We Preach The Word Of God! Really? (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #2)

How often have we heard the boast in the Independent Baptist world, “We preach the Word of God”? It is said as if we were the only group left that could make the claim. Can that statement hold upon careful examination? Is a honest preaching of the Bible the true description across the majority of the group? I really don’t see how that statement could be defended. There is much noise, but little exposition of what God’s Word actually says. There’s plenty of heat, but I fear, little light!

What is really going on? Don’t just take my word for it, or look only at your own church. Look at the sermons in the more well-known Independent Baptist periodicals, or listen to the sermons in the more popular and well-attended conferences. Listen or read and be honest–how many really take a passage of Scripture and expound and develop a message from just what is said there? I don’t deny that many begin with a good text, and even if it draws out a point or two, it often just deteriorates into these ideas that the speaker thinks we need. If you don’t believe me, take the main points of many of these messages and see if you can find them in the text.

What you often get is 10 points you should follow, or 7 steps to Christian living, or a call to give and go soul winning, etc. It might make a dandy blogpost, but it’s a pitiful sermon. What is the word of man should be presented as such, not as the Word of God. Attaching your words to a text does NOT make it the Word of God! Preachers are not at liberty to throw out all their ideas as God’s Word. You can’t hide under the “topical” label either as a real topical message will still be only what God said.

Let’s give an example. I have been reading in Ezekiel, so I just picked a spot and looked for a verse to illustrate my point. Here is the verse and a preaching outline I made:

Ezekiel 44:4 “Then brought he me the way of the north gate before the house: and I looked, and, behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord: and I fell upon my face.”
Sermon title: The Glory of the Lord Filled the House
I. The Glory of the Lord Fills the House in our Praise
II. The Glory of the Lord Fills the House in our Prayers
III. The Glory of the Lord Fills the House in our Person ( a point on faithful church attendance)

So what do you think of my little outline? Here’s what I think. 1. It is asinine. I put it together in a few seconds without even studying the passage. I fear far too many sermons are put together in the same fashion! 2. It is absurd. There is nothing of praise, prayer, or faithfulness in the passage. Even if we used these as stretched applications, these points could in no way said to be what the passage is about. 3. It is accuracy deficient. (You see I am a poor at alliteration and my Alicia isn’t home to do it for me! This is why I rarely alliterate and don’t allow the first letter of a word to dictate my next point!) In that sermon I substituted my word for God’s Word and that is always a sorry trade.

Sometimes this kind of preaching just gets worse! We hear personal preferences given as if they came straight from Heaven. Why is the preacher’s preference on all these little things not mentioned in Scripture any better than anyone’s sitting in the audience? I have heard, for example, why we shouldn’t have a guitar in the church, or a screen, or a chorus instead of a hymnbook. It often spirals from there to things like why we shouldn’t have a purple shirt, or not have a beard, and on and on. It would help if some started speaking up and telling such preachers to get over themselves!

Then there are personal agendas and petty politics. Under some feigned flight of righteous indignation, how often do we hear some slamming of another Independent Baptist preacher, church, or college right from the pulpit? When you stand to rise a little higher if they fall a little lower, your sincerity is hard to swallow. Whatever you want to call that, it is not preaching as the Lord views it. There is often a pushing of a platform (most cliques in the Independent Baptist world have a distinct one) at the expense of God’s Word. Instead of First-Century Christianity, it sounds like Twenty-First Century American politics! That is not a step in the right direction I assure you!

What we are left with is little of the Word. I believe wholeheartedly that this is the greatest issue before Independent Baptists today. Most of the other issues are merely symptoms of this issue. To fail in our key duty of giving the Word of God is to but fail across the board.

So I don’t only discuss the bad side, I should tell you there are a number of younger guys who see this problem and are dedicating themselves to actually preaching His Word. May the Lord increase their number! Likely, the future of Independent Baptists will be decided here.

FIND ALL POSTS IN THE SERIES HERE:
It’s Time For An Independent Baptist Truth Revolution

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70 thoughts on “We Preach The Word Of God! Really? (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #2)

  1. Pingback: It’s Time For An Independent Baptist Truth Revolution! | The Reagan Review

  2. Amen!!! Could not agree more! If the text and the sermon are not on the same subject we undermined the impact of the message.

    Thank you for your voice of reason on this subject!

