anything more than the King’s courier. What did Paul say? “
We preach Christ crucified, to Jews an offence, and to nations foolishness” (1 Cor. 1: 23). There was nothing in what he preached that was agreeable to the natural man––but it was the undiluted Word of God. Such plain preaching has never been popular––not then and not now––but it glorifies God, and produces lasting results in the souls of men.