“Preaching On Sin”

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine”(2 Timothy 4:2).  “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

Preaching on sin; how the pendulum has swung even in my lifetime on this issue. Many my age and older will recall when sin was regularly addressed from the pulpit boldly and forthrightly. However now there’s (in my observation) far less preaching on sin and a great reluctance among many preachers to address sin specifically.  I have given some thought as to why this is so

1. Preaching on sin is seen as “legalistic.” Let me address several understandings of legalism as I have heard the word used:

  • Legalism is a system where it is preached or assumed that following a certain set of rules is the source of salvation. That is; what we do or don’t do in following these rules determines our eternal destiny. The faithful preacher must forcefully renounce this form of legalism.  The Biblical teaching is that we are saved by grace through our faith in Christ and His finished work.
  • Legalism to many means a varying list of man-made rules regarding all manner of issues such as dress, entertainment, technology, etc. These issues vary by geography, denominational background and age.  Brooksyne speaks of growing up with “clothesline” preaching where the preacher specifically addressed specific dress standards (usually focusing on the women).  She really didn’t understand grace till Bible College. The faithful Biblical pastor will see that any addressing of and denunciation of sin has a solid Biblical foundation and is not merely a cultural or personal preference.

However the man of God must be committed to preaching the whole counsel of God including addressing sin and its terrible consequences. Proclaiming the moral standards of Scripture is not legalism!

2. Preaching on sin may turn off newcomers or “seekers.” That’s true, particularly in this age of relativism in which we live. However the proclamation of God’s truth should not be motivated by this as long as the message also contains the gospel of redemption.

3. We need to focus on the positive and God’s love and grace. Absolutely, but again proclaiming the whole counsel of God will certainly include addressing sin.

4. This behavior is so popular and it’s now legal or “constitutional”. This is a major detriment to sound Biblical preaching. Many behaviors that were once recognized as sinful have become popular and  legalized according to the laws of man.  The law of God is far greater and our mission is to proclaim His law as truth rather than man’s.

5. We are not to judge others and we are to be tolerant of all. These are two of the dominant attitudes of our day. The apostle Paul, in practicing church discipline, passed judgment on the immoral brother and certainly did not tolerate his behavior in 1 Corinthians 5.

6. Addressing these behaviors is hateful and mean-spirited. This is silencing many preachers of righteousness. We are flooded with new meanings for hateful and mean-spirited, particularly if its addressing sins that are politically correct and have growing acceptance in society at large.

7. It will make those who may be involved in the sinful behavior feel bad about themselves. Better to feel bad and hear and hopefully heed a warning than live in ignorance.

8. Pastors may feel they shouldn’t address a subject matter unless they have it 100% conquered. Certainly we should expect our pastors to live a righteous life and not be a hypocrite. As the Spirit deals with them they should repent of their sin, seek to please God, and be an example to their spiritual flock.  However they should proclaim God’s Word even though they may not have fully attained.

A corollary attitude from the pew may be a feeling that the pastor shouldn’t preach on any subject matter unless he himself has no problems with it or any other issue.  You would have to wait for a perfect pastor (none exist) or more likely one who is proud and self-deceived!

9. People just don’t want to hear this kind of preaching anymore. Indeed some don’t. But our call to preach the Word and proclaim the full counsel of God is not based on popularity polls.  But let me speak here as one earnest Christian in the pew (as I normally am now since I am not in pastoral ministry at this time and thus regularly preaching from the pulpit. I feel I speak for many but of course not all.)

  • A strong denunciation of sin may not be the most “enjoyable” message but I am challenged and edified when I hear God’s truth proclaimed and sin denounced.
  • The issue addressed may apply directly to me.  Ouch! That can bring conviction, a healthy work of the Holy Spirit.   May the Holy Spirit keep my heart soft so that I may feel His conviction and deal with the troubling matter in my life rather than blame the pastor for preaching the Word. My discerning response should not be “this sure annoys me” but rather “is this true according to the Scriptures and what action should I take.”  If it is I need to deal with it and thank God for a preacher who cares enough and is bold enough to bring it to my attention.

10. The pastor may not have it completely right when seeking to apply a Biblical principle to a modern issue. That may be so but if you value your pastor you should also value his counsel, input, and thoughtful study on current matters. Listen as a Berean checking the Scriptures yourself.

11. Even issues very specifically addressed in the Bible may tend to be skirted around or in some cases reinterpreted from what has been their normal understanding. I am also wary of what some new translations and paraphrases are doing with words and traditional understanding of sinful actions.

May God help me and my many pastor friends to truly preach the whole counsel of God!

Stephen C. Weber

Please note: Certainly I am aware that many pastors continue to boldly address sin and my pastor has tackled many of these topics.

Also note that we expect to keep working on this article and welcome your comments/perspective.



