Since it is so manifest that all Bible preachers preached against sin, and since the command is so clear in the Word of God that preachers are to “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (II Timothy 4:2), that preachers are to “cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression” (Isaiah 58:1), it seems strange that every preacher of the Gospel does not obey the Scripture and rebuke sin. It seems strange that God’s pastors do not rebuke their people sharply as Titus was commanded to rebuke those at Crete (Titus 1:13) and as Timothy was commanded to rebuke the saints at Ephesus (II Timothy 4:2; I Timothy 5:20). There are several reasons why preachers do not preach against sin. I shall name what seem to me to be the principal reasons.
- Ultradispensational hobbyist think most of the Bible does not fit today, and this perverted doctrine excuses not preaching against sin.
Ultradispensationalists believe that much of the Gospels — including the ministry of John the Baptist, the Sermon on the Mount, and other parts of Jesus’ ministry, along with some of the Epistles — were written for the Jews, not for the church. Some people think that John the Baptist, for example, when he preached demanding repentance, was preaching a “kingdom gospel,” differing, they say, from the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith. Some of them foolishly think that John the Baptist taught baptism as essential to salvation. In their misguided zeal, these hobby-riders sometimes say that the Great Commission was given only to Jews, say the Lord’s Prayer is not for this age. They mark most of the Bible as obsolete as far as having authority directly for this age is concerned. Hence, they are not moved by the example of most of the Bible preachers in preaching against sin. Hence, also, they do not feel any responsibility to preach all the Bible since they think much of it is out of date and not fitting for the present age. This false cult of dispensationalism has done much harm in some quarters.
The truth is that John the Baptist was as much a preacher of grace as was Paul. He preached, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (John 3:36), exactly the same doctrine of salvation as that preached by Jesus in the same chapter and by Paul everywhere he went. When John the Baptist commanded sinners to repent, he preached exactly the same Gospel preached by Jesus in Luke 13:3, 5. And Jesus commanded that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). Paul preached that God “commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). The ultradispensational theory is really based on lack of thorough knowledge of the Word of God, but it is the excuse of some people who throw away parts of the Bible and do not preach against sin. In view of the plain commands of the Scripture, it is a poor excuse.
- Some sincere preachers are unbalanced in doctrine, do not preach the whole Bible and so do not preach against sin.
Some preachers are sound enough in doctrine as far as they go, but they overemphasize the doctrine of grace. It is well enough to preach on the love of God, but one can pervert even that blessed teaching and make God seem like a doting old grand-daddy with no righteousness, no holiness, no wrath against sin.
To preach faith without repentance is to preach a lopsided Gospel and is not properly representing Christ and the Bible.
To preach Heaven without preaching Hell is to preach a half truth which is dangerous and wrong. Never to preach on Hell is almost the same as preaching that there is no Hell. Oh, beloved preachers, come back to the whole Word of God as a basis for your preaching! “ALL scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable” for the preacher to use in rebuke, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness (II Timothy 3:16).
- Some preachers are modernistic, do not believe the Bible is the infallible, authoritative Word of God and so have no convictions on the sin question.
Any preacher who does not have an authoritative Bible to preach cannot speak with authority on anything. The modernist does not believe the moral code in the Bible is from God, hence he does not preach it. He does not believe that the wages of sin is death, he does not believe that sin must come to judgment, so he has no warning against sin. He does not believe the warnings of the Bible are true, so he does not preach them. He does not believe in the Hell Jesus said awaits Christ-rejecting sinners. He does not fear that judgment when Christ Himself will be the Judge of sinners, because he does not believe what the Bible says about it. When any preacher loses his faith in the Word of God, his ministry has already come to shipwreck. To stay in the ministry then is hypocrisy unspeakable. To stand in the pulpit is a farce. To claim to be a Christian is blasphemy if one does not believe the Bible. Such a preacher has no salvation to promise to believers, has no damnation concerning which he should warn unrepentant sinners.
So it boils down to this, that many men do not preach what the Bible says about sin because they do not believe the Bible. Other men who believe the Bible, after a fashion, pattern their preaching after that of the modernists; hence they do not preach against sin.
