Speaking Sound Doctrine


Divine Worship

III.             Gospel Teaching

A.          An Act Of Worship:  Gospel Preaching

We are authorized and commanded in God's word to teach the gospel both as individuals (2 Timothy 2:2) and through the church as a corporate body (1 Corinthians 14:19).  In the sense that preaching is a prescribed sacred service, a divine ministry, and an expression of respect for God, it fits the spirit of LATREUO and PROSKUNEO: terms for worship defined earlier.  Therefore, teaching the gospel is an act of worship, whether we are doing it individually in our homes or collectively in a church building.  The people in Ezra's day certainly considered preaching an act of profound reverence.

Nehemiah 8:5-8  And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God.  Then all the people answered, "Amen, Amen!" while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground…. 8 So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.

Consider this: if teaching the doctrines of men is vain worship, then teaching the commandments of the Lord must be true worship (Matthew 15:9).  Moreover, scripture reveals that early church gatherings for other worship forms typically included time for gospel preaching.

Acts 20:7  Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.

2 Corinthians 14:23-31  Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. 25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you. 26 How is it then, brethren?  Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation.  Let all things be done for edification.

Teaching men that they need to be baptized is not the same kind of thing as teaching them to be diligent in work, honest in business, and sober in behavior.  Baptism is not an aspect of everyday life but a sacred, religious service and token of sublime submission.  It therefore also conforms to the special sense of worship as defined earlier.

B.          A Sense Of Gravity

The word "preach" in our English Bibles translates several Hebrew Old Testament words and Greek New Testament words.  Let's examine the most common.

·        QARA' {kaw-raw'} Isaiah 61:1; Jonah 3:2

Meaning:  "1) to call, call out, recite, read, cry out, proclaim 1a) (Qal) 1a1) to call, cry, utter a loud sound 1a2) to call unto, cry (for help), call (with name of God) 1a3) to proclaim 1a4) to read aloud, read (to oneself), read 1a5) to summon, invite, call for, call and commission, appoint, call and endow …" (BDB).

·        KERUSSO {kay-roos'-so} Matthew 3:1; Mark 1:38, 39; 16:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:9

Meaning:  "1) to be a herald, to officiate as a herald 1a) to proclaim after the manner of a herald 1b) always with the suggestion of formality, gravity and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed 2) to publish, proclaim openly: something which has been done 3) used of the public proclamation of the gospel and matters pertaining to it ..." (JHT).

·        EUAGGELIZO {yoo-ang-ghel-id'-zo} Luke 20:1; Acts 5:42; 1 Corinthians 1:17; Galatians 1:8, 9

Meaning:  "1) to bring good news, to announce glad tidings 1a) used in the OT of any kind of good news 1a1) of the joyful tidings of God's kindness, in particular, of the Messianic blessings 1b) in the NT used especially of the glad tidings of the coming kingdom of God, and of the salvation to be obtained in it through Christ, and of what relates to this salvation 1c) glad tidings are brought to one, one has glad tidings proclaimed to him 1d) to proclaim glad tidings 1d1) instruct (men) concerning the things that pertain to Christian salvation" (JHT).

The time for gospel teaching is not a time for telling jokes or humorous anecdotes.  Preaching is serious work with eternal consequences.  A preacher is not an entertainer; he is a persuader – a town crier of a sort (Acts 18:4). 

Acts 19:8  And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.

Acts 28:23  So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening.

2 Corinthians 5:10, 11  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men….

Moreover, gospel preaching does not pertain to just any kind of motivational speaking.  Some popular preachers today are proclaiming a health-and-wealth message: promoting high self-esteem, work ethic, fulfillment, and good money management.  The gospel message touches on these subjects, but a preacher who teaches more than what the Bible says on these matters should not think he is honoring the Lord with his words.  To the contrary, gospel preaching that reverences God pertains to His kingdom – His church (Acts 1:3; 8:12; 20:25; 28:31).

C.          Sound Doctrine

We will now explore the attributes of the kind of gospel preaching that rightfully reverences God and honors His will.

1.      Distinctive

The gospel teaching in divine worship should be clear and distinct.  Politicians are renowned for cloaking their true agenda with ambiguous terminology.  After a gospel message, if a hearer says, "What did he mean by that?" the Lord's purposes have not been served.

1 Corinthians 14:7-9  Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? 8 For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle? 9 So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken?  For you will be speaking into the air.

2 Corinthians 1:18, 19  But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us – by me, Silvanus, and Timothy – was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes.

Non-distinctive preaching is manifested by contradictions, and when the messages are indeterminable or noncommittal, no one can be sure of the intent.  If a preacher confirms a matter in one situation but then denies it in another, we can be certain that a heresy is being propagated.  This ought not be the character of gospel preaching.  Paul counsels the young evangelists Timothy and Titus about this:

1Timothy 6:20, 21  O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge – 21 by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith….

Titus 1:9  Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.

Some charismatic religious groups today claim to still possess miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit.  A deep examination of the work of the Holy Spirit is beyond the scope of this study, but it should be noted that such manifestations of the Spirit have passed away with the completion of the perfect and enduring written word (1 Corinthians 13:8-13).  Moreover, the so-called speaking in tongues that is performed among these groups is different from that which was done in the early church.  Scripture reveals that the gift of tongues was merely the divine empowerment of men to speak in known, current, foreign, human languages with no need of training, which expedited the preaching of the gospel (Acts 2:4-11).  So-called tongues among charismatic groups today are unintelligible to any man, including the speaker, and supposedly understood by Heavenly beings alone.  We can confidently determine from Paul's admonitions that such kind of meaningless gibberish does not honor God and ought not be spoken in the church (1 Corinthians 14:10-33).

2.      Simple

The true gospel message of salvation is not complicated and can be understood by the most simple-minded (1 Corinthians 1:18-23; 2 Corinthians 1:12, 13; 11:3).  Therefore, if a preacher is deriving his conclusions from complex linguistic manipulation and advanced philosophies of higher learning, the doctrine is very likely a heresy (Colossians 2:2-8).

1 Corinthians 2:1-8  And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 6 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

3.      Pure

Scripture warns against preachers altering the gospel message in order to please men, please their selves, or maintain their wages.  When asked to testify concerning doctrinal issues of controversy, such as divorce, human institutions, or withdrawal from disorderly Christians, some gospel preachers, attempting to preserve their popularity or spare themselves criticism, will skate around the issues so that their personal convictions are not actually revealed.  The truth must never be compromised (Proverbs 23:23).  New Testament scripture is full of warnings concerning polluted doctrines creeping into the church.

Acts 20:28-31 29 …For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.

