“I charge thee therefore, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:1-2).
There are a lot of priggish, puritanical brethren who are led astray by the assumed piety of certain preachers. “What Brother Longface preaches is surely the truth because he is such a devout man.” They size up what he preaches by his piety and not by the Book. I am not opposed to piety. The Bible teaches us to be sober. It also teaches us to be honest. But the man who keeps insisting that he is honest is generally a crook, snd he who parades his piety is usually a hypocrite.
Piety, like honesty, flourishes better when it is treated as something personal and too sacred to be put on parade. If our piety is the test of our soundness, then the Pharisees would be orthodox. They were reverent. The Pharisee instead of leaving the door of his room open while he was on his knees praying, would stand out on the corner of the street and make long prayers. Thus he could be seen of all men. I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, nor a dresser of sycamore trees, but I predict that these super-pious brethren will be on the street corners next. Paul was reverent, saintly, godly and heavenly minded, but was not too pious to call one fellow a “son of the devil” (Acts 13:19). His brotherly love did not keep him from resisting Peter. “I resisted him to his face because he stood condemned” (Gal. 2:11). The real test of one’s orthodoxy is not his sincerity nor affected devotion, but whether he is true to the charge to preach the word.
Realizing that the gospel and not piety is the power of God unto salvation, how shall we preach it? It must be preached boldly and without fear or favor. The second recorded prayer in the book of Acts is a prayer for boldness. Brethren today call the preacher aside and ask him to tone his preaching down until it is so tame as to be insipid.
Some say that we should be like John, the apostle of love. Of course, they think John was not vigorous and trenchant in his preaching. Was John a shy, soft, effeminate preacher of the Word? The Sanhedrin was amazed at the boldness of Peter and John (Act s 4:13). Please notice that the text says “Peter and John.” John was just as bold as Peter.
What reckless saints were those early preachers! The y did not so much as regard their own lives in preaching Christ (Acts 20:24). Watch these great men in action and compare some brethren who are apparently afraid to quote the Great Commission with emphasis lest they should offend some sectarian. No doubt the uncompromising fearlessness of these apostles was derived from Christ. “They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4 :13). No one would suspect a compromising, cringing preacher of having been associated with the world’s greatest Preacher.
Faithful preaching of the Word of God will accomplish divine results. First: The word preached, believed and obeyed will put one into Christ where he is saved from his sins. (Acts 2:38 ; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Gal. 3:26-27) Second: The word preached will expose false teachers. Paul told the elders of the church at Ephesus that false brethren would arise among them. “I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30). False teachers should be exposed. Those in the church shall not be spared. Third: The word preached fulfills the sacred charge of Paul to Timothy.
We would thus save ourselves. “Take heed unto thyself, and to thy teaching. Continue in these things: for in doing this thou shalt save both thyself and them that hear thee” (2 Tim. 4:16).
The gospel preached “with thoughts that breathe the words that burn” will please God and disturb man. The early preachers did not please everybody. Occasionally a preacher of our day boasts that all were pleased with his work. Even the sects dismissed to attend his services. How different from Paul. He did not please the world nor all the brethren. When he went into a place to preach he had a revival or a riot. The enemies of the truth spoke of Paul and his companions after this fashion: “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also” (Acts 17:6).