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REAL PREACHING IN AN AGE OF
SOFT BIBLE TEACHING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, January 12, 2014

“There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He hath a devil and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:19-21).


Some time ago I was driving across the state of Florida with another pastor. He turned on the radio several times to an evangelical station. Each time, every one of the preachers sounded exactly the same. Their messages and their voices were all identical! They were all soft evangelical Bible teachers – even though some of them claimed to be fundamentalists!

Then suddenly he changed the station and I heard a man preaching! He was laying it out flat and plain! I said, “Who is that?” My friend said, “That's Oliver B. Greene. He's been dead almost thirty years.”

It's a shame when the only decent preacher I heard on radio in Florida has been dead for so long! When I was called to preach fifty-five years ago, every preacher I heard delivered his message in the style of Oliver B. Greene. Somebody changed, and it wasn't me! Somebody got soft, but it wasn’t me! Somebody quit preaching and went to teaching, but it wasn’t me!

God called me to preach like the old-time preachers. But the churches got so fancy that now they say you can't preach like that. Well, I do it anyway, because God called me to be an old-fashioned preacher – not a soft, limp-wristed Bible teacher from Fuller Seminary!

One evangelist told me that he went to preach in a Skid-Row mission while he was a theological student. He went with a professor at his Bible school. He memorized and preached Dr. John R. Rice's sermon, “Trailed by a Wild Beast,” an old-fashioned, sin-condemning sermon on Numbers 32:23, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” The points are these:

1.  Sin will find you out in your face.
2.  Sin will find you out in your body.
3.  Sin will find you out in your character.
4.  Sin will find you out in your children.
5.  Sin will find you out in a remorse-stricken conscience.
6.  Sins come out publicly, with open shame.
7.  Sin will find you out in Hell.
8.  An escape for ruined sinners.

After the young preacher gave Dr. Rice’s sermon, the Bible school professor told him, “It's OK to preach that kind of sermon in a Skid-Row mission, but don’t ever preach like that in a church.”

So, a sermon Dr. Rice himself preached in many churches in 1944 (when the sermon was copyrighted by Sword of the Lord) could not be preached in those same churches today! – because they have now been filled up with unsaved people who literally hate real evangelistic preaching! But such sermons are needed in our churches –now more than ever! Why? Because the little old ladies who don’t want that kind of preaching are lost people – 100% of the time, they are lost people! Preacher, did you ever check your own wife’s testimony, to see if she is saved? Our churches today are so full of lost people that they scare our Baptist preachers till they sound like limp-wristed Episcopalian priests! Tell them I said so!

The kind of advice given to that preacher boy by the Bible school teacher, has produced a generation of chicken-hearted preachers. It is evil counsel. It will not be blessed with real conversions, and never with revival. There has never been a revival anywhere on earth under soft Bible teaching! Never! Never! Never! And there never will be either! Away with such Satanic counsel from the face of the earth! It would be better to have every church closed to you, like great Wesley and Whitefield did, than to follow such wicked, craven, self-serving advice!

Winston Churchill said, “People who are not prepared to do unpopular things and to defy clamor are not fit to be Ministers in times of stress.” He was talking about ministers of the government, but his words apply equally to ministers of the gospel in times like these. “Preachers who are not prepared to do unpopular things and to defy clamor are not fit to be ministers in times of stress.”

Every preacher needs to constantly remember two Bible verses:

“Do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10b).

“Even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (I Thessalonians 2:4b).

J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) was a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary before he left in 1929 because of liberalism. Later that year he founded Westminster Theological Seminary. He was defrocked by the liberals in 1936, and died one year later from pneumonia.

Dr. Machen took a strong stand for the Bible in the Presbyterian church. He had his ordination certificate revoked by liberals in the denomination for his stand, but he has been a hero to Bible-believing Christians ever since. Dr. Machen believed that modern preaching had gone wrong. He said,

Modern preachers are trying to bring men into the Church without requiring them to relinquish their pride; they are trying to help men avoid the conviction of sin…Such is modern preaching. It is heard every Sunday in thousands of pulpits. But it is entirely futile. (J. Gresham Machen, Ph.D., Christianity and Liberalism, Eerdmans, 1983 reprint, p. 68).

