"Is ‘hell-fire’ preaching
Preaching the reality of
hell, without using the Law to bring the knowledge of
sin, can do a great deal of damage to the cause of the
gospel. A sinner cannot conceive of the thought that
God would send anyone to hell, as long as he is deceived
into thinking that God’s standard of righteousness
is the same as his. Paul "reasoned" with Felix
regarding righteousness, temperance, and judgment to
come (Acts 24:25). This is the righteousness that is
of the Law and judgment by the Law. Felix "trembled"
because he suddenly understood that his intemperance
made him a guilty sinner in the sight of a holy God.
The reality of hell suddenly became reasonable to him
when the Law was used to bring the knowledge of sin.
Imagine if the police burst
into your home, arrested you, and shouted, "You
are going away for a long time!" Such conduct would
probably leave you bewildered and angry. What they have
done seems unreasonable. However, imagine if the law
burst into your home and instead told you specifically
why you were in trouble: "We have discovered 10,000
marijuana plants growing in your back yard. You are
going away for a long time!" At least then you
would understand why you are in trouble. Knowledge of
the law you have transgressed furnished you with that
understanding. It makes judgment reasonable.
Hell-fire preaching without
use of the Law to show the sinner why God is angry with
him will more than likely leave him bewildered and angry—for
what he considers unreasonable punishment.