Skip to comments.Hellfire And Brimstone Preaching
Posted on 10/04/2002 11:30:35 PM PDT by RnMomof7
Hellfire And Brimstone Preaching
Years ago, after a service, people would get up off the benches, and come out the old meeting house doors, telling to each other who they enjoyed that "hellfire and brimstone sermon." Now days the people politely arise from their padded pews, step lightly over the carpet, exchange some pleasantries with their friends, and as they pass out the doors of their lovely place of worship, they compliment their preacher for the beautiful uplifting lesson that he has so eloquently delivered. (And the man knows he'd better continue to give those "uplifting" chapel talks if he wants to stay long there). Back a few years ago when Christians "knew their Bible" and the preachers preached hard against sin, there were a few who didn't like it, but the majority of truly converted children of God appreciated it. Where is the hard preaching!?!
One time Jesus said, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." We are then told that, "Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?" (John 6:53,60,61). Jesus knew that His preaching offended some, but he didn't change His preaching. When John the Baptist "saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance" (Matthew 3:7,8). When John saw Herod married to his own brother's wife, he said to Herod, "It is not lawful for thee to have her" (Matthew 14:4). Peter told the Jews on Pentecost day (Acts 2:23), "Him... ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain."
There are people in the church who whine and grumble about how hard some gospel preachers preach. Some "Christians" even move from one congregation to another in order to escape hearing hard preaching. These same people seem to sit around criticizing the "hard preachers." From this attitude, which causes problems among God's people, there raise several questions: First, what is hard preaching? Second, is hard preaching wrong? Third, why would a Christian be opposed to hard preaching? Fourth, why would a preacher preach hard?
Everyone has an answer for this question. The answers will vary and will be influenced by the sermon content, as well as the hearer's attitude toward the preacher. But Webster defines hard as "Opposed to soft; carried on energetically or persistently; earnest; displaying severity." Preaching is commonly defined as, "A sermon; the delivery in public of a public message." Therefore, hard preaching is basically a message from the Bible that is presented energetically, persistently in words that some may think are harsh or severe.
Is it wrong to preach the word energetically and persistently? NO! The area of disagreement seems to center around the words used by the preacher in his preaching. Is there a place for severe words in preaching? Jesus thought there was; He said, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (Matthew 23:33). Read Matthew 23 and see how many times Jesus called His hearers "hypocrites". He never held back to spare the feelings of his listeners. On another occasion, Christ said, "Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition," and then tells them that their worship is rendered in vain (Mark 7:9). The Master very strict when He said, "...no one cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 6:60,61)! Others were offended at His preaching. The Bible says, "Then came the disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, when they heard this saying" (Matthew 15:12). Jesus knew the effect of His severe words, but He continued to employ them.
Stephen evidently believed in severe words, too. He said, "Ye stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do you" (Acts 7:51). This hard sermon cost Stephen his life!
John, the apostle of love, used severe words when he said, "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4). Language could not be clearer. From the example of Jesus, Stephen, John and many others, hard preaching is not wrong. The key to hard preaching is speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
There may be several reasons, but here we notice a few: First, a Christian may not understand that hard preaching must be done. Second, he may be personally soft and passive in every area of his life. It may be that he will not take a stand on anything, or tell anybody that they are wrong, because he doesn't want to offend anyone. Third, he may be living in sin himself and doesn't want those sins brought to his attention. Someone said, "Our attitudes will determine our destiny." Fourth, he may be looking for an excuse to leave the church, or possibly cause trouble among God's people. Fifth, he may be trying to get rid of the preacher or at least shut him up. There may be other reasons why a Christian may be opposed to hard preaching, but they are all wrong.
Unless a preacher demonstrates otherwise, we believe that gospel preachers preach hard because it is the will of God for them to do so. The faithful gospel preacher's commission is, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine." And Paul warns, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Timothy 4:2-4). Therefore, in order to be pleasing unto God and save his own soul, the preacher must preach hard (1 Timothy 4:16). A reading of the New Testament letters to Christians, will reveal many hard things that the preacher must use in his preaching. In so doing, he will preach the "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27).
There are certain subjects that some preachers won't preach on. Other preachers, succumb to direct pressure in a congregation, and others attempting to pacify infantile members refuse to deliver a much needed lesson. God's prophet was pressured in 1 Kings 22:13, "And the messenger that was gone to call Micaiah spake unto him, saying, Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good." But his reply was, "As the LORD liveth, what the LORD saith unto me, that will I speak" (v. 14).
Some demanded of Isaiah, "Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits" (30:10). Did you hear it? In other words, "We aren't interested in the truth, we just want to feel good, even if you have to tell us lies. Brother, let's beware of a constant diet of "smooth things". No doubt the psalmist had reference to literal honey when he said, "Hast thou found honey? Eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it" (Proverbs 25:16). Too much "sweet talk" is also nauseating to those who realize we must all appear before Christ's judgement seat.
