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The Responsibilities of the Church: Preaching, Part 2

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
May 31, 2022 4:00 am

The Responsibilities of the Church: Preaching, Part 2

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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Where you have strong biblical preaching and teaching, everything else tends toward strength. Where you do not have strong biblical teaching and preaching, everything else is weak and tends toward shallowness. Preaching sets the tone in the church.

Thanks for joining us here on Grace To You with John MacArthur. He has spent more than five decades teaching the Bible verse by verse, often for nearly an hour at a time. Clearly, he is committed to in-depth preaching. But the question is, should all pastors still preach like that? Since attention spans have dropped, should pastors adapt their messages? Wouldn't congregations be better served by shorter, more topical sermons? Consider that today on Grace To You as John MacArthur looks at this question, why is preaching worth fighting for?

That's the title of his current study. And now here's John continuing to make the case for biblical preaching. If you'll open your Bible to 2 Timothy, and this is the Word of God to every pastor, the Word of God to every elder, the Word of God to every leader in the church, chapter 3 and chapter 4 are all built around one command. And the one command in this entire section is in chapter 4 verse 2. Chapter 4 verse 2 says this, Preach the Word, be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction.

Now there is the dominating command of this entire section from chapter 3 verse 1 on through chapter 4 verse 4. Preach the Word. And he adds, be ready in season and out of season. That means stay at your post. That means seize every opportunity. Preach on every occasion that is presented to you. And when you preach, there is a negative side, reprove, rebuke.

There is a positive side, exhort with great patience and instruct. That's what Timothy, a young leader in the church, was told to do. That was to be the heart and soul of his ministry. Now the remainder of the passage surrounding that command gives us reasons why that is so critical...reasons why that is so critical.

And I want to share those reasons with you. I know in the past you have studied this section and I have preached through this section in years past. But I want to approach it a little bit differently and not quite so detailed, but to give you the sweep and the flow of this particularly important passage.

There are five reasons why the Lord has designed that the center and heart of the ministry of the church is preaching and preaching the Word, the Word of God, the revealed Scripture. Reason number one is because of dangerous times...dangerous times. Look at chapter 3 verse 1. But realize this, he says, that in the last days, difficult times will come. Now the phrase difficult times is dangerous times, really. Dangerous times not in a chronological sense but kairos in the Greek which means seasons, or epochs.

It's not talking about clock time, it's talking about movements, eras. And he says, you must preach the Word because of the dangerous seasons that will come. He says they'll come in the last days and I don't need to remind you that the last days began when Jesus Christ arrived. The last days began when the Messiah came to earth. The last days were initiated by Jesus Christ when He came preaching His kingdom.

We're still in those last days and these are a prolonged period of time, but nonetheless the last days awaiting Christ's return and the establishment of His kingdom. In these last days, dangerous epochs, dangerous seasons will come. And the intent of the verb there will come sort of carries the emphasis of accumulation. It's not as if they come and go, that would make things easier.

It is as if they come and stay. And so the longer we go after the coming of Jesus Christ, the further we move toward His return, the more of these dangerous epochs we collect. In fact, look down at verse 13 where he addresses this same issue. He says, evil men and imposters...that's false preachers, false teachers, religious fakes and charlatans...will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

They are both deceived in their own minds and deceivers of others and they will get worse and worse and worse as time goes on in the last days. When Paul was writing to Timothy, the dangerous seasons had just begun. And here we are two thousand years later and we have the accumulated impact from bad to worse for two thousand years. We live in very dangerous times. These epochs have accumulated through these years and they threaten the very life of the church. They threaten the integrity of preaching. They threaten the proclaiming of God's truth all around us.

Let me just suggest what they might be for you briefly. As you look back over the history of the church, as you look back over the epochs that have thrown themselves, as it were, against the church, a number of things come to mind immediately. First of all, let's start with the dangerous epochs. At the time when Christianity became the religion of the Holy Roman Empire, and so you have not long after that what is commonly known as the Dark Ages that runs from the time of the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire clear through to 1500, over a thousand years of Dark Ages, they're called. And the dominating danger to the church at that time was sacramentalism...sacramentalism, and that's the word that you will identify in your mind with this first epoch. Sacramentalism means that the church was dominated by sacraments, by mechanisms, by external mechanical means, dominated by attempting to know God through some kind of automatic action, whether it was lighting a candle, whether it was genuflecting, whether it was bowing down, whether it was going through beads, whether it was inflicting some pain upon yourself physically, whatever it might have been, these were mechanical means supposedly to give people salvation. Sacramentalism was a severe danger to the church. In fact, it dominated the church. It took the Word of God out of the hands of the people and the litany and the liturgy that was done during all of those years was done in the Latin language which was obscurantis and people didn't even know what was being said or what was going on.

