After a sermon a couple weeks ago, someone from my church with whom I have a great relationship mentioned to me that I have a particular habit when I preached. Bracing myself, I asked them to elaborate. In essence, they said, “When you preach, you do this thing where you change your voice then state a possible objection to what you or the Bible says.” So I listened over my sermon again, and sure enough they were right!
I was preaching on James 5:13-20, stating all the different conditions that Christians go through, and noted that in each of these issues, James tells us to ‘pray/praise.’ So, I lowered the register in my voice and said, “Now some of you will say, [lower voice here], ‘Bro. Matt, what kind of advice is that? Are you saying we should just pray?” [Back to normal voice here.] To which I exhorted them, “Yes, you should.” And away I went.
I’m not sure why I did this or where this habit came from—maybe to provide variety? Even so, what about this (not the voice, the idea of stating objections only to answer them)?
Since I practice this in my preaching, my natural tendency is to say, “Yes.” While some may believe I’m not giving people enough credit, my response is that I’ve met too many people and know what so many are thinking. After a while, you begin to see a pattern and know what the world’s system will object to (see 1 Peter 3:15-16).
Biblical Examples of Preaching With Objections in Mind
Without doing an entire survey of the Scriptures, I do believe a survey of Paul’s epistle to the Romans would suffice. At certain points in Romans, he brings forth a question to propel his argument. Here are some examples:
- “Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:3-4)? Paul saw the objections from the Jews: they were the chosen people of God from the seed of Abraham. They were bullet-proof. But if the fruit of their lives showed that they were not redeemed, they would not escape judgment.
- “So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision” (Romans 2:26)? The Jews could not understand how an uncircumcised Gentile could be accepted by God. But as Acts 10-11 show, the Spirit was falling on the Gentiles too when they received Jesus as their Messiah as well. And it had nothing to do with surgery! They showed their circumcision was of the heart, not of the flesh. Objection answered!
- “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” (Romans 6:1-2a). At the end of Romans 5, Paul spoke on how great sin was, but how much greater is grace! Some were using this as justification for their sin so to magnify God’s grace. He understood the objection and addressed it!
- “What then? Are we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means” (Romans 6:15). Since “sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (6:14), some said you could indulge in sin because it will not touch your eternal position! Paul struck down that objection in a hurry.
- “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means” (Romans 7:7)! Since Christ came to release us from the power and threat of the law, then the law must be bad. Throw out the Old Testament! No, Paul says. The law shows where God’s boundaries lay. We know what sin is! “The law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.”
These examples show an important principle: we must not only preach to the convinced converted, but also to the unaccepting unbeliever! And let’s not forget the struggling saint who is still doing battle with the world, the flesh, and the oppression of the devil (the unholy Trinity).
I teach 11th grade apologetics at Blue Grass Baptist School here in Lexington, Kentucky. One of the issues they tell me in regards to preaching is that the preachers always assume their hearers (especially the younger hearers) know more than they do. They rattle off Bible verses, then just go on before they really understand what the Word is saying. And the result is tragic: they lose interest in the most interesting Book written by the most Interesting Being in the Universe.
Maybe understanding the Word, but also having possible objections in mind would help make that all important connection from “Jerusalem to Lexington” (or insert your city in place of Lexington).
What think ye? Have you come across this issue lately? How have you addressed this?