To look into the life of Jeremiah is to gain a greater understanding of our Lord’s character. Jesus once asked his disciples who men say that he is. They answered and said, “Some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets” (Matthew 16:13-14). What was it about Jeremiah that caused the people of Jesus’ day to say he reminded them of the prophet of God? A study of the book of Jeremiah bears out two glaring characteristics of the prophet that forever associates him with the Christ. Jeremiah was a meek and fearless preacher who faithfully preached God’s message to a lost and dying people. The prophet of God writes, “If I say, I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name, there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9). Continue reading » Jeremiah
Gospel preachers are in the public spotlight and that is exactly where God wants his faithful ministers. Sermons are delivered in the most public manner. Articles they write are read throughout the world. Their daily activities are watched and put to the test of hypocrisy due to the public nature of their work. Lives can be changed for the better or worse depending upon the content of the message proclaimed. The command of God is to “preach the word” not our personal convictions and opinions (2 Timothy 4:1-2). A preacher is disqualified from the work of an evangelist when he preaches or writes about his personal opinions and convictions as though they represent truth. Continue reading » Qualified and Disqualified Preachers
One of the greatest tragedies of the church today is our apparent apathy toward the souls of men. We can become so caught up in the material aspects of our daily lives that we all too often lose sight of the spiritual condition of those around us. As Jesus Himself lamented, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).
The apostle Paul was a man who saw the need to respond to the Lord’s appeal for laborers. The extent of Paul’s concern for lost souls can be seen in all of his efforts and writings, but this article will focus upon the first few verses of his address to the elders of the church in Ephesus recorded in Acts 20:17-21. Continue reading » Paul’s Concern For the Souls of Men
In 2 Timothy 4:5, the Apostle Paul exhorted young Timothy, “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” The admonition is serious, and any man who would take on the work should have an understanding of what God requires of him. It is also important that all Christians know what is the evangelist’s work.
Too many times I have heard the simplistic answer, “The evangelist is to evangelize!” The Greek word for evangelist means, “the bringer of good tidings … one who brings good news.” So, looking at the definition, the evangelist preaches the gospel to the lost. When this is contended, it is sometimes intended to limit the work of the evangelist to that single act, preaching to the lost.
Continue reading » The Work of an Evangelist
Once upon a time, in perhaps another world (sometimes it seems like it to me!), I received my income by secular employment. That’s right; because I did not begin to work with a church as a located preacher till I was almost 30. During my early adult years I was not the Lord’s man and by that I don’t mean I was not a Christian because I was, but only in the sense that I received no financial support from the church for doing the work of preaching the gospel. Of course, gospel preachers are entitled to receive such support and usually depend upon it for their livelihood (as did Paul the apostle: Philippians 4:15&16; 2 Corinthians 11:8; Acts 28:30). For me the change from secular work to being dependent upon the Lord for a livelihood was really quite great. But there is more to this idea and I’d like to bring you to my point by explaining how I come to this.
Continue reading » "Are You On the Guerdon of the Lord?"
When I was just beginning preaching, I know I benefited greatly by a number of older preachers, including my own father. Though some of these were not aware of it they served as mentors to me by their reputations and examples. One I have admired in so many ways was Robert L. McDonald, Jr. At one time he told a story that bears repeating at this time and I want to use it here as the premise for this article.
The account goes like this. During the process of preaching a gospel meeting in a certain place brother McDonald had just concluded one of his sermons, which no doubt was thorough on insisting on the adherence to Bible authority. As the listeners were filing by, an elderly man approached him and referring to the sermon said, “That was a real cow bell!” This man went on to explain what he meant by this and that his comment was intended to be the highest compliment, which for our purposes now, was along the lines of understanding why milk cows used to wear loud bells around their necks. The owner of the cow could hear where his cow was when the bell sounded as it walked. This told him if his cow was close or far. So, his remark meant that the sermon brother MacDonald had preached had the sound of telling him what he needed to know, the truth.
Continue reading » Preaching the Gospel With the Jerusalem Ring
In spite of this article’s title – “A Very Lovely Song” – it has nothing to do with music whatsoever.
