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WHY SO LITTLE GOSPEL PREACHING TODAY?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, January 26, 2014

“Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (I Corinthians 9:16).


Those are the words of the Apostle Paul. He felt compelled to preach the Gospel of Christ. And he preached the Gospel constantly throughout his ministry. Matthew Henry said, “Those who are set apart to the office of the ministry have it in their charge to preach the gospel. Woe be to them if they do not.” Without further explanation, I will go right into the sermon.

Several people have complained to me about the lack of Gospel preaching today. They tell me that they never hear whole sermons on the Gospel of Christ in their churches. They ask me why preachers don’t give sermons about Christ’s saving work on the Cross. And I have been giving a great deal of thought to that question – why are so few pastors preaching the Gospel? I myself haven’t heard any local church pastor preach the Gospel for years! I think there are several reasons – and I’m going to give two of them in this sermon.

I. First, the Bible predicts that Christ will be shut out of most churches in the last days.

Revelation 3:14-22 describes the Laodicean church. It perfectly pictures the churches in the Western world in the last days. J. A. Seiss said, “Can any man scrutinize narrowly the professed church of our day, and say that we have not reached the Laodicean age?” (J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse, Zondervan Publishing House, n.d., p. 85).

Dr. John F. Walvoord said, “The church today...in many aspects sadly parallels the spiritual state of the church at Laodicea” (John F. Walvoord, Th.D., The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Moody Press, 1966, p. 95).

Dr. Lehman Strauss said, “For the most part the Laodicean church of the last days does not claim Christ...Christendom’s doom is sealed. Man’s church of the last days is a spewed out church” (Lehman Strauss, D.D., The Book of Revelation, Loizeaux Brothers, 1982 edition, pp. 104, 105).

Dr. J. Vernon McGee said, “We are living in the time of the Laodicean church... This is the condition of a great many so-called fundamental conservative churches...I am of the opinion that if [Christ] spoke to a lot of churches today, He would say, ‘You make me sick at the stomach...You say you love me. You say it, but you don’t mean it’...My friend, we are living in the Laodicean period today...This is the church that Stanley High spoke of when he said:

      The church has failed to tell me that I am a sinner. The church has failed to offer me salvation in Jesus Christ alone. The church has failed to tell me of the horrible consequences of sin, the certainty of hell, and the fact that Jesus Christ alone can save” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, 1983, Thomas Nelson Publishers, volume V, pp. 922, 923, 925, 924; notes on Revelation 3:14-19; Stanley H. High was a senior editor of The Reader’s Digest and a Christian author. The above statement by Mr. High appeared in August, 1947 in Time Magazine).

Where is Christ in the Laodicean churches of our time? That’s described in Revelation 3:20,

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

Christ is shut out of His churches in this Laodicean time. He’s standing outside, knocking on the church door, because He is shut out! Dr. Charles C. Ryrie said, “How incredible that Christ should be kept outside His own church!” (Charles C. Ryrie, Th.D., Ph.D., The Ryrie Study Bible, Moody Press, 1978 edition, p. 1900; note on Revelation 3:20).

Note that Revelation 3:20 does not speak of Christ entering the human heart. As Dr. Ryrie noticed, He is shut out of His church, not out of the human heart. That is what Revelation 3:20 is talking about. That’s clear in the context of this section, which ends with the words, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”

Therefore we should not be surprised that there is so little preaching of the Gospel of Christ in the last days, in this Laodicean age! Dr. Michael Horton has written a penetrating book titled, Christless Christianity. He says that most of our churches are preaching a “self-help” message, rather than the Gospel of Christ. He quoted the sermon topics of a Baptist church to prove his point:

“How to Feel Good About Yourself”
“How to Overcome Depression”
“How to Have a Full and Successful Life”
“Learning to Handle Money Without it Handling You”
“The Secrets of Successful Family Living”
“How to Overcome Stress,” etc.
   (Michael Horton, Ph.D., Christless Christianity: The Alternative
     Gospel of the American Church, Baker Books, 2008, p. 49).

I conclude that the first reason there is so little preaching on the work of Christ – His death on the Cross, His Blood atonement, His resurrection, His Second Coming, etc. – is that we are living in the Laodicean apostasy of the last days, spoken of in Bible prophecy. Dr. McGee said,

      To the church in Laodicea the Lord Jesus said, “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (v. 16). This is the apostate church which professes to be Christian but lacks reality. (McGee, ibid., p. 926).

In his great prophetic passage in the fourth chapter of II Timothy the Apostle Paul said,

“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” (II Timothy 4:3-5).

After saying, “they shall turn away their ears from the truth,” he said, “do the work of an evangelist.” Nothing is more greatly needed than strong, scholarly evangelistic sermons, like the thousands that Spurgeon preached in the 19th century! Oh, how this generation needs that kind of preaching in this desperate hour! I don’t care if every other preacher in America gives little verse-by-verse lessons to Christians! No matter what they do, I will continue to preach the Gospel of my Lord Jesus Christ!

“Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (I Corinthians 9:16).

