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The Tragedy of Compromise

by Ernest Pickering

Salad Bar Sanctuaries

My Opinion or God's Directive?

Historically, biblical Christians have held that the objective truths of the written Scriptures supersede and authoritatively interpret all professed Christian experience. But this concept has been challenged by some New Evangelicals.

Biblical authority has been undermined by the rise of spiritualism, where the appeal is to the inner light or the voice of the Spirit rather than to the written Word of God. In these circles it is assumed that there is a discontinuity between what the Spirit said in biblical times and what He says today. It is also contended that the Spirit is speaking through the social sciences and politics, and this means that the Bible is therefore interpreted in the new light that comes to us from the social sciences.49

While not all New Evangelicals would see it the same way, many have been influenced toward a more subjective approach to biblical interpretation. The charismatic movement has aided this with their appeal to extrabiblical "revelations."

The preaching described in the Bible is authoritative. "For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance" (I Thess. 1:5). The words "in much assurance" could be rendered "with deep conviction," referring to the strongly held convictions of the preacher, not the hearer. Our blessed Lord "taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matt. 7:29). The rabbinical teachers of the day quoted one another and often were indefinite as to exactly what the Scriptures taught; but Jesus was not so. Those who would preach like Jesus must be definite, clear, decisive, and settled. Christ's authority, of course, resided in Himself. Our authority resides in the Holy Scriptures. One of the words for the Gospel preacher in the New Testament is kerux. It is used for instance in II Timothy 1:11 where Paul declares he was appointed a "preacher." A preacher is a "herald," "a messenger vested with public authority, who conveyed the official message of kings, magistrates, princes, military commanders, or who gave a public summons or demand" (Thayer's Lexicon). A herald was not consulting with the populace to ascertain what message they would like to hear. He was going forth with confidence, proclaiming without change the message he had been given whether people wished to hear it or not. The modern world needs to hear messengers who come from the throne of the Almighty with the timeless message of good news.

Being Against Something

A mature Christian woman in a congregation I served as pastor came to me on one occasion and said, "Iím so glad I have a pastor who is against some things and isnít afraid to say so publicly." Not all Christians have been carried away with the disease of "positivism" that seems to have captured so much of modern Christendom. There are discerning saints who see through this current façade and grasp the heart of the issue.

God is opposed to preachers who "speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord" (Jer. 23:16). They are "prophets of the deceit of their own heart" (Jer. 23:26). Modern New Evangelical preachers would not use such harsh language to describe those who are teaching error, but God's ancient prophet did. Isaiah said of his people Israel, "Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward" (Isa. 1:4). It is this type of preaching which is not popular today and which New Evangelicals refer to as "prophetic" preaching. Their cry is for "affirmative" rather than "prophetic" preaching. But what kind of preaching does God want, and what kind of preaching is exemplified in Scripture? The greatest preacher who ever walked this earth, the Lord Jesus Christ, uttered scathing denunciations of the Pharisees, often repeating the phrase "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" (Matt. 23:13, e.g.). Such outspokenness would be an embarrassment to the New Evangelicals of our day even though the words were uttered by the kindest and most loving person this world has ever seen.

We are not appealing here for uncouth, vitriolic, or deliberately abrasive preaching. Some preachers, in their zeal to "take a stand," become mean and nasty in their pulpit ministry, harp on petty issues, and fail to feed the flock of God. Our task is to be "speaking the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15). Only a Spirit-controlled believer can display this balance in his life.

The Diet of Doctrine

One of the preacher's main responsibilities is to teach sound doctrine. Paul describes the work of the preacher in this way: "Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers" (Titus 1:9). The verse tells us that the man of God must be (1) loyal to Scripture, (2) knowledgeable in theology, (3) a teacher of doctrine, and (4) an outspoken opponent of false teaching. Regrettably, many of these elements are lacking in the contemporary pulpit. For this reason there is many a saint who is shrivelled, weak, and blown about by various "winds."

In the process of preaching the Word, God's messengers are to "exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (II Tim. 4:2). How does God judge whether a pastor is a good pastor? Paul says that a "good minister of Jesus Christ" will be "nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine" (I Tim. 4:6). Before mentioning other characteristics of his ministry, Paul reminds Timothy that he has "fully known" Paul's "doctrine" (II Tim. 3:10). Paul puts that first in the list as if to say, "My doctrine is very important and I want everyone to know exactly what it is."

The modern concept of what constitutes a good preacher and good preaching is often in conflict with the pattern set forth in the Bible. Unsaved persons and carnal Christians are not reliable guides when seeking to develop a philosophy of preaching. The only accurate and authoritative "guide to preaching" is the Word of God itself.

The Tradedy of Compromise. ByErnest Pickering. ©1994. BJU Press. Reproduction prohibited. This work is available for purchase at the Bob Jones University Campus Store (phone: 1-800-252-1927; web address:

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