Thursday, 3 May 2012


Why is it that we all tend to drive wedges of our own philosophical thinking into our interpretation of the Scriptures?  We like the either/or scenario, but not the both/and.  We like to square one truth up against the other and then argue for our preferred point of view.  

In this scenario, we want a preacher to be either gracious or passionate.  If he is the one, he cannot at the same time be the other.  A dead, powerless, boring preacher is preferred by some Christians to the man who really is convinced of the truth and necessity of what he is saying.  A man who really believes what he preaches cannot under any circumstances preach it in a lifeless way.  It is impossible.  How can any man handle the dynamic Gospel is such a way?  It is only possible if he does not really believe that it is the ‘power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes’ (Rom.1:16). 

I find it exceedingly sad that some Christians compare every other preacher with what they have come to accept.  I suppose we all do it to some extent.  For example, if we have a dead, boring, powerless, passionless preacher (whatever that is and whoever created that), then every preacher who is like that is gracious but every preacher who is different from that is not.  He has to be either gracious or passionate; he cannot be both.
Now that raises an interesting question: where do the prophets fit in to this understanding?  How would Elijah and Elisha fair on this assumption?  Not very well.   

Would Isaiah or Jeremiah or Ezekiel fair much better?  Hardly.  Would Daniel and the other twelve minor prophets get a call to be minister of your church, if that is what you believe?  Never.

What about John the Baptist?  Would you like him?  No.  Why?  Because he is not a gracious preacher.  He’s too straight and too strong.  He says hard things that make people turn against him.  Didn’t he offend Herod and his mistress by his preaching and ended up literally ‘losing his head?’  Had John been truly gracious, he would not have had that effect on his hearers.  John turned people off the faith; how could that be gracious?  We wouldn’t like a minister like John in our church.

Then we have his second cousin, Jesus of Nazareth.  Would He suit you?  Well, here we have a bit of a quandary because we profess to be Christians so we have to say, at least, that we would like Jesus as our minister.  But in our quieter moments, we would not want Him anywhere near our church either.  That’s probably why He doesn’t come to your church, at least very often.  You do not want Him there.  Why is that?  Well, look at His track record.  He got up the religious people’s noses right at the very start of His public ministry in Galilee, and from those early days they sought for a way to kill Him.  He was exceedingly offensive towards the religious leaders, saying they were hypocrites, their religion was only outward show with no reality behind it, that by his preaching he turned many away from following Him, that He preached too much law to them, that he associated and seemed to prefer the company of prostitutes and publicans and other sinners to the religious establishment.  Was Jesus gracious in the way He dealt with people?  According to the viewpoint I’m criticising, He most assuredly was not. 

I could go on to speak of Peter and John, Paul and the writer to the Hebrews.  They are no better.

Then there are the Reformers, men like Calvin who was thrown out of Geneva, who refused to allow openly sinful unbelievers to come to the Lord’s Table, agreed to the execution of Servetus for heresy, and criticised Rome, her priests and the pope with monotonous regularity.  Was he gracious in the minds of some Christians?  No way.  

What about the Huguenots in France; did grace characterise their lives?  Again no, because the authorities persecuted them, put many of them to an ignominious death, forced multitudes to flee their native country to save their lives, and forced others to renounce their faith.  Had these Christians been gracious, according to this view, these things would never have happened to them.

Move on to the Scottish Covenanters and what do you find?  Well, these believers were martyred for "the faith once delivered to the saints," falling foul of God-rejecting authorities.  

The Puritans did not show much grace either, according to this modern view, because they refused to accept the rulings of the church authorities of that era.  2000 were forced out of their ‘livings’ because they refused to be shackled by a tyrannical Archbishop, William Laud.  Had these good and godly men been of a truly gracious spirit, they would have submitted to the courts of the church with good grace; but no.  They were men of biblical conviction and their biblical convictions motivated them "to obey God rather than men," even if they be churchmen.

Take the great Methodist Awakening in Britain in the eighteenth century; were these Methodists gracious people?  Well, not if you take men like John Wesley as an example.  We are told that wherever he preached there was either a riot or a revival.  When George Whitefield preached his first sermon in Gloucester Cathedral, he drove some 18 persons mad, and was reported to his Bishop.  Were Whitefield and the Wesley’s gracious men?  Not according to today’s understanding of what it means to be gracious.  They were troublers within the church, and no church troubler can possibly be of a gracious spirit.

I could go on, but I must limit what I am saying.  The very fact that such an article like this has had to be written demonstrates the shallowness in understanding of basic biblical theology held by some within the evangelical church.  These are the men who are dragging the church into increasingly deeper apostasy.  They are feeding lukewarmness to the church instead of turning up the heat in many of them.  They are inoculating their hearers and members against a dose of real biblical faith.  These people are offending God’s majesty and are showing utter disrespect to those they are seeking to point in the direction of heaven.  They are "wolves in sheep’s clothing," and the sooner they are recognised as such and removed from office within the Christian church, the better for all concerned.

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