Gospel Preaching 12

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)

Christ must be proclaimed in His Person, His offices, and in His works. Sinners must be driven to utter despair of all hope in themselves and any hope in anyone else but Christ. Sinners should be exhorted to use the means of grace and yet they must be told that God alone can make those means effectual. Sinners have to be left in the hands of God because it is God alone who can give grace. If grace comes from any other person or sinners can distribute grace to themselves, then it is no longer true grace. The sinner must get into the pool (taken from the illustration that Knolly uses from Scripture) in order to be cured, yet the sinner has no ability to get into the pool. The sinner is lame and has no power to do so. Yet the sinner must wait on God to come and command Him with effectual power to get up and get into the pool. Here is real hope for sinners. The hope of sinners must not be in their own power to get into the pool to be cleansed, but in One who can heal them so that they can get in the cleansing pool.

It may be that the poor, impotent sinner observes others go to the pool in their own power and appear to be healed, but if they go in their own power they are not going by the power of grace and true healing is only found in those who go by grace. Sinners often think that they can get up and go in their own power, but that is not true at all. They are deceiving themselves as to what they can do and as to having Christ. Yet one can also observe that some do go by the power of the Spirit and are washed clean and healed of their sins. This should not be a discouragement that God heals some and not you, but instead one should look and say that God does heal by grace alone. If God heals by grace alone, then He can heal even me the chief of sinners. Yes, I have sinned and have sinned with thirst and love for sin, but God has saved many like that in the past and will save many in the future. No matter how wicked I have been, there is a fountain for those who look to grace alone.

For those who know their inability to love God and have their deepest belief/faith to be in Christ, the good news is that God can give them a new heart that loves Him and has Christ as their deepest belief/faith. How discouraging it is for sinners to know that they must believe (have faith) and yet know their inability to do so and hear the words of preachers tell them what they must do. How encouraging, on the other hand, it is for sinners to hear the preaching of free grace. Yes, it is true, that they cannot do what they must do in order to be saved. However, if they know to look to free grace there is great hope in the God who can make the means effectual and who can be gracious to whom He will be gracious. He has power and He can overcome any will to make it willing.

Sinners are not left without hope in the Gospel of grace alone. The preaching and exalting of Christ should leave them without any hope in themselves, but the hope in self must be stripped away in order to hope only in Christ. Sinners should use the means and seek the Lord in those means as the means cannot do one thing to make the means effectual, for that is the work of the Lord alone. Using the means does not put God under and obligation to save sinners, but instead using them shows sinners their own wickedness and His sovereignty. Gospel preaching is a means and preachers must see that with an increasing clarity. Gospel preaching is not just to show what a good speaker a man is or how educated he is, but it is to show forth the wonders of God in free grace. How sinners should despair of all help and all hope but Christ. Behold the kindness of God in saving sinners in Christ Jesus. Behold the wonders of God displayed in the Gospel of free grace. Behold the majesty and glory of grace on display in this glorious Gospel. Sinners must see this free grace in the preaching or they will not behold the Gospel at all.

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