Euthanasia, Immortality, and The Natural Death Paradox

By Kyle Munkittrick | June 7, 2011 9:39 am

Dying is a touchy subject. Euthanasia makes people upset. Whichever side of the debate you are on, you are caught between the hard place of human suffering and the rock of informed autonomous free choice. Euthanasia is really a debate about not dying of natural causes. For so long, we’ve understood death to be only OK if it was natural or demonstrably accidental. Anything else was murder, manslaughter, or war. Not only God, but we humans, have set our canon against self-slaughter. “Voluntary active euthanasia,” as Daniel Brock denotes it, is not natural, nor is it demonstrably accidental. Thus, we instinctively categorize it as morally wrong.

Instead of attempting to root out the source of that instinct and investigating whether or not voluntary active euthanasia actually violates morality, many use the blurred line created as reason enough to oppose a chosen death. Ross Douthat of the New York Times argues that Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian’s efforts to provide assistance to those suffering created a moral slippery slope:

And once we allow that such a right exists, the arguments for confining it to the dying seem arbitrary at best. We are all dying, day by day: do the terminally ill really occupy a completely different moral category from the rest? A cancer patient’s suffering isn’t necessarily more unbearable than the more indefinite agony of someone living with multiple sclerosis or quadriplegia or manic depression. And not every unbearable agony is medical: if a man losing a battle with Parkinson’s disease can claim the relief of physician-assisted suicide, then why not a devastated widower, or a parent who has lost her only child?

Note that Douthat doesn’t consider Parkinson’s a medical disease. But more to the point – Douthat’s argument is that we don’t know what degree of suffering makes the choice to die morally palatable. Degree of suffering is the wrong criterion. None but the sufferer can define it and it can never be truly communicated. What is at stake here is not only the free and informed choice of the dying, but our very understanding of what it means to “die of natural causes.”

So how do we determine that the person choosing to die is doing so of sound mind, with all the necessary information and without coercion? Thankfully Sir Terry Pratchett has a suggestion:

That is why I and others have ­suggested some kind of strictly non-­aggressive tribunal that would establish the facts of the case well before the ­assisted death takes place. This might make some people, including me, a little uneasy as it suggests the govern­ment has the power to tell you whether you can live or die. But, that said, the government cannot sidestep the ­responsibility to ensure the protection of the vulnerable and we must respect that. It grieves me that those against assisted death seem to assume, as a matter of course, that those of us who support it have not thought long and hard about this very issue. It is, in fact, at the soul and centre of my argument.

The members of the tribunal would be acting for the good of society as well as that of the applicant – horrible word – to ensure they are of sound and informed mind, firm in their purpose, suffering from a life-threatening and incurable disease and not under the ­influence of a third party. It would need wiser heads than mine, though heaven knows they should be easy enough to find, to determine how such tribunals are constituted. But I would suggest there should be a lawyer, one with ­expertise in dynastic family affairs who has become good at recognizing what somebody really means and indeed, if there is outside pressure. And a ­medical practitioner experienced in dealing with the complexities of serious long-term illnesses.

I would also suggest that all those on the tribunal are over 45, by which time they may have acquired the rare gift of wisdom, because wisdom and compassion should, in this tribunal, stand side-by-side with the law. The tribunal would also have to be a check on those seeking death for reasons that reasonable people may consider trivial or transient distress. I dare say that quite a few people have contemplated death for reasons that much later seemed to them to be quite minor. If we are to live in a world where a ­socially acceptable “early death” can be allowed, it must be allowed as a ­result of careful consideration.

Douthat attempts to build a slippery slope argument out of the variety of human experience. Pratchett embraces that diversity and attempts to build a moral mechanism for dealing with the unpleasantness that comes with dying.

But there is a second problem with death. What if I don’t want to die a natural death? What if I want to live for a long long time, say 10,000 years? Interestingly, the same people who don’t want me to die when I want to don’t want me to live longer than I am “supposed to” either. To use technology to live beyond the statistical average lifespan is to violate some other set of values of humility in the face of death or some such pap. Bioconservative authors like Leon Kass and Frances Fukuyama have repeatedly argued that mortality is part of what gives human lives value. But here comes the twist. If you get sick, we’ll pump you full of chemicals and strap you to whatever machine your health care plan will begrudgingly pay for, but don’t live beyond the average. As Douthat says above, “we’re all dying, day by day.” What are our options here?