Filed under Ministry, Preaching

7 responses to ““Preaching On Sin”

  1. Tina Bielefeldt

    Thank you for addressing the issue of sin. In my church, the pastor has progressively adopted an attitude of tolerance. Scriptures regarding “touchy” issues are simply omitted. Rather than encouraging the congregation to live pure lives and turn from sin, he encourages us to accept others where they are at and to merely put a hand on their shoulder and be there for them until they figure it out. I have not been comfortable with this teaching and appreciate your uncompromising approach to the Gospel. I have stayed at the church because I don’t want to be a church hopper, but yet the preaching is very deceptive. Every time the pastor says that we should love and never offend, I feel like we are being taught to be friends of the world. I want to say, “But, the gospel is an offense to those who aren’t saved.” The church has become so afraid that it is the lukewarm church of Revelations.

  2. Jamie Fuller

    If we want to be a light to the world we have got to have some light in our lives. More importantly, we need to learn to trust God in EVERYTHING. I will never gamble (and that includes lotteries) because it is a sure indication that I would be trusting in luck rather than God. I will not let anything come between me and trusting God. I have found that I get into trouble whenever I cease to trust God. I begin to worry over things that should be brought before God. I begin to seek comfort in things rather than seeking the Comforter. Stephen, I hope you will continue being a straight-talker because the truth can be elusive to needy people when it is veiled by politically-correct “nice” people.

  3. Robert O'Brien

    In many of the various denoinations of the faith the issue of sin has been replaced by encouraging the flock to be tolerant and inclusive. The result is that there is no real salvation preached and no means to amend ones life is offered. This tolerance and inclusivity is thought to allow the church to grow, but in my experience just the opposite occures. Take, for example, the Episcopal Church. It is preaching tolerance of same sex relationships and as a result is has lost more that half of its members and more are leaving every day. If there is no preaching about sin and salvation there is no point in continuing to be a member of the church. I recommend that people caught up in an inclusive church look for an evangelical one instead.

  4. Mike Book

    Thanks Steve, for your courage in proclaiming the word of truth. God’s warnings against sin are the most loving act He could display. If we were allowed to do whatever we wanted without ever being challenged to do right, the natural consequences of sin would surely bring us death. But thanks be to God, His grace is sufficient to give us power to say no to sin and to follow His good way. We are blessed as we obey God’s holy word and live faithfully by it. When we stray, His Spirit calls us back into right relationship and endeavors to restore our relationship as we repent and turn from sin. Keep proclaiming God’s word including the clear declaration of what sin is and what it will do to us. This loving message must be heeded by everyone who desires to walk with the Lord. His forgiveness is available and powerful when we fall and His power extends to us to reconcile us as loved sons and daughters as we call on His name and claim the cleansing that is ours through Jesus Christ. Stay faithful!

  5. Ann Marie Evans

    Legal stuff…legalities…legalism….?
    For example, sex between two people of the same gender is a sin and yucky to even think about. However, I recognize love when I see it, whether between two people or of one person for God. How can I condemn?

    That’s just one example.

    Who am I to judge, to tell someone, “You’re going to go to hell”?

    EVERYONE I have ever heard speak out on sin (or read what is written about it), whether a specific sin or sin in general, comes across as vicious and condemning. No where have I heard or read (underline the word I)the statement of fact about sin AND the corresponding statement of grace for stopping sinning. IF grace is mentioned at all, it’s as an after-fact.
    As a former teacher in a reform school, the students I reached (no matter what their crime) were the ones for whom I could show love. Condemnation

  6. Teresa Davis

    I totally believe there should be more preaching against sin……..I feel there is not enough of it in our churches today.
    A lot of preachers just tiptoe around it because they
    are afraid that they will step on someones toes.
    Well, so be it !!! If the shoe fits wear it !!!!!
    It’s time our preachers today, had a backbone like a crowbar and told the world the truth about sin.
    You cannot, and will not go to Heaven with sin in your life!!! Sorry,but that’s the way it is!!!
    You must be without spot or blemish, pure and white in the blood of the lamb.
    And sin in your life is a spot or a blemish.
    A lot of people may not know that,but that’s where the preachers need to step in and tell them.
    So if it steps on their toes, big deal,it’s better to have your toes stepped on than to go to HELL !!!
    So I am all for preachers preaching on SIN !!!!

  7. This lack of preachers preaching the Word of God and the failure of mainstream christianity in confronting sin are two of the issues that have influenced me to enter into ministry.
    How can the Holy Spirit “convict” one of sin if the preacher refuses to preach it???
    How can one know that He is a sinner in need of a savior, it you don’t preach that man is fallen and corrupt.
    I am so tired of seeing the world in the church and the church in the world, it is time to preach the Word to the house can be cleaned.
    The church would rather let someone live in bondage and have a false sense of salvation rather than telling someone the truth, that they are headed to hell.
    I saw a sign the other day while I was driving, it said, lane ends-merge left. It is time that christians stop living the way that they “feel” is right and begin to live for God all the way. There is a way that seemeth right unto man, but the end thereof is death. We need to get off of our path and begin to “merge” with the instruction of God’s Word in order to avoid inevitable destruction.
    Preach “the Word” in season (when they will hear it) and out of season (when they don’t want to hear it).

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