Category Archives: Preaching the Word of God

Jonah: The Preacher Who Hoped He Wouldn’t Succeed

Jonah is a unique book in many ways. It is the only recorded account of God sending a Jewish prophet to preach to a foreign country. Jonah is the only prophetic book that is chiefly about the prophet instead of the prophet’s message. Jonah is the only Minor Prophet in narrative form. Jonah is the only Minor Prophet mentioned by Jesus and the only Old Testament character that Jesus likens to Himself (cf. Matt 12:39-41; Luke 11:29-31). Finally, and most amazingly, Jonah is the only preacher who hoped he wouldn’t succeed!

We know little of the prophet except for the book bearing his name and one other reference (2 Kings 14:23-25) in the reign of Jeroboam II, who ruled Israel from 793-753 B.C. Since Assyria is the target audience of Jonah’s mission, it is assumed that Assyria must have been in turmoil to so readily repent due to Jonah’s preaching. Had Assyria been at the height of power, it is assumed that her arrogance would have precluded her from responding favorably to God’s message. A period of such Assyrian weakness matching Jeroboam II’s reign would date the book around 760 B.C. But precisely dating the book is only “educated guessing.”

While liberal scholars see the story of Jonah as “allegory” or “parabolic” teaching, there is nothing in the narrative to suggest it is to be understood figuratively. It appears the author intended his book as an historical record of actual events. Further, the Jews never hesitated to include Jonah in the canon of Old Testament Scripture. Why would they willingly accept a book that emphasized mercy to an inveterate enemy of both Israel and Judah, unless it was considered historically accurate? Even more to the point, Jesus likened Jonah’s “three days and three nights” in the belly of the great fish as being true of the Son of Man being “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt 12:40). If Jonah’s incident was “fictional,” then, pray tell, why Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is not equally “fictional”? Jesus also stated that the men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah (Matt 12:41). If the citizens of Nineveh never repented because of Jonah’s preaching, Jesus’ statements regarding them are “untrue” and His reproach to His contemporaries based on Jonah’s story quite unfounded!

The account of the great fish swallowing Jonah alive, holding him within its gut for three days, and disgorging him onto land while not killing him in the process has led countless liberal scholars to explain it away by any means possible! Most of these scholars have adopted the allegorical/parabolic approach to the book. Others explain it by natural-istic means, citing references throughout history to men swallowed alive by whales and sharks and disgorged virtually unharmed. Jack P. Lewis has rightly stated: “The continuous debate over whether there are fish in the Mediterranean that could swallow a man is actually beside the point since it is said that the Lord prepared the fish” (Minor Prophets, p. 40). If we will let God be God, then nothing is too hard for the Lord to do (Jer 32:17).

The target audience of Jonah’s story is the Jews themselves. They would have shared his prejudice against the Gentiles, especially an enemy like Assyria. Even in New Testament days this “separation” from the Gentiles is clearly portrayed in Cornelius’ conversion and aftermath at Jerusalem in Acts 10-11, the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, and the hypocrisy of Peter and Barnabas in regard to not eating with their Gentile brethren in Galatians 2. If there is one overreaching lesson from the book, it is this: “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16a), and “desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4). (1) Jonah’s story compellingly rebukes our parochial tendencies to only love “some” people (same color, nationality, or socio-economic standing). (2) And we too often care only for what affects us personally (just like Jonah caring for the plant shielding him from the burning sun), while caring not at all for the teeming millions perishing in their sins!

The true and living God of the Bible is sovereign over all mankind – Assyrian, Israelite, or American. No one can run away from Him. And all men will give account of their deeds to Him one day (cf. 2 Cor 5:10; Rev 20:12).

I close with this statement from the article on “Jonah, Book of” in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1982): “In its abrupt end, the reader is suddenly addressed by the word of God: it is no longer a simple story about Jonah, but one about the reader himself… In the final analysis, it is the prophet himself who is judged and, through him, those who read his story.” — By Chuck Durham, Biblical Insights, 2012

Speaking the Truth in Love

Inevitably, through the years, when we have spoken plainly about certain sins and indicated that any guilty listeners needed to take heed and straighten up their lives or face the terrible consequences of sin, someone would find the need to remind me that we needed to “speak the truth IN LOVE” (Eph 4:15).

What they don’t seem to get is that we are trying to do just that.  They don’t understand that the “in love” part refers more to the motive than the manner of speaking.  Some situations call for gentleness of speech (Gal 6:1), others call for sharpness of speech (2 Cor 13:10; Ti 1:13; cf. Matt 23), but whether gentle or sharp, it must be in love.

When one needs an exhortation it should be given in love of his spiritual development and soul’s salvation.  The same should motivate us to sharply rebuke with needed.  Also, the same should motivate a gentle word of encouragement.  It is all be done because we love God and love the ones to whom we speak any part of the gospel.  Even when speaking to a rebellious brother fails to bring him to repentance and we have to apply the instructions to withdraw from him, we still must do it “in love.”

I would hope that if I should leave the truth either in preaching or practice that someone would have enough love for me to try to wake me up with as much sharpness needed to bring me around.

How much love are we showing one, slipping deeper and deeper into sin, by whispering “sweet nothings” in his ear as he continues his downward spiral?  If we love him we are going to try whatever scriptural approach it takes (rebuke or exhortation) to bring him to his senses and help him get on the right track.

