Can We Have Too Much "Positive" Preaching?

by Greg Gwin

We readily acknowledge the importance of positive preaching. Brethren need the “comfort of the Scriptures” (Romans 15:4). Paul sent Tychicus to the Ephesians so that he could “comfort your hearts." Timothy was dispatched to Philippi (Philippians 2:9) and Thessalonica (I Thessalonians 3:2) in order to comfort the brethren. Clearly, this kind of positive encouragement is essential. The Bible has much to say about it. No one denies this.

There are, however, some among us who are determined to only preach positive things. They want to specialize in positive preaching and to emphasize only those things which (they claim) are designed to “build up” the hearers. They will not deal with controversial topics, and they refuse to spend time rebuking the sins and weaknesses that exist in men’s lives.

This “positive” approach fails to present the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), and at least two serious consequences will follow:

  1. Christians will not be admonished to root out the evil that is in their lives. We must “put off the old man” (Colossians 3:9). We will never become the “new man” that we ought to be (Colossians 3:10) until we have been instructed adequately in this regard.
  2. Christians will become conditioned to only want this sort of teaching and preaching. After having a steady diet of positive emphasis, brethren will lose all tolerance for forceful preaching on important doctrinal and moral issues. The apostle Paul anticipated such a scenerio: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (II Timothy 4:3).

We are not at liberty to be “specialists” in only one aspect of the work. If we emphasize the positive while neglecting the negative, we have not done “the work of an evangelist” (II Timothy 4:5). Our job involves both the positive and the negative. We are to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” (II Timothy 4:2).