Do Bible Topics Get Too Old?

McGarvey on Baptism.001Once in 1893, the great preacher and scholar, J.W. McGarvey, was preaching on baptism.1 He began by noting that many people in his audience might think it strange for him to focus on a topic that religious teachers have covered so many times without producing a general consensus. If many preachers have preached on baptism, and yet have been unable to get people to agree about it, then why preach on it again? Brother McGarvey responded by admitting that the question of baptism has not been settled in the sense that everybody agrees about it. But in another sense, he explained, the question of baptism has been settled thousands and thousands of times in the minds of people who will have to give account before God. They have settled the question to their satisfaction and acted according to their decision:

“And let me say to you who are here to-night, it is a necessity laid on you, you can not avoid it, that you shall also settle the question in your own mind and for your own soul. . . . If you answer me, No, sir, the question was settled for me by my parents when I was an infant, and they baptized me, even this does not enable you to escape the necessity of which I speak; for you are compelled to decide for yourself before God, whether you will be satisfied with that as your obedience to this divine command. . . . Don’t be impatient then when a man proposes to discuss the subject in your presence” (ibid., 110).

Notice that Brother McGarvey has pointed to a principle that applies to all biblical truth. The “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) must be preached even if it has been preached many times before, because each hearer must live in a state of comparing the standard of biblical truth to his own heart and life (James 1:25). And he must be prepared to answer to man and to God for what He believes (see 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Peter 3:15).

Thus, no Bible topic ever goes out of date or is discussed to the degree that we should bring it up no more. I fear we have lost many young people to the world because we assumed that fundamental biblical truths were settled in the minds of all people—even young minds to whom the fundamental truths never were explained. If so, may we never be guilty of this careless oversight in the future.


  1. McGarvey’s Sermons (Delight: Gospel Light, n.d.), 109-121. 

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- 2017