Gospel Preaching 6

Thirdly, God requires that those who do receive Christ shall depart from iniquity. “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his; and, let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” {II Tim.2:19} “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” {Tit.2:11-14} And that they shall sell all, lose all, and hate all for the sake of Christ and take up the cross and follow Him. Hanserd Knolly (Baptist, 1645)

While it may seem odd to many that part of Gospel preaching is that God requires those who receive Christ to depart from iniquity, this is the longing of a new heart. It can also be the desire of the one that God has put His hand on and is breaking the person and giving them a taste of the bitterness of sin, but in that case a person hates sin out of self-love rather than hating sin as sin and as against God. However, the Gospel includes the good news of how God gives people new hearts and they will turn from iniquity as a result of being new creations. The point is that no matter how free true grace is preached, it does not include lascivious people giving themselves over to sin and loving their sin as such.

The grace of the Gospel must be preached with great clearness and freeness to sinners. But it should also be preached as to what grace will do once a person has been captured and cleansed by grace. Those who love their sin and are not weary by it will not want to hear of a Gospel or a grace like that. Those people want a grace (which is not true grace at all) where they can be saved from hell but not from the love and power of sin. The Gospel is that God saves sinners by His grace alone, but the grace that saves is a grace that works in sinners and takes the love and power of sin from them. Christ Himself will cleanse the heart that He will dwell in and out of love for His own name He will cleanse those who bear His name.

The free Gospel of grace alone must not be diluted with any legalism and any form of anything that teaches us that grace is contingent on our fleeing from sin, because that makes grace no longer to be grace. But the glory of the grace in the Gospel and of the Gospel is that it gives sinners new hearts and new desires. It is grace that delivers sinners from the power and love of sin rather than sinners having to work hard to deny what they love in order to receive grace. Instead, and to be repetitive, sinners are not saved by being sanctified but they are saved for the purpose of being sanctified. Sinners are not saved from the law so that they can be sanctified by the law, but they are saved by grace so that out of the strength of grace they will love God and their neighbor and in doing that the law is fulfilled.

It is so hard to preach a free-grace and not be accused of antinomianism (anti-law), but it is even harder to preach the law and still preach free-grace. This is because the glory of grace is that it will work in a person to love and so keep the law, yet the law never works to produce free-grace. It is true that the law is preached to some degree so that men can see their inability and their sin, but the law will never work to produce grace. This is why, I think, Paul said he preaching nothing but Christ and Him crucified. He preached Christ and the cross in such a way that the law was exalted and honored as it reflected the holiness of God, but he did not focus on preaching the law other than as a way of preaching Christ.

Christ Himself must be preached in such a way that He is the sanctification of saved sinners. Grace must be preached in such a way that sinners become holy by grace and not by keeping the law. This is a balance that is very hard to keep, not so much because it is fuzzy, but because there are so many legalists (or one stripe or another) in the world. Saved sinners keep the law (imperfectly) because they have the life of Christ in them and because He is working in them by grace alone. We must never give in to the idea that sinners are saved or sanctified or assisted in those things by their own keeping of the law. We must never give in to the idea that free-grace promotes sin rather than promotes true holiness. As Ephesians 2:8-10 sets out, we are not saved by good works but are saved for good works. Good works and holiness come from grace and the life of Christ in sinners and nothing else.

Our preaching must always reflect these things, though all preachers are far from imperfect and their preaching needs the blood of Christ as well as the preacher’s open sins. There is no room for preaching anything but Christ and Him crucified to the glory of God, which is why we must preach and always preach a free-grace. A true and free-grace is never obtained by anything a creature can do, but instead all true good or spiritual good that a creature can do comes from free-grace. True holiness and true good works can only come from free-grace and we must never preach anything that contradicts that. Pleasing God can only come when God works this in us by free-grace, though this is rarely heard in our day either. The only kind of grace is free-grace as we can do nothing to move God to show grace to us or work it in us. This is the grace that must be our love and the focus of our preaching.

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