Again, the draconian mores of “nature” rear their ugly head.

Natural death as a concept binds us in the shackles of paradox. To make choices around death seem to violate a natural law to which we’ve all unconsciously agreed. None of us know when our time will come, but don’t try die too soon, and don’t try live too long. Death, it seems, is too important a decision for us to make. Like many anti-enhancement arguments, the answer is all too familiar: the most critical choices – those that impact our basic genetic code, what type of children we have, and how we die – ought be left to chance.

Transhumanism is, in large part, an opposition to the mentality that creates the paradox of death. Death of natural causes is not good, it’s just no one’s fault. But in a world where so much death is caused deliberately, maliciously, and pointlessly, a death of natural causes can seem not just a mercy, but a blessing. Thus, we have come to cherish and value that which is but a morally neutral necessity.

When another person chooses our death against our will, that is a moral wrong.

Death by natural causes is morally acceptable because we cannot choose otherwise. But it is not morally good.

Volitionally and autonomously choosing when one dies, now there is a moral good. There is no reason the circumstances of one’s biological make-up and environment that determine one’s expiration date must be abided by. If technology can allow us to stop short in the face of years of suffering or overcome an untimely gentle passing for another 20 years, why not?

A fetishization of natural death should not hold us hostage to the quality and duration of our lives.

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Image of patient by José Goulão via Flickr Creative Commons (Licence)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Aging (or Not), Biology, Philosophy

Comments (18)

  1. mplsjacob

    I was sad to hear of the passing of Dr. Kevorkian. I think the idea of “assisted suicide” gives the dying the last bit of dignity that they deserve. To withhold that option from them, in my opinion, is more of a cruelty.

  2. Thank you! Of course, people generally get squicked out when they realize that death can be used to stop other kinds of suffering, like extremely severe, incurable depression. It’s one rule for people who are “really” terminally ill, another for the rest of us.

  3. Brin

    Note that Douthat doesn’t consider Parkinson’s a medical disease.

    I think you misinterpreted. “And not every unbearable agony is medical: if a man losing a battle with Parkinson’s disease can claim the relief of physician-assisted suicide, then why not a devastated widower, or a parent who has lost her only child?” (emphasis mine) He’s comparing the non-medical suffering of grief to the medical suffering of Parkinson’s.

  4. Kyle Munkittrick

    @Brin: If that’s the case, I consider the analogy false. If I am emotionally suffering because I have lost a loved one, that is different than if my suffering is the result of knowing I have a mind-wasting disease. One is a loss of a relationship, the other is a literal loss of self.

    But perhaps I was to hasty with that phrasing, nice catch.

  5. John Moore

    Ok let’s say one goes to this new “Die-bunal” and is rejected because their claim of agony/grief is not warranted? They can always commit suicide! Would life insures still pay out if you were given “permission”?

  6. Liath

    I don’t understand why degree of suffering is the wrong criterion. That’s one of the reasons people have their pets “put to sleep”. We have assisted suicide in Oregon and that is also used as a criterion. Another is that the patient should be terminal within a six month period±. The program has been successful for several years now despite objections from outside the state.

  7. Noni Mausa

    Also, though medicine isn’t quite up to this yet, imagine the plight of a criminal sentenced to life in prison, or several consecutive life terms? A truly horrible sentence would be to be kept alive (in pain or not) for hundreds of years, when otherwise deprived of all that makes life worthwhile or even bearable.

    And, in the case of the family in charge of life and death decisions, whose well-being would trump the old person’s decision to be done with it? It is not always the suffering person hanging on and the family trying to persuade them to jump ship. I know retired couples who depend on the ample pension of one partner (usually a frail and elderly husband) to keep the household afloat because the wife never was able to accumulate a decent pension for herself.

    So many considerations, and many of them will only be decided as each medical advance makes them a real, not theoretical, problem.


  8. Heather

    I think it is natural to decide you are ready to die instead of suffering insurmountable pain. I also believe that it is each individuals inherent right to decide if they want to continue their own life. Suicide for issues that could have been solved is a tragedy, but a persons life is still their own right.

  9. Kyle Munkittrick

    @Liath: Nice point of clarification. I think degree of suffering is the wrong criterion in the way Douthat uses it, that is, as the primary justification. Preventing suffering is a key part of why voluntary active euthanasia should be allowed, but it isn’t what we use to determine who gets to and who doesn’t get to chose.