I love to tell the story Of unseen things above,
   Of Jesus and His glory, Of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story, Because I know ‘tis true;
   It satisfies my longing As nothing else can do.
I love to tell the story, ‘Twill be my theme in glory
   To tell the old, old story Of Jesus and His love.
(“I Love to Tell the Story” by A. Catherine Hankey, 1834-1911).

“Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (I Corinthians 9:16).

II. Second, the “sinner’s prayer” has made preaching the Gospel of Christ obsolete, old fashioned and not needed – so say “modern” preachers!

If all you need to do is have people say a “sinner’s prayer” then there is no need to preach the Gospel. Relying on this “modern” method of the “sinner’s prayer” has now replaced preaching the Gospel of Christ! If you think that is an exaggeration, listen to what Jack Hyles wrote in 1993,

      The New Testament church in the Book of Acts was a soul-winning church. Through the years we transferred the soul winning to evangelism, and for these many centuries, there has been an emphasis on the evangelistic church.
      Now what is the difference between the soul-winning church and the evangelistic church? In the evangelistic church the pastor stands behind the pulpit and preaches the Gospel to the unsaved people whom the folks have brought to church. In the soul-winning church, the people leave the church and go out into the highways and hedges, win them to Christ, bring them to church to walk the aisle and make public profession of salvation. In our generation, we have seen the better churches turn from evangelistic churches to soul-winning churches...It enables the man of God to preach to the Christian people on the Lord’s Day, realizing that they will be going...and bringing folks to Christ (Jack Hyles, D.D. Enemies of Soul Winning, Hyles-Anderson Publishers, 1993, pp. 140, 141).

What he meant is quite clear, isn’t it? He said that the “better churches” no longer have evangelistic sermons. The people go out and get lost people to say a “sinner’s prayer” and then bring them to church to “walk the aisle.” He also said that the New Testament churches did this (ibid., p. 140). I would like to see anyone prove that from the Book of Acts! Every sermon but one in the Book of Acts was an evangelistic sermon! That’s right, every sermon but one recorded in the Book of Acts was an evangelistic sermon! Acts 20:18-35 is the only exception! That one sermon was given by Paul to the “elders” of the church at Ephesus. And, even in that one sermon, he spoke of the evangelistic sermons he had been giving to the lost, “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). And every other sermon in the Book of Acts was an evangelistic sermon – including Peter’s sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-40); Peter’s sermon before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:5-12); Stephen’s sermon (Acts 7:1-53); Philip’s sermons in Samaria (Acts 8:5); Paul’s sermon after his conversion (Acts 9:20-22); Peter’s sermon to the Gentiles (Acts 10:34-43); Paul’s sermon at Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:14-41); Paul’s sermon at Athens (Acts 17:22-31); etc., etc. We also read that Paul preached publickly and from house to house (Acts 20:20-21). The Book of Acts tells us that the Apostles were in the temple and various houses preaching evangelistically. We are told that they “ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42). So Jack Hyles was dead wrong when he wrote that the “New Testament Church in the Book of Acts” was not built by evangelistic preaching (Hyles, ibid., p. 140). And Jack Hyles was dead wrong when he said that pastors in “the better churches” turned from evangelistic preaching to speak “to the Christian people on the Lord’s Day” (Hyles, ibid., p. 141).

But another thing that is very interesting in Jack Hyles’ statement is that it shows very clearly that the “sinner’s prayer” has replaced evangelistic preaching! The idea of running around and getting people to pray a “sinner’s prayer” has made Gospel preaching obsolete, no longer needed, a thing of the past. As Jack Hyles said, “Through the years we transferred the soul winning [getting people to pray the ‘sinner’s prayer’] to evangelism” (Hyles, ibid., p. 140) – and Hyles said this is wrong!

Hyles isn’t the only one who thought that. It’s so easy to get people to “raise their hand” – or say a “sinner’s prayer”! Why go to all the trouble of preaching whole sermons about Christ? Why not just teach “the Christian people on the Lord’s Day” – as Jack Hyles put it? So today everyone from John MacArthur to Joel Osteen teaches “the Christian people on the Lord’s Day.” Thus, the so-called “sinner’s prayer” has destroyed Gospel preaching in our churches. But I must still say with the Apostle Paul,

“Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (I Corinthians 9:16).

I just read a very thought provoking statement by a man named Thomas Williamson. He said,

      Maybe I’m missing something, but I cannot think of any instance in the New Testament where any Christian told an unsaved person to “just repeat after me the words of this prayer, or if you are embarrassed to pray out loud, then just follow along with me silently with your head bowed while I pray, and thou shalt be saved” (Thomas Williamson, “Northern Landmark Missionary Baptist,” December, 2013, page 2).

I don’t know Mr. Williamson, or what else he believes. But what he said is worth thinking about, long and hard. Nowhere in the New Testament did anyone ever lead a lost person to pray a “sinner’s prayer”! It is a new method – not found in the Bible! And it is a dangerous method because it makes preaching the Gospel unnecessary – as we see in so many churches today!

