Gilbert E. Shaffer
It is a known fact that if you want to drive up a nail you must hit it on the head. The harder you strike, the quicker you will finish your task. Now and then a spark will fly, but that is a sign you are doing good. It takes a real blow to bring forth fire, and each spark tells you of your contact with the piece of metal.
There is also such a thing as “pulling punches” in pugilistic combat. By that, we mean that there is every appearance of a heavy blow, but in reality the fighters are holding back part of the force. They clown while the audience gets the benefit of the show.
It appears to me that perhaps we who are called preachers are not striking the nail on the head. If we are, then the lick must be so light that no fire is brought forth. I believe if our preaching brought forth more fire we would see greater results. Is it possible that we are pulling our punches? Perhaps we think too much about beautiful phrases and mannerisms in the pulpit. Regardless of what might be said about our preaching, we are no longer having an effect on denominationalism. Sin is growing, sectarianism is spreading, and thousands of souls are being led astray by denominational preachers.
A few years ago our preachers were not as well educated as they now are. Better schools and greater opportunities have increased the learning of people in all walks of life. While our preachers of a few years back may not have been as well educated as many are today, they certainly knew the Bible and were not afraid to preach it. They may not have been able to quote Shakespeare, but they were able to quote Paul, and were certainly not afraid to do so. Some of the hardest hitters and most able debaters lived when education was rather primitive. My heart goes out to our pioneer preachers who fought in the front line trenches against digression.
Much is said today about being “moderate,” the happy medium and the “middle of the road.” We hear in the business world that “knockers do not win and winners do not knock.” That may be a beautiful business phrase, but I doubt if it can be applied to Christianity. Christ “knocked” the Pharisees on every hand and told them they were like “whited sepulchres” (Matt. 23:27). On one occasion, Christ entered the temple and drove out the money changers. He told them, “My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matt. 21:13). I would not consider Christ’s words on these two occasions in harmony with the thought that “knockers do not win.” Christ struck the nail right on the head—a heavy blow.
Neither would Peter’s words to Simon the sorcerer be welcome in some pulpits today. Listen to him as he speaks: “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:22-23).
We are living in a changing world and in perilous times. Politics, customs, education, and almost everything around us change with the years. While these things change, the church and the Gospel remain the same. Paul announced, “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:28).
It is true, however, that with the changes of our age, many in the church have been affected. There is an epidemic of softness toward sin that is spreading like wildfire. It is the spirit of compromise which was born in the mind of Satan, and if it continues only eternity can tell how much the church will suffer. Are we afraid that we will offend the enemy? Is it a fact that we are scared? I long for the “good old days” when sin and sinners were exposed.
We would do well to preach the gospel with the same plainness that characterized Marshall Keeble. He did not withhold names and places. Regardless of where he was or who was present, he continued to fire into the enemy’s ranks. Did he have results? To ask the question is to answer it.
Every article written and every sermon preached should have a definite aim. We should aim to uproot sin in whatever form we find it. If it has found fertile soil in the church, then uproot it there. To call names might hasten the uprooting. No doubt, sparks may fly and weak-kneed church members will grumble, but we are trying to destroy sin. There has already been too much flirting with the devil. Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me” (Matt. 12:30). If we are against sin, then how much are we going to oppose it? The present day attitude seems to be that we will oppose sin as long as we do not offend those practicing it. Paul found that Peter had sinned, and he not only called his name, but withstood him to the face. “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed” (Gal. 2:11).
In all the preaching and writing of the apostles, there was one thing that characterized each of them, and that was plainness. Not only was their preaching plain, but it was pointed as well. The Holy Spirit directed them in their preaching and gave them the words to speak. It took plain, pointed, positive preaching to uproot the isms of that day. We have far more sects now than the apostles had to contend with. Certainly we cannot be too severe or too plain in pointing out their errors.
Brethren, let us carry on the good fight of faith. Let us not be led into the error of soft, politically correct preaching.