    @John Moore: My understanding is that the tribunal as Pratchett has sketched it is to assuage any legal or medical fears of repercussions. If the decision is documented, public, and witnessed, it’s much easier to show the person really wanted to and chose to die.

  10. @ mplsjacob

    “I was sad to hear of the passing of Dr. Kevorkian.”

    I’m not averse to the option of assisted suicide (especially since securing the option seems to reduce the desire to ends ones life prematurely), but I do not miss Dr. Death one bit. His methods, glassy eyed visage, and enthusiasm for the task were enough to make a person wonder if he wasn’t a very clever serial killer.

  11. Jody

    I have never understood the rationale on these subjects. If someone wants to die, lets help them do it in the most humane way possible. I really don’t care what the reason is: if you’re super depressed because your girlfriend left or you lost your job or whatever, fine, fill out the request form and we’ll schedule your final appointment. What business is that of mine? I’d have like a one week waiting period as my only real rule, and some sort of waiver necessary for people under 18 (so parents could help their dying kids pass peacefully and all that jazz)

    By the same token, don’t mess with my ability to live forever. Take every extraordinary step to prolong my life. If I’m in a coma and there is a 1% chance that plugging a blender into my body will help me live a few minutes longer, head on over to Sears and pick one up.

  12. You say “Death by natural causes is morally acceptable because we cannot choose otherwise. But it is not morally good.”
    What logic is this? Who ever said a natural death is not morally good? What evidence is there for this? I guess what you mean to say is that life is not fair – fairness is not the same as morality.

    Let’s think about the bigger picture here. Don’t you think we have enough bureaucracy within the health care system? Who is going to pay for legalised euthanasia? Who is going to pay for legalised extension of life? Who will pay for it when it all goes wrong? Are you prepared to pay for it?

  13. Brian Too

    To me, the choice of living or dying is at the very core of our autonomy as human beings. Even my belief that we have duties and obligations to others in our lives is secondary on this point. Therefore I agree that attempting to measure the degree of suffering on some external, impartial basis is wrong. Not because it is difficult, but because it is simply the wrong question.

    However I submit that the larger question of Assisted Dying panels is coming at it from the wrong point of view too. That is, that they have some sort of final say over the matter. The language and expectations are important here.

    In my view the only authority that an Assisted Death panel should have, is determining if some recognized authority will help you die. If they say yes, this person has a reasonable request to die, then society will help them and there will be no (legal) consequences.

    A person cannot morally ask another to help them die, if most everyone around them thinks they are wrong to do so. For whatever reason.

    In the end this merely formalizes the reality of the existing situation. If a person is really determined and brave enough to end their own life, chances are they are going to succeed. No matter what anyone or any organization says.

  14. @Jody I have to respectfully disagree. There shouldn’t be state sponsored life loss due to broken hearts of emo twenty-somethings. Dumb decisions supported by paperwork and red tape are still dumb.

    As for prolonging life, I have the opposite stance as well. I don’t know if it’s just a downplay of my effectiveness on the world as a whole, but I don’t want thousands of dollars to be flushed away to keep my unconcious body alive. Being in a coma for a year vs being in a coma for 18 months is almost always pointless; Sure, we may be able to “Dead Head” & upload ourselves in a Doctorow-esque future and have our conciousness implanted in a synthetic body in 300 years at some point, but that’s not happening in our lifetime.

    Even keeping the richest amoung us alive is money that could be better spent elsewhere.

  15. I don’t know exactly what I think of euthanasia in regards to a painful, terminal disease, so I’m not going to argue about that.

    But as far as allowing it for things like bipolar disorder, or pain over a loved one’s death, or ennui, I’ll come down on the side of “that’s wrong.”

    It’s not wrong to exercise control over one’s body, but causing irreversible loss of function is a pretty big deal. I say it’s on the same level of someone who wishes to amputate a limb. It’s their body, yes, but as a society we have taken upon ourselves the responsibility of caring for the people within our society.

    If we were to allow something like this, we should at least require significant amounts psychological screening. Cutting off a limb because the person “doesn’t feel like it should be there” or ending a life because a person “doesn’t feel like they should be here” is completely irreversible. And unlike many irreversible things (tattoos and such), both of these things permanently remove function.

    Say we were to allow people to literally do whatever they wanted to themselves, regardless of their mental state. This, in effect, gets rid of the entire idea of mental illness. All people have the right to sovereignty, but not all people have the capacity for it. Assuming otherwise is what has left thousands of seriously ill people on the street instead of keeping them in hospitals, where they might be helped.

