by Bruce Mills
Last week when I was teaching my Sunday School class about some of the things included in the previous post on "The Law and the Gospel," one of the ladies there made the observation that "you don't hear any 'fire and brimstone' preaching anymore," and then she followed that statement with the question, "Why do you think that is the case?"
My response was that she is correct, such preaching has fallen into disrepute in our culture. It is considered insensitive and intolerant to confront people with their sin and what God's law has to say about it. And while I do not subscribe to the ranting and raving that characterizes much of what is commonly known as "fire and brimstone" preaching, I do believe that the gospel we present must confront people with the fact that their sin has offended an absolutely holy, just, and righteous God who must punish that sin. And we must call them to turn from their own self-righteousness, repent, and turn in saving faith to Jesus Christ who died as the propitiation for every sin of every person who ever trusts in Him.
How we present that gospel truth will vary from one situation to the next. Sometimes when we present that message, we should do so with passion and fervor. Other times, we should present it with persuasive gentleness. But regardless of the style we use, we cannot and must not water down, diminish the importance, or leave out such critical issues as God's holiness, man's depravity, the seriousness of sin, the necessity for repentance, and the exclusivity of Christ as the only answer.
Sometimes the Holy Spirit draws unbelievers to Christ through a gospel presentation characterized by passionate pleadings such as those of a John Piper. Sometimes He draws unbelievers through the in-depth exegesis of a John MacArthur. And on other occasions, He uses the confrontational style of a "fire and brimstone" preacher. Regardless of the style of the presenter, it is the content of the gospel message which is the crucial issue.
If you want to read more along these lines, click the link to the Pyromaniacs blog in the right column and read Phil Johnson's Friday post titled "James 4:4." Phil is a great writer and he really got my thoughts going on this issue. I hope he gets you thinking also.