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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, March 12, 2006
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine” (Mark 11:18).

Our text begins with the words, “And the scribes and chief priests heard it.” What did they hear? They heard Christ preaching in the Temple! What did He preach? He preached, “My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer…but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Mark 11:17). Now that couldn’t have been all He preached. That was only His text (Isaiah 56:7, “My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer”) and His application (“but ye have made it a den of thieves”). That was the text and the application of His sermon. The scribes and chief priests heard Christ preach this sermon. They shook in their boots.

This shows us that a sermon from Christ was far different from most sermons today. Dr. Lloyd-Jones once said that a sermon “should make such a difference to a man who is listening that he is never the same again…it deals with him in a vital and a radical manner” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, Zondervan, 1971, p. 53). In the four gospels the men who heard the preaching of Christ were deeply affected by it. Some mocked, others threw stones, others sought to kill Him, and some were utterly transformed and were converted. Read the four gospels and you will see that all of these responses occurred when Christ preached.

Christ was the master preacher. He is our example. Therefore I have long since given up what I was taught in theological seminaries about preaching. The way I was taught had no fire in it. It did not condemn men for sin. It did not show them the depths of their depravity. It did not stir them to seek Christ. I finally came to see that what I was being taught was the dry verse-by-verse expository method of Harry Ironside and the Plymouth Brethren, which has had such a deadening influence on modern American pulpits. I struggled to get loose of Ironside and the Plymouth Brethren - to be free of them entirely - and to get back to the life-changing preaching of Jesus Christ. I came to believe that Dr. Lloyd-Jones was right, that a Christ-like sermon was the thing needed. A sermon, said Dr. Lloyd-Jones, “should make such a difference in a man who is listening that he is never the same again.”

However this is done - by confronting him with his sin, annoying him by describing his lifelessness toward God - he must be called to fall face down before Christ! However this is done - I must do all in my power, with God’s help, to “make such a difference in a man who is listening that he is never the same again,” as Dr. Lloyd-Jones put it.

Yes, the scribes and chief priests heard Jesus’ sermon. And they were very upset by it. But isn’t that the very reaction we should expect from dry-as-dust scribes and chief priests today? Why should we expect any better reception from men like this than Jesus received from them? I say we should not. We should expect very nearly the same response from such men today that Jesus received from them. And if you model your preaching on Christ that is exactly the response you will receive from self-important men who, themselves, do not preach like Christ. So what does our text tell us about their counterparts when they heard our Lord’s preaching?

I. First, the religious leaders disliked His preaching.

There are several young men here this morning who are praying about entering the preaching ministry. Through hearing me preach, you have undoubtedly thought about modeling your future sermons on those of our Lord. But let me give you a warning - other men will dislike your preaching if you preach like Christ. They will look at you in a strange way, as though something were wrong with you - as they looked at Christ. They will not try to crucify you physically, for that is out of fashion - but they will try to harm you by the words they say about you behind your back. Some of them will try to persuade your people to leave your church and go to theirs - to “be fed” - and they will do many unkind and hateful things against you if you dare to make Christ your example in preaching. 

Life is very hard for a true gospel preacher because so many modern scribes and chief priests will try to harm your ministry as they did His - and for the same reasons. Only a very brave and specially called young man should ever consider going into the ministry, because so many modern scribes and chief priests will hover around you like vultures trying to pull people away from your church, trying to persuade them, as they did of Christ, that you are a lunatic and have a demon. They may attempt to wean them away to their churches, which they imagine are better, because the people are “fed” the doctrines of the scribes and Pharisees there.

Dr. John R. Rice was a plain, old-fashioned preacher. He went through many trials and difficulties for preaching hard-hitting gospel sermons. It should not surprise us, knowing these facts, that his favorite hymn was “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken.” Mr. Griffith sang it a moment ago. It is a hymn every true preacher has experienced. Listen again to the second stanza.