    Edit: As far as prolonging life, bring it on. Vogie, above, says that the technology to do this won’t exist for hundreds of years, and money shouldn’t be wasted on doing it only for the rich, but if the rich want to pay for it, let them. That helps develop the technology, which eventually could be cheaper.

    I am entirely for the prolonging of life, especially vital life. Keeping people alive for decades after age has rendered them immobile and unresponsive seems kind of pointless, but anything that gets us closer to immortality (or something like it) is golden. It’ll also give us a good reason to get off this planet.

    Heh, if we could live a thousand years, then we’d be seeing some arguments over things like this.

  16. Brian H

    Assisted suicide for any reason, such as terminal boredom, should be allowed. That is, society should not arrogate to itself the right to decide such things. The power of society comes down to approved use of violent constraint. So, if you attempt to suicide, we’ll shoot you!?!

    It’s not like we’re short of people. It’s easy to make new ones.

  17. We’re immortal. Get over it.

  18. Leonardo

    Greetings from the Emerald Isle!

    A son of Patrick, a disciple of Jesus Christ & a child of God.

    It Is Finished

    As I consider the state of the evangelical church at the beginning of the twenty-first century, I observe a people who have swapped their faith for a bumper sticker and a church that has been caught up with the wrappings of religion. Many in the church have grown tired of that old-time religion, and they have become enamoured with the affluence of get-holy-quick, pop-Christian programs. They have joined arms with the razzlers and the dazzlers of the world’s marketplace, and they have set out on a journey down a yellow-brick road that will lead only to the great and powerful Judge whom they do not recognize, for without even realizing it they have abandoned their first love. For all practical purposes, the person and work of Jesus Christ have become commonplace, and the finished work of Christ’s atonement is largely taken for granted.

    Nevertheless, the atoning death of the Lord of glory is never to be regarded merely as a pleasant fact of history. Redemption has been accomplished. God promised that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent, and He promised that the Christ would be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence. When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order to redeem those under the Law for the express purpose that we, His people, might be adopted as sons of God. God’s Word is filled with the story of God’s enduring love for His people. From Genesis to Revelation, God reveals the progress of the salvation of His people culminating in the death of death in the death of the Saviour who cried out “It is finished.”

    Although no one would ever admit it, many have attempted to displace the redemptive work of Jesus Christ — wrapping the entire doctrine of redemption in ornate packaging with colourful bows and ribbons in order to make Jesus look as attractive as possible so that He would not be an offence to anyone contemplating the option of religion. However, it does not matter if we dress up Jesus in the most colourful robes of our culture, and it does not matter how we decorate the cross of Christ; it will always be an offence to the unbelieving world. We cannot disguise the cross of Christ, nor can we hide its radiance. For it was upon the cross the Prince of glory died so that we might live, move, and have our being, before His face and for His glory alone.

    What is it to Preach the Gospel?

    “For though I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel!”
    1 Corinthians 9:16

    What is it to preach the Gospel? Is everybody preaching the Gospel? No!
    Is everybody who claims to preach the Gospel preaching the Gospel? No!
    What is it to preach the Gospel? To Preach the Gospel is:
    To Tell The Truth About God

    First, to preach the Gospel is to preach the truth about God.

    1. We preach the God of eternal existence. The Scripture says, “in the beginning God.” When Moses came to the burning bush, God said, “Go down and deliver my people out of Egypt.” Moses said, “whom shall I say hath sent me?” and God replied, “I AM.” Not, I was; not I shall be, but I AM, the eternal I AM, the everlasting I Am. I Am that I Am!

    2. We preach the God of creation. “All things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made.” In him we move, we live and we have our being. God created all things.

    3. We preach the God of sovereign mercy. The Scripture says “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” The Bible says, “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy; I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious.” We preach the God of mercy, yes, but sovereign mercy, the God of grace, yes, but sovereign grace. God will be gracious to whom he will be gracious. He owes no man anything; if he bestows grace, his mercy, it is sovereignly bestowed. He is an immutable sovereign, and unchanging sovereign.