My associate, Dr. Christopher Cagan, and I watched Joel Osteen on a computer the other evening. He gave a brief self-help talk on how to be happy. He quoted a verse or two from the Bible, but he never mentioned the Gospel of Christ – not one word about Christ’s substitutionary death on the Cross – not one word on the sin-cleansing Blood of Christ – not one word about Christ’s resurrection – no mention of the Gospel whatever. But then, at the end of his talk – I wrote down what he said word-for-word – Joel Osteen said,

We never like to close our broadcast without giving you an opportunity to make Jesus the Lord of your life. Would you pray with me? Just say, “Lord Jesus, I repent of my sins. Come into my heart. I make you my Lord and Saviour.” Friends, if you prayed that simple prayer, we believe you got born again.

He may believe they “got born again,” but I don’t! No one “got born” again by saying that prayer – no one! How could they? There was no Gospel in that prayer – none! Since there was no Gospel at all in his sermon, Mr. Osteen gave a Christless sermon and a “sinner’s prayer” without any mention of the Gospel in it! There was no mention of Jesus dying on the Cross to pay the penalty for sin – which is the very heart of the Gospel. There was no mention of Christ’s sin-cleansing Blood. There was no mention of His bodily resurrection from the dead. In other words, there was no mention at all of the Gospel (I Corinthians 15:1-4). This is the false gospel of a quick prayer – not the Gospel of Christ! Thus, Osteen preaches what the Apostle Paul called, “another gospel,” not the Gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:6, 7). But I still say,

“Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (I Corinthians 9:16).

I love to tell the story, ‘Tis pleasant to repeat
   What seems each time I tell it, More wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story, For some have never heard
   The message of salvation From God’s own Holy Word.
I love to tell the story, ‘Twill be my theme in glory
   To tell the old, old story Of Jesus and His love.

The human race is bound in the chains of sin, under the control of Satan, “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). Everyone is under the power of sin, “having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

But “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Timothy 1:15). Jesus came down from Heaven and lived among us without sin, the perfectly holy Son of God – the only begotten Son of God. But on the terrible night before He was crucified, in the darkness of the Garden of Gethsemane, God put the sin of His people “in his own body” (I Peter 2:24). Jesus struggled under the weight of your sin until “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). The captains of the temple came and arrested Him on false charges. They dragged Him away to the high priest. They blindfolded Him and beat Him in the face, while others pulled out patches of His beard by the roots. They took Him to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. He had his soldiers scourge the back of Jesus, until He was half dead, His Blood soaking the ground. They spit in His face and beat Him on the head with a stick. They forced Him to carry a cross through the streets, while the people screamed at Him. When they got to the place of execution, they nailed His hands and feet to the Cross. He hung there, naked on the Cross, while the crowd mocked Him and jeered at Him. After suffering on the Cross for six hours, He cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and bowed His head and gave up His spirit – as He died. “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water” (John 19:34). A man named Joseph of Arimathea took the dead body of Jesus, wound it in linen clothes, and placed it in a tomb. They put a huge stone over the mouth of the tomb, and sealed it, and put Roman guards to watch it. But early on Easter Sunday morning, the Lord Jesus Christ rose physically, flesh and bone, from the dead!

My friend, Jesus did all that for you. He died on that Cross to pay the penalty for your sin. You should have been punished for your sin – but Jesus suffered and died as your substitute. The Bible teaches that you can only be saved from sin by the substitutionary death of Jesus in your place. And He shed His Blood to cleanse you from all sin. And He rose physically from the dead to give you eternal life! Jesus went through all that pain and suffering because He loves you! Come to Jesus. He loves you so much that He will save you - right now! 

What is left for you to do? All God asks is that you repent and trust His Son Jesus. When you repent and trust Jesus you are saved from sin, from the grave, and from Hell itself! Trust Jesus now and He will cleanse you from all sin with His precious Blood!

I love to tell the story, For those who know it best
   Seem hungering and thirsting To hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
   ‘Twill be the old, old story That I have loved so long.
I love to tell the story, ‘Twill be my theme in glory
   To tell the old, old story Of Jesus and His love.

“Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (I Corinthians 9:16).

If you would like to speak with us about being saved from your sin by Jesus, please leave your chair and walk to the back of the auditorium. Mr. John Samuel Cagan will take you to another room where we can pray and talk. If you are interested in becoming a Christian, walk to the back of this room now. Dr. Chan, please pray that someone will trust Jesus. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Revelation 3:14-22.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“I Love to Tell the Story” (by A. Catherine Hankey, 1834-1911).


THE OUTLINE OF

WHY SO LITTLE GOSPEL PREACHING TODAY?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (I Corinthians 9:16).

I.   First, the Bible predicts that Christ will be shut out of most churches
in the last days, Revelation 3:20; II Timothy 4:3-5.

II.  Second, the “sinner’s prayer” has made preaching the Gospel of
Christ obsolete, old fashioned and not needed – so say
“modern” preachers! Acts 20:21; 2:14-40; 4:5-12; 7:1-53; 8:5;
Acts 9:20-22; 10:34-43; 13:14-41; 17:22-31; 20:20-21; 5:42;
I Corinthians 15:1-4; Galatians 1:6, 7; Ephesians 2: 2, 12;
I Timothy 1:15; I Peter 2:24; Luke 22:44; John 19:30, 34.