Because our audiences are generally made up both of those needing the gentle approach and those who need the sharp approach, we should strive to balance our approaches, but whatever the approach it must be “in love” to please God.

By the way, pointing out a scripture that says that a specific kind of sinner (drunkard, thief, or homosexual) cannot inherit the kingdom of God is not HATE speech but rather LOVE speech, because we want these people to be saved.  They cannot be saved while still in their sins.  If we hated them, we would leave them alone to die in their sins.  Expressing hatred and disgust for these sins does not mean we hate those guilty.  We want to get them to the point where it can be said, “such WERE some of you” and not have to be saying, “such ARE some of you” (1 Cor 6:9-11).

Edward O. Bragwell, Sr

Pleasing the Father

What does it mean to “please” our Heavenly Father?  Jesus’ goal was to please the Father (John 8:29-30): to excite emotion; to be agreeable; to accommodate desires and interests.  Enoch’s life pleased God (Gen 5:23-24; Heb 11:5): to gratify entirely; to be well-pleasing.  (Strong’s and Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicons)

ATTENTION ?

2 Timothy 3:3-4 ? God is pleased when He has our full attention.

Be fruitful (Matt 13:18-23; Luke 8:11-15)
Be armored (Eph 6:13-19)

OBEDIENCE ?

John 8:29-30 ? God is pleased when we always obey Him.

Our assurance of answered prayer (1 John 3:21-22)
Our Lord’s food and initiative (John 4:34; 5:30)
Our Father’s response (Eph 1:20-23; Phil 2:5-11)

HOLINESS ?

1 Thessalonians 4:1-4 ? God is pleased when we sincerely sanctify our lives.

The process (Peter: Luke 22:34-34) and (Paul: Acts 21:13)

FAITH ?

Hebrews 11:6 ? God is pleased when we trustingly obey Him.

Diligence and Reward (Heb 11:24-26)

SACRIFICE ?

Hebrews 13:15-16 ? God is pleased when we willingly sacrifice what He requires.
Abundance of grace (Acts 4:32-35; 2:44)

PREACHING ?

1 Corinthians 1:21 ? God is pleased when we unashamedly tell His plan of salvation.

Heaven rejoices (Luke 15:7)

The joy of our hearts should be in giving God the pleasure He seeks.

— By Boyd Jennings

Preaching another Jesus

Paul warned early Christians some were preaching “another Jesus whom we have not preached” (2 Cor. 11:2-4). Today many are not preaching the whole truth from God’s word concerning Jesus. Please consider how some are preaching “another Jesus” today.

Preach the baby Jesus without the Lord Jesus. Many pay homage to a Jesus that remains a plastic baby. He never speaks, he never acts, he never commands, he never demands, he remains passive and silent. This is the kind of Jesus they desire to “serve.” The real Jesus did not remain a baby in a manger. He grew up, taught us the truth, was crucified for our sins, ascended into heaven and was given “all authority” (Matt. 28:20) as “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). We must confess and obey this Jesus to be saved (Phil. 2:9-12; Heb. 5:9)!

Preach the compassionate Jesus without the angry Jesus. Jesus was the ultimate example of compassion (Matt. 14:14). But some serve a Jesus who never gets upset and angry. This is not the Jesus of the Bible. The real Jesus was angry at wickedness, sin, false teachers and their doctrines! On one occasion, when dealing with wicked people, He “looked around at them with anger” (Mk. 3:5). On another occasion his disciples remarked that “the Pharisees were offended” (Matt. 15:12) by what He said.   In another case He was angry enough to call people “Hypocrites!”, “blind guides,” “Fools,” “whitewashed tombs,” “Serpents, brood of vipers” (Matt. 23).

Preach the tolerant Jesus without the strict Jesus. Many view Jesus as ever tolerant of anybody and anything. The Jesus of the Bible showed great patience, but He never gave unquestioning acceptance! Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:13-14). He also said (Matt. 7:21-23) that religion alone, regardless of how sincere, will not save us! But, we must do the will of His “Father in heaven,” otherwise on the Day of Judgment He will say to us, “I never knew you; depart from Me” (Matt. 7:23). Not presenting this aspect of Jesus is to preach “another Jesus”!

Preach the saving Jesus without the judging Jesus. Many people only want to know a Jesus who saves (Jn. 3:16). Undoubtedly the news of salvation is the most wonderful news ever heard. But, the real Jesus is not just a Savior; He will one day also be our judge. Paul said, “the Lord Jesus Christ…will judge the living and the dead at His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:1) and “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). Is it any wonder then – that in view of this – Paul said, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11)?

Are you persuaded to be a faithful Christian obedient to Christ? You should be! What Jesus do you serve? – By Craig Thomas

Gospel Preaching

What is gospel preaching?

Is it showcasing one’s talent as a public speaker?  It is showmanship?  Is it provoking the emotions of an audience?  Gospel preachers in New Testament times spoke the “Truth” (1 Thess 2:13; 2 Thess 2:10, 12, 13).  They were required to “speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet 4:11), or to “preach the word” of God (2 Tim 4:2).  That is because the government of God’s kingdom is an autocracy where Jesus Christ has all authority (Matt 28:18, Eph 1:22-23).  And He has revealed His will through the apostles and prophets of the first century (Matt 28:18-20; 1 Cor 12:28; Eph 2:20; 3:5; 4:11).

Continue reading Gospel Preaching