    4. We preach the God of righteousness. Our Lord said, “I will in no wise clear the guilty. The soul that sinneth it shall die. Sin when it is finished bringeth forth death.” God Almighty is a righteous God. He is a holy God, therefore, Christ Jesus came into the world that God might be just and justify the ungodly. We preach a God that cannot show his love at the expense of his holiness. We preach a God that cannot show mercy at the expense of his truth and only at Calvary can mercy and truth meet together, and righteousness and peace kiss one another. The God we preach is the God of righteousness.

    5. He’s the God of unchanging grace. “I am the Lord,” he said, “I do not change; therefore, you sons of Jacob are not consumed” Why is there no fear of God before the eyes of this generation? They’ve heard preached a false god; they’ve heard preached a weak god; they’ve heard preached a failing god; they’ve heard preached a disappointed god; they’ve heard preached a god whose hands are tied; they’ve heard preached a god who says I have no eyes but your eyes; I have no feet but your feet; I have no hands but your hands. That’s a lie! The God of the Bible is totally and completely independent of his creatures as far as his strength, his wisdom, his power, his beauty and his glory are concerned. We do not add to his glory! We receive and share in his glory. The God we preach is the God of eternal existence, the God of creation, the God of sovereign mercy, the God of righteousness, and the God of unchanging grace. He is the God upon whom we depend; the God to whom we look; and the God without whom we can’t exist! All things that we have we receive of him. We return nothing but that which he gives us. What is it to preach the Gospel? It is to preach the truth about God.

    To Tell The Truth About Man
    Secondly, what is it to preach the Gospel? It’s to preach the truth about man. Men do not want to hear the truth about God; and they do not want to hear the truth about themselves. But Gospel preachers preach the truth, not only about God, but the truth about the sinner, and they leave that sinner empty, broken and destroyed with all his foundations of flesh swept from under him, and all his self-righteous rags stripped from off him, leaving him naked and unclothed before the searchlight of God’s holiness. What does the Bible say about man? It says in Romans 3:10, “there is none righteous, no not one, there is none that understandeth; there is none that seek after God.” What are men seeking? Seeking their own pleasure; seeking their own comfort; seeking their own glory; seeking their own wills; seeking their own satisfaction, everybody seeks his own, they do not seek God. “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable, for there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Christ said, “you have not the love of God in you.” Somebody says, “Well, I love people.” No you don’t. You just consider whom you love. You love yourself. You try and think this minute “is there anybody in this world you really love? Well, you say, “I love my wife,” that’s yourself. That’s your wife. Well, “I love my mother and father.” That’s still loving yourself! You love them because they are your mother and father. Well, “I love my son or daughter.” Your son and daughter! Do you love anybody else’s son or daughter? “I love my brothers and sisters” That’s yourself. Well, “I love my Saviour; my own personal Saviour.” That’s loving yourself. If He weren’t your Saviour, you would not love Him. Everything you love is connected with your own sinful, selfish self. Your whole world revolves around yourself, your own pleasures, your own delights, your own passions, your own seeking.

    There is none good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre, with their tongues they have used deceit the poison of snakes is under their lips; their mouths are full of cursing, bitterness, murmuring, complaining, fault-finding, gossip, back-biting, their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their ways, the way of peace, they know nothing about it.”

    There’s no genuine, honest, sincere fear of God before their eyes, they don’t fear God; they do not tremble at the presence of God; they don’t fall at His feet as dead men, even religious worshippers today don’t fear God. If they feared God, they would be silent in the presence of God; they would choose their words carefully; their worship would be marked, not by shouting, but by awesome reverence and fear. Job said:

    “When I saw the Lord, I said I have spoken once, yea, twice, but I’ll never speak again.”

    John said:

    “When I saw the Lord, I fell at his feet as a dead man. My eyes have seen the Lord.”

    Isaiah said:

    “When I saw the Lord, I cried, woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips. When I saw the Lord I saw my guilt.”

    The average person goes to church and he comes away feeling good. If the preacher had preached the truth about man, they would have come away from that place crying:

    “O, God, be merciful to me a sinner!”

