Bible preachers preached against sin. The prophets of the Old Testament, the apostles and preachers of the New Testament, even Jesus Christ Himself, preached boldly and definitely against sin. They preached not only against sin in general, but against sin in particular. They preached not only against the sin of unbelief, but they preached against stealing, lying, adultery, murder, hypocrisy, drunkenness, immodest dress, covetousness, and every sin that the most fervent and sensational evangelist is accused of preaching against today! Every preacher commended in the Bible was against sin and said so. Preachers today should follow the example of Bible preachers and preach against sin.
Isaiah was particularly called as a preacher to rebuke sin in a day of backsliding. God said to him, “Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed” (Isaiah 6:9-10). He was to preach to people whose hearts were hard, who would not heed, and many of whom would not understand nor ever be converted. So the book of Isaiah starts out with rebuke. In the very first chapter of Isaiah we quote verses 2 to 15 as a sample of Bible preaching against sin.
2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.
4 Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
5 Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
6 From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.
7 Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
8 And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.
9 Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.
10 Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.
11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?
13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.
15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
The book of Isaiah has so much of the plan of salvation, so much of God’s mercy, so much of tender invitation that it is called “The Gospel in the Old Testament.” Yet Isaiah denounces drunkenness and drink as did Billy Sunday; as does my friend, Sam Morris of the Voice of Temperance broadcast! He said: “Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!” (Isaiah 5:11). Again he said: “But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment” (Isaiah 28:7).
Isaiah preached frequently about Hell: “Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it” (Isaiah 5:14). Isaiah preached: “Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand” (Isaiah 28:17-18).
In chapter 5, Isaiah pronounced six woes upon Israel, including those mighty to drink wine.
Isaiah even dealt boldly with women’s dress: “Their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, the chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, The rings, and nose jewels. The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails” (Isaiah 3:18-23).
We have used Isaiah as an example, but Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos, and Malachi preached the same way. Moses was stronger yet against sin, and Elijah not only preached against sin, but had 450 prophets of Baal killed!
New Testament preachers were as vigorous in denunciation of sin and in calling people to repentance as those of the Old Testament. John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Lord Jesus, is a fit example. John the Baptist was introduced with the words, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Mark 1:1). John the Baptist’s favorite sermon was on the theme, “ Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Throngs, multitudes of people, came from the city out to the wilderness of Judea where they heard him preach and were baptized, “confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:6). When the scribes and Pharisees, the self-righteous churchmen of the day who had not been converted, came to be baptized, he said: “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” (Matthew 3:7-8). John told publicans and soldiers what to do, commanded all people in the church and out to repent.
His preaching was as personal as it was bold. He went to King Herod, the adulterer living with his own sister-in-law, and said, “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Matthew 14:4). For this boldness John eventually lost his head, for the wicked woman, Herodias, demanded that John’s head be chopped off and given to her in a platter. And it was done.
But the preaching of John the Baptist pleased Jesus very well, for Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of woman there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).
Was John the Baptist a proper model for New Testament preachers? He certainly was! He was the forerunner of Christ, announcing the new covenant; and he preached always the same preaching that Jesus preached. For example, some foolish dispensationalists have supposed that John the Baptist when he commanded men to repent had a different gospel from that preached by Jesus. But Jesus also commanded men to “repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” in the same words used by John the Baptist (Matthew 4:17). And is this command to repent, this preaching against sin and demanding a turning from sin—is this preaching incompatible with the Gospel of grace? Not at all, for John the Baptist preached the purest possible doctrine of salvation by faith in Christ. He said, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).
Remember these are the words of John the Baptist, and they match exactly with John 3:16; John 3:18; John 5:24; John 6:47, and other sayings of the Lord Jesus. I say, John the Baptist, a preacher of grace, was a denouncer of sin. He was pointed and powerful, bold, and sometimes personal in his denunciation of sin. What an example for preachers today who believe the Bible and follow the example of Bible preachers!