Romans 16:17-18  Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.

1 Thessalonians 2:3-6  For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit. 4 But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. 5 For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness – God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.

Titus 1:10, 11  For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain.

2 Peter 2:1-3  But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.

Jude 4  For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Remember that burnt offerings under the Mosaic dispensation were "before the Lord… a sweet aroma" (Leviticus 6:14, 15).  In similitude, so is gospel preaching today.

2 Corinthians 2:14-17  15 For we are to God the fragrance [EUODIA] of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma [OSME] of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma [OSME] of life leading to life.  And who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.

The word "peddling" here translates KAPELEUO {kap-ale-yoo'-o}, and Thayer's definition includes: "2c) to corrupt, to adulterate 2c1) peddlers were in the habit of adulterating their commodities for the sake of gain."  Conversely, "sincerity" translates HEILIKRINEIA {i-lik-ree'-ni-ah}: "1) purity, sincerity, ingenuousness" (JHT).

4.      Bold

1 Thessalonians 2:2  But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.

The word "bold" here translates PARRHESIAZOMAI {par-hray-see-ad'-zom-ahee} meaning, "1) to use freedom in speaking, be free spoken 1a) to speak freely 2) to grow confident, have boldness, show assurance, assume a bold bearing" (JHT).  In the nine times this verb appears in scripture (seven times in the book of Acts), it is always with respect to gospel preaching.  Similarly, the noun form, PARRHESIA {par-rhay-see'-ah}, Thayer defines as, "1) freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech 1a) openly, frankly, i.e., without concealment 1b) without ambiguity or circumlocution 1c) without the use of figures and comparisons 2) free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance 3) the deportment by which one becomes conspicuous or secures publicity" (Acts 4:13, 29, 31).

Ephesians 6:18-20  Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints – 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly [PARRHESIA] to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly [PARRHESIAZOMAI], as I ought to speak.

The original connotations of both word forms relate openness in speech, but both acquired the meaning of boldness, confidence, and courage without connection necessarily to speech.  Incidentally, the word "circumlocution" in Thayer's definition means evasive speech by the use of excessive words.

Bold, confident preaching is hard to always find in many churches today.  Some preachers go so far out of their way to not speak words that offend people of other beliefs that the gospel message becomes obscured beyond recognition.  When the doctrine of Christ is presented in cowardice as just another religious opinion rather than divine certainty, the hearers will not be able to see anything as absolute truth or absolute error (1 John 4:1-6).  This in no way honors God, and this is not how we ought to speak.

The true gospel message ought to be different from the typical messages heard in denominational churches.  If visitors can hold to denominational error and at the same time agree with everything they hear in our assembly, we have utterly failed them.  For example, all mainstream religious denominations agree that we must have faith, renounce sin, and confess Christ as Lord, but the doctrine that baptism is the moment when we actually contact the blood of Christ and receive forgiveness is most unique by comparison (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3, 4; Galatians 3:27; 1 Peter 3:21).  Therefore, when the audience is ambiguously invited to merely "obey" or "respond if they have a need" without specifically telling them what to do for the remission of sins, we have miserably failed.  A current trend in some churches today is to preach only that God loves us and gave His Son for us and that we should therefore shun evil deeds, but to learn precisely how to receive forgiveness, the audience is encouraged to ask for more information after the assembly is dismissed.  These teachings are true, but when we hereby fail to speak openly due to the fear of offending those in error, we appear to be ashamed of the unique gospel message (Romans 1:16; 2 Timothy 1:8).

Philippians 1:19, 20  For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.

A gospel preacher teaching in a worship assembly must never hold back but assertively say what needs to be said.  His own salvation depends on it (1 Timothy 4:16).

Ezekiel 3:17-21  Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: 18 When I say to the wicked, "You shall surely die," and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 19 Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. 20 Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. 21 Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.

Act 20:26-28  Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

5.      Relevant

There is a time and place for preaching that is directed at saved believers.  It is very beneficial to sometimes bring the church together to discuss various doctrinal matters, such as elder qualifications, gender roles, divorce, or parenting.  These are all needful discussions, but in many such situations, there are still some unbelievers in the audience.  A church needs to be aware of this.  The evangelist can easily take the opportunity to flavor any Bible instruction with a salt-sprinkling of the gospel message of forgiveness a visitor so desperately needs to hear (Matthew 5:13).  We can offer the excuse that they have all heard it before, but it is nevertheless relevant and vital.  The height of irrelevance occurs when a church actually invites nonbelievers in from the community only to preach to them about nothing other than personal evangelism.  

2 Timothy 4:1-4  I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

In this passage, "be ready" is from EPHISTEMI {ef-is'-tay-mee} meaning, "1) to place at, place upon, place over 1a) to stand by, be present 1b) to stand over one … 1b1) used [especially] of persons coming upon one suddenly … 1c) to be at hand 1c1) be ready…."  Furthermore, "in season" translates EUKAIROS {yoo-kah'-ee-roce}, which means, "1) seasonably, opportunely 2) when the opportunity occurs."  It is a combination of EU {yoo}: "well," and KAIROS {kahee-ros'}: "…2a) a fixed and definite time, the time when things are brought to crisis, the decisive epoch waited for" (JHT).  Also, "out of season" translates AKAIROS {ak-ah'-ee-roce}: the same word with the negative prefix.

Paul prefaces his instruction with a reminder that God will ultimately judge.  We might readily assume that Paul is referring to God's judgment against those who reject the truth, but as this is a charge directed at Timothy in the presence of God, it is more reasonable that he is referring to God's judgment against an evangelist who would neglect to take advantage of critical teaching opportunities.  We need to take this to heart.  Correspondingly, Paul concludes with these words:

2 Timothy 4:5  But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Some churches and evangelists today claim their initiative is to "preach the Man, not the plan."  In other words, their preaching centers on the love of God, but the duty of man to respond in baptism is de-emphasized.  Our preaching should certainly never portray that we deserve forgiveness because of our obedience to a checklist, but the need for obedience ought never be minimized.  Consider that when Philip goes to preach to the Ethiopian treasurer, Luke records that he "preached Jesus to him."  Then, the man says, "See, here is water.  What hinders me from being baptized?" (Acts 8:35, 36).  Evidently, preaching about Jesus (the Man) must involve preaching that baptism is essential (the plan).

In application, a church needs to be on stand-by, watching for the anticipated opportunity to teach the message of salvation to the lost – for whom it is most relevant.  Understandably, there may be situations where first-principle teaching is irrelevant, especially in small, intimate gatherings when it is well-known that no unbelievers are present.  However, we might not always know this with certainty, especially in larger gatherings.  Even though in a presentation on parenting we may think it is inconvenient to teach about baptism or the uniqueness of the church, we need to do it anyway.

