Positive Preaching

Glendol McClure

Have you ever replaced flashlight batteries, then flipped the switch and found that the flashlight still didn’t work? After further examination, you probably discovered that you had installed the batteries incorrectly (backward). The battery’s positive pole was where the negative pole should have been, and you had to correct your error before the flashlight would function properly.

Some brethren’s spiritual batteries are backward, in so far as God’s word is concerned. They have reversed the poles, or you might say, “their wires are crossed.” Some have batteries that have run down completely and died!

It has become common to hear “positive” brethren crying for more “positive preachin;” preaching that excludes even the mention of anything negative. They wish to have their ears tickled. “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim. 4:1-4). Question: Have you ever tried to use a battery-powered tool whose battery was connected only at the positive end? If you disconnect your automobile battery’s negative lead terminal, would the car start? No! In order for the automobile to operate as intended, both terminals must be properly connected.

Isaiah pronounced a “woe” on those who reversed things. He said, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isa. 5:20). The prophet also described this attitude in Isaiah 30:10, where he wrote, “Which say to the seers, see not; and to the prophets, prophesy not unto us right things; speak unto us smooth things; prophesy deceits.” Brethren who engage in such practices fellowship darkness and “do not the truth" while they profess to be walking “in the light” (1 Jn. 1:5-7).

Gospel preachers who boldly preach and proclaim “all the council of God” (Acts 20:27) and who “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3) are often criticized for being “negative, boring, judgmental, legalistic, watch-dog brethren.” Their critics demand preaching that “accentuates the positive and eliminates the negative,” and they often demonstrate great distaste for lessons that “reprove (negative), rebuke (negative), and exhort (positive) with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 2:2-4).

To coin a phrase similar to the one “Let your fingers do the walking...” used to advertise the Yellow Pages. I say, “let God’s Word do the talking!” In response to those who have such strong desires for “positive preaching,” I ask that you open your Bibles and consider just a few of the many “positive” texts in God’s Word.

·         Ezekiel 3:8, 9 – “So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of lsrael; therefore, thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.”

·         1 Peter 1:13-16 “Wherefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, be ye holy; for I am holy.”

·         Colossians 3:1-2, 5 – “lf ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth…Mortify, therefore, your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Due to limited space, the text of other passages is not included, but please take your Bibles and read the following passages, which I consider to be “positive” texts:

Matthew 28:19-20

Romans 16:17

1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Ephesians 5:22 and 25

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22

1 Timothy 6:12

2 Timothy 2:15,19; 3:12

Hebrews 5:9

James 1:22; 4:8

1 Peter 2:21

1 John 2:3

Faithful gospel preachers have preached, and will continue to preach excellent sermons using these and other “positive” passages as their sermon texts. As already noted, these texts are but a few of the Bible’s many “positive” passages.

Will brethren who desire to hear “positive preaching” tolerate lessons based on the truths in these texts? Or will they seek to have their ears tickled and turn away from the truth unto fables (2 Tim. 4:3-4)? Will “positive” brethren heed the admonition given by Jeremiah who pled, “Thus saith the LORD, stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” Or, will they give the same reply heard by Jeremiah: “We will not walk therein” (cf. Jer. 6:16).

Let us place our trust in “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) and remember Jesus’ proclamation, Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). Nothing but the pure and simple gospel of Christ will positively save man from the guilt of his sin. There is no substitute.