  3. Agree! Thankfully there are a lot of guys that are committed to changing this behavior. I so often hear preachers bemoan people wanting ear-tickling preachers that don’t preach the Word, when in reality, they are doing the same thing by preaching their hobbyhorse messages to groups of people who get worked into a lather when they hear this drivel that passes in some circles for preaching. 3 points and a poem… I am SO thankful for a pastor who is committed to preaching the whole counsel of God and walks us verse-by-verse through the Scriptures! Thanks to you as well, Jimmy, for being bold enough to say something in attempts to make a difference!

  4. Great article! Your message from Ezekiel really got to me 🙂 – I know this wasn’t an easy one to write bc it implicates so many, but I appreciate your stand on the truth- you’re right, we need a truth revolution!

  5. Exegesis always trumps eisegesis – especially when it comes to the Word of God!! This is what the Reformation was all about – going back to the Word of God as the authority for all doctrine and life instead of the word of man or tradition.

  6. I agree whole heartedly with this post. Though it’s not all IFB churches, it’s enough of them to be a BIG problem. There’s no better sermon that can be preached than the one God does in His Word. A simple understanding of God’s Word in context will do more than a thousand pep talks about dress, music, and soul winning.

  7. Well written article that really makes you think! So many times a preacher will preach topical lessons and not even open God’s word. We truly need to open our Bibles and see what is actually written and not what they think it should say. I couldn’t agree with you more on how some preachers just need to get over themselves!

  8. This is so good and so true. Many times the Scripture read at the beginning of a sermon has no more relevance to the message than the playing of the National Anthem does to the baseball game that follows it.

    Pastor Jerry L. Glisson
    Faith Baptist Church
    Farmington, MO

  9. Listening to some preachers for truth is like listening to CNN for news. You get the latest talking points and get all in a lather about them without really having a clue as to what is going on.

  10. Thanks for the article. It sums up what I have been saying for the last couple of years, “We have sacrificed proper interpretation of the Word of God upon the altar of practical application.”

  11. PRAISE THE LORD! God has been showing me this exact truth over the past 4 years! Great to see it put so well.

    Let us preach His Words and quit this man worship. It is still wrong to put men before Christ! Haymen!

  12. Thank you for these words of truth Jimmy. It seems that many times our preaching is tainted by the fact that we feel like WE MUST HAVE A POSITION ON EVERYTHING. Many times once those positions are formed in our minds, preaching is reduced to simply backing up the positions that we feel so strongly about. We divorce ourselves from Scriptural context and focus more on “what the Word says” rather than in proper context determining “what the Word means” and what message is truly being conveyed through the text. Does this sound accurate to you?

  13. Great stuff. The Lord has worked me over in this area and continues to do so. Sad to say, I have written quite a few outlines similar to your Ezekiel example in years past. Would you agree that part of the problem is laziness in study habits? It is SO easy to throw together your Ezekiel-type outline in 10 minutes or less, and unfortunately many IFB audiences will laud it as a great sermon. Why? Because you somehow manage to hit most of the hot button subjects of the day within your sermon and reaffirm for all listening that we have the corner on these truths and anyone who has a different idea, preference or personal conviction is a heretic! May God help us to stop this nonsense! Thanks for the great post……looking forward to the rest.

  14. Pingback: We Preach The Word Of God! Really? (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #2) | The Whimsical Hand

  15. I was reading some of E.M. Bounds this morning, and this is what he said in reference to Nehemiah 8:

    “No one having any knowledge of the existing facts, will deny the comparative lack of expository preaching in the pulpit effort of today. And none, we should, at least, imagine, will do other than lament the lack. Topical preaching, polemical preaching, historical preaching, and other forms of sermonic output have, one supposes, their rightful and opportune uses. But expository preaching-the prayerful expounding of the Word of God is preaching that is preaching-pulpit effort par excellence.”

    Oh for the filling of the Holy Spirit that I might preach His word, His way, in His strength!

  16. I also have many sermons like your Ezekiel example. When I look back over those outlines, I am both embarrassed for myself and sorry for those who had to listen to them. This article is quite relevant to all in IFB circles today.

    Do you think the problem with this type of preaching has its roots in IFB training or IFB preaching heroes?

    • I believe it has a lot to do with huge conferences and meetings that are attended (e.g. The Sword Conference) or the church they were raised/saved in. A multitude of young or inexperienced preachers hear these type of sermons time after time and I think they eventually get the idea that this is what it’s supposed to be like.