In fact, this is one way in which God made reference to his prophet, Ezekiel, but it was not quite the compliment it sounds like.
Consider Ezekiel chapter 33, verses 30-33:
“As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, “Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.’ So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. And when this comes to pass–surely it will come–then they will know that a prophet has been among them.”
Prophets like Ezekiel, you see, were not merely fortune tellers or providers of divine insight into the future; they were instructors of morality in light of God’s future plans (2 Peter 3:10-12). Because Ezekiel had proven himself a skillful prophet, the people greatly desired to come into his presence and hear what he had to say. They talked about Ezekiel like he was a celebrity preacher; he was the hottest topic in the land. Continue reading » A Very Lovely Song
The Power of the Gospel in Foreign Evangelism
In our last article we considered the power of the gospel in the mission field in its ability to convert the lost and guide them in the ways God would have them to go. In this article we would like to look at that power in the protecting, correcting, and equipping of God’s people. The purpose of both of these articles is to show how the gospel can do today what it did in the first century. Just as the gospel is all-sufficient in converting the lost so does it contain everything necessary to the needs of the growing Christian (2 Timothy 3:16-17; James 1:21). It is especially important to remember this in our day in light of the drift of some towards a subjective approach and others into emphasis on psychological needs of people (this is not to question that people have psychological needs).
It is the will of God that those converted by the gospel be taught to “observe all things, whatsoever [Jesus has] commanded” (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:20). Let us now study some applications of these requirements. Continue reading » White Unto Harvest: The Seed is the Word of God – 2
To Paul from Asthenes
Peace and grace to you from our God and Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. I want to commend you for your wonderful work of preaching Christ and Him crucified. Your compassion and concern for the jailer at Philippi was inspiring. I also appreciate your comment, "I have been crucified with Christ…who loved me and gave Himself for me." What wonderful words of comfort. Thank you.
I have a concern though; a concern that you may not have noticed, but others have. I know this to be so because I have discussed it with them and they feel the same way I do. I want you to be aware of it so your service to Christ may be even more effective, more fruitful. My concern is this, your poor attitude and actions toward others on some occasions — not all — but some. It seems to be driving people away from Christ instead of drawing them near. This cannot be good under any circumstances, can it? Let me give you specific cases.
Continue reading » Scripture Studies: Letters from Asthenes (A Satire)
"Preach the word," was Paul’s instruction to Timothy, the young evangelist (2 Tim. 4:2). The apostle Peter also said, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11). Though they lived in the "Golden Age of Greece" when philosophy was so prevalent, both of these inspired apostles directed evangelists to base their preaching solidly on God’s revealed word. In fact, Paul made direct reference to the difference between human wisdom and divine wisdom when he wrote to the church at Corinth, an ancient pagan city. "Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" (1 Cor. 1:20). The wisdom of the world did not acknowledge even the existence of God. "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe" (v. 21).
Continue reading » Associate Editorial: The Importance of Biblical Preaching
The old saying goes that “it all depends on whose ox is being gored.” Old sayings usually have a very strong element of truth in them as do the tales of the old wives. (How many of us preacher types could get along without the old wives?)
The gored ox problem is the problem of tolerance. We love to hear sin condemned from the pulpit, as long as our ox is not being gored, meaning that our sin is not being condemned. The employment status of many preachers, including this author, has changed when we have gored the wrong ox. (Wrong as it relates to the possessor of an ox, not wrong as in the eternal Judge of the universe). I personally have never owned an ox, nor do I desire one. It might end up being gored, and I might have to change my position on sin, God forbid, since my current position is that revealed by the Psalmist, Psalm 119:104, “Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.” And Psalm 119:128, “Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right; I hate every false way.”
Continue reading » Associate Editorial: The Gored Ox
Let me ask you something. If you noticed that others applied a stricter, harsher standard to you than they applied to themselves, how would you feel? I write this article in defense of my fellow evangelists; I write this article, not in the spirit of complaining, for we are to “do all things without complaining and disputing.” (Philippians 2:14) Nevertheless, it is equally evident in the scriptures that, when we see an injustice or error, we are to expose it and fight it. (Ephesians 5:11)
“Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun: and look! the tears of the oppressed, but they have no comforter—On the side of their oppressors there is power, but they have no comforter.” (Ecclesiastes 4:1) No doubt human cruelty and oppression have always existed, and God knows this. But, is it right when this oppression and cruelty comes from within the church? There is an oppression under the sun today, and it involves setting a double standard for evangelists.
