What do pastors themselves need in order to preach on hell?
Preaching on hell is no easy task. What do pastors themselves need in order to do it well?
- Courage. Many people will accuse you of having a harsh spirit and a bigoted mind for simply believing in hell, much less preaching it.
- Commitment. Faithfully preaching the gospel, including the hell it saves us from, demands a desire to live for Christ (2 Cor. 5:15) and to see men and women brought to Christ which is greater than our native desire for security and popularity.
- A truly biblical perspective. Sinful humanity naturally looks at life through the wrong end of the telescope. For them time is long and eternity is short; this life is large, the afterlife is small; this world is real, the world to come is unreal. This is what it means to live “according to the flesh” rather than “according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:4). But a Christian looks at life in the light of the destination to which it leads, and sees every person within that framework.
- A deep awareness of our calling. We must know who we are called to be in order to resist the temptation to round off the sharp edges of the gospel. The Christian preacher is a debtor because through Christ he has himself been delivered from future judgment (Rom. 1:14). He is a steward, because the message of reconciliation has been committed to him (2 Cor. 5:19). He is to employ the resources provided by his Lord, not to diminish, add to, or transform them. He is also an ambassador, whose task is always to represent his Master and faithfully to deliver his message.
(This material has been adapted from Sinclair Ferguson’s chapter, “The Preacher and Hell,” in Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, eds., Hell Under Fire [Zondervan, 2004])