      One sermon that comes to mind for me is “A Charge To Keep” that I heard back in 2004 and again about 6 years later. The preacher took a passage in Leviticus about Aaron’s charge concerning his position and turned it into a sermon on us having a charge to keep about standards, soul-winning, insert other topics beginning with “s”. The truth is, the passage taught nothing about that sort of thing, but me being a young man not saved too long heard it the first time and upon hearing the mass of “amens” he was getting, thought this was what good preaching was. The second time I heard this message (from the same preacher), I was almost done with Bible College and realized that this sermon gave an application that was ripped way out of context and could have been preached using no Bible at all with the same effect. Sadly, looking back, I can see this sort of thing was all too prevalent in too many IFB churches.

      • True, John. I can remember hearing many similar sermons. I do observe that I endured the most unbiblical sermons when I attended large youth rallies. Big-Wig youth preachers seemed to feel extra liberty to stretch the Scriptures.

    • Chad, many feel as you do! The point is that you are on the right track now!

      To answer your question I would say a combination of both.

      Where do you preach? Glad to make your acquaintance. Would love to know you better.

      • I do know Jamin. I remember going soul-winning with him back in the day. John, I don’t think I know you, but it is always good to meet a fellow Crownie! 🙂

        We were taught good hermeneutics, and good homiletic principles at Crown. We had many good chapel preachers, but every so often somebody would come in with an unbiblical sermon that would clash with all the principles we were learning in class…That was always a head-scratcher.

  17. Very, very true. I really appreciate this blog and especially this series about truth revolution. It’s high time we stop looking through the Bible to find verses and passages that support our agenda (even if it is a “good” agenda) with which to formulate a sermon, and start letting the Holy Spirit speak to us through the Word and then sharing what He has showed us.

    It’s true that many preachers and evangelists want to preach those hot flamboyant topical messages that “spiritualize” a literal Biblical account rather than expositorily preaching the plain truths of, say, the book of Romans. The misnomer is that “people getting worked up” = “God working in people’s lives”. This is not always true, and in many cases I fear it is the farthest thing from the truth.

    I can get emotionally worked up over a sensational sermon, but it will do little to sustain me when I have to go to work the next day and face the real world and realize that I’m not Super Christian. But if I understand a truth like the one found in Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus”, now that will help in a big way!

    Keep these needed posts coming!

  18. This may be a bad place to leave a reply (inviting some heat here), but aren’t MOST if not all IFB sermons coming from the “words of man” and not the “Word of God”?

    After all, how does the standard IFB Pastor reconcile the rejection of Catholic doctrines of 1) the saving power of Holy Communion, 2) the power of absolution during the act of Reconciliation, and 3) the continual progression of our salvation (not a one time act)? Each of these doctrines truly is supported by the documented words of Jesus: 1) John’s Gospel, chapter 6; 2) John’s Gospel, chapter 20; 3) Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 7:21-23.

    My take: you can’t effectively preach the Word of God if you don’t believe all the doctrines God himself through His Church laid out for you.

    I patiently await your replies.

    • Mr. Davis,
      I simply could not agree with your statements.
      I also do not believe that the Catholic doctrines you mentioned are backed up by Scripture, including those references you cited.
      Still, I appreciate your reading and commenting!

      • Mr. Reagan,
        Thanks for the reply. Having grown up an “independent, fundamental, Bible believing, Gospel preaching Baptist”, I understand that you disagree with the Catholic position…you’d be barred from preaching 100 miles from any Baptist church if you even THOUGHT those doctrines were true 🙂

        However, to respond to my previous comment by simply stating “we’ll, that’s not what I believe” seems rather dismissive, given that I referenced the documented words of Jesus and not some obscure passage from a Papal letter. You told me what I already know–that Baptists and Catholics disagree on those 3 doctrines. The bigger question is “Why?”

        As a Baptist, I was told “Go ask a priest” by my Catholic grandmother whenever I asked her why Catholics don’t believe in eternal security or “grace by faith, not by works”, 2 major Baptist doctrines. Now I’m asking you-a pastor-why Baptists believe differently. I didn’t go to a college to study the Bible like you probably did. What Scriptures contradict the words of Christ in the Gospels that I mentioned? And come to think of it, SHOULD anything contradict the words of Christ (the red-lettered words, as commonly called in IFB circles), given that our shared religion comes directly from Christ himself?

