God does not commission men to preach without telling them what to say. He does not leave them free to select anything which a passing whim might suggest. Men, in light of their own limited wisdom, are incapable of formulating a system of dependable teaching. “Oh Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23 ASV). Men, apart from the leadership of divine revelation, have ever gone farther and farther into the meshes of sin and paganism.
When the Lord sent Jonah, the son of Ammitai, to Nineveh, He commanded him to “preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee” (Jonah 3:2). The prophet was not left to his own will and resources to originate a message for the Ninevites. His instructions were specific. The Lord did not, in a general, indefinite way, tell him to “preach” to Nineveh. Rather, He said specifically, “preach… the preaching that I bid thee.”
Jonah was limited to what God said. He could not add; he could not subtract; he could not devitalize his message by “toning it down.” He must thunder into the ears of the Ninevites the severe and startling message, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). This very thing he did on reaching “that great city.” His preaching produced results.
The messengers of God, whether human or divine, or both, have always been limited to the will of God. They have had, and have, freedom to speak only within the will of God. Of Jesus it was written, “Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me), to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:7).
Jesus said, “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30. Again, “My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me” (John 7:16). “As my Father hath taught me, I speak these things” (John 8:28). “I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, He gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (John 12:49).
These Scriptures show conclusively that Jesus spoke and did only those things which the Father commanded. His freedom of action to do and teach was limited by God’s will. The Spirit of the Lord was upon Him, because the Lord had anointed Him to preach. But He, even though He was the only begotten Son of God, could preach only the good tidings the Father authorized Him to proclaim. God was the Author of His message.
The Holy Spirit is limited in His teaching to the will of the Father. In giving the promise of the coming of the Spirit, Jesus said of Him,
The Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you… He shall guide you into all the truth; for he shall not speak from himself; but what things so ever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come (John 14:26; 16:13 ASV).
The Holy Spirit, as a teacher, is limited to the will of God, “what things so ever he shall hear,” in His instruction. Apostles and angels, likewise, can proclaim only the message of God. “But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8 ASV). The curse of God rests upon the angel or man who dares to deviate from the teaching of the gospel.
If God will not permit apostle, or angel, or the Holy Spirit, or even His own Son, to depart from the message He has authorized, it certainly should not be difficult for us to understand that we are not allowed the freedom of setting aside or of perverting the gospel of Christ. God has commissioned us to preach the gospel, and we are not at liberty to preach anything else. We cannot mutilate the gospel, except at the peril of our own souls and of those who hear.
This gospel is the faith once for all delivered unto the saints (Jude 3). It is the sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). It is the only word that is able to build us up and give us an inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:32) and it must be faithfully transmitted from one generation to another. “The things which thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2 ASV). It must be taught fearlessly and faithfully. “Speak thou the things which befit the sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1 ASV). “Hold the pattern of sound words which thou hast heard from me” (2 Tim. 1:13 ASV). And, finally
If any man teacheth a different doctrine, and consenteth not to sound words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is puffed up, knowing nothing, but doting about questionings and disputes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, wranglings of men corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, supposing that godliness is a way of gain (1 Tim. 6:3-5 ASV).
All faithful and sound preachers proclaim the doctrine, or teaching, of Christ. They are, therefore, doctrinal preachers. Every preacher that God has authorized was a doctrinal preacher—he proclaimed the teaching of God. The time has come when many professed Christians do not relish “doctrinal preaching”—the very kind, and, in fact, the only kind that is divinely authorized. No one can be a faithful preacher who is not a doctrinal preacher. The kind of preaching that is needed first, last, and all the time is doctrinal preaching—preaching that condemns sin in every form, preaching that sets forth the whole truth, preaching that distinguishes the New Testament church from the various denominational bodies. This kind of preaching will not please worldly-minded church members, but it will please God and save lost men and women. Regardless of circumstances or consequences, we must “preach… the preaching that I bid thee.”
A man’s usefulness as a gospel preacher is determined much more by his knowledge of God’s word and his willingness to proclaim it boldly and faithfully than by his academic attainments and his ability to please men.