When the family asks a man of God to conduct or be a part of the service, this man has a responsibility first and foremost to declare the uncompromising truth. Will you me a man of God or a boy? Will you tell the truth or scratch itching ears? Be merciful, be kind, be loving - but give the people what they need to hear!
The more common funeral message is to preach the person into Heaven. I am sure we have all been to funerals where the person that had died was not a good person, by anyone’s standard, especially God’s (Romans 3:10). Yet this preacher, a man that should be a man of God, stands and speaks of this person’s goodness. I have a real problem with that. Many people who attend funerals may be hearing preaching for the first time, or the first time in years. And here is a man, supposedly speaking for God with a Bible in hand, declaring a wicked man good. What happens to the lost soul who is living a more moral life than the deceased ever did? They must think “If they are good enough to get to Heaven, no problem me getting in.” How could they not? How shameful for a man whose life is supposed to be centered in the gospel message lie to people at such a moment? Why stand up and lie? Would it be better for a lost soul to hear the true gospel or for a man to tell them what they want to hear?
A man can be sensitive to the families hurt for their lost loved one and declare a true message at the same time.
What should be said about a soul who did not make a profession, and is most likely in Hell as you speak? I believe a good message would be to tell them that you have a message that the deceased would like you to hear.
If your loved one could tell you one thing right now, this is it; there is a Holy God who hates sins so much that He has prepared a place to punish sinners for their crimes. Sin is the reason for all that is bad in the world; pain suffering and death. Yet this same God is loving and merciful, and sent His Son, Jesus Christ into the world to be a substitute for sinners. Though all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, God showed His love toward His people that while we were yet sinners, Christ died, shed His blood and rose again for the justification of all who repent of their sins and believe in Him. This is the message that they would want you to hear, right now.
That would be the message in a nutshell, and I believe it to be truthful way of approaching the funeral. A believer, who is now absent from the body and in the glories and bliss of heaven would most certainly want their Saviour to be praised and the gospel proclaimed. The darkest and vilest of sinners would not want their family to go and be with them in Hell. The soul in Hell would want the gospel to be preached, not for the glory of God, but to spare their family the pain and suffering of eternal torment. Luke 16:19-31
My Dad once preached a funeral message to a family of mostly believers. There was one man who hadn’t been to church in 50 years or more. He hated the thought of religion, church and Christianity. He was adamant about how little use he had for the Word of God. My Dad preached a faithful, true gospel message and spoke very little, perhaps one sentence about the deceased, and about 15 minutes about Christ Jesus. This man approached my Dad and sternly said, “I’ll see you at church Sunday.” Long story short, two years later or so, the Lord saved this man’s soul, and also saved His wife.
Douglas Newell IV