6.      Poignant

a.    The evangelist's divine directive

Review 2 Timothy 4:1-5.  It is a concise description of the God-ordained task of an evangelist.  Let's examine Thayer's definitions of the three key action words in verse 2.

·        Convince – ELEGCHO {el-eng'-kho}: 1) to convict, refute, confute 1a) generally with a suggestion of shame of the person convicted 1b) by conviction to bring to the light, to expose 2) to find fault with, correct 2a) by word 2a1) to reprehend severely, chide, admonish, reprove 2a2) to call to account, show one his fault, demand an explanation 2b) by deed 2b1) to chasten, to punish (Matthew 18:15; Luke 3:19; 1 Corinthians 14:24; 1 Timothy 5:20; Titus 2:15).

·        Rebuke – EPITIMAO {ep-ee-tee-mah'-o}: 1) to show honour to, to honour 2) to raise the price of 3) to adjudge, award, in the sense of merited penalty 4) to tax with fault, rate, chide, rebuke, reprove, censure severely 4a) to admonish or charge sharply (Mark 8:33; Luke 17:3).

·        Exhort – PARAKALEO {par-ak-al-eh'-o}: 1) to call to one's side, call for, summon 2) to address, speak to, (call to, call upon), which may be done in the way of exhortation, entreaty, comfort, instruction, etc. 2a) to admonish, exhort 2b) to beg, entreat, beseech 2b1) to strive to appease by entreaty 2c) to console, to encourage and strengthen by consolation, to comfort… (1 Thessalonians 2:11; 3:2; 4:1; 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:17; 3:12; 1 Timothy 2:1; 5:1; 6:2; Titus 2:6; Hebrew 3:13; 1 Peter 2:11; 5:1; Jude 3).

Note that two of these three call for confrontation.  If these verbs imply a balance in preaching, the scale tips toward severity.  Some folks in the church today disparage so-called "negative preaching" – preaching that warns concerning eternal punishment and the wrath of God against immorality and lawlessness.  Nevertheless, if a preacher sternly refutes and exposes our faults so that we are ashamed and convinced by his chastening and we repent, that is a very positive and comforting thing (Hebrews 12:5).   Conversely, evil doers will not want to hear the pure gospel message that calls out their error, but a church must be preaching it anyway (1 Kings 22:8, 18; John 3:20; Acts 28:27; Ephesians 5:13; Hebrews 5:11; 13:22 ).

Ephesians 5:11  And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose [ELEGCHO] them.

Isaiah 30:9, 10  …This is a rebellious people, Lying children, Children who will not hear the law of the LORD; 10 Who say to the seers, "Do not see," And to the prophets, "Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits.

Scripture frequently depicts evangelism as militant (Ephesians 6:10-17; 1 Timothy 1:18; 6:12).  Curiously, the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English lexicon further explains that the origin of QARA' (preach) is from a "rather identical" form expressing the idea of accosting a person met, whether by chance or by a deliberate encounter (Jeremiah 32:23).  Similarly, Strong's definition of EPHISTEMI ("be ready," 2 Timothy 4:2) includes "assault" (Acts 17:5).  The evangelist's directive is not to assault the sinner but the sin – not the false teacher but his teaching – not the disobedient but the disobedience. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).  It is not a stretch to recognize the connection, as true gospel preaching sometimes needs to be challenging, confrontational, and oppositional; and false teachers often take it as aggression or a personal attack.

b.    A fire, a sword

Fundamentally, a preacher needs to know his audience and adapt his specific message according to their current spiritual condition and present needs.  However, some preachers today are so interested in visitors coming again to worship services that they hold back from saying anything that would challenge their associated false doctrines.  Similarly, some preachers are so interested in being invited back to speak again at a particular venue that they do the same.  In contrast, consider how the scriptures describe the word of God: a fire; cutting, sharp, and piercing (Jeremiah 5:14; 23:29; Ephesians 6:17).

Luke 12:49  I came to send fire on the earth….

Acts 2:37  Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart…

Hebrews 4:12  For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

When John the baptizer preaches to Herod, he does not soften God's law concerning adultery, though he is imprisoned and ultimately executed because of his words.

Luke 3:19-20  But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, 20 also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison.

When Jesus preaches to the religious leaders of His day, He does not soften His message to avoid offending them but openly exposes their hypocrisy (Matthew 23; Luke 11:37-54).

Matthew 15:1-14  12 Then His disciples came and said to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?" 13 But He answered and said,… 14 "Let them alone.  They are blind leaders of the blind.  And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch."

When Peter preaches on the day of Pentecost, he does not soften his message so the listeners might return to hear him preach again but openly charges them with unlawful death.

Acts 2:22, 23  Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know – 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.

When Stephen preaches before the Jewish council, he does not soften his message so they might invite him back to preach again but openly charges them with rebellion.

Acts 7:51-54  "You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears!  You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, 53 who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it." 54 When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth.

When Paul preaches to the elite, intellectual gentiles in Athens, he does not discuss the Law of Moses, as it is irrelevant to them, but, unabashed, he openly deals with their reasoning fallacy and ignorance.

Acts 17:15-33   29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.

When Paul preaches to a corrupt politician, he does not soften his message that he might be shown mercy but openly confronts him on the relevant issues of righteousness and divine justice.

Acts 24:22-26  24 And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. 25 Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, "Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you."

In every case, there is no assurance that the same opportunity to preach will avail itself again.  In the church, we need to recognize these as the moments we wait for and take advantage of every situation to preach what needs to be preached.

c.    With zeal

The language of the prophets is occasionally also seasoned with biting irony and sarcasm (1 Kings 18:27; Matthew 7:3-5; 1 Corinthians 4:8, 10).  Jesus and the apostles never mince their words, and preachers in the church today ought to do the same.  Gospel preaching that honors God is never stifled.

1 Thessalonians 5:19  Do not quench the Spirit.

In this passage, "quench" translates SBENNUMI {sben'-noo-mee}, which means, "1) to extinguish, quench 1a) of fire or things on fire 1a1) to be quenched, to go out 1b) [metaphorically], to quench, to suppress, stifle 1b1) of divine influence" (JHT).  It is, in principal, contrary to zeal: ZELOO {dzay-lo'-o}: "1) to burn with zeal…, 1a1) in a good sense, to be zealous in the pursuit of good" (JHT, Titus 2:14, Revelation 3:19).