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the great Welsh preacher, was considered by many to be one of the foremost authorities on revival in the twentieth century. Iain H. Murray said this about him,

Modern preaching, Dr. Lloyd-Jones believed, had gone fundamentally wrong. He saw the main proof of that fact in the failure of the pulpit to recognize that the first work of the Holy Spirit is to convict of sin and to humble men in the presence of God. He knew that any preaching which soothes, comforts and pleases those who have never been brought to fear God, nor seek His mercy, is not preaching which the Spirit of God will own [bless]. The truth is that he was going back to a principle once regarded as imperative for powerful evangelistic preaching, namely, that before men can be converted they must be convinced of sin. (Iain H. Murray, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: the First Forty Years, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1983, p. 206).

Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, “Present-day preaching does not save men. Present-day preaching does not even annoy men, but leaves them precisely where they were, without a ruffle and without the slightest disturbance. Anyone who happens to break these rules and who produces a disturbing effect upon members of his congregation is regarded as an objectionable person.” (Quoted by Iain H. Murray, ibid.).

When I surrendered to preach as a teenager, I was asked to speak to a large youth group at our church in Huntington Park, California. I prayed and then spoke plainly on James 2:20, “Faith without works is dead.” It was not a wild sermon at all, just a plain gospel sermon to lost young people. It was my first sermon, preached at the First Baptist Church of Huntington Park in the spring of 1958, when I was seventeen years old.

The Choir Director, who also led the youth group, took me aside after the sermon and told me I was wrong, that I must not preach like that again. I was shattered. My heart was so sick that it brings tears to my eyes even now, over fifty years later. But a few months afterwards the sin of this man came out. He had been molesting young children. Several parents took him to court. I watched as the young people I had spoken to fell away from the church until only a handful were left. Then the Lord seemed to say to me, “Robert, you go back in there and preach, whether people like it or not. Preach to please me, not to please wicked, lost Baptists.”

I have tried to follow God on this matter for over 55 years now. Yes, it has cost me some misunderstanding and the loss of some friends. And yes, plain preaching has gotten me put out of some churches across those fifty-five years, where lost church members and timid preachers agreed I should be stopped. Yes, some of my fellow preachers have said, as they did of the Lord, “He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?” (John 10:20).

President Reagan once said, “If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are.” He was saying that children who are not taught the history of America will grow up not knowing what it means to be an American!

What President Reagan said applies also to Christians, “If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are.” There's a whole generation of young preachers who don't know anything about America's three great awakenings, or our leading preachers, like Jonathan Edwards, Asahel Nettleton, Gilbert Tennent, George Whitefield, or Cotton Mather. They are so ignorant of American Christian history that they can't even tell you who these men were, or what they did.

“If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are.”

That old saying from President Reagan was exactly right – and it’s the main reason there is so little real preaching today. We have forgotten what we once did, so we don't even know who we are – as fundamentalists, and as preachers!

Let us remember three things about historical and Biblical preaching this evening.

I. First, Biblical preaching causes divisions.

“There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He hath a devil and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:19-21).

The four Gospels and the Book of Acts describe one division after another as a result of the preaching of Christ and the Disciples. For instance, in Acts 4:2-4 some of the people believed, while the rest were grieved. The preaching of the apostles produced grief or belief. There was no middle ground. In Acts 13:48-50 there was a division of the people which resulted in the preachers being “expelled…out of their coasts.” In Acts 14:4 we read, “But the multitude of the city was divided.” In Acts 17:1-9 we read of certain people who were “moved with envy” who “troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.” When Paul preached at Ephesus, “divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way…he departed from them, and separated the disciples” (Acts 19:8-9). At Rome, “some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not” (Acts 28:24).

Clear, plain preaching which caused people to examine their own salvation produced great division throughout the book of Acts, as the apostles followed the example set by Jesus in His own preaching ministry.

