Subjects On Which To Preach

by Pastor Jack Hyles

(Chapter 8 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Teaching On Preaching)


II Timothy 4:2, 5, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all Iongsuffering and doctrine. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry."

Years ago I sat down and listed twenty themes that I thought were necessary for the spiritual growth and maturity of my people. All of my sermons deal with at least one of these twenty themes. Though I have never shared them, I have on occasion explained the process by which I arrived at them. That process will be the content of this chapter. I chose the twenty themes from II Timothy 4:2, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." In this passage God tells the preacher what he is supposed to do when he stands before his people. I listed these things and from these things arrived at the themes I thought necessary for my people's spiritual growth and benefit.

I. PREACH. The word "preach" here means "proclaim the victory." From this I get encouragement. My people need to be encouraged by the Word of God. I am to "proclaim the victory of the Word." The doors open on Sunday morning. The crowd flows in. All week they have been facing a Christless and Godless world. They have heard His name profaned. They have faced criticism, mocking and even hatred. Now it is Sunday These wounded warriors come from far and near to sit in the pews in order to hear God's man. He must take God's Book, open it and proclaim the victory of the Word of God. He must encourage their hearts. Though this is not one of the themes that I have listed, it nevertheless is the source of one of my themes. God's people need to be encouraged.

2. WORD. This is Jesus. John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:14, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." So the second theme that I find here is the theme of Jesus! Preach the person of Christ. Preach Him, exalt Him, magnify Him, teach Him, honor Him, praise Him, worship Him, adore Him. Preach Jesus. Years ago when our oldest daughter; Becky, was just a tot, I was preaching one Sunday morning and, would you believe it, I forgot my sermon! I was at I John 5:12, "He that hath the Son hath life," and to save me I could not think where I was supposed to go from there. So I stepped back and I hollered, "He that HATH the Son hath life!" I still drew a blank. I stepped back and shouted, "He that hath THE Son hath life!" Still! could not think of my sermon. I stepped back again and said, "He that hath the Son HATH life!" Still I forgot what I was to say I stepped back again and shouted, "He that hath the Son hath LIFE!" Finally I came out of my tailspin before I crashed. When I got home that morning, Becky grinned and said, "Daddy, the record got stuck this morning, didn't it?"

I hugged her; and through tears I said, "Yes, Puddin', but what a wonderful place for the record to stick!" It was stuck on Jesus! Jesus should be the center of our preaching, and the person of Christ should always be a part of the message that we deliver to our people from our God on His day

3. BE INSTANT. The word "instant" is translated at other places "set upon," "be present," "be at hand." It implies faithfulness. Be predictable, be faithful. Here we have another theme that should be emphasized. As the Apostle writes young Timothy, he reminds him that Jesus should be a theme for his message, that encouragement should be a theme of his message and that faithfulness should be a theme of his message. Also from this statement could come the theme of total commitment.

4. IN SEASON, OUT OF SEASON. This leads us to another theme-perseverance. This also is to be a part of the preaching of God's man, as Paul commanded Timothy. Our message to the people should be, "Don't quit! Persevere! Hang in there! Don't turn back! Finish what you start!"

5. REPROVE. This word is also translated at other places, "refute." This means that the preacher is to expose false teaching. Here is another theme that should be included in the preaching of a pastor.

6. REBUKE. This word implies to "honor, then rebuke." It could be translated "to scold in love." On occasion the man of God will have to scold his people. This scolding should not be in hatred or with malice. It should be done with a heart filled with love for the very ones whom he is scolding.

7. EXHORT. The word comes from the same word that is used in I John 2:1, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." The word "advocate" means "to run to one's side and pick him up." It deals with the theme of salvaging. One of the preacher's ministries and one of the themes of his preaching should be to salvage what he can from all of his people. There are those in the congregation who have been wounded by the Evil One! They are vessels that have been marred in the hands of the Potter; and they wonder if they can ever be used again. Paul tells Timothy that salvaging them should be a part of his message. Here is another theme that the preacher may include in his repertoire of sermon themes.

8. LONGSUFFERING. This word is also translated "even temperature." It has to do with having a Christian spirit. From it comes the word "temperance," which means "proper restraint." Here is another theme that the Apostle admonished Timothy to use.

9. DOCTRINE. The word means "teaching." The preacher should include Bible teachings and truths in his preaching. Add this to your list of themes.

10. WATCH. Most people feel that this means "moral watching." In other words, the preacher should fight sin. Sin-fighting should definitely be a major part of the pastor's ministry. He should warn his people of the evils and temptations that lurk in the shadows that will destroy their lives and their testimonies.

11. ENDURE AFFLICTION. This word means "suffer with." This implies sympathy and understanding. The wise preacher must include in his ministry and in his preaching sympathetic under- standing. He must remember that his people are flesh, and as does God, he must remember that his people are dust. They must feel the sympathy. The preacher is not a righteous judge to stand on Sunday to condemn his people. He is a righteous physician to stand up to encourage, strengthen, rebuild and love his people. Now in this loving, rebuilding and strengthening, there must of necessity be some hard preaching, some scolding, rebuking, etc., but it must be done in the spirit of love, of sympathy and understanding. He must suffer with them, hurt with them and feel their burdens, their weaknesses, their heartaches and, yes, even their failures.

12. THE WORK OF AN EVANGELIST. This means soul winning. It means getting people saved. One of the pastor's themes should be salvation, preaching with evangelistic fervor.

13. FULL PROOF OF THY MINISTRY. This means the total preacher who has it all! Paul is telling Timothy that he does not want him riding a hobbyhorse or spending all of his time on one theme. He wants him to make full proof of his ministry. He wants him to proclaim the victory, to preach Jesus, to preach total commitment, to preach faithfulness, to preach perseverance, to expose false teaching, to scold in love, to salvage those who have fallen, to teach Christians to have the proper spirit, to heal and mend, to preach doctrine, to fight sin, to sympathize and suffer with his people, to be a soul winner and train soul winners, to be an evangelist, and in summary, to wrap it all up and to be in one package all of these things

The things that I have listed are not the exact words that I use on my list of twenty themes, but it was from this passage that I made my list in order that I might give to my people all that they need, and be to my people all that they need me to be. From the twenty themes that I have listed in a private place come all the sermons that I preach. I feel that these twenty themes cover all the needs that my people could have. These are the different prescriptions for the various illnesses and deficiencies that my folks may have.

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Billy Sunday (1862-1935)


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