Paul earnestly appealed to the Ephesian brethren that they remember to pray that he might “speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” What is implied in preaching “as I ought to speak.” This presupposes that the manner of preaching is prescribed (2 Tim. 4:2 f; Acts 4:29-31 cf; 28:31).
Our Savior was the only perfect preacher this world has ever known (Heb. 1:1,2 cf; 4:14,15). Jesus always said the right things, to the right audience, at the right time, in the right manner. He never preached a false doctrine (Jn. 17:17; 8:32). He never left anything unsaid that needed to be said. He never misjudged an audience. He never said or did anything to hinder a sinner’s salvation (Lk. 19:10 f; 1 Tim. 4:16). This is not true of many preachers today. Not so with the Galilean! Consider with me a few points included in preaching “as I ought to speak.” There are many things as preachers we should have said, or left unsaid, or said it in a better way. There are many points we think of hours or days after we delivered a sermon we consider much too late. Not so with the Galilean! Consider with me a few points included in preaching “as I ought to speak.”
As in every realm, the “Lord of Glory” is our example in faithfulness to the Father’s will. He once said, “My food is to do the will of him that sent me” (Jn. 4:34). Later he said, “I am come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (Jn. 6:38). Again he said, “I do always the things that are pleasing to him” (Jn. 8:29). And remember that beautiful expression voiced just before the Cross: “Father, if you be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but your be done” (Lk. 22:42). The Messianic Psalmist David prophesied of him: “Lo, I am come . . . to do your will, O God” (Psa. 40:6 f; Heb. 10:7).
All preachers need to settle one thing in their mind before they every open up the pages of the bible to preach: Who am I trying to please? (Gal. 1:10 f; 2 Tim. 2:4) Preacher, if you want to hear the “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21), remember to preach the word faithfully. The powerful preacher Jeremiah said it like this: “. . . he that has my word, let him speak it faithfully” (Jer. 23:28). I often have said that all the qualifications of a gospel preacher are encompassed in 2 Timothy 2:2: “And the things which you have heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” Peter expressed our duty as preachers in these words: “ministering it among yourselves, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God,- if any man speaks, speak as it were oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:10,11). Paul expressed this duty even more concisely: “moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2).
Faithful preaching entails the recognition that the message (“preach the word”), the manner (“reprove, rebuke, and exhort”), and the moment (“in season and out of season”) are all prescribed (2 Tim. 4:1,2). There is a temptation on the part of preachers to be well-received by their hearers. It has ever been so (Lk. 6:26). There is little praise from men when the Word is faithfully preached, but God will supply the ample blessing (2 Cor. 12:9). The preacher therefore must avoid hobbies, obscurities, oddities, speculations, and pointless eloquence (1 Cor. 2:1-5).
Another requisite of preaching as one ought is recognition that the Gospel must be fully proclaimed. To do otherwise is to subvert and pervert the powerful Message (Gal. 1:6,7). Six hundred years before the Messiah’s birth, God told the preacher Jeremiah: “All the words which I command you to speak unto them; diminish not a word” (Jer. 26:2). Moses already had been told: “You shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish from it” (Deut. 4:2 cf; 12:32 f; Prov. 30:6). A similar injunction is found in the New Testament (Rev. 22:18,19). Paul was free from the blood of all men because he had declared to them “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). In fact, Paul could draw much satisfaction that from Jerusalem unto his remotest preaching field (Illyricum), he had “fully preached the gospel of Christ” (Rom. 15:19). At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus had taught: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). At the end of his earthly ministry, the Master instructed: “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). Indeed, “every Scripture” is profitable (2 Tim. 3:16). We must be ready to preach like Cornelius was ready to hear: ready to declare “all things that have been commanded you of the Lord” (Acts 10:33).
My brother, this is a frightening injunction, especially when one considers the many things contained in the Word. One must handle the Word aright, and then preach the whole counsel of God! One must be careful that he not leave out anything taught in the Word. Brethren, to do this requires an enormous amount of study. Reflect upon the many topics to be found in Scripture. Then remember, you must teach them all, including both “meat” and “milk” (Heb. 5:11-14).
The man who preaches the gospel exercises great power, but he must be certain that he remembers that the power is in the gospel; not in the preacher (Rom. 1: 16 ff; Jam. 1:2 1; 2 Tim. 3:15). God put his power in his Word! The gospel is the only power on earth that can turn a sinner into a saint. The Hebrew writer said that the Word is “quick and powerful” (KJV), or “living and active” (ASV) (Heb. 4:12). Seven hundred years before Christ came, Isaiah had said: “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet, and declare unto my people their transgression, and to the house of Jacob their sins” (Isa. 58:1).
Paul calls gospel preaching a “grace” (Eph. 3:8,9). A grace is an undeserved privilege. Thus the privilege of preaching is called an undeserved favor. When the gospel preacher thus looks upon his ministry, he will do the work as ably as he can. In Romans 1:14, Paul said it like this: “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that are in Rome.”
Apollos must have been a great preacher. The Scriptures tell us that he was “an eloquent man,” “mighty in the Scriptures,” “fervent in spirit,” “instructed in the way of the Lord,” and spoke “boldly” (Acts 18:24-28). All will remember that he needed some further instruction, which was provided him by Aquila and Priscilla. And then properly prepared in all areas, we are told that “he powerfully confuted the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 18:28). Let each preacher determine to preach as forcefully as he can. It should be our highest desire to change men in belief, status, and life. To do so, our preaching must cut to the heart (Acts 2:37 cf; 5:33; 7:54), and it must be personal, since sin and damnation are personal. Indeed, we must blast people out of their deadly complacency, if we are to them any lasting good.
Everything one does as a Christian should be done fervently. Paul expressed it like this: “whatsoever you do, work heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men” (Col. 3:23). Remember Apollos was “fervent in spirit” (Acts 18:25), and in Romans 12-11 Paul adds that every Christian must likewise be “fervent in spirit.” Because of the importance of our work, there must be urgency in it. Paul said preaching as one ought to preach requires that one be “urgent in season, out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2). 2 Corinthians 5:11 states, “knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we persuade men.”
Brethren there must be fire in the pulpit! Our Lord’s gospel should receive our finest effort. Every sermon that has ever been uttered by a faithful gospel preacher is a matter of Life or Death! ” Such occasions demand our most fervent effort.
It takes a man of considerable courage to be a faithful gospel preacher. His very work is the duty to tell men what they really do not like or want to hear. In order for Christians to grow, their shortcomings must be made clear to them. The sin of King Saul lay in the fact that “he feared the people and obeyed their voice” (1 Sam. 15:24). The parents of the man born blind were reticent to acknowledge Christ as healer “because they feared the Jews” (Jn. 9:22). A warning is sounded for all would be servants of Christ: “And be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). Paul stirs up Timothy’s courage by telling him: “For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7). There is another passage the fearful preacher must remember: “But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone; which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8). Unless one fears man more than God, the above passages should settle the fear question. Paul said, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16).
Conclusion: Preachers and teachers of God’s Holy Word, if you are having difficulty preaching “as you ought to preach,” do as Paul did. Enlist the help of some of your close Christian friends to pray to God with you that you might preach as you ought to preach. If you cannot find it in your heart to preach as you ought to preach, it would be best if you gave up preaching altogether. We already have too many preachers who preach what they “shouldn’t preach” and refuse to preach what they “ought to preach.”