And that was part of the idea. The church was the only justifiable interpreter of God's truth and nobody was allowed to interpret it on his own or her own and you attached yourself to the church externally, a terrible, terrible era in which the Word of God was terribly suppressed and people thought they were Christians because they had an attachment to a system but no knowledge of God. By the way, sacramentalism came and stayed and it's still with us. It was then the Reformation came, as you remember, the Reformation in the 16th century when all of a sudden the Word of God broke loose from this terrible incarceration in the Dark Ages. And as the Word of God broke loose in the Reformation, people turned to the Bible and they found out you're not saved by attaching to the church, you're saved by attaching to the living God through faith in His Son and as Martin Luther discovered it and articulated it, the just shall live by His faith. The Reformation was born and it was a great dawning of a new day, always through the era of sacramentalism there had been pockets of believers.

God always had His remnant, whether it was the French Huguenots or whether it was the Anabaptists or whatever, Waldensians, there was always a group of people who were true to the faith marching through those terrible, terrible years. Then came the Reformation and the light dawned and it was a great turning point in the history of the life of the church. But it wasn't long after the Reformation, in fact before the Reformers could really sweep through all of theology and all of the church and do all of the corrective work that might have been done, a new dangerous epoch came called rationalism. In the 18th century, you remember what happened, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution followed and man coming out of the Dark Ages began to realize his intelligence, he began to realize what could happen when he could read for himself and when he could discover things and it was an explosion of inventions and discoveries and man began to worship the human mind.

And the byword of that era was the book by Thomas Paine called The Age of Reason written around the 18th century. Thomas Paine, of course, basically denied the existence of God, debunked the Bible and called people to bow down to the shrine of human reason. That swept into the church, that swept into the colleges, universities and seminaries and they came up with this commonly known liberalism or theological rationalism which denies the Bible. It is that which is taught today in most seminaries in America and around the world.

It had a dominating effect. They denied that the Bible was inspired by God. They denied the deity of Jesus Christ, the deity of the Holy Spirit and on and on and on it went. That had a tragic effect upon the church as it destroyed the church across Europe and destroyed the church across America to the degree that today most of the major denominations are dead as dead can be because of the liberalism that entered them. The supremacy of reason, the discrediting of the Bible and so it went. It wasn't long after that that there came a kind of a movement back to grip the Scriptures and the Bible was published and disseminated in a breadth that it never had been before because even during the Reformation it was impossible to print Bibles and spread them around since they were printed one page at a time.

And so there was not yet mass produced Bibles until you get into the late 18th century and the 19th century, all of a sudden the Bible starts to spread, people get a hold of the Scripture. But there was a sad reality in the 19th century, the end of the 1800s, and that was shallow spirituality, dead orthodoxy. There was an orthodoxism. It was sort of denominational and wasn't personal and that dangerous reality entered the church and it's still around. We still have dead orthodoxy.

We still have sort of angry fundamentalism even today where it's cold and dead and indifferent and they have the Bible but their spirituality is shallow at best. This was followed, you come into the early 20th century and the influence is in Europe by what you could call I suppose another great danger, politicism. The church became politicized. The church became the state church.

The state began to own the church and the church was politicized and it began to take on agendas that were social agendas and political agendas. And one of the most remarkable of those was what happened with Adolf Hitler. When Adolf Hitler developed the Third Reich and when he developed his Aryan supremacy theories and wanted to obliterate the Jews from the face of the earth and that was simply a man carrying out a satanic plan that wasn't new. You remember that Satan has tried to obliterate the Jews a number of times.

Just go back and read the book of Esther if you want to see an attempt at genocide that failed there. And here came Hitler and he wanted to obliterate the Jews and in the process he wanted to capture all of the thinking of the people of his time who were involved in the Christian religion which was the state religion, of course, Lutheranism of Germany. And so he developed what was called the German Christian movement, the German Christian faith movement, declared himself the true Christian preacher, in fact declared himself the apostle of Christ and may have even said things like he was the Messiah. And he managed to wrap his arms around the whole of the church, politicize the church, get them to believe that they should eliminate the entire Old Testament and all positive references to the Jews in the New and take the rest as being from God and follow Him as the voice of God. And believe it or not, the church moved right in and acknowledged that. Well, you know, the church is still dealing with politicism. We still have that with us today, social gospel, Reconstructionism, liberation theology and all of that trying to win the culture war at the expense of sound doctrine, setting aside the preaching of the gospel in favor of some social moral agenda, we fight that battle as well. Then after politicism in the 50s, the 1950s came what I guess we could call ecumenism and the big wave in the church was let's all get together and love everybody. Jesus is all about love and God's all about love and I remember because I was starting to study the Word of God at that time, something came down the pike from the liberal seminaries called the Jesus ethic, or the Jesus hermeneutic. And since Jesus was all love and hearts and flowers and gentleness and kindness and tenderness and meekness and all of that, only the things in the Bible which reflected that attitude were true and everything else wasn't true. And the only way you could ever interpret the Bible was by the Jesus hermeneutic and that is to say you looked at every passage and said, does it express the loving, tender-hearted kind and meekness of...kindness and meekness of Jesus? If it does, we accept it.

