Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

Discriminating Preaching

Written by Rev. G. Procee
Office bearers in the church have received the great task of bringing God's Word to the congregation. Especially ministers have an awesome task. They are called to bring the Word of God, dealing with the eternal weal or woe of the souls entrusted to their care. This is the weightiest possible matter. It is through the preaching of His Word that the Lord expands His kingdom. Therefore preaching is most important. The apostle exhorts Timothy: Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine (2 Tim 4:2).

Why Preaching Must be Discriminating
How must God's Word be preached? The Heidelberg Catechism answers this question when it states that the kingdom of heaven must be opened and closed (cf. Question & Answer 83). In other words, the preaching must show who are outside and who are inside the kingdom of heaven. Preaching must discriminate between believers and unbelievers.

There are two kinds of covenant children in the church and it is essential to realize this. We live in an age where many consider all members of the church to be true children of God. It is said that when one has made confession of faith, such a person is a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. This, however, is an unscriptural assumption. Throughout Scripture, both in the Old and New Testament, GodÕs Word is preached in the same congregation to the saved as well as to the unsaved. There are true children of God and those who do not love the Lord. We do not have the right to assume that the whole congregation is a body of true believers in Christ.

Why may we not assume this? Because Scripture does not assume this. Neither does the reality of church life correspond to this assumption. It is not all Israel, who are called Israel. All of Scripture is one mighty plea: Be ye reconciled to God. The Lord Jesus said to Nicodemus: Ye must be born again. Hebrews 12 urges us to exercise holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. Nowhere does Scripture assume that the whole congregation is converted and born again and that the only thing left to do is to encourage, comfort and build up the believers. The kingdom of heaven must be opened and closed. That is the main task of preaching and therefore we need discriminating preaching.

Warnings in the Gospel
Let us consider various passages from Scripture. In Matthew 3: 8-10 John the Baptist is preaching to Jews, scribes and Pharisees--devout religious men--but they were dead in their sins: Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Here were men who took pride in the fact that they were children of the covenant, children of Abraham. But John urges them to repentance. They must bring forth fruits of repentance.

In Matthew 8:11 and 12, the Lord Jesus says: And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The Lord explains that heathens are brought into the kingdom while covenant children (in this instance the Jews), because of their impenitence will be cast out into outer darkness. Here is an implicit call to repentance.

When faith is confessed, the Lord Jesus calls such people to follow Him: Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:31). Later, the Lord Jesus accuses these Jews of wanting to kill Him. They resisted Christ although there was an outward appearance of faith.

The Lord Jesus realized that many who are called to the kingdom of heaven do not have true faith. The conclusion of the parable of the wedding feast is that many were invited but they did not come. They had no faith. The Lord concludes in Matthew 22:14, For many are called, but few are chosen.

Even those who pray are warned: Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven (Matt.7: 21). The Lord warns that even preaching in His name is no guarantee that one is a true disciple. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matt.7: 21-23).

The Lord Jesus urges His hearers to enter in through the narrow gate and to walk on the narrow path, which is the way to heaven. Through regeneration they enter in at the narrow gate and walk on the narrow path of self-denial and love to the Lord. This is the way to life. Matthew 13 speaks of the parable of the sower, where we find four kinds of hearers. There are different ways of listening. Some do not receive the Word of grace, while some do hear and bring forth rich fruit. In the parable of Matthew 25 the kingdom of heaven is compared to ten virgins; five were wise and five were foolish.

There is the example of the Lord Jesus rebuking various churches of Asia Minor, calling them to repentance. Many, many more examples can be given.

Warnings in the Epistles
There are some who claim that the Pauline epistles do not allow for two kinds of covenant children and they do not discriminate. But when we look briefly at some statements in the epistles of Paul we will see that he also discriminates between those who are in Christ and those who are not.

He does this as soon he addresses the various churches. For instance, in the epistle to the Romans, his address is To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ (1:7). Here Paul writes to the true people of God, the true believers. This is only the true church of Christ. Paul is aware that unbelievers are present, but they have no place in the church of Christ. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his (8:9). In Romans 11: 20-22 the apostle teaches that outward Christians will be cut off from their adherence to Christ. The unbelieving Jews were cut off. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.

In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul explains that there were many in Israel who were not true believers and he makes the same implication to the church at Corinth. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame (1 Cor.15: 34). In Philippians 3:18, he makes a similar statement: For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.

We can think of many more examples to show that the epistles continually discriminate.

Our Reformed Confessions
Our fathers of the Reformation emphasized discriminating preaching. The first reformed synod of The Netherlands, held in 1568 in Wesel, Germany, defined Reformed preaching as follows:

Men shall do all things to focus the preaching on the two chief
elements of the Gospel: Faith and repentance. The ministers shall
have as their primary aim to promote the knowledge of Christ.
They are to engrave upon the people the knowledge of true
mortification and quickening of man. In their sermons they shall
labour to penetrate, as much as possible, into all the hidden
coverings and hiding places of the souls of their hearers, and
they shall rebuke all false views, heresies and wicked morals.
They shall not limit themselves to shameful actions and
outbreaking sins, which are evident, but they shall also in the
most efficient manner shake out and expose the secret hypocrisy
of the heart, and uproot this venom and these mud pools of all
kinds of ungodliness, pride and ingratitude, which are still
present even within the best of God's children (Chapter 2,
Art.23).

Preaching must expose the secret hiding places where souls cover themselves. This is needed especially within churches. Some remain unconverted and impenitent and must be called to a new life in Christ. That is a fundamental element of preaching.

Where is your heart? Is it in the things of this life, this world, or your own self? Or is your heart hid in Christ Jesus? Has He become your Saviour, your hope, your all-in-all? Are you in Christ or are you still in your sins?

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