Jesus, Himself, quite often caused such division through His preaching (John 7:43; John 9:16; John 10:19). The last verse in this list, John 10:19, tells us: “There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings.” Jesus' sermon was so probing (He called them thieves and robbers in verse 1) that although they understood little of its spiritual content, it angered and divided them. In Luke 12:51 Jesus said: “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division.” Dr. John R. Rice once said:

No need to blame Hollywood and the liquor and drug crowd for the mess we are in. Blame lies at the doorstep of sissy, compromising, back-scratching, ear-tickling preachers who know the truth yet refuse to preach it for fear of hurting someone's feelings. It is not inviting to be unpopular. No one likes to be shunned. It is not a good feeling to know you are not appreciated. But our Lord went through all that – and [Jesus is] our example.

Yes, the preaching of Jesus and His apostles produced divisions between the saved and the stubborn, hard-hearted lost. This has happened throughout Christian history to men who preached as Christ and the apostles did; men who made lost people examine themselves to see whether they were converted (II Corinthians 13:5).

Remember that Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church for this reason. Remember that John Wesley wrote again and again in his journal, “I must preach there no more,” when church after church closed to him, and he was finally forced out into the fields to preach, because no church would have him in its pulpit. Remember that George Whitefield was bitterly lampooned on the stage and also driven from the churches for such preaching. Remember that John Bunyan was put into prison for such preaching, and Jonathan Edwards was fired from his church for trying to get lost teenagers in his congregation saved!

Brian Edwards has said, “Some of the most vicious opposition to revival has come from the professing church.” I know that is true. I have seen it myself in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. Brian Edwards pointed out that “every church was closed to Bakht Singh,” the great Indian evangelist. At Cambuslang, Scotland, in 1742, the Associate Presbytery called George Whitefield “a limb of Anti-Christ,” and spread “lies, slanderous reports, and ridiculous stories” to prejudice people against his preaching. The Scottish evangelist Duncan Campbell was accused of hypnotizing people in the 1940s. The great evangelist Howel Harris of Wales declared, “I was almost murdered once, and twice in danger of my life, besides being before the Magistrate.” This sort of opposition to real evangelistic preaching is nearly universal in Christian history!

When we today take up the desperately needed task of preaching, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith,” we must expect a negative response. We must expect to be opposed like Jesus, the Apostles, Luther, Wesley, Whitefield, Bunyan, Edwards, Howel Harris, Bakht Singh, Duncan Campbell, and so many other faithful preachers. We must expect angry, hard-hearted, unconverted Protestants and Baptists to reject us, speak evil about us behind our backs, and put us out of their churches.

In this day of apostasy and soft, limp-wristed, new-evangelical “Bible-teaching,” a real, old-fashioned preacher will often be rejected. He will walk alone among the dead. His path will be like that described by the nineteenth century poet Thomas Moore:

I feel like one
Who treads alone
Some banquet hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled,
Whose garlands dead,
And all but he departed.

President Reagan said,

“If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are.”

We must not forget what they said about that old-fashioned preacher, Jesus Christ. The people called Jesus insane and demon-possessed because he preached too hard to please them:

“There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He hath a devil and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:19-21).

So, like his Master Jesus, the old-fashioned preacher will be thought odd or unstable by some. After Paul preached the gospel to him, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad” (Acts 26:24). Festus said Paul was insane after he preached. This was the same response to the preaching of Jesus, recorded in John 10:20. Many people who heard D. L. Moody preach called him “Crazy Moody.” This will sometimes be the reaction to any preacher who speaks as forcefully as Jesus, Paul, Whitefield, or Moody on the need for Protestants and Baptists to be converted. Jesus said,

“Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).

My rule is this: If nobody ever says you're preaching too hard – then you ought to think that maybe your preaching is wrong! If it never makes anyone mad, like the preaching of Jesus did – if it never angers sinners, like the preaching of the Apostles did – it just isn't Bible preaching! Period! End of sentence! You simply cannot teach lost sinners to be Christians! They have to be preached into a real conversion! “How shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14). The Greek word translated “preacher” means “a herald, a town crier” (Strong). An entirely different word is used for “teachers.” Romans 10:14 says they will not hear without a preacher – not a teacher!

