Gospel Preaching 43

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.

He should also open his mouth vigorously and confidently, to preach the truth that has been entrusted to him. He should not be silent or mumble but should testify without being frightened or bashful. He should speak out candidly without regarding or sparing anyone, let it strike whomever and whatever it will. It is a great hindrance to a preacher if he looks around and worries about what people like or do not like to hear, or what might make him unpopular or bring harm or danger upon him. (Martin Luther)

“Preach Christ, let your end be to glorify him, to render him amiable and precious in the eyes of his people; to lead them to him as a sanctuary to protect, a propitiation to reconcile, a treasure to enrich, a physician to heal, an advocate to present, as righteousness to justify, as sanctification to renew, as redemption to save, as an inexhausted fountain of pardon, grace, comfort, victory, and glory.” (Edward Reynolds)

The duty of such an officer of the church—a pastor, teacher, elder of the church—…”is to feed the church with knowledge and understanding.” This feeding is by preaching of the gospel. He is no pastor who does not feed his flock. It belongs essentially to the office; and that not now and then (according to the figure and image that is set up of the ministry in the world—a dead idol) as occasion serves. But the apostle says, Acts 6:4, “We will give ourselves continually to the word.” It is to “labor in the word and doctrine” (I Tim 5:17). (John Owen, Sermons to the Church)

Paul said that he determined to know nothing among the Corinthians but Christ, and Him crucified. Reynolds (above) tells us that in preaching Christ our goal should be His glory. It is Christ that is to be preached to the people as the all in all rather than stress doctrine to the intellect alone and rather than stress morality and good works. It is from Christ that true doctrine flows and it is from Christ that true holiness and good works must come from. We do not do works in order to receive grace, but we receive grace in order to do good works. Since we can do nothing (spiritual or good) if we have not received it from Christ, then we should preach Christ as the root, spring, and foundation of all that is spiritual. Since we must have grace to perform any of God’s commands, we must preach Christ as the source of all grace and the goal of all the commands of God. Apart from Christ we do not have the strength to obey any command and apart from Christ and the glory of God in Him we do not have a proper goal or motive.

The essence of preaching is the Gospel. The Gospel is precisely the only true message suited to the soul of all sinners, converted and unconverted alike. Those poor believers who are being harassed by the evil one and troubled with his fiery darts need to hear that they are saved by grace alone and Christ alone. They need to hear that Christ is an inexhaustible “fountain of pardon, grace, comfort, victory, and glory.” Justified sinners must hear of Christ or their hearts will be hardened into self-sufficiency and various versions of moralism. Justified sinners need to hear of the glorious Gospel that they may rely upon Christ and Christ alone and look to His grace to enable them to rely upon Christ alone.

If the preaching of the Gospel is so important for both the converted and the unconverted, then it should be clear that Owen is hitting the issue where it needs to be hit. A pastor in name is not being a true pastor if he is not preaching the Gospel (preaching Christ) in such a way that sinners see He is all in all. There is nothing that we must have spiritually that Christ does not procure and apply, so there is nothing more important to preach than Christ and the Gospel of Christ. A preacher that is not preaching the Gospel is not preaching what the unconverted need to hear and he is not preaching what the converted need to hear. A preacher that is not preaching Christ and the Gospel is simply not a true preacher at all.

But again, if this is what the converted and the unconverted need to hear and/or must hear, then regardless of the orthodoxy of the man and regardless of the orthodoxy of the sermon that man is not preaching. There has to be a famine in the land when those in the pulpits will exposit a text and make application to the people for them to be moral and do works and yet the Gospel is not preached. The lack of Gospel preaching of which there is a severe shortage in our day should be demonstrative evidence that we are in a spiritual famine. We do not need conferences on this subject and we do not need committees and the like, we need broken hearts and the strength of grace to seek His face to turn us from our cold hearts to Him. No man or woman in elected office can change one heart or extend the smallest amount of grace to our hearts. We need God and the only way to God is Christ and so we must preach Christ and Him crucified.

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