Some years ago I noticed a rather disturbing trend among some of my Reformed Baptist friends. They did not feel like they had been preached to if their consciences were not pressed and if they were not made to doubt their salvation. Preaching that was encouraging to them and especially that assumed that they were in a right relationship with God was sub par, broadly evangelical, lacking in conviction, and bite. This was as much a problem of the pew as of the pulpit. I realized at times that I was preaching more in the mode of an Old Testament prophet than a New Covenant shepherd of sheep. The Old Covenant prophets, by and large, ministered in dark days. They preached to the consciences of impenitent Jews who fancied that all was well based upon their bloodlines and rituals. As we come into the New Testament we find Jesus and John and to some degree Peter, Paul, and even Stephen continuing in this prophetic mode as they command repentance for their great evil. How different this tone, in general is from the epistles of Paul. In letters meant to be read and expounded in the church, there is the tone brotherly love and spiritual certainty (you are saints, you are loved, you are kept, you have the Spirit, etc). This is the overall tenor of Gospel ministry and if we are laboring in true churches (full of converted people who love the Lord) then our sermons ought to reflect the people to whom I am preaching. If I am preaching to New Covenant converted believers as though they were Old Covenant unconverted Jews, then I am not being faithful.
Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. There is the need for reproof, correction, the pointing out of sin, the exhortation to duty, and there is even a place for sharp reproof when necessary (see Paul’s words to Titus regarding the Cretans in Titus 1:12, 13). There is at times, the tragic necessity of prophetic preaching in the flock, exhortations to self examination need to be made, the possibility of false professions must not be ignored, but we must bring them in biblical proportion and with a clear perspective on the spiritual state of the Lord’s people.James Savastio The Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville