Ecclesiastes has long been my favorite book of the Bible. For those who know their Bibles, this may seem a bit strange, considering alternative favorites like: the Gospel of John, Romans, or Hebrews. For those who know me, and know their Bibles, you might have some new insight into why I minister the way I do. As a later convert to Christianity, I spent the first thirty years of my life in churches that refused to tell it like it is in reality. Ecclesiastes is truth, and this is where the truth hurts.
If I told you there was one book of the Bible titled, “the preacher,” in Hebrew, would you know which book it is? Ecclesiastes is actually titled, “Qoheleth,” which means, “the preacher.” It is part of the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, and its human author is believed to be, Solomon, a son of David. The book oozes with wisdom. This is no ordinary wisdom. It is wisdom regarding our lives in the world.
The preacher tells the truth about the world, and the truth about every person born into the world. The refrain from the book is represented in the phrase, “vanity of vanities.” Here is the bad news for the world of men. Futility pervades our hearts and minds, for there is no hope in money, power, sex, possessions, wisdom, or even having a nice garden.
This bad news message from the Bible is despised and rejected by people. Look around you and determine what excites humanity, today. How are people spending their days? What has them talking, texting, and tweeting? Are they conversing about their vain realities? Are they shocked by death? Are they concerned for their souls?
The preacher claims there is a time for everything (Eccl 3:1). “A time to be silent and a time to speak (Eccl 3:7).” This is close to my heart passion, which is, “a time to preach and a time to preach louder.”
Telling people their lives are vain and futile requires a preacher. A conversation on this uncomfortable subject only invites opposition and philosophical debate. If one wishes to waste time, he can engage the fruitless opinion of self-absorbed men looking for self-justification. The alternative is to read and learn Ecclesiastes, in order to preach the bad news of universal pointlessness.
One may object by proposing, “we should tell people God loves them, instead.” We must reply to this objection with Gospel truth. If Christ demonstrates God’s love for sinners by dying on the Cross (Rom 5:8), as a substitutionary sacrifice for sins (1 Pet 2:24), then the good news is clearly the antidote for the bad news (Rom 1:16–17), which is found in Ecclesiastes and lots of other places in the Bible.
God’s love for sinners can only be interpreted at the Cross (Jn 10:11, 15; Rom 5:8). When a person says to someone else, “God loves you,” but ignores the explication of the Cross, his words are vain. If God loves you, there will be proof in your life (Rom 5:5). What is that proof?
It is that you love Jesus Christ with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mk 12:30). It is a reciprocal economy initiated by the grace of God (1 Jn 4:19). There is no economy if a person does not love Christ. Therefore, to say to a person at enmity with God, “God loves you,” is simply not justified. God’s love is covenant love (Ps 103:17–18). We can only legitimately say, “God loves you,” to those who have received the Holy Spirit.
We would be wise to set the stage for the preaching of Christ and Him crucified. We must cause people to question their lives in this world. Humanity looks at the world in a rather neutral fashion, or with a polly-anna positive outlook. The world, as depicted in the Scriptures, is not positive toward Christ, nor is it neutral. The world hates Jesus Christ (Jn 7:7; 15:18–19), and Jesus Himself tells us it is because He preaches to the world that its deeds are evil. Is this the same as your preaching? The Bible warns Jesus’ disciples through John, “Do not love the world, nor the things of the world (1 Jn 2:15).” Paul wrote to the Ephesians and instructed them to expose evil (Eph 5:11).
When Christians love the world, arm-in-arm with those who are of the world, it dilutes our message. People of the world do not see us as peculiar citizens of heaven and not of this world. In fact, it is only when we preach the truth about the world, and the truth about the Savior of the world (Jn 4:42), can the people in the world recognize our distinction. We must preach a pure Gospel.
The social gospel cannot do this because there are endless charities doing similar good works. The liberation gospel cannot do this because it desires more of the world for its disciples. The prosperity gospel cannot do this because it lusts after more of the world, too. False Gospels, including deliverance programs, forsake the simple Gospel message. What is this message?
The Gospel begins with bad news. Man has a sin nature (Eph 2:3), and he sins profusely (Rom 3:23). The world and the devil work to keep man in sins of one kind or another. Coping techniques only mask the trouble because sinful people are an offense to a holy God (Rom 1:18), who is the judge of sinners (2 Tim 4:1; 1 Pet 4:5). Criminals must be punished, and this is why we must preach a literal hell and lake of fire (Mt 25:41, 46; Jude 7; Rev 20:14–15). These are eternal consequences for crimes against an eternal God with infinite majesty.
