Gospel Preaching 28

I Corinthians 2:2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

A Christian, whether he is preacher or hearer, must be sure that he is speaking and hearing, not his own word, but God’s Word; otherwise it would be better if he had never been born, and preacher and hearer together must go to the devil. (Martin Luther)

William Hauge describes the early eighteenth century church provocatively in his recent biography of William Wilberforce. He speaks of the diluted nature of the Christianity preached in British pulpits, and of the “hypocritical and lackluster way in which it was practiced.” He describes an ecclesiastical establishment “mired in a period of place-seeing, money-grabbing and moral irrelevance.” When William Blackstone, a renowned lawyer at this time, had heard every preacher of note in London he concluded that none of their sermons contained more Christianity than the pagan philosopher Cicero. After listening to sermons in York, Henry Venn similarly concluded that “excepting a single phrase or two, they might be preached in a synagogue or mosque without offence.” One historian of this period candidly asserts that the established religion was regarded by most politician, and many churchmen too, as merely a valuable form of police control over the lower classes. He goes on to conclude that, “It must be admitted that the Church of England during the eighteenth century is not an inspiring spectacle. Latitudinarian to a degree which makes it difficult to find any theological justification for its existence; at its highest it was an efficient instrument of statecraft, at its lowest it was a nest of pluralists and mundane divines.”

Preaching has no other chief end or primary purpose other than the glory of God. It is possible to preach in such a way that there is nothing or very little of true Christianity in the sermon, though of course at that point it is not a true sermon. It is possible for preaching to be twisted into such a thing where men seek honor for themselves and/or seek bigger churches for more money. The churches can have those in the higher positions be nothing more than corrupt men grabbing for power in the political realm or with those who have money. Gospel preaching requires men to be in the hire of Christ Jesus and not be hirelings who do it for any other reason. Gospel preaching requires men to be sold out to the kingdom of Christ and not to the politics of men. Gospel preaching requires men to preach the biblical Gospel and if so they will offend those who come from a synagogue or a mosque.

The true preacher of the Gospel is one who thinks it is more important for men to behold the glory of God in Christ than for men to behold the glory of the preacher. In fact, one cannot behold both of those two things at one time and a preacher cannot preach for his own glory and the glory of his master at the same time either. When a man begins to think of politics as more important than Gospel preaching, whether the man would say that or not, that man has become virtually worthless to the kingdom of Christ. Men do not need to hear politicians in the pulpit, they need to have Gospel preachers in the pulpit speaking of the kingdom of Christ.

A church and the Church must have Gospel preachers or it will be given over to political activity, social change, and moral activism. That has been shown over and over again throughout history. The Church becomes less like Christ and more like the world when it is given over to those things (political activity, social change, and moral activism) rather than what the Church is to be like and do. The Church is to be the pillar and support of truth, which is to say that it is to declare the truth of God to the world. When the Church is given over to other things, it has no positive Divine purpose in the world. The Church, when it is given over to the things of the world, though those things do have a rightful and positive place in the world; has stopped being salt and light in and to the world. The Gospel of God is the most glorious message of truth that there is in the world and Gospel preachers must be devoted to that. It is the true Gospel that changes society and its politics. It is the true Gospel that changes hearts and it alone can make men truly moral. When churches turn from the Gospel to the activities of the world in making things better, they have turned from God’s method of change to that of men. We must have Gospel preachers instead of moralizers and politicians. We must have Gospel preachers if we want God.

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