Remember that Thayer's definition of PARRHESIA (boldness) also indicates behavior that produces conspicuousness or publicity.  Therefore, if the world is unaware of what we are doing as a body or if we are never charged with turning the world upside down with our preaching, as were Paul and Silas in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5, 6), perhaps we are lukewarm rather than on fire for the word of the Lord (Revelation 3:15, 16).  A gospel preacher must be willing to openly call out false teaching and doctrinal error by name (1 Corinthians 1:22-25; 1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 1:15; 4:14, 15; Titus 1:9, 10; 3 John 1:9, 10; Revelation 2:24).

Jude urges us to share his fervor:

Jude 3  Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

In this passage, "exhorting" translates PARAKALEO noted earlier.  Moreover, "contend earnestly" translates EPAGONIZOMAI {ep-ag-o-nid'-zom-ahee}, a compounding of EPI {ep-ee'} (upon) and AGONIZOMAI {ag-o-nid'-zom-ahee} (from whence, "agonize") meaning, "1) to enter a contest: contend in the gymnastic games 2) to contend with adversaries, fight 3) [metaphorically] to contend, struggle, with difficulties and dangers 4) to endeavour with strenuous zeal, strive: to obtain something" (JHT).

d.    Facing possible persecution

The faithful gospel preacher will inevitably suffer afflictions (2 Timothy 4:5).  The apostles preach while enduring chains, imprisonment, beatings, slander, hatred, and even death (Matthew 10:22; John 15:18; 2 Corinthians 6:5; 11:23-26; Ephesians 6:20; 1 Peter 4:4).

Matthew 24:9, 10  Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.

Hebrews 12:3, 4  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.

Revelation 2:10  Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer.  Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days.  Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Widespread public resistance to pure gospel preaching is no different today than it was in the first century.  Therefore, if the messages of an evangelist today are always well-received by all and he never endures any backlash for his words, he is apparently not doing it right.

e.    Negligent trends

Some today are suggesting that our message to convert non-believers ought to not focus on their sin but on God's grace.  The recommended approach is to testify the joy we have in the Lord.  Attempting to validate this, scriptural examples of conversions are cited where the record simply states that they were "preaching Jesus" rather than calling out all their sins.  The sad reality today is that most people outside of Christ will not be compelled by this, since they think they are serving God and are ready to also share their joy.

Assuredly, the wrong approach is to start by telling someone why they are going to hell.  Testifying of grace and our joy in the Lord is good, but preaching that does not prick the conscience cannot convict the sinner (Acts 2:37; 7:54).  At some point in our message, the hearer must be brought to deal with his sins, for if he does not recognize them, he cannot repent of them, which is essential to his salvation (Luke 24:47).  If one is baptized without repenting, he continues to be a slave to sin the moment he raises from the water! (Matthew 23:15; Romans 6:4-19).  Remember that John the baptizer does not come "sharing his joy;" he calls men to repent and confronts them with their wrongdoings (Matthew 3:1-12).  Even the Ten Commandments make clear that conduct matters (Romans 13:9-14).  Like the apostle Paul, we need to be preaching the things that terrified Felix: righteousness, self-control, and the judgment.  For example, if we do not teach an adulterous non-believer about the sin of adultery, he will not be aware of the cost of his discipleship (Luke 14:26-33).  We ought to not grill a prospect with a detailed sin checklist, and there naturally must be allowance for a new convert to grow in knowledge (Ephesians 4:11-16).  However, if we are aware that one we are trying to teach is enslaved in a certain ungodly practice, we show him no love to not admonish him (Titus 2:11-15).  If after his conversion he is unwilling to forsake his sin when he eventually confronts it, the church must ultimately exercise punishment (Matthew 18:15-17), and his later end is worse (2 Peter 2:20-22).

Our example is Jesus, the master teacher, directly confronting men with their sin and offering no apology for it:

·        charging the scribes and Pharisees with hypocrisy (Matthew 15:1-9),

·        challenging a young ruler to consider his greed (Matthew 19:21, 22),

·        confronting the chief priests on their lack of godly fear (Mark 11:27-33),

·        rebuking Simon for his prejudice against a city woman (Luke 7:44-47),

·        exposing the adultery of the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well (John 4:17, 18).

"Joy-oriented" teaching can tend to center more upon our feelings rather than upon truth, if we are not careful.  Then, instead of seeking what God's word means, we consider what it means to us individually, as if it means something different to everyone.  We certainly all have unique experiences and so might relate differently to the admonition "live soberly" (Titus 2:12), but it still means just what it says.  However, when special interpretations are entertained that align with our feelings and experiences, we can easily be drawn away from the truth (Ephesians 5:5, 6, 13-17).  Moreover, unless caution is exercised, "joy-oriented" teaching can also leave the wrong impression that becoming a Christian will automatically make all our problems melt away, when, in reality, it often instead brings hardship (Matthew 10:34-38; 1 Peter 4:1-4, 12-19).

Some today also teach the gospel and barely mention the church.  Evidently, they deem it unwise to teach a prospect that he will be expected to become an active member of a unique institution, regularly assembling for worship and monetarily contributing to its work.  For certain, we convert men to Christ, not to His church.  However, it is inconceivable that the church, God's kingdom and Christ's body, which Jesus purchased with His blood, would not be a vital part of the gospel message, since salvation outside of it is not possible (Acts 2:47; Ephesians 1:22, 23; 2:16; 5:23, 30).  Preaching Jesus is preaching His kingdom (Acts 8:12; 20:25; 28:31).

7.      Uncontentious

There is a difference in scripture between contending for the faith (EPAGONIZOMAI, Jude 3) and being contentious.  Though the English words are related, their counterparts in Greek are not.  By contrast, in Galatians 5:20, "contentions" translates ERIS {er'-is}, meaning, "contention, strife, wrangling" (JHT), which always describes evil in scripture (Romans 1:29; 13:13; 1 Corinthians 1:11; 3:3 2 Corinthians 12:20; Philippians 1:15). 

A gospel preacher that honors God contends for teachings well established by sound reasoning in God's word, but he is not contentious.  However, some preachers today appear to be enthralled with speculative ideas and relish challenging arguments for the sake of arguing.  Motivated often by pride or discontent, their pursuit is evidently for some clever notion no one before them has discovered (Acts 17:21).  Typically, they ardently attempt to defend their contentious ideas more from commentaries or fables than from correctly applied scripture (2 Peter 1:16).  Paul makes clear that some arguments of opinion, conjecture, and trivia are pointless and dangerous:

1 Timothy 1:3-6  …Remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4 nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. 5 Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, 6 from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.

1 Timothy 6:3-5  If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife [ERIS], reviling, evil suspicions, 5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.  From such withdraw yourself.

