A Call for Courage in the Pulpit
Preaching is the finest task a man can do. There is no more demanding work than that of a dedicated spokesman for God. The task is too important to be left to last-minute-find-a-sermon-on-the-internet kind of preachers. The preparation is hard and the presentation exhausting. To be sound, preaching must be done with courage.
Sound gospel preaching demands courage.
The time for men willing to stand and speak plainly is now. It takes little or no courage to preach the trends of today. Few people will complain of preachers who sound more like television variety show hosts or who seem to craft their preaching after a stand-up comic somewhere. However, men who call sin what it is and point out sin in their communities and even in their churches are not terribly popular.
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Paul’s carefully worded, inspired advice to Timothy speaks plainly to us today.
…the time is coming…
Previously Paul warned Timothy that trouble was on the horizon. “Now the spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons…” (1 Timothy 4:1). The later times are here (Hebrews 1:2) and many Christ-denying Antichrists are already at work in the world (and have been) (2 John 7). Men are turning to the myths of the far east and seeking truth in pagan rituals and practices. Others are accepting false teaching on a scale as never before inasmuch as Satan himself appears as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Yes, the time was coming and is upon us now.
Just who is Paul speaking of here? The context has Paul speaking to Timothy about preaching. We must reason that Paul is speaking of people who were hearing Timothy preach. In other words it is the church going public who will no longer endure soundness.
This is a sobering thought because coupled with our observation that we are now in the last times we must conclude that there are some in churches today who have shut their ears to the truth.
The problem is not those outside. No, the problem is inside the church.
There is something that is sound, something true and dependable. Post modern man denies objective truth. Some even call into question the very basic underpinnings of science and mathematics today. No “true” thing is safe from assault. Yet Jesus depended upon the truth of the Scriptures and declared that the word of God is truth (John 17:17). Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Paul asserts that some people “know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:3) while John notes that some “know not the truth” (1 John 2:21).
Paul spoke of soundness in teaching at least three more times. In Titus 1:9 and Titus 2:1 he encourages the teaching of sound doctrine and in 1 Timothy 4:10 he speaks of teaching that is “contrary to sound teaching.” These passages show that there is both truth and deception and that either can be taught or preached. It is the responsibility of preachers today to have the courage to preach only truth.
…itching ears…to suit their own passions…
Although written centuries ago, this comment about itching ears and the success of false teachers is remarkably fresh for today. Our culture has little interest in the transforming power of the Gospel but deep interest and a deep desire to be conformed to their present surroundings (Romans 12:2). Those preachers who speak soothing words and promote the status quo are to be desired. Preachers who, in the name of God, demand change and obedience, are rejected.
In Matthew 9, Jesus spoke of sick people who need a doctor (Matthew 9:12). Consider for a moment the medical doctor who refused to speak of disease and would not encourage change in the lifestyle of his patients. What of the doctor who knew there was a terrible cancer slowly consuming a patient but would never mention it for fear of being thought negative or harsh?
Sin is just such a cancer and must be dealt with just as aggressively.
…turn from the truth
The spiritual condition of our nation is grave. Little truth is preached and when it is there is no conviction and no power in the preaching. It is as if the preacher is embarrased to preach on sin. John the Baptist spoke the truth on marriage, divorce and remarriage and was beheaded (Matthew 14:3-12). Jesus preached that only in him was salvation possible (John 14:6) and he was crucified. Stephen preached of the sin of the entrenched religous leadership of the day and he was stoned to death (Acts 7).
Where is the courageous voice of the pulpit today?
In the midst of greed, slothfulness, serial marriages, adultery, homosexuality and more, the pulpit has fallen strangely silent in some places. Let’s us pray for courage to speak the truth loudly and with courage.