Continue reading » The Double Standard
(Editor’s Note: The following series of sermon outlines are complementary to the discussion regarding the proper “Tone” in preaching).
I. Introduction. Very soon after the establishment of the church of Jesus Christ, there were problems with false doctrine. Probably the first big problem the church experienced was that of the Judaizers: those who taught that all Christians had to obey the Law of Moses. Soon thereafter, the Gnostics became a problem; they were a group that taught that Jesus did not come in the flesh, and that they had a special, secret understanding of the scriptures that the unenlightened could not understand. Ever since then, there have been heresies, false doctrines, and problems in Christ’s church. Today is no different.
Continue reading » Problems in the Lord’s Church
Editor’s Note: Brother Ron Halbrook emailed an article by Tom Roberts, which first appeared in Watchman in June of 1998, to many individuals this past August. His email led to an exchange on what constitutes an appropriate tone in preaching and a defense of the gospel. This is brother Halbrook’s contribution to the discussion.
Thanks for your thoughts. I am not offended by your remarks but am thankful that you are concerned enough about me to write. I am always open to consider anything you wish to offer. I do not dismiss criticism out of hand, nor do the men I know and work with, though your post implies we do. As you have spoken frankly w/o bitterness, I will try to do the same. We speak as friends, not enemies: “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Prov. 27:17) . Just as you hoped I would not dismiss your concerns w/o giving them thought, I hope you will not be guilty of the same.
FIRST, let’s consider the issue of “positive” and “negative” preaching and teaching.
Ironically, your post is what men call “negative” in protesting what you regard as negative. It has the tone and content of a “watchdog” message in that you identify and protest things which you think need to be corrected. This always has been a valid function and duty of God’s people (Ezek. 3; 1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Tim. 4:1-5; 1 Pet. 5:8). You probably did not stop to think or worry about whether your message would be perceived as so-called negative or positive, or whether you might be labeled as a watchdog, but you simply addressed a need as you see it. So it is with what those you criticize preach and write. We are little concerned about how people perceive what we say, but our focus in on “speaking the truth in love” so as to please God not man (Eph. 4:15; Gal. 1:10).
Continue reading » Ron Halbrook’s Rejoinder
Editor’s Note: Brother Ron Halbrook emailed the article by Tom Roberts entitled “Your Preaching Is Offensive to Me”, which first appeared in Watchman in June of 1998, to many individuals this past August. His email led to an exchange on what constitutes an appropriate tone in preaching and a defense of the gospel. The resulting exchange is printed in this issue for your consideration. The name of the author who penned the following email to Ron is being withheld here.
You may recall that I am the institutional brother who is studying the NI view. I would like to express a few observations, in love, about the e-mail you are sending out written by others. I ask that you consider this with an open mind, and take it in the spirit of sincere love it is offered.
Ron, I want you to understand very clearly that I believe in preaching against sin, including doctrinal error. I firmly believe that all the saved are in the church of Christ, and that we should not fellowship denominations. And Tom Roberts, who wrote this below, is a dear friend of mine. I have attended Judson Road, where he preaches, and enjoyed all my visits there. I have heard Tom preach, and admire him greatly. I agree with him that truth sometimes is unavoidably offensive, even when presented kindly.
Continue reading » A Response, Written to Ron Halbrook
As a gospel preacher I have an obligation to those who listen to my preaching. I am not a free agent in the absolute sense of the word: responsibilities limit me to some degree. While each preacher of the gospel will remain free and unfettered so that he may preach all of the gospel, this does not permit license to ignore the necessities that are thrust upon him. I am jealous of what freedom I do have. None shall restrict me from preaching "in season and out of season" (when it meets with approval and when it does not) or from preaching "the whole counsel of God."