        As before, I patiently await your replies.

  19. John,

    I would like to offer some thoughts on your comments concerning Catholic doctrines.

    (1) The saving power of holy communion

    You referenced John chapter 6. I am assuming you are thinking of verses 51-57, particularly verse 54 which says “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day”

    First of all, I believe there are times in the gospels when Jesus speaks figuratively, not literally. Sometimes people would even misunderstand him because of this. John 2:19-21 is a great example…

    “Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?”

    Jesus was not speaking of raising up a literal temple in 3 days. He was figuratively talking about His death, burial, and resurrection.

    I believe that is the same way by which we are to interpret the passage in John 6. Jesus does not want us to literally eat his flesh and drink his blood (again, some thought this is what he was saying – see verse 52). Instead, He is showing how the manna that the Jews received in the Old Testament was a picture of Christ, Who is the bread of life.

    Verse 53 – “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.”

    Jesus is saying that unless He lives inside us, we are still dead in our sins – we have no life. But He doesn’t come to live inside of us when we literally eat his flesh and blood, He indwells us when we place our faith in him.

    Eph 3:17 “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith;”

    Here are many more verses to support that salvation is by grace through faith – (Romans 3:22,28) (Romans 5:1,15) (Romans 11:6) (Galatians 3:11,24,26) (Ephesians 2:5,8)(Philippians 3:9)

    These verses clearly teach that salvation is a free gift that is by faith and has nothing to do with our works. If you understand that Jesus is speaking figuratively, then there is no contradiction between Christ’s words and the rest of the Bible.

    An obvious question would be, “How can we know when Jesus is speaking literally or figuratively?” Fortunately, we have the entire canon of scripture by which to cross reference passages and see the message of the gospel in its entirety. Many Bible scholars would tell you that it is dangerous to found an entire doctrine on a particular interpretation of a single verse or small passage, especially when there are several other verses throughout the New Testament that would stand in contradiction of that interpretation. I don’t believe you would be able to find any other passage in the entire New Testament to support the doctrine of the saving power of holy communion. But you will find many that declare salvation to be by faith. To my knowledge there are none that declare salvation to be through the keeping of sacraments.

    Galatians 3:26 “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”

    When Jesus has “The Last Supper” with His disciples, he says, “This do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). He says nothing that would support the idea that the taking of communion has saving power, only that it is an act of remembrance.

    The scriptures do not contradict themselves. So when there is an apparent contradiction, there must be an incorrect interpretation. That would only make sense. If you hold that Jesus’ words in John 6 must be taken literally, then I would ask “Do you take all the words of Christ literally?”

    In the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5 Jesus admonished people that if they sinned with their right hand that they should cut it off. If they sinned with their eyes then they should pluck them out. I don’t personally know of anyone who would dare to interpret this passage literally, and I hope for your own personal safety that you do not as well.

    —————————-

    Concerning the 2 other doctrines, I’m not sure I see how the verses you referenced support the doctrines. perhaps you could elaborate.

    Again, thanks for posting your reply, and I hope this will show you why Baptists do not believe in this doctrine.

    • Wesley,

      Thanks for your reply, and sorry for the delay in replying as I was on vacation. To quickly answer your question, I would say Yes, I take all the words of Christ literally if He doesn’t say otherwise. I’ll detail that a little bit more later on. But first I’ll address the subject of this figurative vs literal debate–“the bread of life” remark by Christ.

      Having grown up an independent Baptist, I also was taught to “compare Scripture with Scripture.” So let’s compare John 2:19-21 with John 6:48-71. In John 2, Jesus said something incomprehensible to his audience (I will raise the temple in 3 days). His audience responded with incredulity. The narrator then interrupted the account with a clarifying remark–“he wasn’t talking about the literal temple; he was referring to his own body.”