Modernism is not really for God, the God of the Bible. Modernism is not really against sin as it is identified in the Bible. That is why men who do not believe the Bible do not preach against sin.
- Preachers who are themselves worldly and sinful in life, dare not preach against sin.
In a Missouri city I preached in a good church on The Ruin of a Christian. I read the story of Lot and showed the disastrous results of Lot’s worldliness and Lot’s powerlessness. Then I urged God’s people to come out of Sodom, that is, to come out and be separate, to shun bad company, to leave worldliness. God’s Spirit moved the audience mightily and many Christians, in the quiet time after the sermon while we were bowed in prayer, indicated that they were ashamed of their worldly lives and would henceforth seek to be Spirit-filled Christians, separated unto the Lord, and would seek to leave off the worldly things that might ruin their children or blight their influence or hinder their prayers.
It was a genuine surprise to me when the pastor of the church expressed displeasure at the sermon. He said it was “nerve-racking.” He said such Scriptures should never be read in the pulpit, much less preached upon. As I waited on God, I felt that He gave me the secret of the pastor’s opposition. So the next morning I asked the pastor frankly, “Pastor, after much prayer, I should like to ask you if you attend the picture shows.” He replied that he did attend picture shows, he thought pictures were the greatest educational invention in the world, and he saw no harm in going to a good picture. Naturally, I replied that I well understood why he did not want me to preach against sin in his pulpit. He himself was a worldly preacher, with worldly habits and companions. Since he was not against worldliness in his heart, he would not preach against it. Since he himself was guilty of some of the things the best people in his congregation regarded as serious sins, he did not preach against these things himself and was embarrassed that other preachers did so. He was even embarrassed to have Scriptures read in his pulpit which show the ruin of compromising, worldly-minded, powerless Christians.
“Conscience makes cowards of us all,” and preachers who are not blameless in their own lives do not preach boldly against sin.
- Some preachers do not preach against sin because they are afraid.
“The fear of man bringeth a snare” (Proverbs 29:25). Preachers who are men-pleasers are not God-pleasers. It is sadly true that all over the country there are preachers who have convictions but dare not express them clearly. They are against sin, but they fear to say so. Some preachers preach strong and clear on God’s mercy and love, but how timidly and hesitantly they mention the judgment of God on sin! Some preachers do not preach as John the Baptist did because they do not want to get into trouble. They, too, feel that Herod was wrong in living with his sister-in-law, Herodias, but they do not want their heads cut off as John the Baptist had his head cut off. Jeremiah got put in a dungeon for plain preaching against sin. Stephen was stoned to death. The Apostle Paul landed in jail many times. He got beaten up again and again for his plain preaching! He had to skip out of Damascus by night, let down through a window in the city wall in a basket. He was stoned and left for dead; he fought the wild beasts at Ephesus. And Paul’s ankles and wrists bore callouses made by year-long wearing of chains. His body had many scars. Primarily Paul suffered because he demanded repentance everywhere he went. He denounced sin. He preached unpleasant truth as well as pleasant truth. One reason many preachers do not preach as Paul did is that they are not willing to suffer as Paul suffered.
When Jesus denounced the Pharisees, they planned to kill Him. But is the disciple greater than his Lord? Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). If I were enough like Jesus, people would hate me as they hated Him. If preachers preached as Jesus preached, surely they would arouse the enmity of Satan and Satan’s men just as Jesus did. Oh, preacher,
Must Jesus bear the cross alone
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for everyone,
And there’s a cross for me.
Excerpted from Why Preach Against Sin? by John R. Rice
The famous preacher John R. Rice is one of those rare people whose faith and practice have made him an icon of 20th century evangelism. The Baptist evangelist preached around the country for decades, and was a friend of Billy Sunday, H.A. Ironside, and other well-known early twentieth century Christian workers. In addition to pastoring churches, Rice started several churches through the evangelistic labor with which God had entrusted him. He wrote over 200 books during his long life time as well as preached on the radio and in large crusades. He is perhaps most famous today for founding The Sword of the Lord and serving as its president for many years. The Sword of the Lord is still operating today, publishing books, the famous newspaper, and conducting revival conferences. Dr. John R. Rice died in 1980, aged 85 years, leaving six daughters as dedicated to serving the Lord as he was. http://www.johnrrice.com