At one of the recent Together for the Gospel conferences John MacArthur said, “Hard preaching makes soft people, and soft preaching makes hard people.”
To understand this quote, let me define the two terms in play and show their natural consequences:
Hard preaching is true preaching. Soft preaching is fake preaching. Another way to say is hard preaching takes the Bible seriously while soft preaching doesn’t. Because the Bible is taken seriously in hard preaching, it values what the Bible values. The Bible has a high view of God due to His holiness and glory, a low view of man due to sin, a high view of Christ due to His Person and Work, and a high view of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in the hearts of the elect. Thus true preaching will have these things present in it as well because it goes where the Bible goes.
Soft preaching, in contrast, doesn’t value what the Bible values. It doesn’t present a high view of God, doesn’t present a low view of man, doesn’t present a high view of Christ’s Person and Work, and doesn’t present a high view of the Spirit’s work. Thus soft preaching doesn’t have anything of value in it for God’s people because, oddly enough, people are the focus of it instead of God. It goes wherever it wants to and avoids the truth of Scripture.
Hard preaching is full of honest, truthful, and faithful conscience awakening plea’s from the Bible to recognize sin as sin, call us to repent, and call us to turn toward Christ with full affection and thankfulness for what He’s done and still doing in and through us. Soft preaching is full of attempts from the so-called preacher to explain away the truths of Scripture, soften the sin of man, lessen the punitive wrath of God for sin, and put all people regardless of religion on the same path to God. Thus it demeans God and exalts man.
The results of these two types of preaching may not be visible at first but overtime they are disastrous. The effect of hard preaching on the human heart is a good one. You’ll find your heart softening over time to the things of God and come to hold a very high and proper view of God’s Word, God’s work, and God’s Church. The effect of soft preaching on the human heart is a bad one. You’ll find your heart hardening over time to the things of God and come to hold a view high view of self, which will lead to a low view of God’s Word, God’s work, and God’s Church. Hard preaching leads both the preacher and his hearers to repentance, while soft preaching leads both the preacher and his/her hearers to further callousness.
Hard preaching brings life to the soul and moves people toward holy living.
Soft preaching brings death to the soul and confirms people in their worldliness.
The conclusion is easy. If you want a real, authentic, living, and vibrant faith in Christ, seek a church who will give it to you straight and doesn’t tamper with the Word of God. If you want a fake, phony, showy, and fraudulent faith in a some kind of ‘higher power’, seek a gathering that will do everything in its power to increase your trust in yourself.