Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. – Isaiah 58:1
Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. – 1 Timothy 5:20
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. –2 Timothy 4:2
This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith. – Titus 1:13
For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace. – Jeremiah 6:13-14
His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. – Isaiah 56:10
The late General Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, feared the coming of a day when men would preach “salvation without regeneration, faith without repentance, Heaven without Hell.” That time is upon us. In the case of many Doctors of Divinity, the D.D. might well stand for “Dumb Dogs,” for the Lord in Isaiah 56:10 says that His watchmen who do not warn the people “are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.” Every preacher in the land needs again to hear the word of God inIsaiah 58:1, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.”
The other day a minister, leaving the pulpit of a prominent church, announced that he was entering the field as a full-time evangelist; that he felt there is particular need for positive evangelism, by which he meant an evangelism with no don’ts in it, no preaching against sin. He has heretofore plainly gone on record against any preaching which denounces sin. Some time ago a famous preacher, a Bible teacher, wrote me about a suggested code for evangelists, and wanted me to add the statement that evangelists should never discuss worldly amusements and modern sins since he had found that that often displeased the people and made them dislike evangelists!
Some pastors frankly admit that there needs to be preaching against sin — sharp, plain Bible teaching to bring conviction, to lead sinners to repentance and God’s people to renunciation of the things of the world and a holy life — yet they sometimes are unwilling to suffer the odium and criticism that comes on a preacher who rebukes sin. Such pastors have often wanted an evangelist to do what they themselves felt unable to do or were unwilling to do.
Other preachers, who do not have the courage or the conviction or the devotion to preach hard against sin, rationalize and excuse their failure. Sometimes they pretend that love and kindness of heart prevent their preaching against sin. They do not want to “hurt their testimony” by offending anybody! How much nicer such preachers are than Jesus Christ Himself who preached so plainly against sin! Other preachers, following that small, modern cult of ultradispensationalists, say that it was proper to preach against sin up to the time of John the Baptist, but that now, in this dispensation, there is no need for repentance but only faith, no need for preaching against sin but only preaching the grace of God. That position is akin to that of the Christian Scientists who say that “man is the unfallen son of God,”that there is no such thing as sin, that “sin is only the error of mortal mind.” That position is akin also to that of the modernists, the liberals, the Bible-denying unbelievers who say parents must never whip their children, must never say no, that repression may cause serious complexes, etc. Actually, no preacher is true to God and the Bible and his ordination vows, true to his congregation, if he does not plainly preach what the Bible says about sin and its inevitable punishment and consequences.
But this question is at the very foundation of all human society. If a preacher should never say don’t, then a parent should never say don’t, a teacher should never say don’t, a government should never say don’t! If the preacher should not be against sin, then the policeman on the corner ought not to be against sin, and America ought not to have been against Hitler, and God ought not to send sinners to Hell! This matter of opposing sin, of warning against sin, has to do with the duty of every person in authority anywhere. How important then for preachers of the gospel to plainly and boldly preach the Word of God, to “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).
I will show you that preachers ought to preach against sin; first, because Christians are against sin, God is against sin, the Bible is against sin, the churches are against sin, and the moral consciences of even unsaved people are against sin. Second, preachers should preach against sin because to teach or preach all the Bible necessarily involves preaching and teaching that part which denounces sins, particular sins. Third, because the Bible plainly commands preachers to preach against sin. Fourth, because Bible preachers, including the Lord Jesus Christ preached against sin. Fifth, because preaching against sin brings revival of Christians and salvation of sinners.
Every Preacher Should PREACH Against Sin Because He Must BE Against Sin
God Almighty is against sin. That is axiomatic. How could a preacher be for God and not be against sin? The Bible is against sin. The worst atheist who ever lived cannot deny that the moral code of the Bible is the finest ever conceived and that the Bible is against all iniquity. Christianity is against sin. Every preacher necessarily has to be against sin if he is for God and righteousness. How would any lost sinner have confidence in a preacher who was not definitely against sin? So as a matter of being honest, as representing God, and the Bible, and the church, and representing his own convictions, every preacher must preach against sin.
Lot down in Sodom would have had the respect of the Sodomites if he had hated their sin enough to openly denounce them and break with them. But when Lot called the wicked in Sodom his brethren and dwelt among them, compromising with them, they despised him. This world has no confidence in any kind of Christianity that is not against wrong, against unrighteousness, against the bad and the wicked things that men and women do.
In Waxahachie, Texas, I preached in a large revival campaign in which hundreds of people were converted. I preached so hard against sin that some pastors of the city criticized me severely. It was during prohibition days, and I preached boldly against the grocers who sold malt for making home brew, against the druggists who carried whiskey, and the doctors who prescribed it to the people who were not sick. I even collected evidence and read from the pulpit the names of bootlegging doctors. Yet, though preachers thought I was too sensational, drunkards flocked to hear me and many were saved. One man who had spent five years in the state penitentiary on a conviction as a bootlegger, selling wine to college students, sent for me to come to see him. He was sick with heart trouble, and the doctor told him he had not long to live. He told me that he wanted some preacher who was honest and who was against sin to come and tell him how to get right with God. He was wonderfully saved and in a few months he went home to Heaven, a redeemed sinner. That is an illustration of the fact that even the unconverted, even outrageous sinners themselves know that a preacher ought to be against sin and ought to say so. There is a fundamental hypocrisy in any man who pretends to be for God and is not against the devil, and is not against sin.
As a boy, I often attended a Methodist church, and I was greatly impressed with the solemn vows that adult converts took when they were received into membership. They vowed to “renounce the devil and all his works.” Why should not everybody who wants to do right be against sin? And why should not those who are against sin say so? Particularly, why should God’s watchman, God’s spokesman, the minister, fail to declare God’s will on the sin question? Preachers ought to preach against sin because if they are honest, good men of God, they are against sin in their hearts. The preacher ought to speak for the Bible, ought to speak for the church, ought to speak for Christianity everywhere, and ought to speak for himself in denouncing sin which God hates.
Excerpted from Why Preach Against Sin? by John R. Rice