"As I Ought To Speak"
After Paul enumerated the armor of the spiritual battle in Ephesians 6:13-18, he continued in verses 19 and 20 by saying, "And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak." Paul sought the prayers of the Ephesian saints that he might "speak boldly, as I ought to speak."
There is a work that belongs to an evangelist. Since God manifests his word through preaching (Tit. 1:3) and preaching is God’s means of saving believers (1 Cor. 1:21; Rom. 1:16), there is a divinely described manner in which this work must be done (2 Tim. 4:2; cf. Acts 4:29-31; 28:30, 31).
Christ and His apostles were perfect preachers. Jesus had the spirit without measure (Jn. 4:30); He was God’s spokesman to the world (Heb. 1:1, 2); He spoke the things He had heard of God (Jn. 8:26); He spoke as the Father taught Him (Jno. 8:28); and He always pleased and did the will of the Father (Jno. 8 :29; Jn. 4:34; 6:38).
On the other hand, the Apostles were guided into "all truth" (Jn. 16:3); they were the instruments through which the Holy Spirit spake (Matt. 10:19-20); they spoke "as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:40); and they spake words which the Holy Spirit taught (1 Cor. 2:9-13).
Hence, Christ and His Apostles never preached false doctrine, never left anything unsaid that needed to be said, never said to much or too little on any subject, never misguided or sought to entertain an audience, and never said anything to hinder a sinner’s salvation.
All gospel preachers today have short comings, especially this writer! Therefore, much thought should be given by gospel preachers about the HOW and WHAT of preaching. Let us consider some thoughts on this vital subject.
First, preachers ought to speak FAITHFULLY! The scriptures require faithful men. Paul wrote, "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2, cf. 1 Cor. 4:1, 2). To be faithful, preachers must earnestly preach and "contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). To do this, one must "speak as the oracles of God" (1 Pet. 4:11).
Being that Christ is our example in doing His father’s will, preachers must not seek to please men, but must please God. Paul wrote, "For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ" (Gal. 1:10). There is always the temptation to be well received, but, let us heed the words of Christ – "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets" (Lk. 6:26). Then, there is the temptation to compromise or sell out to the enemy, but, according to Christ, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matt. 6:24; cf. Rev. 3:15; Matt. 12:30). There is little praise for the faithful preacher, but God will adequately and amply supply (2 Cor. 12:9, 10). Therefore, preachers must avoid pointless eloquence, speculations, hobbies, and bridles. They must also avoid obscurities and intricacies. They must speak plainly and pointedly so the message is clear and understandable to the hearers.
Second, preachers ought to speak FULLY! Paul said that he, "kept back nothing that was profitable" (Acts 20:20). Paul told the Ephesian elders, "For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). Paul did not hesitate to deal squarely with any subject. The letters to the Corinthian brethren illustrate the fact that Paul did not sweep any matter under the rug, rather, he dealt with then head-on.
To preach fully, requires that many subjects found in the Bible be addressed, for instance, God, the Creation, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Church, the Apostles, Sin, Moral issues, Prayer, the Lord’s Supper, the Plan of Salvation, Repentance, Heaven and Hell to mention just a few. This requires much preparation and study to enable the preacher to serve hearers the "sincere milk" and "strong meat" of the word (1 Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:12-14).
Third, preachers must preach FORCEFULLY! The apostle Peter was forceful when he preached on Pentecost. He declared in no uncertain terms that the Jews "by wicked hands" had slain Christ. Is it any wonder "they were pricked in their heart" and exclaimed, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37).
The preaching on Pentecost was not the only forceful preaching by the apostles. Paul and Barnabas were forceful in their preaching at Antioch of Pasidia (Acts 13:43-48). Observe the results of their forceful preaching – "And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region" (Acts 13:49).
Paul also preached forcefully in Damascus (Acts 9:20-22); in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-3); in Athens (Acts 17:16-31). Even, the prophet Isaiah was required to preach in this manner – "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins" (Isa. 58:1).
