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