Gospel Preaching 1

God’s gracious and free promises do not exclude the means he has appointed to attain the mercies therein promised. It pleases the Lord to tie his creatures to the use of means when he affords it them, though he will sometimes work without it. Now the ordinary means which God has in His infinite wisdom appointed to convert sinners, and also to build them up in Christ, is the word preached. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” {Rom.10:17} This word of the gospel, God will have preached to every creature in all parts of the world. {Mk.16:15} None are exempted or prohibited from hearing the gospel preached, but everyone that has an ear is required to hear. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” {Rev.2:7} And let such as neglect the hearing of the word of God {preached by such as are called and sent of Christ} consider what the Lord says in Proverbs 1 from the 20th verse to the 32nd. But albeit some of you see it is that which you ought to do and that you had need to do, to wit, to seek the Lord. Assenting to what you heard in the first use of the doctrine that there is much worth, beauty, and excellence in Christ. And that poor lost undone sinners stand in need of Him, notwithstanding how to obtain Christ, you know not as yet. Hanserd Knolly (Baptist, 1645)

There are many important things about Gospel preaching that are being ignored today or perhaps people have lost what it means to preach the Gospel. The first point that Knolly sets out is that God uses preaching to convert sinners and to build sinners up, but specifically He uses preaching the word. Without trying to denigrate all forms of evangelism, we should exalt the preaching of the Scriptures as the way God has set out as His revealed way to bring sinners to Himself. True evangelism will work with and look to preaching when there is biblical preaching to be found, but that is not always the case. This is also not saying that preaching is the exclusive way God draws sinners to Himself, but it appears to be the main way that He has ordained to do so. But again, if there is no biblical preaching to be found, then that is no excuse for believers not to be telling and teaching sinners the ways of God.
It might not be the worst thing to point out that when preaching is weak and biblical preaching is hard to find, God has sent forth a strong judgment whether people recognize it or not. If the main way God speaks to people is through preaching, when He withholds preaching from the people that is a very strong judgment upon them. If people need water to life and someone withholds water from them, then all will recognize that as a very, very serious situation. But when God withholds what He uses to convert people and build people up in the faith for eternal issues, then that is far more serious.

We might also not be amiss in pointing out that not all preaching of the Bible (verses of the Bible, topics from the Bible, and so on) is biblical preaching. A person can preach a text of Scripture in conservative manner and set out conservative topics and yet miss the main point of the text and of the Bible. The main point of the Bible is the glory of God in Christ. When men do not preach the greatness and glory of God in Christ, then they are not preaching in a biblical manner. When men do not preach a thorough God-centeredness of a text, then they are missing the point of the text.

It should also be pointed out that biblical preaching will point out the truth of human beings and the sinfulness of the nature of human beings as their actions that flow from those natures. As Knolly says, “poor lost undone sinners stand in need of Him.” But when preachers do not preach in such a way that sinners see themselves as lost and undone, then those sinners don’t see their real need of Christ. Indeed there are many who will preach about man’s need of Christ, but they teach that men need Christ in order to be healed, in order to be rich, and in order to lead a full life. But they don’t set forth the awfulness of man in his sin and his dire need of new life and a Savior.

The last thing (mentioned, though not last in importance) left in this is to point out is that biblical preaching sets out the “worth, beauty, and excellence in Christ.” So many so-called sermons focus on morality, social issues, and perhaps some historical matters regarding a text. But God shines forth His glory in Christ. We must preach Christ if we are to preach about God and His Gospel. Regardless of how much a man preaches about biblical things and regardless of how well he exegetes a text and regardless of how well he keeps in line with his confession, if he does not preach the worth, beauty, and excellence of Christ that man is not preaching in a biblical manner. The Gospel cannot be preached unless Christ is being preached in His fullness and glory. The Gospel cannot be preached unless men see their utter lostness and sinfulness and utter helplessness before God. The Gospel cannot be preached until the glory of God in saving sinners by grace alone is set out. There is not much Gospel preaching in our day. We should seek the Lord that He would raise up men who do not fear the frowns and disapproval of other men, but instead they would fear God and preach His truth in His way.

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