Gospel Preaching 10

You ought to seek, wait, ask, and use all the means which God has appointed and afforded you, both secret, private and public, Rev.2:29, but God must make the means effectual. {Acts 16:14} And therefore, I must say it is not in me; I cannot draw you to Christ. That is the Father’s work alone. “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” {Jn.6:44} But having exhorted you to seek Him in the use of means, there I must leave you to wait on God for the moving of his Holy Spirit where you must lie and continue like the poor impotent man at the pool of Bethesda for healing. And though as he did, so you may see many a lame, blind, deaf, dumb, naked, leprous soul get healing and go away rejoicing and praising God. And you remain still so impotent that you cannot get into the fountain set open for sin and for uncleanness, nor have any that can help you in that you may be cured. Yet, be not disheartened, as Christ came suddenly and unexpectedly and healed the impotent man after long waiting; so Christ will come according to His promise to your souls that seek Him. “The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.” {Mal.3:1} Hanserd Knolly (Baptist, 1645)

There are some very important points for Gospel preaching in this paragraph. It is important for those who preach the free grace of God in salvation to constantly set forth Christ in the fullness (as far as finite man can) of His work and glory. In doing so we must set forth the impotence and inability of man to do one thing to save himself or to merit anything toward salvation. But since God works through means or uses means to bring men to Himself, we should point men to the use of means. However, there is a very fine line right at this point. The use of means can never merit or make salvation by anything other than the will and grace of God alone. These are the means that God uses and so men should use the means even though using those means never earns the slightest merit and man does nothing but sin in using those means.

What must be said is that in accordance with the preaching of a free and sovereign grace (the only kind of grace there is in reality) men are to use means, but the use of means is no guarantee that God will use those means to save a person. Using the means has no power or efficacy in them because God alone can use them with power. There is no power in preaching to save sinners unless God makes it powerful in the heart. There is no power in prayer or Bible study unless God enlightens the eyes and gives power to the soul. No evangelist and no preacher has the power to save a soul and no human being can do one thing to change dead heart into one with life. I would argue that Gospel preaching recognizes that fact and so preaches in such a way where sinners see that they are dead and that God alone can make them alive.

Can a sermon make a person alive and respond with faith? No, only God can do that. Can a prayer move God enough so that He will make a person spiritually alive? No, only God can move Himself. If a prayer could move God to save sinners then He would be responding to sinful prayers and salvation would not be by grace alone. Can reading the Bible move God enough to save sinners or can reading the Bible change the sinner by itself? No, no, and a thousand ties no. God alone can raise dead sinners from their spiritual death and give life to them. Can faith raise sinners from the dead? No, only God can raise sinners from the dead and true faith comes from a living heart with spiritual life and only God can give that. Gospel preaching, then, must not point sinners to exercise faith themselves and it must not point sinners to anyone or anything but God alone. Gospel preaching must lift up Christ and His work and it must point to the deadness of sinners and their inability to do one good thing. Gospel preaching will exalt Christ and lift Him up, but it will also seek to crush the pride of man. Gospel preaching will point men to use the means of grace but it will always point to God as being the only One who can make those means efficacious. In doing that Gospel preaching constantly lifts up Christ because He alone is the true object of true faith. When Christ is preached those that God gives faith to are drawn to Him.

While some stress the preacher, the real issue is the God of the preacher, the preaching, and the hearing. It is true that God uses preaching, but He makes the preacher and the preaching as well as gives the hearing. God uses preaching because He uses foolish means as the world views things. It is not just a matter of standing up and preaching a few things about Christ, but it is about the message being centered and focused on Christ even when He is not mentioned. The glory of God’s grace is manifested in and through Christ and the freeness of His grace should be manifested in and through Christ. Regardless of how conservative or even how true the doctrines the preacher preaches, they are not preaching Christ if free grace in Christ is not exalted. Regardless of how many times Christ is mentioned in a sermon, apart from exalting the free grace of God in Christ and the glory of Christ in saving sinners quite apart from all merit they have, the Gospel is not being preached.

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