In the Book of Acts, the preachers were stoned, thrown out of cities, put in prison, screamed at, and spat upon by those who heard them. But multitudes also got saved. Has it ever changed? Before you answer, think carefully about this list of great Christians who were rejected, thrown out of their churches, for sharp preaching:

Chrysostom was exiled by the empress Eudoxia.
  Luther was expelled from the Catholic Church.
     Baxter was locked in the Tower of London.
        Bunyan was sent to prison for twelve years.
           The Wesleys were driven from the Anglican church.
              Whitefield was banished from every church in London.
                 Edwards was forced out of his own pulpit and fired.
                    Spurgeon was censured by the Baptist Union of London.
                       Machen was defrocked by the Presbyterian Church.
                          John R. Rice was blackballed by Southern Baptist officials.

Those men were real preachers! “Who follows in their train?”

“If we forget what we did, we won't know who we are.”

Real, Bible preaching often produces anger and divisions – put it down in your mind and remember it. But it also brings blessings if the preacher is man enough to do it!

II. Second, Biblical preaching causes people to examine themselves – to see whether they are saved or not.

In II Corinthians 13:5 the Bible says, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith.”

Preaching which doesn't make the congregation examine themselves isn’t Biblical preaching. The man might read a Bible verse. He might even shout. But if he doesn't ever make the people question whether they are saved, that man is not a Biblical preacher! That man is not a real fundamentalist! Tell them I said so! Go ahead! Tell them what I said! They are not preaching like Jesus, and they are not preaching like Paul! They are not Bible preachers! Preachers ought to say things like this,

(1)  I say if you aren't in a Bible believing church every Sunday, that you ought to
      question your own salvation.

(2)   I say if you leave your church or quit coming, you ought to question your
       own salvation.

(3)   I say if you are living a life of sin, you ought to question your own salvation.

(4)   I say that the vast majority of evangelicals and the great majority of fundamentalists
       are lost – and I say that you are probably lost – so you ought to question your
        own salvation.

(5)   I say that you have probably made a “decision” instead of being converted
       to Christ – so you ought to question your own salvation, preacher!

Unless preachers speak on points like that, we will never again have a revival in our nation. They talk about II Chronicles 7:14. Phooey! That never does anything. That’s Old Testament stuff! Preach on those five points and there will be a great division...and maybe a revival! Preach against the sins of the people in front of you!

III. Third, Biblical preaching is used to open the eyes of the blind.

In our text, we read that they criticized Jesus for preaching too hard.

“And many of them said, He hath a devil [i.e. a demon], and is mad [i.e. insane]; why hear ye him?” (John 10:20).

But there were others in the crowd that day who said this:

“These are not the words of him that hath a devil [a demon]. Can a devil [demon] open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:21).

True Biblical preaching is used by God to open the eyes of lost sinners

(1)  To see their sin.
(2)  To come to Jesus for salvation.

And that is exactly what happened to the people who heard Jesus preach, recorded in the tenth chapter of John.

You may say, “Why does that man yell and preach and condemn and shout at me?” The answer is simple: I want to see you get saved. I want to see you come into this local church and never miss. I want to see you come to Jesus Christ, the resurrected Son of God, so your sins can be washed away in His Blood! I would like to see you trust Jesus tonight! I care about your soul! That’s why I preach like that!

If you would like to speak with us about being saved, please leave your seat and go to the inquiry room now. Dr. Chan, please pray that someone will be saved tonight! Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Prayer Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“The Price of Revival” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).


THE OUTLINE OF

REAL PREACHING IN AN AGE OF
SOFT BIBLE TEACHING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He hath a devil and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:19-21).

I.   First, Biblical preaching causes divisions, John 7:43; 19:16; 10:19;
Luke 12:51; Acts 4:2-4; 13:48-50; 14:4; 17:1-9; Acts 19:8-9; 28:24;
Romans 10:14.

II.  Second, Biblical preaching causes people to examine themselves,
II Corinthians 13:5.

III. Third, Biblical preaching is used to open the eyes of the blind,
John 10:20, 21.