If it doesn't, we don't. And let's all get together on the basis of love and let's forget what divides and that was the raging issue when I was a seminary student, sentimentalism, unity without dogma, tolerance of error. It's still around. It has all kinds of different forms but there is a new sentimentalism even in evangelicalism that wants to make sure doctrine is not an issue. Then in the 1960s in no less a place than Van Nuys, California, a movement was born that has swept evangelicalism from pillar to post. I like to call it experientialism in 1960 in an Episcopalian church right down here in Van Nuys, California under a rector by the name of Dennis Bennett.

It was an explosion of interest in the revival of the expressions of quote-unquote Christianity that were characteristic of the early 20th century and what was called the Azusa Street meeting when people broke into tongues and claimed healings and visions and all of that. Experientialism basically said truth comes through experience. Truth comes through feeling God, through getting visions, getting touched, hearing prophecies, signs, wonders, the Charismata. And the church faced a dangerous, dangerous season of experientialism where all of our spiritual experience becomes authoritative. As one lady said to me one time after I had spoken, she said, I really don't care what the Bible says, I know what Jesus told me. And I've looked back at that as kind of a byword for where that movement has taken the church. Experientialism is a dangerous, dangerous epic.

It came along with all the rest and it never went away. And here we are up to our ears in sacramentalism. We continue to face rational liberalism in the seminaries and universities of our land. We still have a cold, dead sort of shallow orthodoxy. We have the politicizing of the church not only in our country, but all over the place.

Certainly South Africa endured some of the horrors of a politicized church. We face ecumenism, the idea of let's all get together and not make doctrine an issue and experientialism dominates in so many ways. We came into the 70s and there was a new wave. And in the 70s we met the terrible danger of subjectivism. And in the 70s, the psychologists began to rise and tell us all to contemplate our navel if we wanted to get in touch with spiritual reality. But spiritual reality started within us, not outside of us.

We needed to be concerned about our own needs and the meeting of our own needs and coping with our own anxieties and developing self-esteem. And so we became narcissistic navel watchers and we turned inward and we got very preoccupied with psychology and psychologists became the reigning gurus in the church and they were the ones who knew all the mysteries of being and all the secrets of the human heart and all the reasons why people did what they did. The church became very subjective and very enamored with that and it engulfed the church. Here the church on the one hand had just been exposed to experientialism and was getting engulfed in that and then came another wave of subjectivism, both of them turning the church away from the Word of God. We came into the 1990s and we added another danger, mysticism...mysticism.

That sort of believing in everything, believing in intuition, coming to truth by intuition. Mysticism began to accumulate power energized both by sacramentalism which is mysticism as well and by experientialism which is mysticism and by rationalism which is mysticism and by subjectivism, the psychology which is a form of mysticism. And so we had all of this stuff accumulating and here we are and it's all around us. And then in the 90s, and you notice as we go, they come faster.

Once they took a thousand years to develop and now they develop in a few years because of the intense exposure of media. Into the 90s we came and another ism came pragmatism. And pragmatism basically says that the appropriate means for ministry are those that are most popular with the people. I mean, that's basically what it says. That's a purely MacArthur definition but as I tried to boil down what pragmatism is, it simply says this, the appropriate means for ministry are those that are most popular with people.

So find out what people want and do it. Preaching is seen as a sort of a Pony Express function in a high-tech computer world. They say that preaching is like Pony Express in a time when we ought to be using email. And then, number 10 on my little list, just in the last couple of years, is syncretism. And syncretism says, oh well, we all worship the same God whether we're Buddhists, Muslims, Catholics, or even atheists who are searching for truth.

We all are worshiping the one true God anyway so let's all get together and forget about our differences and realize we're all going to wind up in heaven in the end anyway and it'll all get sorted out up there. These are deadly dangerous seasons. Here we have accumulated all of this and I've oversimplified it. There are nuances that overlap in these issues and they come in all different forms. It's one of the reasons why young men today need seminary training. You can't send a babe in the woods out to deal with this kind of stuff.

They need to be trained. These are deadly dangerous seasons and at stake are the souls of men and at stake is the truth of God and the honor and the glory of God. Now the characteristic of people who are engaged in developing these dangerous epics are given to us starting in verse 2. People who develop false systems, he describes in this way, men who are self-lovers, who are money lovers, who are boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, conceeded, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.