What a preacher against sin was the Apostle Peter! He boldly accused the scribes and Pharisees of the murder of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:23). And that was in public! And so he preached every time he arose. He accused Jews, “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life” (Acts 3:14-15). Peter was as bold in denouncing sin among Christians as among the unsaved. Filled with the Holy Ghost, he denounced Ananias and Sapphira and saw God strike them dead at his word! (Acts 5:1-11). And Peter continued such preaching until he died, as tradition says, crucified head downward by those who hated that kind of preaching! What an example is Peter for modern, ease-loving, men-pleasing, mushy-mouthed preachers!
Stephen stood and denounced his Jewish kinspeople to their faces until they ran upon him, gnashed upon him with their teeth, and beat him to death with stones!
And what a preacher against sin was Paul the apostle! At the very start of his missionary journey he faced Elymas the sorcerer, who opposed the Gospel, and said to him, “O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:10). And boldly Paul called upon God to make the man blind. This was in public and the deputy of the country,, Sergius Paulus, was converted as he saw what happened! Paul preached against the Judaizers and their command to circumcise. He rebuked even the Apostle Peter to his face when Peter was embarrassed to eat with Gentile Christians in the presence of Jews (Galatians 2:11). Paul preached against such particular sins as the reading of books on magic and books on spiritism until those who were guilty brought their books and had a $50,000 bonfire (Acts 19:19).
Read the Epistles of Paul. He preached against adultery, against drunkenness, against covetousness, against stealing, against lying, even against foolish talking and jesting! He named every sin in the catalog again and again and denounced it! See Ephesians, chapters 4 and 5. See I Corinthians 6:9-11 and selected passages throughout the Epistles. Paul preached plainly to the women on the question of bobbed hair (I Corinthians 11:1-16); on the question of plaiting the hair, wearing of jewelry and wearing modest apparel.
Paul was definite and personal in his preaching. He denounced a man living with his father’s wife at Corinth, had him expelled from the church till he should repent. He named the two women at Philippi who were quarreling and begged them to “be of the same mind in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2). Those who do not preach against sin do not follow the example of the Apostle Paul. No one ever doubted on what side Paul was. One reason Paul had so many people saved was that he showed men they were sinners.
But Jesus Christ Himself is our great example, our matchless pattern. Did anyone ever speak more plainly than Jesus when He pronounced the seven woes upon the scribes and Pharisees: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” He denounced them for covetousness, for hypocrisy, for seizing the homesteads of widows, for a kind of church membership without regeneration, for enslaving the minds of men and leading them to destruction! He called them snakes, vipers, “blind leaders of the blind.”
And Jesus was as sharp with unrepentant sinners in other cases. He made a whip and drove the money-changers from the temple. He deliberately turned over the tables, scattering the coins everywhere. He called them “a den of thieves”! Jesus said to some of His hearers, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.” Even when Peter, chief of the apostles, tempted Jesus not to go to the cross, Jesus said,“Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me.” And when Jesus talked to the woman at the well of Samaria, he pointedly told her that He knew she had been married five times and was living in sin with a man to whom she was not married at that very moment. She was overwhelmed! She was gloriously saved and went away, so conscious of her sins, so searched and condemned by the preaching of Jesus, that she said,“Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did.” We may safely say that no person ever heard Jesus preach without being conscious of his sins. And Jesus boldly and deliberately again and again mentioned sins of the people. He called the crowd to which He spoke, “an evil and adulterous generation.” He quoted the words of Isaiah that the people were blind of eyes and hard of heart. Jesus was a preacher against sin. No man can follow in the steps of Jesus in His ministry without being bold and persistent and definite in the calling of men to repentance from their sins.
No other preacher in the Bible ever mentioned Hell as often as Jesus did. The name of the place was upon His lips in most of His recorded sermons He preached, and was used to explain most of the parables He told, as well. Sin and Hell and judgment were ever on His mind as He called on men to repent and be saved. Oh, that we might be like Jesus Christ in our denunciation of sin from the pulpit and of our hatred of it in private. Oh, that we might hate even our own sins and with tears of penitence, forsake them.