2 Timothy 2:14-16  Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.

2 Timothy 2:23  But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.

Titus 3:9  But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions [ERIS], and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.

Churches and their elders need to guard against fruitless discussions and quarreling (1 Timothy 3:3; 4:1-11; 2 Timothy 2:24).

D.          A Sense Of Compassion

1.      Gentleness

In 2 Timothy 2:4, Paul charges Timothy to teach "with all longsuffering," which is from MAKROTHUMIA {mak-roth-oo-mee'-ah} meaning "1) patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance 2) patience, forbearance, longsuffering, slowness in avenging wrongs" (JHT).  Gospel preaching is not to be delivered in hatred, vengeance, or arrogance.  The message of salvation should cut to the heart, but it ought not poison it.

Galatians 6:1  Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

Ephesians 4:11-16  And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ –  from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Colossians 4:3-6  Meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. 5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

2 Timothy 2:24, 25  And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition….

The word "love" in Ephesians 4:15 translates AGAPE {ag-ah'-pay}.  William Barclay describes this as the will to always seek another man's highest good regardless of circumstances.  On this passage he explains: "Love controls truth.  The Christian loves truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10), but he never cruelly or unsympathetically speaks the truth in order to hurt."  Continuing, Barclay relates one who would always rebuke when necessary as if with an "arm around the person who had to be rebuked" (NTW).  Though love requires gospel preaching to be bold and unsuppressed, this is not a license for us to be rude, caustic, or insensitive.

2.      Firmness

An apparent contradiction needs to be explained.  We are admonished to teach in gentleness, but when previously discussing boldness and poignancy in preaching, we observed examples of Jesus, Peter, and Stephen sternly rebuking with brutally forceful words.  In response, consider that in order to be relevant, we should seek to understand whether our audience is in simple ignorance or in outright, deliberate rebellion.  For example, Jesus scathingly rebukes the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees who know the truth, but on the road to Damascus with Saul who in all good conscience persecutes Christians, He gently reasons with him (Acts 9:3-6).  With wisdom, we need to recognize the appropriate situation for a severe reprimand to those in persistent and intentional defiance (Titus 1:13).  Paul gives the Corinthians a choice, and he is prepared to be harsh with some if he has to.

1 Corinthians 4:18-21  Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. 20 For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. 21 What do you want?  Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?

2 Corinthians 10:1  Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ – who in presence am lowly among you, but being absent am bold toward you. 2 But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh.

Proverbs 15:10-11  Harsh discipline is for him who forsakes the way, And he who hates correction will die. 11 Hell and Destruction are before the LORD; So how much more the hearts of the sons of men.

To remove a tumor, sometimes cutting has to be done.  However, even when severity is required, there still must be compassion; our intent is not to destroy but to ultimately save.  Firm discipline is actually a demonstration of love (Hebrews 12:5-13).  We must hate the sin but love the sinner.

Jude 19-23  22 And on some have compassion, making a distinction; 23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.

Some commentators proclaim that we have no right to preach today with the same forcefulness as Jesus, since He was divine, omniscient, and without sin, and we are not.  Nevertheless, the apostles and prophets, whom we should imitate (1 Corinthians 11:1; Hebrews 6:12), spoke forcefully yet were sinners the same as us.  Some will similarly argue that the apostles were directly inspired by gifts of the Holy Spirit, but we today are not.  Notwithstanding, we have the complete written word wherein the power of God resides and against which the spiritual gifts are considered child's-play (2 Timothy 3:16, 17; 1 Corinthians 13:11).  Preachers today will also sometimes claim it is not their place to judge, which completely nullifies a doctrine of repentance from dead works.  However, we are indeed instructed to rightfully judge in doctrinal matters (Luke 12:57; John 7:24; Acts 4:19; 1 Corinthians 14:29), but the judgment is not our own; it is the Lord's (1 Corinthians 11:28-32); we are only messengers.

3.      Temperance

To say that gospel preaching should never be done in anger is a qualified overstatement.  In fact, scripture reveals that anger is indeed a trait of God (Colossians 3:6; Hebrews 3:11, 17; 4:3).

Romans 1:18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

In this passage, "wrath" translates the noun ORGE {or-gay'} defined as, "1) anger, the natural disposition, temper, character 2) movement or agitation of the soul, impulse, desire, any violent emotion, but [especially] anger 3) anger, wrath, indignation 4) anger exhibited in punishment, hence used for punishment itself 4a) of punishments inflicted by magistrates" (JHT).  The verb form is ORGIZO {or-gid'-zo}.  However, with this same word, we are admonished to put away all anger (Colossians 3:8).

Ephesians 4:31  Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.

So, is anger a disposition that God alone can rightfully demonstrate but not a man?  Not necessarily.  Consider further:

Ephesians 4:26-27  "Be angry [ORGIZO], and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil.

James 1:19  So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath [ORGE];…

Paul is clearly indicating that there is way we can be angry yet not sin.  Moreover, James does not tell us to not be angry at all but to not get angry easily.  Sound hermeneutics will work to resolve this apparent contradiction.  To this end, consider that James continues to explain:

James 1:20  for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Notably, the typical anger exhibited by a carnal man is not the same as the anger of God (Romans 8:5-14).  This carnal, vengeful anger is what we must put away (Romans 12:14-21).  However, as spiritual men, if we demonstrate anger the way Jesus does and follow His examples, we should be pleasing to God.  Let's observe the character of the righteous indignation of the Lord.

Mark 3:3-5  And He said to the man who had the withered hand, "Step forward." 4 Then He said to them, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?"  But they kept silent. 5 And when He had looked around at them with anger [ORGE], being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand."  And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.

Note here that the source of our Lord's anger is His sorrow for their stubbornness, not their hatred for Him.  Likewise, our righteous indignation ought not be based upon a reaction to a personal offence but rather a reaction to the violation of God's law.  Consider another example:

John 2:14-17  And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away!  Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!" 17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up."

The word "zeal" in verse 17 translates ZELOS {dzay'-los} (the noun form of ZELOO examined earlier) meaning, "1) excitement of mind, ardour, fervour of spirit 1a) zeal, ardour in embracing, pursuing, defending anything 1a1) zeal in behalf of, for a person or thing 1a2) the fierceness of indignation, punitive zeal 1b) an envious and contentious rivalry, jealousy" (JHT).  The actions of Jesus are stern yet never out of control.  By this, the disciples clearly recognize in Jesus that His true motivation is not indignation toward the people but His passion for God's house.  Remember that the definition of ORGE includes "movement or agitation of the soul."  If we have a fervent love for the truth, the disrespect for God which permeates the world will naturally infuriate us. 

