Mason's Message

“The Whole Counsel of God”

The lady came out of the church service and politely shook the hand of the preacher and said, “Great sermon preacher, but why don’t you sometime preach on prayer?” The minister thanked the lady in this fictitious story, and thought, “I just preached a whole series on prayer! Wasn’t she listening?”

The comment bothered the preacher all Sunday afternoon, Sunday evening, and Monday morning. (Comments like that do bother preachers. If 100 people make positive comments, the one negative comment will get all his mental attention.)

He decided to check his past sermons and see just how long ago it was that he preached on prayer. It wasn’t this year or last year that he could find. Two years ago, three years ago, four years ago, and then in his sermons from five years ago he found a four-part series he had preached on prayer. It had been five years, but in his sermon-preparing mind it had been much more recent than that.

That story can be told over and over again with the subject matter changed with a dozen different topics. What is a preacher to do?

P.H. Welshimer, who built the First Christian Church of Canton, Ohio, to our largest congregation in the Restoration Movement for probably close to 40 years or more, identified 52 subjects that he thought his congregation needed to hear every year. Those were his sermons. Some say that he preached the same sermons every year but simply changed the illustrations. There is a better way than that.

We live in a day of short, maybe month long, series of sermons that are really just topical sermons strung together.  Many of those sermon “series” are but sermons composed by some of the “enlightend brethren.” We have many men who are excellent speakers and have no trouble using someone else’s material, but often they are cheating themselves and those to whom they speak.

If “all scripture is profitable” (2 Timothy 3:16) and it is, then shouldn’t the preacher try to preach the “all” of Scripture? Shouldn’t he help his hearers wrestle with some of the “hard” portions as well as the easy parts.

I prefer expository sermons through Bible books. “Expository means that preaching aims to exposit, or explain and apply, the meaning of the Bible.” It is not being a word for word explanation, but it can be. It is trying to give the meaning of what God said through His holy men to people of all time. Honest preaching through entire Bible books will meet the needs of all people without bias.

I remember that once in a church where I was ministering we were having a serious problem. And wouldn’t you know that the Bible book that I was preaching from and through for several months, just happened to deal with that exact problem in a portion of that book. My message began that week with something like, “Brethren, today by the providence of God we come to the passage before us.” God has a way through His Word to deal with our necessities.

Expository sermons through Bible books will eventually cover everything that needs to be covered.

Let me now venture into a problem that I have watched from afar. There are some who like nothing better than “hell and damnation” sermons that deal with repentance. Another group want sermons that always deal with the “love of God.” Some are so elementary in their thinking that they must not think that both “repentance” and “love” can appear together in the same message.

Just for fun (yes things can be looked at to learn and have fun at the same time) I looked up the word “repent” and found it used in only seven New Testament books (King James translation). I also did a book count on the word “love” and found it used in 25 New Testament books. Does that mean that we should preach on love more than repentance? I’m not sure how one can really preach on love without preaching repentance nor repentance without preaching about love.

There is at least one verse in the Bible that contains both “love” and “repent.”  Revelation 3:20 quotes Jesus as saying, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” Because Christ loves He wants man to repent.”

The real problem may be in how repent and love are preached. One can preach on love in such as way that makes it so syrupy that no one understands that repentance is necessary. Repentance can be preached in such a way that no one understands that love in involved.

The old story is told of two men preaching on the same program. They both preached on the subject of hell. An older preacher was in the audience with his young protégé. The older preacher asked the novice to explain the difference in the two messages. He could not really do it, so the senior minister said, “the first man preached with an emphasis that hell was real and people were going to go there.  It was fact upon fact. The second message also preached on hell, but the difference was that one could tell that he didn’t want anyone to go there.”

I find it so interesting that when John was just beginning with Jesus he wanted to call fire from heaven (Luke 9:54) on some people who had not shown proper respect for Jesus. However, at the close of his life we call John “the apostle of love,” as he uses the word 36 times in just 1 John.

We get into trouble whenever we pick just one word or one topic and “go to seed” on it. Perhaps the best thing to do is to follow Paul’s example. He told the Ephesian elders that he had proclaimed to them “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). I think from looking carefully we can ascertain that Paul preached both “love” and “repentance.”

We can do the same and expository preaching through Bible books can help us achieve that goal.

P.S. Teachers, don’t let the preacher have all of the fun. You teach expository lessons too!

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