The Gospel then goes to the Cross. Christ’s cross is God’s solution for man’s sin problem. The perfect, sinless, Son of God paid the penalty for all our sins. He came to save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21). He bore our sins in His body on the Cross (1 Pet 2:24). Our sins were imputed to Him, and paid for, by His blood, shed for our forgiveness (Eph 1:7). His righteousness was imputed to us (Is 53:5–6), by His will and grace. As a result, we have right standing before a holy God (1 Cor 1:30), who no longer counts our sins against us. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1).
The Gospel is preached to all creation (Mk 16:15). It begins with the bad news about sinful man, and it transitions to Christ Jesus, the only Savior of sinners (Acts 4:12). All men everywhere are called to repent of their sins (Acts 17:30), and they are called to place their trust in Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31). The doctrine of inability tells us they are unwilling and unable to heed the Gospel call. But God sent His Holy Spirit to cause sinners to receive Christ with the faith given to them by the Holy Spirit (Jn 1:12–13; Phil 1:29).
Faith is not given to all people, which is why not all people believe (2 Pet 1:1). Faith is a gift of God intimately linked to the Holy Spirit indwelling the regenerated elect soul (Rom 8:9, 11; Eph 2:5; Col 2:13; 1 Pet 1:3). How does the Spirit bring a person this gift of faith by God’s grace? It is through the preaching of the man of God sent to others. We preach, and others hear (Acts 10:42. 44). Faith comes by hearing (Rom 10:17), and hearing comes by a miracle of the Spirit.
Recently, I met a young woman who was born deaf. She was completely deaf until she was a teenager. A doctor was able to take some flesh from her leg, and craft ear drums for her ears. This advancement in medical technology and procedure has opened the ears of this deaf woman. In the same way, the Holy Spirit does spiritual surgery on the ears of the spiritually deaf, so they might hear the voice of God, when the preacher proclaims the words of salvation. Paul asks, “How will they hear without a preacher?” It is the presence of the Spirit-filled preacher that is a prerequisite for hearing unto faith.
The Spirit inspires the preacher, even as He inspired the Bible text (2 Pet 1:20–21), and He causes a man to proclaim Christ in the public’s hearing (Rom 10:13). The preacher has a burning burden (Jer 20:9; Is 6:2; 1 Cor 9:16). The Holy Spirit opens the ears, and He puts faith in the soul of God’s chosen one (Rom 12:3; Gal 3:22). The Word preached is sown into the soul, and faith is the first sign of life. The fruit of the Spirit is…faithfulness (Gal 5:22). The life of God now resides in the soul of man (Gal 2:20). It grows and grows and keeps on growing.
With this knowledge, we must inquire, “Is there a better use of one’s time than to proclaim Christ?” People are not saved in any other way. The preacher’s feet are said to be beautiful (Is 52:7; Rom 10:13). Why are the preacher’s feet beautiful? It is because He has been sent by God to bring glad tidings of God’s goodness in the salvation of sinners. There is no better news a man could ever hear.
There is a time to preach. This is the time to make others aware of Christ. We have no excuse for prioritizing any other activity in the church. God has shown us how He saves people through Gospel preaching. We must cultivate hardened hearts with the bad news contained in books like Ecclesiastes.
We must preach bad news, in order for people to be convicted by the Holy Spirit, who illumines one’s innumerable sins. The Law of God shows us God’s holiness. It also shows us our sinful lives. The Spirit blows like the wind, into the hearts of certain men, to boldly preach Christ in the hearing of all nations. The Spirit, like the wind, blows into the souls of God’s elect people, chosen from before the foundation of the world, for salvation through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
The field of harvest is white. The harvest must occur, for the Lord has ordained it. He has commanded His laborers to go into the vineyard to secure what belongs to Him. These laborers are sent forth to warn men of the futility of their existence apart from Christ. They work where they have been sent. They are sent with singular purpose. We proclaim Him. We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks (1 Cor 1:23). Every faithful preacher knows, this Gospel preached to the nations is the power of God unto salvation for those who receive it by His grace (Rom 1:16–17).
And as many as received Christ, He gave them the right to be called, “children of God,” and “heirs of God.” With the token presence of the Spirit of God (2 Cor 5:5), each new generation presents to the world, a small army of called out ones, who are not ashamed of the Gospel. These are the ones who believe that now is the time to preach.
Spokane Valley, Washington
April 21, 2021