Psalm 119:104  Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.

Conclusively, gospel teaching must be conducted in a spirit of patience, temperance, and self-control, never by lashing out with slander, irreverence, verbal abuse, or outbursts of rage (Galatians 5:19-23).

Titus 2:1-8  But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: 2 that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; 3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things – 4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. 6 Likewise exhort the young men to be sober-minded, 7 in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, 8 sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.

The words above in bold translate the adjective SOPHRON {so'-frone} meaning, "1) of a sound mind, sane, in one's senses 2) curbing one's desires and impulses, self-controlled, temperate" (JHT) or its verb form, SOPHRONEO {so-fron-eh'-o}.  Remember that the definition of ORGE also includes "the natural disposition."  Anger is a natural emotion placed within us by a God Himself capable of anger.  Even so, God expects us to maintain self-control in this and all natural, human emotions.

A deeper examination of what the Bible says about anger is covered in a separate study, but the material presented here should establish that the kind of anger in gospel preaching that rightfully honors God is anger under control and is directed at the sin, not the sinner.  There is a proper time for righteous indignation, but there is never a proper time to lose our temper.

E.           A Sense Of Involvement

1.      The need to preach

We are commanded to perform all acts of worship, but our performance must be with fervor – not only in truth but also in spirit – as expressed earlier.  Mindlessly going through the motions is a disgrace to God in any case (Malachi 1:11-13; Mark 7:6; Revelation 3:15, 16).  However, consider that the purpose of teaching the gospel is to draw people to Christ and His church, where forgiveness is found.  If we understand the seriousness and urgency of our task, we will never be content with half-heartedly executing the minimum requirement (1 Corinthians 15:58).  As a corporate body, a church needs to be always doing all it can.  It is easy to fall into a routine of nothing more than regular weekly worship services and a tradition of biannual so-called gospel meetings.  These efforts are good, but if a church is giving as they prosper and as they purpose in their hearts and are otherwise unaware of needy saints requiring assistance, they might easily run up a very large balance in their treasury if they are not seeking how to put those resources to work in evangelism as they should.

The church's responsibility to preach is independent of the hearer's responsiveness.  It does not matter whether anyone ever responds favorably to our preaching.  Our primary duty is not to make converts but simply to teach the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:17).  Our successfulness in preaching is not measured by the number who obey but by the number who hear.  If success is determined by making converts, Ezekiel and Jeremiah were total failures (Ezekiel 3:4-11).

2.      The desire to learn

The question arises whether a Christian is required to attend all the worship and teaching functions of the local church with whom they are joined.  A better question is why we would not want to.  The Lord would prefer that we attend worship willingly rather than by coercion.

Psalm 96:7-9  Give to the LORD, O families of the peoples, Give to the LORD glory and strength. 8 Give to the LORD the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come into His courts. 9 Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!  Tremble before Him, all the earth.

Psalm 122:1  I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go into the house of the LORD."

Hebrews 10:22-25  Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

1 Peter 2:1-9  Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. 4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ….

In 1 Peter 2, he is not talking about immature Christians not yet ready for the meat of the doctrine, as is mentioned in Hebrews 5:12, 13; he is indicating that all who have accepted the grace of God ought to be craving the word.  Just as infants want milk to grow thereby, Christians of all ages and maturity should want to always be growing in knowledge and faith.  Any infant not craving milk is naturally deemed sick.  So with us, if we recognize the preciousness of the Lord but are not taking advantage of opportunities to be built up, we are spiritually sick.  The phrase "being built up" translates the verb OIKODOMEO {oy-kod-om-eh'-o} meaning, "… [metaphorically] 2a) to found, establish 2b) to promote growth in Christian wisdom, affection, grace, virtue, holiness, blessedness 2c) to grow in wisdom and piety" (JHT).  The noun form, OIKODOME, usually translated "edification," always refers to instruction in the word when used of the collective action of the church.  Understandably, a brother might be unable to attend due to age, health, distance, or hazard, but that is completely different from someone not attending due to apathy.

3.      Fellowship

To have fellowship in gospel teaching in the assembled church, all should be involved in mutual participation, as this is the meaning of "fellowship."  However, joint participation does not require that all men in attendance take a leadership role in teaching.  Some brethren cite 1 Corinthians 14:26, "…Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching…," to suggest such a practice, but this is apparently not what the apostle intends.  To the point, the verbs in these statements are all in the indicative mood, not the imperative, as when he says, "Let all things be done for edification" at the end of the verse.  Paul's intentions are actually quite clear in the verses that follow, where he affirms that up to only three different speakers should be sufficient – each one speaking in turn – while all others listen in silence and evaluate what is presented (verses 27 – 31).

As briefly discussed earlier, personal involvement means that, even as many are listeners only, we can all be actively engaged.  When each attendee is discerningly following along in his Bible and offering an approval "amen" during the sermon until the final word is spoken, there is nothing passive about that. 

F.           Qualified Teachers

The misconception regarding "each of you" in 1 Corinthians 14:26 creates problems.  In churches adopting the casual and spontaneous worship concept gaining acceptance today, every male member present is given the opportunity and is expected to take his turn to lead instruction, not just the appointed teachers.  Practical problems with member capabilities need to be resolved, but no viable solutions are offered.  Remember that Thayer's definition of TAXIS {tax'-is} (order, verse 40) includes "the post, rank, or position which one holds in civic or other affairs, since this position generally depends on one's talents, experience, resources."  As a consequence, on occasions where this practice is maintained, spiritually immature men not grounded in doctrine speak inappropriately, which becomes a source of confusion (verse 33).  Moreover, having an improper attitude of informality, the teachers are often ill-prepared by their own admission and incapable of offering more than only a few minutes of disjointed remarks, which seldom challenge the hearers to self-examination.  In some cases, men with limited training are invited to just share their personal ideas, feelings, and experiences about scripture and expect the congregation to shoulder the responsibility to accurately present the truth.  This can lead to negligent teaching or the shameful need for a public rebuttal (2 Timothy 2:15).

A fundamental flaw here is the idea that anyone can be a public gospel teacher.  Though everyone sharing what they know with others is clearly the scriptural pattern (Acts 8:4; 2 Timothy 2:2), there is a certain level of knowledge required to teach publicly, especially when challenging questions and open discussions are encouraged.  Consider the distinction revealed in scripture that some are qualified to be teachers, and some are not (Acts 13:1; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 1:7; 2:7).

1 Corinthians 12:28-29  And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 29 Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers…?

James 3:1  My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.