Each preacher has a commitment to God to preach so as to please God whether it pleases the brethren or not (cf: the life of the prophets) and this is not negotiable. However, it is possible to abuse this prerogative and take advantage of brethren who agree in principle with this commitment but disagree with the application of it by an unwise preacher. The life of many a faithful preacher has been made hard by foolish ones who abuse the patience of good brethren by not using discretion toward responsibilities. Preachers should show good judgment in their work.
Continue reading » Associate Editorial: What I Owe My Hearers
Chapel Address — No. 4
J.W. McGarvey, Chapel Talks (1956)
A considerable number of you expect to preach tomorrow. What for? It will cost some labor and anxiety on your own part and some trouble to the audience which you expect to come and hear you; and what for? On your own part, what is it for? Just to fill an appointment? Well, that is very important. If a man has an appointment he ought to fill it, especially if he is a preacher. I have felt this duty pressed upon me all my life as a preacher. I recollect that I had an appointment once thirty miles from home and I expected to reach the place on horseback. When Saturday morning arrived the thermometer registered eighteen degrees below zero. Then the question arose whether I ought to risk being frozen by going to that appointment. But I mounted my horse and went. When I was within a half-mile or so of the village I met with a number of brethren who had been gathering ice for their icehouses. They told me that they were not looking for me. I answered, “Whenever I have an appointment, you look for me”. That has been the rule of my life, and I mention it so that it may help any of you who have been just a little careless. It is very important to always be prompt in filling your appointments. Continue reading » Voices from the Past: Why Do You Want to Preach? (J.W. McGarvey)
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (NKJ).
As a youngster, I heard 2 Timothy 2:15 discussed widely in class and used often in gospel preaching. In most instances, the passage was relied upon to urge Christians to “study” (KJV) their Bibles and to “rightly divide” (make a distinction) between the Old and New Testaments. While there is no doubt that “being diligent to present yourself to God” will include studying the scriptures, and “rightly dividing the word of truth” will include distinguishing between the covenants, it is also true that this passage carries a deeper meaning than then allowed. The instruction to Timothy in verse 15 is embedded in a wider context of preaching the gospel that lends weight to the work of evangelism. We must learn this lest we “need to be ashamed.” Continue reading » Associate Editorial: “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)
Early on as a young man I aspired to preach the gospel. One of my prized possessions is a sermon outline book, Seed for the Sower by Leroy Brownlow, which was given to me by my friend Jay Bowman when I was about 11 years old. Brother Bowman was aware of my desire to “grow up” to be a preacher, and wanted to encourage me in that quest. I recently passed on the book to a young man who has indicated the same desire to preach.
In addition to the sentimental value of that gift, it has had practical use for me through the years. Though I seldom if ever take a sermon outline book off my library shelves these days, I still use and benefit from material prepared by other brethren. And these days, the material is ever easier to come by, thanks to the resources of the internet.
This month, I want to share with you six internet resources which will be of help to gospel preachers in sermon and bulletin preparation. My thanks to the webmasters of these sites, and to the preachers who have prepared much good material (many times the two are the same). I would encourage our readers to either copy down the URL of this article, or print it out and give it to any young man who is aspiring to, or engaging in the work of a gospel preacher. (In the future, he will look kindly upon your thoughfulness). Continue reading » Electronic Preaching: Sermon Resources on the Internet
What would you think of a preacher whose sermons offended people and were taken as insulting by the hearers? What if a preacher caused the audience to be filled with anger because of the hard things that he said? What if he went so far as to mock false beliefs? Regardless of his intent, many would denounce such preaching as wrong. Even if he did not intend to insult people, but merely sought to preach the truth boldly, many would condemn him for offending others.
However, the Bible is filled with cases of those who preached the truth boldly in an effort to bring sinners to repentance, only to see those addressed react with anger because of taking offense at the message. Preachers of the truth in Bible times were not men of timidity and a totally “positive” message which was pleasing to the hearers. Their message had elements which were not always appreciated by all who heard it. Notice the reactions to Jesus’ preaching.
In Matthew 15, Jesus reproved the Pharisees for their replacing of the law of God with their human commands and traditions. This reproof was in forceful terms as He said, “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men'” (Matthew 15:7-9). Continue reading » In the Steps of the Savior: That Preacher Offended Me!