Let the world despise and leave me, They have left the Saviour, too;
Human hearts and looks deceive me; Thou art not like man untrue;
And, while Thou shalt smile upon me, God of wisdom, love, and might,
Foes may hate, and friends may shun me; Show Thy face, and all is bright.

That’s a good song for any true preacher to sing. It’s a good song for young men thinking about becoming preachers too. The first stanza says,

Jesus, I my cross have taken, All to leave and follow Thee;
Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou from hence, my all shall be:
Perish every fond ambition, All I’ve sought, and hoped and known;
Yet how rich is my condition, God and heaven are still my own.
   (“Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken” by Henry F. Lyte, 1793-1847).

I tell young men contemplating the ministry to study for some other occupation in college, such as an accountant or attorney. Don’t study the methods of the scribes and Pharisees in the seminaries. Study for something that will give you an independent income, so you don’t have to be a slave to those who attack you when you try to preach as Christ did. Remember that Christ was a carpenter by trade.  The Apostle Paul was a tentmaker.  Peter was a fisherman.  There's a good Biblical foundation for what I am saying.  By all means preach - but preach from a financial situation that lifts you above attacks and attempts to harm your ministry.

Dr. W. A. Criswell, one of the greatest preachers of the twentieth century, made wise financial investments, and was able in his latter years to give his church back every dollar they had paid him - with interest. Thus he was freed in his last decades of preaching from the fierce assaults of liberals who constantly attacked his ministry. He was able to stand in his pulpit and preach without fear or favor, because he owed nothing to his critics - financially or otherwise. Criswell was a good model in many ways for a young man seeking to preach like Christ. Yes, they attempted to stop Christ from preaching.

“And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him …”
     (Mark 11:18).

Now there is an important thought. They “heard it, and sought how they might destroy him.” There was an element in his preaching that was so strong that it brought about this reaction. “They heard him, and sought how they might destroy him.” The preaching annoyed them. In fact it infuriated them. I contend that this is exactly what is missing in modern preaching, the sense of it being annoying, and even infuriating, to a lost person.

Now, notice who it was that disliked Christ’s preaching. It was the professional “clergy” of that day. They were paid to teach the people. That was how they made their living. They were “professional” teachers. The professional preacher is always disturbed by the God-called preacher. They are afraid of him. Isn’t that exactly what our text says about the scribes and chief priests? “They feared him” (Mark 11:18). Notice also in this passage that it says “They feared the people” twice (Mark 11:32; 12:12). They feared strong preaching and they also feared the people.  The two go together.  Preachers who are afraid of the people will also be afraid of strong preaching.  Isn't that precisely what has happened to pulpits across the English-speaking world?  The preachers are afraid of strong preaching, and they are also afraid of their own people.  This makes very poor preachers out of them!  

Many of our Baptist pastors are no better speakers than an Episcopalian or a Presbyterian minister. In fact, when I was in a very liberal seminary I actually heard an Episcopal priest and a Presbyterian minister who were better preachers than many Baptists today, though their doctrines were wrong. Their content was not sound, but their delivery and ability to hold people’s attention was far and away better than some I have heard in our own churches.

One man told me how much he liked reading my sermons on the Internet. Then he looked down and with a frightened voice said, “But you preach them in a big, loud voice, don’t you?” The very thought of me giving a sermon in a “big, loud voice” made his face turn white. He is a very nice man, but he is a truly boring speaker, worse than many Episcopalian priests. Dr. Lloyd-Jones said that a man like this “who can speak about these things dispassionately has no right whatever to be in a pulpit; and should never be allowed to enter one” (ibid., p. 97). And yet this is precisely the kind of man we often find training preachers! That’s one of the reasons I tell our boys not to go to seminary. Get a degree in business or in law. Luther did. Calvin did. C. I. Scofield did. All three of them were lawyers before they became preachers. So was Charles G. Finney, though he did harm by his preaching. 