Churches and their elders need to be careful whom they appoint as teachers among them.  Some men need to sit and listen to a qualified teacher so that they might grow in knowledge and faith and may one day be qualified to teach also.  Although there is no explicit list of qualifications, and a teacher does not occupy an ordained office, there are nevertheless guidelines revealed in scripture.

Hebrews 5:12  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

In God's plan for leadership in the church, the primary responsibility for gospel teaching is laid squarely upon qualified elders (Acts 20:28; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-3).

G.          Expediencies For Teaching

Earlier in this section we admonish against mere "house-keeping" in the church: the rote performance of our evangelistic routines.  Worship through gospel teaching within the church by our regularly scheduled assemblies is good and mandatory, but perhaps there are also other ways that we, as a collective body, can endeavor to teach the gospel, if we will seek to do so.  Let us now examine some expediencies for gospel teaching in the church.

As a reminder, expediencies are only convenient means and methods for fulfilling generic commands.  Furthermore, we do not need a specific scriptural example of a thing in order for it to be a valid expediency, as long as it does not add to, subtract from, or in any way alter the authorized activity.

1.      Public preaching

Prescribed first day of the week worship assemblies provide a natural opportunity for preaching (Acts 20:7).  When a church determines a fixed meeting place and time for recurring worship, it is easy to advertise these meetings to the public and invite visitors needing to hear the gospel.  Other meetings regularly scheduled by a church which are expedient for gospel teaching include Sunday evening services, midweek Bible studies, gospel meetings, revivals, lectures, and special summer children's series.

1 Timothy 4:13  Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

Though private, in-home Bible studies are not a work of the corporate church, the elders and the church as a collective body can certainly make arrangements for such cooperation and encourage and instruct individuals to do so.

Act 20:18-21 20 …How I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

Another way a local church can be involved in gospel teaching is through financially supporting evangelists in other locations.  Further discussion on this will come when we examine the collection of the church treasury as an act of worship.

2.      Public lectures

God intends that the gospel message of the cross should be that which draws men unto Him (John 12:32; Romans 1:16).  However, the gospel message also deals with morality and self-control issues, such as drug abuse, bigotry, abortion, homosexuality, and other current controversial topics.  The church has authority to invite the community to gather to hear what the Bible teaches on these subjects, which may well attract sizable audiences.  Once assembled, we have the opportunity to teach not only on these subjects but also deliver God's plan of forgiveness through Christ and His church.  This may sound like deception, and Paul affirms that his message to the Thessalonians was not by deceit, that is, not with flattery or selfish ambition (1 Thessalonians 2:3-6).  However, with the same word, Paul declares with irony that he craftily deceived the Corinthians by selflessly not taking their financial support in order to avoid speculation concerning his motives (2 Corinthians 12:11-19).  In verse 16, the word "crafty" (NKJ) translates PANOURGOS {pan-oor'-gos}, meaning, "1) skilful, clever 1a) in a good sense, fit to undertake and accomplish anything, dexterous, wise, sagacious [discerning], skilful" (JHT).  In similar shrewdness, Paul has Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:3), takes a vow (Acts 21:19-26), and appeals to his heritage (Acts 23:6-11) to give the gospel an advantage.  In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, he explains how, for the sake of the gospel, he became more like those he was trying to save, yet without compromising the truth.  In the church today, we can likewise cunningly take advantage of circumstances and controversies in the world to create opportunities for the presentation of the gospel.  Incidentally – shame on any church that brings the community together to discuss abortion then fails to deliver also the gospel plan of salvation.

Matthew 10:16  Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.  Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

In every available venue where a church can make an arrangement for the presentation of the gospel, they can work to make it happen, such as at prisons (Acts 16:24, 25), schools (Acts 19:9), or nursing homes.

3.      Public debates

Debating is put in a bad light in the King James Version in Romans 1:29 and 2 Corinthians 12:20.  However, the original word in these verses is ERIS, examined earlier, which is better translated "contentions" or "strife," as it is in the New King James Version.  Such arguing is certainly to be avoided, but we have approved apostolic examples of open discussions with logical reasoning, both among non-believers (Acts 6:9; 9:29) and among brethren (Acts 15:2, 7).  In these passages, a different family of original words describes their actions: SUZETEO {sood-zay-teh'-o}, meaning, "1) to seek or examine together 2) in the [New Testament] to discuss, dispute, question" (JHT) and its noun form, SUZETESIS {sood-zay'-tay-sis}.

Luke records for us how Paul and his companions regularly enter Jewish synagogues, openly disputing and reasoning from the scriptures with them (Acts 17:2, 17; 18:4, 19; 19:8).  In these verses, the verb "reason" translates DIALEGOMAI {dee-al-eg'-om-ahee} (from whence, "dialog" and "logic") meaning, "1) to think different things with one's self, mingle thought with thought 1a) to ponder, revolve in mind 2) to converse, discourse with one, argue, discuss" (JHT).

Admittedly, public debates can easily become characterized by disrespect and ridicule if the participants do not exercise gentleness and self-control.  Moreover, the audience is often swayed more by the slick talker (Romans 16:18) rather than the one with the sound logic (Acts 18:28).  Nevertheless, if a public debate is conducted decently and orderly with a well-defined and managed agenda, it can be a powerful teaching method worth consideration.

Isaiah 1:18  "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD….

4.      Classroom instruction

Some Christians believe that separately assembled groups, such as children's, ladies', men's, young adult, or new convert classes are wrong.  They claim that this is division in the church and that there is no example in scripture of such a thing.  However, if nothing more or less than Bible teaching is being conducted, these things are authorized by the generic command for the church as a body to teach the gospel.  There is no real division here, as long as the gospel that is taught in the children's classes is the same gospel as is taught in the adult classes.  It is nothing other than a possible method of gospel teaching.  We can teach in small groups or in large, groups of old or of young, groups of men or of women.  It is all still just gospel teaching.  Division in the local church is not by teaching in different places or different times or to different audiences but by teaching different doctrines (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).  Moreover, we do not need to have a scriptural example for everything we do.  We have no scriptural examples of church-owned meeting houses or songbooks, but these are nevertheless authorized as expediencies for worship.

It will be further argued against children's classes that it is the responsibility of parents to teach the gospel to their children (Ephesians 6:4), and they ought not delegate this to others.  Though a parent not teaching the gospel to his own child is supreme negligence, the parent is not necessarily the exclusive instructor God would approve for children.  For example, Paul delivers to Titus, then preaching in the church at Crete, the pattern of the older teaching the younger within the body (Titus 2:1-8).  Timothy learns from his grandmother as well (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15).  The apostles are instructed to take the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).  Moreover, the church as a body is not limited to teaching the gospel only by means of the assembly of the entire local body (Acts 15:4-6).  Children's classes are also an expedient way of delivering gospel teaching that is age-appropriate or aligned with the spiritual maturity of the students (1 Corinthians 3:1, 2).

