For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod or in love and a spirit of gentleness? (1 Corinthians 4:20-21)
Preaching is as old as the world because sin has been around since the beginning of time. The object of preaching is to reveal the mind of God to sinful man. Noah is called a preacher of righteousness in a world of complete depravity. Solomon calls himself a preacher, the son of David. Prophets were more preachers than discerners of the future, but their message was the same – to cause the people to repent and turn to the Lord. John the Baptist began his ministry before Jesus to prepare the way for the master preacher. When Jesus began His ministry, the people were astonished at His teaching. As the perfect Son of God, Jesus is the example of kingdom preaching.
The sermon on the mount is an example of Jesus preaching to soothe the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. He dealt with controversial subjects with candor. Comparing the philosophies of the religious elite of His day and the Law of Moses, the Lord showed the hypocrisy of their teachings, reaffirming the eternal truths of His Father. The people recognized the authoritative volume of the preaching of Jesus by His clarity of speech. Throughout His ministry, Jesus would preach sermons of comfort and assurance and, when the occasion arose, would scorch the hard hearts of the people in fiery sermons of rebuke. He tells a woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more and tells the scribes and Pharisees they compass land and sea to win one convert and make him twice as much a son of hell as themselves. Preaching for Jesus was steel and velvet.
When Paul writes his first letter to the church at Corinth, he has a laundry list of problems and no small way to address them. The church was racked with division, carnality, immorality, rebellion, false doctrine and brethren lacking love for one another. He begins his letter with commendation and love for them, but then he begins to chip away at the church’s huge problems with words of rebuke, chastening, harshness, and plain speech. It was a letter of intense feeling. Paul could have written a friendly letter to thank them for their faithfulness, or he could have written them a scathing letter of criticism. He chose to do both. Mixed within the pages of his epistle to Corinth, the apostle came with a rod and in love and a spirit of gentleness.
Kingdom preaching is about the message of the rod and the plea of comfort and commendation. The only kind of true preaching is the proper mixture of both. Examining the preaching of Jesus will find how the Lord used the rod when necessary and words of love and gentleness on the other. This is the outline of the letter to Corinth. Paul used a rod to punish the brethren, but he also shared with them his love for them. That is kingdom preaching. When a preacher does nothing but preaches the rod, he creates an audience of resentful, angry, depressed, and hopeless souls. If a man refuses to preach the rod and only fluffs the sermons with love and joy, he creates a community of soft, shallow, and hopeless souls filled with their own self-worth lacking any courage or faith. Kingdom preaching must be the message of severity when needed and the sermon of goodness as needed.
The result of Paul’s letter to Corinth is found in his second letter to Corinth. He came down hard on the brethren for allowing the man with his father’s wife to go unchecked. Because of the kingdom preaching of Paul, the brethren did what he asked them to do – in love. The brethren were made sorry which led to repentance. That is the wonderful work of kingdom preaching. There are times people need to be reminded of the severity of God. He will punish the disobedient, there is a consequence to sin, and there is a place of eternal punishment. Sin must be addressed clearly and with the power of the word of God, without reservation. A man who refuses to preach against sin is a spiritual coward unworthy of the pulpit. Browbeating the saints is not the work of the preacher. A man of faith must preach of faith and show that faith in his life. Kingdom preaching is about grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, and hope. Preach the rod and preach love and gentleness. That is kingdom preaching.