      Now let’s examine the John 6 account. In verse 48, Jesus refers to himself as the Bread of Life. In verses 49-50, he compares the sustaining bread under the old covenant with the sustaining bread under the new covenant. In verse 51 (key verse here), he elaborates on his self-proclamation in 48 by saying “the bread that I will give is my flesh”. As in John 2, his audience responded with incredulity–“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” How does Jesus respond to this? By sheer repetition. Verse 53: “Except you EAT the flesh of the Son of Man AND DRINK his blood, you have no life in you.” Verse 54: “Whoso EATETH my flesh AND DRINKETH my blood hath eternal life.” Verse 55: “For my flesh is MEAT indeed (true meat in other versions) and my blood is DRINK indeed (true drink in other versions).” Verse 56: “He that EATETH my flesh and DRINKETH my blood dwells in me and I in him.” Verse 57: “He that EATETH me…shall live by me.” Verse 58: “He that EATETH of this bread shall live for ever.” Not once does the narrator (same narrator as in the John 2 account) interrupt the account to say, “No need to panic, he’s only speaking figuratively here!!” And you can feel the tone of how weird this doctrine sounds to the audience by what happens in verse 66–many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him. Again, if Jesus were speaking figuratively, wouldn’t He have tried to stop them from leaving? Wouldn’t He have said, “Hey guys, wait a minute, I’m not REALLY asking you to eat my flesh and drink my blood!” But the Scriptures don’t show that; in fact, they show the opposite. Jesus goes right along and asks His closest, His apostles–Will you also go away? He doesn’t even drag them aside to say, “Hey guys, I was speaking figuratively, but you obviously knew that.” Peter and the other apostles stayed with Jesus, not because they understood at that time what was going on, but because they knew Jesus alone had the words of eternal life. And 2000 years later, the mystery of the Eucharist remains a mystery. That it is a mystery, however, does not mean that it isn’t true, or that it’s a gross misinterpretation of Scripture. Wesley, my first question to you is “Who or what instructed you to treat this passage of Scripture as figurative?”

      Let’s fast-forward to the Last Supper. In all 3 Gospel accounts, Christ didn’t once say “This is a representation of my body” or “This is a representation of my blood”. He said, “This is my body” and “This is my blood”. These are definitive statements. Once again, let’s compare Scripture with Scripture. In I Corinthians 11, Paul instructs his readers to eat and drink the Lord’s body and blood worthily. 2 things to note here: 1) Paul also never says implicitly or explicitly that the “bread and cup of the Lord” is anything but the TRUE body and blood of Christ. 2) Related to that, his instruction is one of caution, since some are consuming the body and blood of Christ unworthily and are paying a physical price for this error in judgment. Please tell me, why would Paul say that one needs to “examine himself” before eating and drinking the Lord’s body and cup if all of this is just “an act of remembrance”, as you put it?

      Now to your remark about Jesus’s remarks in Matthew 5, I offer these thoughts. Once again, I take Christ’s words literally when He doesn’t say I’m not supposed to (like in a parable or in the narrator’s comments). Christ’s words in Matt 5:29-30 were quite serious and weren’t meant to be taken the wrong way. Yes, it would be quite painful to mutilate yourself. But Jesus was putting into perspective the parts of our body, which are temporary and mortal, with an eternity of our soul in Hell. Now I’m sure that if we prayed with faith that God would deliver us from sacrificing one of our body parts, He would send us a way of escape (just like He did when Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac; also see I Cor 10:13). But Jesus’s words there should still be taken as literal–better to enter heaven with 1 eye or 1 hand then enter hell fully intact.

      As to the other two doctrines, I’ve typed enough for one comment, so I’ll leave those to be expounded (with Scripture, of course!) for another comment. As before, I look forward to your replies.

  20. Agreed that too many sermons are based off personal opinion. I have, myself been under such… we need more of the Holy Spirit, We need more holiness, we need more men of God on their knees rather than “rip” so the terminology goes. Far too often you have blind youth following and adopting thes opinions then you fabricate a zeal in these youth until they either burn out and fallout or meet the Holy Spirit himself in pure personal devotion and time spent with God.

  21. Pastor Reagan,
    This is such a point of contention of mine that I have lead my family away from two churches because of this type of preaching. What boggles my mind is when pastors are unwilling to change on this. Often, I think this only happens because the people in the church are ignorant of Scripture; therefore, they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears. In other words, the message sounds fundamental baptist, so no one has an issue with it. Strange too because I have been made out as a rebel because I speak out against this type of preaching.

    My wife, who is the daughter of a IFB missionary and has been in churches in every state in the union (save Alaska and Hawaii) tells me that she has found many IFB pastors to be all style and no substance.

    We profess that “The Bible is our only rule of faith and practice.” I long for that to be a true statement among all IFB pastors.

  22. Pingback: Older Paths, Preaching | Older Paths

  23. Pingback: Sola Scriptura–Is The Bible Our Only Guide? (IBTR #73) | The Reagan Review

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