Gospel Preaching 29

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-seeking, 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.”

Gospel preaching is when the greatness and glory of God are preached as set forth and made clear in Christ, so Gospel preaching is what prevents “the diluted nature of the Christianity preached in British pulpits” or any other pulpits. It is Gospel preaching that draws forth the affections and desires of God in and through His men and causes preaching to be the opposite of hypocritical, which is to say that it is sincere. It is Gospel preaching that gives men a desire to proclaim God with power and prevents lackluster preaching.

When churches are more interested in money than preaching the true Christ, the problem is not that the ministers are preaching Christ but have a weak message, but the problem is that they are not preaching the true Christ at all. When building programs become the focus rather than Christ, most likely Christ is not being preached at any point either. People can preach something about Christ and yet do that in order to get the church to grow in numbers and dollars and that can be part of the building program as well. Christ must be preached for no other motive than love for the glory of God and His Gospel. It may be true that something can be seen about a person in how they spend their money, but it is also true that something can be said that it is a waste of money to give it to churches that are not preaching the Gospel of grace alone. Churches and ministers that are not preaching the Gospel of grace alone should not be supported much less build great buildings while they have the name of Christ on their lips and their hearts full of the love of self. We must have men who have died to self and the love of the honor of self either directly or through the building of buildings for the sake of self in order that they will preach Christ for the sake of Christ and His glory alone.

When a sermon in a Reformed pulpit could be preached in the average evangelical pulpit without a stir, there is a problem with. Christ crucified is an offensive message when it is preached in truth. When a sermon (so-called) can be given and yet liberals are not offended, there is a problem with that sermon. When Joel Osteen can have a few thousand Muslims attend “services” each Sunday and they are not offended, there is a deadly lack of preaching Christ in his sermons. The problem in America today is not that people have watered the message down a little here and there, but that Christ and Him crucified is not the center of the sermons and the church. Churches are run more like a business than as congregants who are members of the body of Christ. Until the ministers in our nation are broken from their hearts that love honor and esteem and get back to preaching the wonders and glories of Christ Jesus, the Church and our nation will continue to know little to nothing of the true Christ.

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