Everyone enjoys hearing words that warm the heart and stretches the lips. Who does not disdain boring speeches or an oratory that offends? Anyone with the gift of oral communication knows good words and fair speeches can open pocketbooks and gets backslaps of praise. No matter who skillfully employs their talent toward taking advantage of humanity’s bent toward rosy words and fair speeches, whether politician, teacher, preacher, or parent, is not into communicating truth, but is rather serving their own appetites. Such an appetite feeds on a hunger for power, prestige, a receiving of praise, money, and security. A politician seeks power, the greedy seeks money and security, a teacher looks for prestige behind his degrees, a parent wants to fit in socially, and a preacher may thirst for them all behind a show of false humility.
It would surely benefit every artisan employing good words and fair speeches to visit with the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans (Romans 16:17-19). Written by one of the most informed and brilliant minds of his time, he nevertheless said to the Corinthian church, “And I, brethren,… came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit of Power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
The reverse reality, however, is that evil intent’s pleasant words and brilliant speeches can be divisive and treacherous, even as false humility drips honey from its words. The only telling sign of such intent will be their content of doctrine–or perhaps their lack of it. What are they not saying? What are politicians, teachers, parents, books, news media, and preachers not telling us? Does your senator say abortion traumatizes a mother? Does your professor tell you evolution is only a theory and the creationists are winning the debates about it? Does your parents tell you your peers are just as ignorant as you are about the issues of life? Does your preacher frequently tell you plainly that Hell is a real place of eternal torment were God sends people who sin against his only begotten son? Is your spiritual leader on backslapping terms with false doctrinaires and never tells you such falsehood can lead your soul to Hell? Does he claim to be a minister of the Gospel but only tells you half of it? Such half truths become a door ajar, a window cracked, a covert passage where an enemy can slip in with a surprise.
Bearers of enchanting words and captivating oratory is not new. Paul had to contend with them wherever he traveled and in every church he founded or visited. In the very passage where he mentioned words and speeches, he admonished the Roman church to “Mark those who cause divisions and offenses contrary” to true doctrine (Romans 16:17). They were to “avoid” them. Far from unifying God’s true children, these “positive preachers,” these “I’m okay, you’re okay” charmers, these non-offensive, not to worry, sweet talkers were actually church splitters and truth killers on the hunt for self-aggrandizement; leeches, if you will, sucking the lifeblood from the innocents. Paul and the other apostles showed little mercy for these predators, and straightly excommunicated them from their churches.
Verse 19 of Romans 16 reveals a stunning statement by Paul. He says to these Roman believers, “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.” This brilliant man of God is telling these innocents that they should dwell on the truth of spiritual matters and be “simple,” that is, “pure” in their encounter with evil, so that “We henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14). In brief, they should use their time to know of the goodness in God’s salvation, and keep in mind the simple fact that evil will damn one’s soul! That, in a nutshell, is the Gospel. Preachers who dwell only on the roses in their ministry, are misleading their hearers away from the acute fact that God is a God of pure justice and never tolerates willful sin, and that Hell awaits those who ignore it. Judgment day will probably hold a shocking irony: some who were saved under such a ministry may be shocked to learn that the preacher who led them to God’s saving grace might miss heaven himself, because he preached a “feel good” substitute for his own comfort. I heard a Godly pastor say, “Folks, in this church every service is a battleground between the forces of good and evil, where every soul hangs in the balance.” That church found no place for feel-good sermons nor ear tickling speeches. It was a place where sinners found it very hard to sit still; they usually either ran for the altar or the door. Come to think of it, that description fits the early New Testament church perfectly!
The Gospel of Christ is so unutterably sample, so sweet and satisfying to the soul, that the beauty of it can be overlooked in our search for what we’re missing deep within ourselves. Billy Graham described it best, “Evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where he can find bread.” You see, a system of theology has its place, but the lost at large have a deep hunger for simple peace and contentment of soul and body, not a tangled maze of theological analysis. They are like sheep looking for a shepherd to lead them to luscious green pastures. The simple seek the simplicity even a child can understand. Jesus said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 19:14). Just so, every pastor has a flock gathered round him innocently believing his good words and fair speeches. They are trusting that he is telling them the whole truth, leaving nothing out, withholding no solemn warnings. As the saying goes, they are “putty in his hands,” and God will hold such pastors fully accountable in judgment. Ministers should be reminded of the horrible end of the Jim Jones cult. He led them to a mass suicide of more than 900 followers! Ministers had best preach the simple truth of the Gospel, all of it, leaving nothing out, service after service, and all for the right reason, in a spirit of humility, but with and by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
Paul told the Galatian churches, which had grown cold and drifted from his original message, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8 ). Admonitions to preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth do not come any stronger than that razored thrust from the Holy Spirit’s sword in Paul’s hand. One need only to read Paul’s epistles to see the whole of what he had preached to these Galatians. It is all there! In brief, he preached Christ’s life, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, the sending back the Comforter on the day of Pentecost, the Pentecostal order of the church, bodily healing, miracles, deliverance from demons, the return of Christ, the final judgment, purity of living, and the horror of Hell. He left nothing out!
That, friends, is the whole Gospel truth. Therefore, any preacher or teacher who claims to be a minister of the Gospel but fails to preach it all virtually every time he steps behind a pulpit or Bible class is indeed guilty of “Good words and fair speeches,” and is in grave danger of Paul’s “accursed.” No, the genuine ministry of the Gospel is not for sissies, the fearful, or the cautious. It can get one burned at the stake or decapitated. It can get one thrown out of a church, reduced to poverty, or deprive one of friends and even family. Ask Jeremiah.
But there is yet more here than we want to think: we just finished quoting Galatians 1:8 above, but look at verse nine. Paul is not kidding in verse eight about the “accursed” part, for he says the same thing again. He fully intended that any “other” gospel than his is “accursed.” We tend to think “erroneous gospel” is meant, and it is included, but to preach only a part of Paul’s Gospel is indeed “another gospel” because it is theft of the whole truth! To preach Christ but not his resurrection is “another gospel.” Preaching only the grace of Christ but ignoring the wrath of God’s Hell-fire judgment for those who reject him, is only half the truth, better described as a “feel-good” gospel. To focus on going to heaven while ignoring the vital peculiarity of living a holy life above sin is to lead innocent Christians to Satan’ s slaughterhouse. God said flatly, “Be ye holy for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Pushing the idea of Gospel evangelism while stealing the infilling of the Comforter of Acts 2 is like sending innocent children into battle alone. Such peanut gospels Paul pronounced “accursed,” and pulpiteers would do well to remember that. Hell’s fires will be hottest for those who for selfish reasons won’t enter themselves, but who stand in the way of those who would enter, but can’t because of wolves in sheep’s clothing standing squarely in the way to the whole truth of the Gospel (Acts 20:27-30).