    To Tell The Truth About Christ
    Thirdly: What is it to preach the Gospel? It is to tell the truth about God and man, and it is to tell the truth about Jesus Christ. My friends, Jesus of Nazareth is not a weak, frustrated reformer; Jesus Christ of Nazareth is very God of very God. He is the Messiah. He did not die as a martyr; he did not die as an example, he came down here and died on the cross as the victorious, conquering, successful Redeemer of his people. He died as the covenant Redeemer. He died for the covenant people; he died to accomplish a task given him by the Father before the world’s creation. When he completed his suffering on Calvary, he said, “It is finished.” He cannot fail! Christ is not a frustrated Redeemer; he is not a disappointed Saviour; he is not a defeated Saviour; he is not a poor, weak, reformer up there in heaven, crying his eyes out because people won’t let him have his way. He is the conquering, victorious Messiah who is seated at the right hand of the Father, waiting until his enemies become his footstool! He is the Lord of the living and the dead. A preacher said to a congregation one time, “won’t you make Jesus your Lord?”

    I emphatically declare that you cannot make Jesus Christ your Lord!

    The Father has already beaten you to it! He is your Lord! He is your Lord if you are saved; he is your Lord if you are damned! He is your Lord if you are on the right hand with his sheep; he is your Lord if you are on the left hand with the goats! He is your Lord! Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess in heaven, earth and hell that he is Lord.
    You don’t make him Lord, you recognize him as Lord. God made him Lord. The Father has delivered all things to the Son; the Scripture says he is the Lord. He purchased that right through his death on Calvary. Jesus Christ is not a fire escape from hell, he is the Lord; he is not a doormat named Jesus, he is Lord. If any man shall confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in his heart that God has raised him from the dead, he shall be saved. His life is a perfect righteousness; his death a perfect sacrifice. We’d better start telling the truth about this man called Jesus. To preach the Gospel is to tell the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ.

    To Tell The Truth About Salvation

    Fourthly: I am come to preach the Gospel and tell the truth about God, about men, about Christ and to tell the truth about salvation. Now let me tell you something about this thing of salvation. We use that word rather loosely in this day. Salvation from sin is not by the deeds of the law. Even those who are supposed to know something about salvation by grace have to remind themselves again and again that salvation is not by the works of the flesh, not in any way!

    Salvation is not by reformation; salvation does not come by decision; salvation does not come through church ordinances; salvation is not ours by church membership; salvation is in Christ the Lord. That’s where salvation is, not in man’s purpose, not in man’s plan; it’s in a Person. It’s not in a proposition, it’s not in walking an aisle, it’s not in a church ordinance, it’s in Christ! It’s not in a law; it’s not in the deeds of the flesh; salvation is in Christ. A man does not have salvation until he comes by the power of God’s Spirit through faith to a living, personal, vital, intimate union with Christ as the Lord.

    A man is not a Christian until he has a vital union with Christ. A man is not a Christian until he is inseparably joined, personally joined to Jesus Christ. A man is not a Christian until Christ becomes his life. A man is not a Christian unless you can cut into his heart and find love for Christ; cut into his mind and find thoughts of Christ; and cut into his soul and find a panting after Christ. Christ in you, that’s the hope of glory. The Holy Spirit convicts a man of sin; the Holy Spirit empties a sinner; the Holy Spirit brings a man to faith in the Son of God, faith in the living Lord. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.” Most people’s so-called Christianity can be taken off with their Sunday clothes; but a man who is genuinely saved has Christ living in him as an everlasting fountain springing up into everlasting life, he’s been born-again, he’s been resurrected from the grave, he has the very image of the Son of God stamped on his heart and it cannot be moved. What is it to preach the Gospel? There are not many folks preaching the Gospel because there are not many people telling the truth about God. Everybody has a god. But eternal life is to know the living God. What is it to preach the Gospel? It’s to tell the truth about man, and we are not going to like what we hear. It’s to tell the truth about, Christ, and it’s to tell the truth about salvation.

    othing To Glory Of In Preaching
    The next thing that Paul deals with here is “though I preach the Gospel I have nothing to glory of”. Why is it that we who preach the Gospel have nothing to glory of? Well, firstly, we are conscious of our guilt. Any man who is not conscious of his own guilt can’t preach the Gospel because he doesn’t know the Gospel. And you can’t tell what you don’t know any more than you can come back from where you haven’t been. A man who preaches the Gospel is conscious of his own guilt. The man who was led of the Spirit to write this Scripture said, “I am not worthy to be an apostle, I see no worthiness in myself.” Later on he said, “I am less than the least of all the saints.” Pick out the least saint in God’s house and I am less than the least saint. Then later on he said, “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” When somebody asked, “Paul, who is the chief of sinners?” He replied, “I am.”

