If I Don’t Preach on Hell
Text: I Corinthians 9:16-23
I. It won’t take you long to find out that the topic of Hell is not popular among the denominations of the world
A. The Jehovah’s Witnesses declare that it doesn’t exist. Nor do the Episcopals, Methodists, and some Baptists want to discuss the matter.
B. A survey of 750 denominational preachers in Scotland in December 2005 found, “The doctrine of hell is downplayed by most of today's churches, even by those who still believe in it.” It concluded: “The fire and brimstone of the past may largely have been extinguished.” [“Church Survey Shows Hell Beliefs”, BBC News, December 4, 2005]
C. Another survey of evangelical seminary students found:
1. Nearly half, 46%, felt preaching about hell to unbelievers is in “poor taste.”
2. 30% of self professed “born again” people surveyed believe “good” people will go to heaven when they die; even if they’ve never followed Christ.
3. 10% of evangelicals say they believe that the concept of sin is outmoded. [John F. MacArthur, Jr., Ashamed of the Gospel, Crossway Books, 1993, p. 65]
D. The denominational world seeks popular doctrine, and the topic of hell is just not what people want to hear mention. They don’t want to be told they might be wrong. They don’t want to be reminded that they are accountable for their actions.
1. In fact, I believe it is a strong motivator behind the mantra of “faith without works” and “once saved, always saved.”
2. They are feeding the delusion that what I do doesn’t matter. The sins that I might commit, they don’t matter. I’m okay and you’re okay just the way we are.
II. If I don’t preach on hell, then I’m not preaching the whole counsel of God - Acts 20:27
A. Preachers must preach the word - II Timothy 4:1-5
B. That means the whole truth – the woes along with the blessings - Romans 11:22
C. God is going to punish sinners! - Romans 2:2-9
D. Paul, who said he taught the whole counsel of God, told his same audience - Acts 20:20
1. Realize this: Not teaching about Hell, judgment, and eternal damnation means we are leaving out something people need to hear and understand
2. Sometimes I think people are trying to be more polite and kinder than God!
a. Someone once calculated that 13% of Jesus’ teaching was on hell and judgment.
b. Half of his parables were about the judgment
c. Example: Matthew 13:47-51
E. Who benefits if Hell is downplayed? Why Satan!
1. Satan doesn’t want people frightened about that horrible place of eternal condemnation.
2. He would have a hard time filling the place if people had a preview.
3. For you see, people are often lazy. There is no need to change if staying as you are has not consequences.
III. If I don’t preach on hell, then I’m not following the examples found in the Bible
A. Consider this: Is preaching about Hell a part of preaching the good news?
1. What is the good news? Is it not that Jesus came and died to save us from our sins? - I Corinthians 15:1-3
2. Save us from what? Is it not the consequences of our sins? - Romans 6:23
3. Can you teach about salvation without warning about a person’s current predicament?
4. Suppose you had a pain in your side. Is it cruel for the doctor to tell you that you have appendicitis and that you need emergency surgery otherwise you will die?
a. Why would the doctor scare you will such things?
b. Why, to save your life!
5. People are dying and they need saving before it is too late!
B. Who talked about Hell?
1. Moses - Deuteronomy 32:22
2. Job - Job 26:6
3. David - II Samuel 22:6
a. He even composes psalms about it - Psalm 9:17; 11:6; 18:5
a. Romans 9:22 - vessels of wrath
b. He wept over it, but ... - Philippians 3:18-19
c. Certainty of it - I Thessalonians 5:3; II Thessalonians 1:7-9
5. John, the apostle of love
a. Consider how John described Hell in Revelation
b. A bottomless pit of smoke and a furnace - Revelation 9:1-2
c. A lake of fire - Revelation 19:20
d. Endless torment - Revelation 20:10
e. People will end up there - Revelation 20:14-15
a. No one ever talk like Him - John 7:46
b. As we mentioned before, He often spoke of hell
(1) In the sermon on the mount - Matthew 5:22
(2) Warnings to the Jews - Matthew 23:33 (talk about politically incorrect!)