On the other hand, children's classes are not mandatory; they are only an expediency and matter of judgment.  Anyone personally objecting has the right to not participate if they so choose, and elders do not have the authority to force them against their will.  Notwithstanding, those who object should be careful before condemning others who participate on the grounds of the scriptural reasoning presented.

5.      Printed material

Some Christians believe that Bible study outlines, workbooks, tracts, business cards, flyers, or any other such thing ought not be used.  They claim that since all we follow is scripture, then these things are supplanting that one true source of authority.  However, if that which is taught in the printed material is nothing different than what scripture teaches on a specific subject matter but in a more convenient format, then there is no supplanting, and it is a true expediency.  Printed or projected material can include diagrams, charts, illustrations, or maps.  You can use printed material or not use it at your discretion.  It is nothing more or less than a possible method of gospel teaching.  Besides, we know Paul uses this method.  Not everything he writes for instruction in the gospel is preserved as scripture, but it is no doubt in conformance with it (1 Corinthians 5:9; Colossians 4:16).  Paul also explains the scriptures in his spoken teaching (Acts 17), as does Ezra (Nehemiah 8:7, 8).  If these words can be delivered orally, so can they be in writing.

6.      Multimedia

The church in the first century had essentially only two media for teaching: speaking and handwriting on papyrus or parchment (2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Timothy 4:13).  It was not until around 1439 when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press that this began to appreciably change.  The church today has many more options for teaching media than the early church could have imagined.  Modern technology has given us personal computers to easily produce not only printed or projected material but digital audio and video recordings on a variety of media that now seems to change on a daily basis.  Live or recorded audio and visual broadcasts are conveniently achievable using radio, television, or the internet.  As long as nothing more than Bible teaching is being accomplished, the church has the authority to purchase and use to that end any and all existing and future communication equipment and services.

7.      Aids and supporting items

Any other device or component that assists in teaching the gospel which does not add to, subtract from, or in any way change the essence of the action is authorized by the command to teach.  A biblical example of such a thing is found in Nehemiah 8:1-8.  Here Ezra preaches to the assembly utilizing a wooden platform (pulpit, KJV; podium, NAU) that had been constructed "for the purpose."  Modern examples include chalk boards, video projector screens, sound amplification systems, and electric lights.  If a preacher uses a microphone or a pulpit, he is still doing nothing other than gospel preaching.

A church needs to carefully monitor the activities that are assumed to be merely teaching tools.  A thorough understanding of hermeneutics and expediencies is critical.

8.      Teacher training programs

In a previous section we discussed that not everyone in the church is qualified to be a public teacher.  However, in order for them to also become teachers, they must be taught how to teach.  A church and its elders ought to be continually seeking to train teachers.  Foremost, to become an apt teacher, a Christian needs to be knowledgeable in the word and able to recognize deceptive heresies (Luke 6:39, 40; Acts 18:25, 26; Ephesians 4:11-18; 2 Timothy 2:2; Hebrews 12:5-11).

Unfortunately, it seems in the church we sometimes assume that if an individual has been a Christian for a good while, he automatically knows enough to teach.  However, this is not necessarily true if he has not received a steady diet of sound doctrine that progressed to the meat of the word.  Moreover, sometimes those we consider to be the most qualified teachers are merely those who can use a computer well or produce the most creative visual aids, and training programs sometimes center more on this than on spiritual content.

9.      Expediencies for baptism

We have considered teaching expediencies, so we should now also briefly discuss expediencies for baptism – the desired end of gospel preaching.  As the medium for this baptism is water (Acts 10:47; 1 Peter 3:20, 21), some pool or other body of water is necessary.  In Bible examples, natural streams and rivers are apparently utilized (Matthew 3:6; John 3:23; Acts 8:36), however, to the extent that this action is generic, we are not limited to those examples.  Baptismal garments, towels, and a baptistery or any other pool or tub with sufficient volume, owned, rented, or borrowed by the church, are lawful expediencies.

10.   Things not expedient to teaching

Mainstream denominations and churches of Christ embracing the social gospel doctrine and the support of human institutions move in many areas under the guise of edification in the gospel that actually have nothing to do with gospel teaching.  We will now list several unauthorized activities that sometimes creep into the church under the pretext of teaching aids.

a.    Not expedient: drama and entertainment

Drama skits are not teaching expediencies; theatrics are added.  The logical end would include auditions, set designers, set builders, a costume department, stage hands, script writers, directors, and choreographers.  If at the end of such a production, the natural reaction for the audience is to applaud, we are obviously doing more than teaching; we are also entertaining.  However, a mere expediency should add nothing to the action performed.

b.    Not expedient: gifts

Give-away ink pens with a scripture or the church telephone number printed on them are not teaching expediencies; a gift is added.  The logical end would include imprinted coffee mugs, key chains, ball caps, tee shirts, volley balls, baseballs, crayons, rulers, pocket knives, screw drivers, flashlights, or any other such object.  These things pertain to much more than teaching; we are also giving a gift whose primary purpose has nothing inherently to do with Bible teaching.  Likewise, though flower bouquets, fruit baskets, greeting cards, and such gifts build up and encourage others in a generic way, they do not provide instruction in the word.  The Christian individual has the divine authority in all these things, but there is no place for these in the service of the church.

c.    Not expedient: food and beverage

Giving bread for children to eat in a Bible class when teaching that Jesus is the bread of life is not an expediency for teaching; eating is added.  The logical end could include feeding them lamb, grapes, fish, olives, corn, quail, milk, honey, figs, cakes, or any other lawful food or beverage mentioned in the Bible.  Obviously, this accomplishes more than teaching, so none of these things are actual expediencies for teaching.

d.    Not expedient: recreation and crafts

Arts, such as knitting, quilting, baking, and scrap-booking, have nothing to do with instruction in the word.  Likewise, recreational activities, such as card games, ping pong, bowling, basketball, and volleyball have nothing inherently to do with gospel teaching.  Individual Christians have the right to be engaged in all these things, but there is no place for these in the service of the church.

e.    Not expedient: civil ceremonies and domestic celebrations

Retirement, birthday, graduation, and anniversary parties are not teaching expediencies.  Likewise, civil office inauguration, wedding, and funeral ceremonies are not teaching expediencies.  Even though gospel teaching might be conducted at these events, there is much more than teaching being conducted.

These matters are suitably covered with greater detail in an examination of authority in religion, which is beyond the scope of this study.




Copyright 2014, Speaking Sound Doctrine