    A man who really knows God never graduates above that statement right there, “I’m only a sinner saved by grace.” He may grow in grace, grow in talent, grow in gifts and grow in knowledge, but he’s still only a sinner saved by grace. We have nothing to glory of; we’re just using borrowed gifts. 1 Corinthians 4:7, states:

    “Who maketh thee to differ?”

    Are you able to preach? Who gave you the power? Do you have a little more than somebody else? Who gave it to you? Do you have more talents than the next fellow? Who made you to differ? “What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if you received it, why dost thou glory?”

    Why do you glory in your beauty? God gave it to you. Why do you glory in your strength? Without God you would not have it. Why do you glory in your wealth? God gave it to you. Why do you glory in your talent, in your singing ability? Without God’s grace you’d be a simpleminded imbecile. Who made you to differ? What do you have that God didn’t give you? If you are walking around with something, something somebody gave you, why are you bragging as if you have it of your own natural ability? Why do you think that you are better than anybody else? Only God’s merciful grace; God’s gracious grace enables you to be anything.

    Necessity Laid Upon Me To Preach
    Read the next line of our text: “Necessity is laid upon me.” Why is it necessary for me to preach the Gospel? Preacher, why are you so compelled; why is it that every time you speak it’s always Christ and him crucified the Gospel? I’ll tell you why because of the truth and the beauty of the Gospel. I see in the Gospel of substitution a beauty beyond all things. I see in the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Good News of the Son of God, the truth of God. Only Christ can meet the perfect law. Only Christ can satisfy the justice of God. Only Christ can open the way for us into the holiest of all, into the presence of the Father. Only Christ can supply the need of the bankrupt sinner, and only Christ can keep me from falling.
    “Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling, and who is able to present you faultless before the throne and the presence of his glory with exceeding joy; to him be glory both now and forever.”

    That’s why it’s necessary for me to preach the Gospel: the beauty of it, the glory of it, and the truth of it. I could tell you that salvation is in the church, but it wouldn’t be true. I could tell you, let me baptize you, and by obeying the baptismal commandment you will go to heaven, but it wouldn’t be so. I could tell you that if you live a good life and pray and go to church on Sunday and give a little offering, God will take you to heaven when you die, but it wouldn’t be so. I could tell you to quit drinking, live a good, moral life and you will go to heaven when you die, but that would be a lie.

    But when I tell you that Christ died for our sins; that Christ is a sufficient Saviour; that Christ is an effectual substitute who came down here and gave us a righteousness which we didn’t have and couldn’t produce, went to the cross, bore our sins, paid our debt, satisfied the justice of God; that he is our living advocate at the right hand of the Father; and that if you come to a living, vital union with him, you’ll be saved, that’s the truth, and the only truth that will make you free.

    Woe Is Unto Me If I Preach Not
    Paul said it first, the Holy Spirit inspired him to say it, “Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel.” I’m in trouble, real trouble. I can’t think of a crime more terrible than to be entrusted with the immortal souls of eternity-bound boys and girls, young people, men and women, like every preacher is entrusted every Sunday, and then stand up in church and waste precious time talking about myself, about my problems or my so-called denomination or my church, or talk about my ideas of what is right and what is wrong. I can’t think of a more awful crime against society than to deceive people who are given to us to instruct in the things of the Lord. I’ve got to preach the Gospel! Woe is me if I don’t. God have mercy, and he won’t, if I don’t! Woe unto the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, woe unto the Christ-crucifiers of Jerusalem, but double woe upon the preachers and shepherds and pastors who for advantage, filthy lucre and praise of men deceive men’s souls. God help them, but he won’t. Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel, and there’s not another one, it’s the Gospel of Christ. If an angel from heaven preaches unto you any other gospel, Paul said, “Let him be accursed.” I’m preaching as a dying man to dying men; I’m preaching as one who may never preach again, and under God I’m going to tell you the truth. I say this, woe is me if I preach not the Gospel; but I have something to tell you: woe is you if I preach it and you do not believe it. You may not understand it; and it may not fit in with your tradition; and it may not fit into your denominational pattern, and I’m sure if it’s the Gospel it won’t because Christ didn’t fit the denominational pattern when he came down here either. He didn’t fit into their religious theology; he didn’t fit into their tradition; and he didn’t fit into their mould; and they crucified him!

    What is it to preach the Gospel? It is to preach the truth about God, the truth about man, the truth about Christ, and to preach the truth about salvation.

    I hope I have done that, and that you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.

    Leonardo de la Paor


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