(3) Not just for the devil - Matthew 25:41
c. Consider Jesus’ description
(1) A broad way that leads to destruction - Matthew 7:13
(2) A place to lose your soul - Matthew 16:26
(3) Outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth - Matthew 25:30
(4) Eternal punishment - Matthew 25:46
(5) Eternal condemnation - Mark 3:29
(6) Unquenchable fire - Mark 9:43-44
d. Our Savior spoke more about hell than anyone else recorded in the Bible
(1) We ought to fear it - Matthew 10:28
(2) If we do not believe - Mark 16:16
IV. If I don’t preach on Hell, I don’t have love
A. Converting a sinner saves his soul from death - James 5:20
1. That is what preaching is all about – saving souls
a. Continue in the doctrine - I Timothy 4:16
b. A fruit of righteousness - Proverbs 11:30
B. Paul used every means available to him - I Corinthians 9:19-23
1. He used every tool available to him
2. The false prophets of Israel didn’t love the people - Jeremiah 6:14
a. Because they left the people in their sins, they died
b. How is that love?
3. Jude 21-23 - varying methods
4. Knowing the terror of the Lord - II Corinthians 5:11
5. Hebrews 10:31 - Fear is a motivator!
a. Do you remember as a child saying, “I can’t. If my folks found out they’d kill me.”
b. Fear has a place.
C. “But I believe in a God of love, not vengeance.”
1. How did you learn of God’s love?
2. Only in the Bible is the full depth of God’s love is revealed.
3. But the same book that teaches us of His love, warns us of His anger.
V. If I don’t preach on Hell, I take the teeth out of the Gospel
A. R. W. Dale was a Congregationalist minister in Britain who did not believe in eternal punishment, but before he died, he sighed and said, “No one fears God nowadays.”
1. Why should they?
2. If a preacher doesn’t believe in hell, then why should any need to listen to him?
3. If there is no hell, then there is nothing to worry about after death.
B. Why is it that morality is slipping? - Psalm 36:1
1. “The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a deadly opiate for the conscience of millions.” [A. W. Tozer]
2. Most Americans believe that Satan is merely a symbol for evil.
3. While 89% of Americans believe in Heaven, only 31% believe in a place of actual torment where people will be sent. [ Humphrey Taylor, “Large Majority of People Believe They Will Go to Heaven,” Harris Poll, 1998]
4. Less that 25% believe they or their friends will go to Hell. [“Beliefs: Heaven and Hell”, Barna Research Online, 1996]
5. But Jesus gives greater odds - Matthew 7:13-14
C. Again, recall what Paul said - II Corinthians 5:11
VI. If I don’t preach on Hell, I will go to Hell
A. If a preacher neglects to warn, then the sinner’s blood is on his hands - Ezekiel 3:17-21
B. David understood this - Psalm 51:14
C. Paul lived by this principle - Acts 20:26-27
D. James warned about the responsibility - James 3:1
E. God doesn’t want people to die, but the wicked will - Ezekiel 33:11-20
VII. If I don’t preach on Hell, you may go there!
A. “The safest road to hell is the gradual one, the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” [C.S. Lewis]
B. A sermon on Hell is a “signpost.” It is an opportunity to consider where one is going and to change direction if necessary.
C. Peter Cartwright, a nineteenth-century preacher, was an uncompromising man. One Sunday morning when he was about to preach, he was told that President Andrew Jackson was in the congregation. He was warned not to say anything out of line. When Cartwright stood to preach, he said, “I understand that Andrew Jackson is here. I have been requested to be guarded in my remarks. Andrew Jackson will go to hell if he doesn’t repent!” The congregation was in shock! How would the President respond? After services, President Jackson shook hands with Peter Cartwright and said, “Sir, if I had a regiment of men like you, I could whip the world.”
D. There is nothing keeping you out of hell, but God’s patience - II Peter 3:9
1. Those who do not believe are already condemned - John 3:18
2. God is not holding off because of any obligation to the wicked. He is allowing time for some to change.
3. But if you will not change - Hebrews 10:29-31
[Based on an article by Allan Webster]