Forceful preaching is needed to cause a change in the believe, relationship and life of the hearer and to cut and prick the heart of the sinner (Acts 2:37; 5:33; 7:54). Forceful preaching must be personal, since sin, damnation and responsibility are personal (Ezek. 18:4, 20; Eccl. 12:13, 14; Rom. 14:12; 1 Cor. 5:10). The apathy of sinners must be attached; complacency must be crushed; the preaching of the cross must foster "fear and trembling" in the heart of the sinner (Acts 24:25; Phil. 2:12).
Fourth, preachers ought to speak FERVENTLY! The meaning of the word fervent, according to W.E. Vine is, "‘to be hot, to boil’...is metaphorically used of ‘fervency’ of spirit, Acts 18:25; Rom. 12:11." Messengers of God must be boiling with God’s message, not telling jokes and putting on a show to entertain, tickle and sooth the ears of hearers (cf. Isa 30:9, 10). Paul displayed this quality when he addressed the Ephesian elders and said, "Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears" (Acts 20:31). Timothy was commanded by Paul to "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:2).
There is no excuse for "milk-toast preaching" and lax attitudes when the souls of hearers are at stake. When the preacher recognizes the issue at hand, fervency will often be generated (cf. 2 Cor 5:10, 11; Heb. 10:31; 12:29). Apollos was "fervent in spirit" even though he knew only the baptism of John. However, after Aquilla and Pricilla "expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly," Apollos was instrumental in helping "them much which had believed through grace: For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ" (Acts 18:27, 28). Paul commanded the Roman brethren to be "fervent in spirit; serving the Lord" (Rom. 12:11). Hence, the preacher must be fervent in his preaching and instill fervency in the hearts of the hearers to cause belief and obedience to the gospel of Christ.
Fifth, preachers ought to speak FEARLESSLY! The apostle John warned cowards of their doom when he wrote, "But the fearful (cowardly - NKJV), and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8). Notice the unsavory company of the cowardly.
In 2 Peter 1:5-10, the apostle Peter outlines the qualities a Christian must have in order to be a partaker of the "divine nature" so as to "never fall." Of these qualities that must be added to ones faith is virtue (moral courage). Nathan had moral courage when he confronted King David because of his sin of adultery with Bathsheba and exclaimed to David, "thou art the man"(2 Sam. 12:7). Elijah had moral courage when he, with only the Lord on his side, mocked the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of the groves (1 Kgs. 18:17-40). The apostles of Christ had moral courage when they were commanded of the council "not teach in this name" to which "Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men." After being physically beat, "they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ" (Acts 5:25-42). John the Baptizer displayed moral courage by confronting the adulterous marriage of Herod when he told Herod, "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife" (Mk. 6:18). This moral courage of John cost him is head, for, Herodias, who "had a quarrel" against John because of his stand, connived an evil scheme to have John beheaded (Mk. 6:19-28). What courage we see "written for our learning" in these and other accounts of God’s faithful proclaimers (Rom.14:15)!
Finally, preachers must speak FEARFULLY! This might seem contradictory to the last point, but, preachers must be fearful of the Lord and His judgment and preach in view of the fear of God and the coming judgment. Solomon wrote, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil" (Eccl. 12:13, 14). The result of Paul’s preaching caused the churches throughout all Judaea, Galilee and Samaria, to be edified, and walk "in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 9:31). The baptized believers of the First Century "continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers," and "fear came upon every soul" (Acts 2:41-43). It is interesting to do a study of the word "fear" and observe the times it is used in the context of fearing the Lord (cf. Matt. 10:28).
Faithful preachers of the gospel of Christ must speak in this manner! There is a grave shortage of preachers who "speak as [they] ought to speak." The words of Paul illustrate the beauty of such preaching – "And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things" (Rom. 10:15)!
The pulpit is no place for a timid soul. Let us keep in memory Paul’s command to the young preacher Timothy – "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry" (2 Tim. 4:1-5).
Does "your" preacher speak "as [he] ought to speak"? If not, demand that he do so! If you are a gospel preacher, how do you speak? Preachers, may these words ring long and loud in our hearts and ears – "For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel" (1 Cor. 9:16)!