Convincing Bible Preaching

Effective preaching allows the scriptures to speak through the preacher

CARLYLE B. HAYNES, Former Secretary, General Conference War Service Commission

The thing that pro­foundh interested and im­pressed me, when I finally agreed to attend that series of nightly meetings in the big tent, was the way the preacher used his Bible. His familiarity with the Bible was the one thing that was most in evidence.

I had refused to go to these meetings when they had started. The strong urgings of some of my loved ones had been resisted. Then word began to circulate through the city that unusually large crowds were at­tending. The preacher was reported to be a most convincing speaker. A considerable number of my friends were attending. The meetings were making quite a stir in town. Everywhere people were discussing what they had heard.

I still remained away. I knew what many of my friends did not know. This preacher was a Seventh-day Adventist, and I wanted none of his teachings. I belonged to one of the largest, and certainly the most popular, churches in the city, a young people's church, with teeming youth activities, in all of which I took a most pleasurable part. Our pastor was the most popular minister in the city. I was quite content with my religion and my church, and saw no reason to be chasing after something new and different.

It had been my good fortune to be brought up with a profound respect for the Bible. Knowing very little about it, I nevertheless believed it to be the Word of God, the center of authority for the Christian faith. This it never occurred to me to question or doubt.

When I was finally persuaded to attend the meetings at the tent, what impressed me most, as I have indicated, was the way the preacher handled his Bible. He made no statement without backing it up at once by turning to the Bible and reading a pas­sage that supported it. Text after text was referred to, and most dexterously located without the slightest hesitation. The whole sermon seemed to me to be a perfect creation, beautifully shaped and molded, with every part made to fit precisely into every other part, with skillful articulation and jointure, until a complete, rounded whole emerged.

Let the Bible Speak

It was the most convincing thing I had ever heard. To any person who accepted the Bible as the foundation of faith there was nothing further to be said, not even any question to be raised. It was final. That particular subject was settled for all time to come. And all because the preacher took everything—and I mean everything—to the Bible and let the Bible speak. It was the Bible that settled everything. It was not human teaching. It was not a man giving his opinion. It was the living Word declar­ing the truth of the living God.

Of course, I returned the next night. I had to know whether the address I had heard was an exception. Was this preacher able to maintain the standard he had reached in the address I had heard, or had I stumbled upon a brilliant exception? No, he did it again. The way he handled that Bible was the most fascinating thing I had ever seen. He seemed to know it from end to end. There was no fumbling to locate a text, but he had it while he was talking about it. Every pronouncement he made was solidly anchored to a scriptural passage. The structure he was building was solidly based upon the rock, the impregnable rock, of the Word of God. He did not depart from it in any instance. The finished prod­uct became an irremovable part of my world of beliefs for all time to come.

You will readily understand that I did not refuse to attend any meeting after that. I was there every night as long as the meet­ings lasted. That is how I came to recognize new truth. I could not resist a thing like that. It persuaded me, it won me, it drove me, it compelled me, to turn away from all else and cast in my lot with this people, unite with this movement, give myself to the proclamation of truth. It was not the man who did it. It was the Bible—the Bible—which was made central in all things.

Making the Bible—not entertainment, not pictures, not visual aids, not stories, not dramatic skits and playlets—central in preaching has always produced the same results. It always will. Why have we ever substituted anything else for it? And has the time not fully come for us now to dis­card all other things and restore the Bible to its proper place of centrality in our preaching?

The Bible—Supreme in Pulpit, Education, and Life

Make the Bible supreme in the pulpit. It is the bread of heaven, with which Christ's ministers are to feed their flock. Let them have "the sincere milk of the word." Nothing provides such an antidote to fanaticism, such a corrective of false Christianity, as the Bible. Nothing else is to be substituted for it. Let the ministers of God carry out their orders to "preach the word." Anything else is a betrayal of sacred trust, and places in the utmost peril the souls under their care. Themes that are not Biblical do not make wise unto salvation. It is by the Inspired Scriptures that men of God are "throughly furnished unto all good works." It is by the Word of God that men are drawn from their wander­ings back to the "good way," where they "shall find rest" unto their souls. If the work of God is to advance from strength to strength and from conquest to conquest, the Inspired Word must be enthroned in the seat of instruction, and the everlasting gospel must be preached from the pulpit.

Make the Bible supreme in education. It has been banned, and perhaps properly, from the schools of the state, which are not designed to, and cannot, train men to be subjects of the kingdom of heaven. But the Bible must not be disparaged in schools of Christian learning. Above all, it must have effective play in the Sabbath school, and not be crowded out by secular themes. It should not be perfunctorily handled and taught, but with clear understanding and intelligence explained and lovingly pressed home to the heart. Only so can our youth be rightly trained. Only so can the man­hood and womanhood of the race be leav­ened with wholesome principles.

Make the Bible supreme in every life. This will lead to that righteousness by which a nation is exalted. Without the Bible there would have been no Protestant Christianity. Without Protestant Christian­ity there would have been no such freedom in the world as we see today, nor the com­merce, the industries, the wealth, the prog­ress of civilization. Its teachings penetrate the consciences of millions. Because of its presence the vicious are less vicious; crime, if not checked, is restrained; atheism is driven back by the knowledge of God; and the powers of evil are held in leash. Let a people exalt the Bible and its divine teach­ings in their lives, and that nation will be founded on the truth and justice of God.

The intrinsic worth of the Bible was never greater than it is today. Its benefi­cent influence was never needed more than it is now. Among those nations that sit in darkness and the shadow of death, its light is urgently needed. To the millions who know not God it brings news of a loving heavenly Father. To the sin-cursed and hopeless of every nation it brings the glad tidings that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," and that He "is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him." Its "good tidings of great joy" are to be taken into all the world. It does not be­long to any class or nation; it is not the monopoly of the preacher or student; it belongs to the millions of all races and peoples. They are entitled to it. And the church of Christ is bound by its funda­mental principles never to rest until the Bible and its glorious message of salva­tion and the coming kingdom of Christ are within the reach of every man throughout all the world.

Those of us who have it, how we should cherish, love, meditate on, and appropri­ate to ourselves its immense wealth of knowledge and instruction—that wisdom that "cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof."

Note:

*The closing paragraphs in this article are taken from one of the chapters in God's Book by the same author.—Editors.

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CARLYLE B. HAYNES, Former Secretary, General Conference War Service Commission

April 1957

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