Preacher, can you say with Paul, "I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house" (Acts 20:20)? And with Paul can you say that you are "...pure from the blood of all men. For [you] have not shunned to declare.... all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:26,27)?
Today, perhaps as never before, there is great need for hard preaching, and the support by God's people of that kind preaching. God's record shows that it will strengthen the saint and save the sinner.
Now it seems to me the early church said what need to be said without concern for peoples feelings.That led to a great revile.Has God changed? Has the gospel changed? Was Jesus a hell and Brim stone preacher?
I believe this is all too common these days. When I hear or see a commercial or sign for a church and the prevailing messege is something along the lines 'a personal relationship' it strikes me as one of those feel good places.
Never a sermon on sin just have a relationship and feel good. Plus, look at all this cool recreational stuff we got. This nice new gym and this wonderful fellowship center with a kitchen and games.
Too often churches just focus on numbers. I got 2000 in my congregation therefore we must be doing things right.
Not to be picky but I come from the South. That should be "hell fire and brim stone preacher." Thanks.
This is indeed an IMMENSE problem today. My fiancee is substitute teaching at a Catholic high school...the kids told her: "Religion class is so boring! They say the same thing over and over again!"
She agreed with them, and told them the only thing they teach nowadays is to be good and "Jesus loves you no matter what."
To which they responded "Yeah! That's EXACTLY what they say!"
It breaks my heart for these poor kids. Instead of being raised to be good Christians, they are all apostates in training.
Is there a difference between abuse and "speaking hard truth." You bet there is!
1. Knowing the heart. The preacher is NOT the Lord Jesus. He does not know the heart as Jesus did. Preachers/Pastors are human, they can be wrong about their impressions, and the honorable ones admit that.
2. The definition of Abuse.
....a. Webster definition: language that condemns or vilifies unjustly, intemperately, and angrily ; physical maltreatment
....b. Definition in Christian Counseling: victimization and/or manipulation of others through verbal, emotional, sexual, or physical attacks on the person or the person's essential identity.
....c. Medical Definition: 1. Improper treatment or use; 2. Physical ill treatment; injury. 3. Vituperative words; coarse, insulting speech; abusive language; virulent condemnation; reviling. 4. Violation; rape; as, abuse of a female child. 5. Abuse, Invective. Abuse is generally prompted by anger, and vented in harsh and unseemly words. It is more personal and coarse than invective. Abuse generally takes place in private quarrels; invective in writing or public discussions.
The relevant questions:
1. Was it possible for Jesus to abuse?
2. Is it possible for human pastors/preachers/priests and other religious persons to abuse?
3. If possible for religious humans, how is it (a) recognized, (b) opposed, (c) treated?
4. How does one heal the victims of religious physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse?
I will not cease to praise Thee,O our Lord.Ceaselessly will I sing of Thy glory,that Thy truth may not condemn me. I know the extent of my guilt,that if Thou dost punish me according to my sins my inheritance will be gehenna.Then all hope will be lost.Then my prayer will be silenced.Have mercy on me therefore, and forgive me my debts.
I slipped and fell into sin.Extend to me Thy right hand and I will arise,like the harlot in Simon's house,like the thief on the cross.Have mercy on me,Thou who art kindhearted to sinners.
but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. [1 Cor 1:23-24, NAS95]
That said, Paul also wrote:
The Lords bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.[ 2: Ti 2:24-26, NAS95]
So I conclude that we need to be careful to distinguish between an inherently offensive message and an arrogant messenger...
Stephen evidently believed in severe words, too. He said, "Ye stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do you" (Acts 7:51).
I think it is hugely important to look not only at the words that Jesus and the others were speaking, but to whom they were speaking them to. On the occasions you describe Jesus was talking specifically about the Scribes and Pharisees, not all of the crowds that had gathered around Him. Stephen was speaking before the Council of the Sanhedrin, again not before the general masses. Except for the awkward exchange that Jesus has with the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7:24-30, Jesus saved His harsh words for those in power, not usually for the guy in the street, and certainly not for those who came to Him for healing or deliverance. Even the words Sell everything you have and give it to the poor (try preaching on THAT verse) that Jesus said to the rich, young ruler, Mark writes that Jesus said that after looking at him and feeling a love for him (Mark 10:20) so we know that Jesus did not speak these words out of disdain or frustration, but from love.
There has been alot of discussion on being to harsh.
When you talk about people being harsh here on FR, arent you really talking about people being rude, dismissive and condescending?
There is one manner of being "harsh", which means speaking truth and holyness against the tide of our current culture immersed in lies and evil. This is the harshness of Scripture. It is quite another to manner of being "harsh" as merely being caustic, nasty and dishonorable. This, usually, is the harshness of FR.
He was allowing himself to be used by Satan or was speaking the words of Satan by opposing Christ's mission.
Expand the principle now: murder, theft, demonic opposition to Christ's mission. (Is that fair summary? Help me with the wording.)
1 John 2:11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.
How's that for hard preaching:)
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