Not a very nice group really. They are characterized as those who are self-lovers, money lovers. They develop these things out of their own pride, their own desire to be wealthy. They are boastful, arrogant, proud. They have little regard for their forefathers, their parents. They're ungrateful, unholy. They have no love.

They don't want to make peace or reconcile. They're malicious, haters of good and so forth and so forth. The people who develop these things are then not well-intentioned but they are ill-intentioned and they seek to destroy the truth. Verse 5 defines them not only as self-lovers but as religious frauds.

They hold a form of godliness although they have denied its power and avoid such men as these, he says. Now not everybody in every one of these isms that I've talked about is a non-Christian and a false teacher. But the basic error of these is produced, I believe, by those who have malicious intent toward the truth. Many well-meaning people get caught up in them. Many believers get caught up in them. And therein lies the responsibility that faces us. Now therein lies the initial compelling reason to preach the Word. He says, preach the Word because of the dangerous times, the dangerous seasons. It is a time of all times to preach the Word. Here we are getting further down the line accumulating more and more danger and at the same time a diminishing of the proclamation of the truth to meet that danger rather than an escalation of it.

We ought to be doing exactly the opposite of what we are doing. Instead of setting preaching aside, we ought to be increasing the preaching and the preachers because of the increase in the dangers. Serious dangers exist today in the church.

And everything I've mentioned to you is in the church, threatening the church. And that's why we have to preach the Word because the Word answers all of these things. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.

Thanks for tuning in today. John just made the case that a pastor's most important job is preaching God's truth. The title of John's current series, Why is Preaching Worth Fighting For?

Along with teaching every day on radio, John serves also as chancellor of the Master's University and Seminary in Southern California. Well, John, you've been showing us the negative effects of a church that abandons preaching. That church will inevitably wander into heresies and reject the gospel. So I wanted to kind of flip that and ask what happens when a church embraces biblical preaching? How will a congregation change if week after week a pastor simply explains what the text means? Well, I have lived the answer to that question.

Now, what? I'm in my 51st year, over half a century, of doing that at Grace Community Church. I came in February of 1969, so we're heading into that 52nd year. I can tell you what the Word of God preached week after week, Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, in all kinds of classes, home Bible studies. A church dominated by the Word of God. I am living what a half a century in the Word of God produces in a church, and I will tell you the dominating reality in that church is willing, joyful submission to divine truth, whatever it is.

It doesn't matter how controversial the subject is. It doesn't matter how contrary to people's normal thinking it is. The thing that I see at Grace Community Church, and I've seen it for decades now through this whole half century, is people's willing, happy, joyful, thankful submission to the Word of God. They have found that submitting to the Word of God is a path of blessing.

John says that. These things are written that your joy may be full. I would say Grace Church is defined, first of all, by a joyful submission to the Word of God.

Secondly, by love. People comment who come to our church who have never been there before or come for a conference or something, how kind, how gracious, how loving, how eager our people are to serve. Shepherds Conference, we have 700 people serving.

We had, last year, the Truth Matters Conference, and we had six or seven hundred volunteers serving. People kept coming up to me and saying, these people are amazing. They love, they care for us.

These are strangers who came to the conference commenting on the church. So I would say submission to biblical authority, a deep and abiding joy, happy to obey the Word of God, whatever it says, and they live out love. And the next thing is they eagerly serve the Lord. They want to make a kingdom difference. We see that even in the volunteers at Grace to You, don't we?

Yeah, every week. Every week they pour into here to serve the Lord with joy. I want to send you a free booklet called Your Local Church and Why It Matters. If you're not a part of a local church, you must be.

That is mandated by our Lord, who's the head of the church. So this is a booklet called Your Local Church and Why It Matters. We'll send you a free copy. Just tell us you want one, and we'll get it to you.

Yes, this is a new booklet, and it's free for anyone who wants one. Just call us or go to our website to get your free copy of the booklet, Your Local Church and Why It Matters. Contact us today. Call our toll-free number, 800-55-GRACE, or go to our website, gty.org. Again, the number here, 800-55-GRACE, and the website, gty.org. In the booklet, Your Local Church and Why It Matters, John MacArthur looks at why you need to be part of a local church, why that is so important for your spiritual growth. And it will also show you what to look for in a local church and how you can know when a church is honoring God.

This is a quick read, but it's loaded with practical truth. And remember, Your Local Church and Why It Matters is our gift to you. Just call our toll-free number, 800-55-GRACE, or go online at gty.org.

The website, one more time, gty.org. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for making Grace To You part of your day. Be back here for our next broadcast. John's going to show you one of the most important skills your pastor or any pastor can bring to his congregation. That's on the next installment of his study, Why Is Preaching Worth Fighting For? It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-11 12:03:18 / 2023-04-11 12:13:45 / 10

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