Preaching that Will Amount to Nothing (weekend repost)

Proclaiming the Word must always be accompanied with love. I can’t get around what 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 says. Angry, venomous, mean-spirited, vile preachers are not speaking as God would have them. You can mock the so-called “tone-police,” but the Word is clear—speak with the tongues of angels and men, speak with great prophetic revelation, speak with incredible faith, and even sacrifice to the point of destitution and even martyrdom—but if you don’t have love you are worse than ineffective—you are painful to your hearers and destructive to the church.

Read the rest of the post here: Preaching that Will Amount to Nothing

Preaching that Will Amount to Nothing

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. ” (1 Cor. 13:1-6)

Proclaiming the Word must always be accompanied with love. I can’t get around what 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 says. Angry, venomous, mean-spirited, vile preachers are not speaking as God would have them. You can mock the so-called “tone-police,” but the Word is clear—speak with the tongues of angels and men, speak with great prophetic revelation, speak with incredible faith, and even sacrifice to the point of destitution and even martyrdom—but if you don’t have love you are worse than ineffective—you are painful to your hearers and destructive to the church.

And when I say that the Word must be accompanied with love, I don’t define love as “niceness” or “without controversy” because that isn’t the way God defines love. Love is clearly spoken of in this passage in both positive and negative attributes. Love is patient and kind. Impatient pastors are noisy gongs. Unkind pastors are clanging cymbals. Their ministries will amount to nothing in the long run because they do not minister the Word as the Chief Shepherd does.

Proclaiming the Word of God with love must also leave out certain things, including envy, boasting, arrogance, rudeness, self-seeking, or anger of different kinds (irritability, resentment, rejoicing in wrongdoing).

There are some men who step into the pulpit on Sundays whose sermons are peppered throughout with a mixture of truth and these vile sins that demonstrate a lack of love. These things should not be (James 3:9-12). But there is more to this.

Our pulpit speech and our conduct should be an overflow of our daily lives, which means that we must be men of true, biblical love—both in and out of the pulpit. We cannot be unloving (as defined by Scripture) in our daily lives with those around us, and then step into a pulpit on Sunday and proclaim the truth as if our preaching were disconnected from our daily living. To live like that is plain hypocrisy.

Our daily speech and actions must be marked by biblical love, so that we will not become noisy gongs and clanging cymbals in the pulpit, with our ministry amounting to nothing. Instead, may we work at growing in biblical love so that our speech is well-seasoned with grace and our hearts truly care for those in our charge.

Men, It’s Time to Man Up

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

(1 Corinthians 14:33–35, ESV)

Right now in American evangelical churches a war is raging regarding the place of women in ministry. For me, passages such as the one above and 1 Timothy 2:12 make it clear that there are definitely limitations to the roles women can hold in regard to teaching in the Church.

First Corinthians 14:25 is Paul’s response to the women in the Church of Corinth who were disrupting the worship of the church with questions, introducing confusion. His solution? Ask your husband at home.

But here is the rub. In many Christian homes, the husband couldn’t answer many of his wife’s questions because he knows less Bible and theology than she does. Many men are not readers, and even less study–unless it’s sport’s scores. Traditionally, many men have left the “religious instruction” of children to their wife, and the largest sector of church attendance across almost all denominations is female.

So, as we think about the battle of the sexes in church, and how those of us that are complimentarian desire to follow the instructions of male leadership we believe the New Testament teaches, we need to work on beefing up ministry to men and expect more from them. We need Christian men to man up. Men who will open their Bibles and read them. Men who will dig deep. Men who are working to be equipped to defend the faith. Men who are willing to sit down with their wife and children and teach them from Scriptures–and not be fearful of those hard questions our wife might bring to us.

Men, our wives and children deserve better. Our churches deserve better. The Lord deserves better.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

(1 Corinthians 13:11, ESV)

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

(1 Corinthians 16:13, ESV)

Love Over Legalism and Licentiousness

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18, ESV)

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

(1 Corinthians 10:23–24, ESV)

Legalism seeks to win the approval and acceptance of another through right activities, while all the while harboring sin in the heart. Licentiousness swings to the other side and disregards all others in the pursuit of self-satisfaction and pleasure. Right in the middle of the double ruts of legalism and licentiousness lies the spiritual principle of love.

Biblical love originates in the love of God and then emerges in the heart of the believer, and so the actions are not forced and shallow, as they are in legalism. But this type of love is not self-love, but others-directed love. It is a love for God and a love for neighbor.

Because love for the approval of men and love of self are always easier and more satisfying to the the flesh than selfless love of others, legalism and licentiousness are attractive substitutes to many Christians. But Paul cuts through both of these with his words to seek the good of our neighbor.

Yes, our Christian liberty may allow us to do these things, but is it loving? Will it tear another down or will it bring spiritual confusion to an immature Christian? Why not simply give up our freedom because we love people more than our freedom in Christ? To place our own good over and above the good of others is selfish.

But the answer is not to cast off the commandments of God. Yes, Christ has fulfilled the law, but this doesn’t mean that they are useless as a guide for living. Instead, they provide us divine wisdom for living and showing love for others. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.” (1 Corinthians 10:31–33, ESV)

Living a Robust Christian Life

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1Ti 6:12, ESV)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

(1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV)

One of the dangers we are told exists with the current Coronavirus is the way that it is a particular threat to those with compromised immune systems and the elderly. Because this demographic in society often lack the physical stamina to fight off a severe infection, they can succumb more easily to viruses that attack the body than a person who has a stronger body and immune system.

In 1 Corinthians 10:13, the Apostle Paul is encouraging the church to develop a robust spiritual immunity by learning from the mistakes and sins of Israel. In many ways, Paul had heard many troubling things had taken root in this congregation, and Paul knows where this could very easily lead.

Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:7–11, ESV)

What Paul saw happening in the church was a roadmap for destruction. He had seen it happen in the Old Testament as Israel left Egypt and indulged in sin with wanton abandon. Looking at their lives and their refusal to heed the patient and steady warnings of Moses and the Lord, the bodies of Israelites littered the wilderness for forty years.

How does sin “overtake us?” It is not because we are not equipped to handle temptation. The Israelite are described as having been fully aware of God’s presence with them when it says:

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1–4, ESV)

Israel was led by the shekinah glory cloud, by the Lord himself. They saw the Lord protect them and fight for them when they passed through the Dead Sea on dry land. They received provision in food and water in the wilderness, and all of these showed that they were led by God. But they still rebelled. This is how sin “overtakes us” in temptation. We give ourselves over to sin little by little. A little indulgence here, and a little there. We might have all the resources of Christ before us, but we do not take advantage of them. Instead we coddle our sin, like holding a rattlesnake to our chest. We love it, but it will destroy us.

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.” (1 Corinthians 10:6, ESV). A robust faith is an exercised faith. It is one that fights sin. It may get knocked now, it may slip and fall, but it gets back up. It is a faith that cries out to God for mercy and help. It sees its own weakness without Christ and leans upon the salvation won by him on the cross. It looks and learns from not only the victories of others, but also the failures as well.

A robust faith is active. It isn’t like the seaweed that drifts back and forth in the tide of culture. It doesn’t wait until someone else comes to push us, but seeks to grow in faith by the study and application of the Word to self, and then seeks to go and help the weak in faith.

Temptation will always present itself. But like those that are physically healthy and strong can resist most diseases and threats to their immune system, so too will the one who is spiritually healthy be better prepared to face the temptations when they come. And even if they should succumb to the threat, they will grow wiser and stronger, even in their failure, and the next time, they will not fall as quickly or as easily.