Then if you want to go into the ministry, study for it on your own. You can study the Greek and Hebrew, systematic theology, and church history on your own. I learned these things on my own - not in the liberal seminaries. Then learn how to preach by reading biographies of real, Christ-like preachers, such as John Rogers, William Romaine, Howell Harris, Daniel Rowland, Joseph Hart, and especially George Whitefield and John Wesley. You will learn more about preaching by reading biographies of these men than you could ever learn from a timid, frightened man who, as Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, “has no right to be in a pulpit and should never be allowed to enter one”! Dr. Lloyd-Jones, as you perhaps know, was a medical doctor before he became a preacher. He never went to a seminary. That is probably one of the reasons he was such a great preacher, perhaps the greatest one of the twentieth century. Spurgeon, prince of preachers, never went to a college or a seminary. He learned these things on his own. The older I get the more I want to stay away from dead preaching and go to my study and live with the real preachers of the ages - some of whose names I have mentioned - especially Whitefield and Wesley. The preaching of this present age is so far removed from their example that it can hardly be called preaching at all!  It is certainly far from the example Christ gave us on this matter!

II. Second, the people were astonished by His preaching.

“All the people was astonished at his doctrine” (Mark 11:18).

The Greek word translated “astonished” means that they were exceedingly struck in their minds, “blown away,” as young people would say! What he preached struck them mentally, and moved them. I am of the opinion that preaching, especially evangelistic preaching, should do just that. People ought to come away with a sense of astonishment.

The preacher himself should first be struck by his own message. His heart and soul should be set aflame regarding what he has to say before he ever enters the pulpit. Someone asked John Wesley how he got such crowds of people to come and hear him preach. He said, “I set myself on fire, and the people come to see me burn.”

Then what the preacher says should be very earnest and serious. He should throw himself into preaching the sermon with all the passion and power that he can muster. He should let people know by his very manner and voice that he means what he says - and that he says what he means. Richard Baxter (1615-1691 AD) said, “I preach as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.” That quotation catches hold of the very essence of true preaching.

Why is preaching so important? The Apostle Paul summed it up in two questions.

“How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).

No matter how well we preach, it will not strike people as important if we do not make them see their need for Christ. This happens when we point out the poison of indwelling sin. Only when a person is struck by his own inner deceitfulness and desperate wickedness will he see the need for salvation by God in Christ. He will try to do something to save himself unless he sees that his

“…heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).

So, a lost person must be amazed by his own sinful nature, struck by the fact that he is

“dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

Then, when this is done, the preacher must speak of salvation in Christ Jesus. Salvation in Christ will not seem amazing unless first the sinner sees his utter hopelessness and helplessness to save himself. Only then will he be struck with the thought,

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound
   That saved a wretch like me.
(“Amazing Grace” by John Newton, 1725-1807).

Now there is one more verse I would draw your attention to this morning. It’s the next verse after our text, Mark 11:19. Please stand and read it aloud.

“And when even was come, he went out of the city”
     (Mark 11:19).

You may be seated.

What does that show? Why, it tells us that the preacher will not always be with us. They should have listened and been converted while Jesus was there preaching, but

“When even was come, he went out of the city” (Mark 11:19).

I will be sixty-five years old next month. In a few months I will have been in the ministry for 50 years. Any way you look at it, I will not always be here to preach to you. I can even now feel the time coming, more quickly than we realize, when I will no longer be with you. If you love me - and I know you do - please listen to me while I am still here. Nothing you could give me, nothing you could do for me, would give me greater joy and pleasure than to see you come to Christ and be saved. Please give me the joy of seeing you come to Christ. Please give me the honor of baptizing you into the membership of our dear church before evening comes and I “go out of the city” to be with Christ.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Mark 11:15-19.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken” (by Henry F. Lyte, 1793-1847).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine” (Mark 11:18).

(Mark 11:17; cf. Isaiah 56:7)

I.   The religious leaders disliked His preaching, Mark 11:18a;
Mark 11:32; 12:12.

II.  The people were astonished by His preaching, Mark 11:18b;
Romans 10:14; Jeremiah 17:9; Ephesians 2:1; Mark 11:19.