Preaching Christ 2

They doat about the letter of the law, but are strangers to the spirituality of it; and, as far as the glorious gospel of the blessed God, they cannot preach it. They may talk about the one God, about the Holy Tirinity, and the trinity in unity; about the divinity of Christ, and the unity of two natures in him; about the ancient settlements of eternity, and preach up what they may call the important doctrines of election and predestination, particular redemption, and effectual vocation, regeneration, justification, and sanctification, efficacious grace, and final perseverance, and yet at the same time be as destitute of the gospel of Christ as Satan himself. Men may speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and be nothing (I Cor 13:1-2). Yea more, be destitute both of the law and of the gospel; and be no more than the letter of the law and the word of the gospel. But the law is spiritual, and that is more than letter; and the gospel of the kingdom stands in power, and power is more than word. (William Huntington, 1745-1813)

The quote from above shows many things concerning true preaching if we care to look at it. While many think of the law in terms of letter and spirit, it is also true that preaching can be in accordance with words and spirit. Preaching can also be in terms of the letter of Christ and of the spiritual nature and work of Christ. Until a preacher is preaching in a spiritual manner, that is, by analogy as in letter of the law versus the spiritual nature of the law, that preacher is not preaching the gospel of the glory of Christ.

It is a far different thing to speak and preach on the 6th commandment if one thinks of murder as limited to the actual killing of another human being in a non-lawful manner rather than hatred in the heart and using vicious words toward them. In that sense it is a far different thing to speak of the two natures of Christ in a wooden way and only speak of them in the doctrinal sense than it is to speak of them in a spiritual way. It is one thing to speak of the doctrines of grace according to the words and a physical sense, yet it is a far different thing to speak of grace in a spiritual sense (according to the spirit). The Scriptures speak of a spiritual knowledge, which is to say that there is a knowledge that goes far beyond the dictionary definition of a word.

The hope is that in using the letter of the law and the spirit of the law (or spiritual nature of the law) as an example that it will set forth what it means to preach Christ. As a person cannot truly preach about any commandment from the letter of the law approach, so no one can truly preach Christ from the letter of the text approach. It is not enough to give a definition and tell what the word means and then how that applies to Christ, one must go into the truth of the spiritual nature of Christ and the spiritual meanings of the work of Christ. The preaching of most modern preachers is of no more benefit to the people than reading a commentary. The goal appears to be to give the people information and when that is accomplished they think they have preached. No, they have only given a lecture that any unbeliever could give if the unbeliever had the inclination to do so. Unbelievers can give solid lectures about the Bible as long as they do not have to say anything spiritual.

While there may be some stronger words said here, it is not meant to mock or demean. If anyone reads these words and God uses them to be awakened that there is more than just words and morality to a sermon and to Bible study, then the real intent will be understood. It is easy for an unbeliever to produce a lecture on regeneration as taught in the Bible. What the unbeliever cannot do is preach on regeneration from an understanding that being regenerated gives. What the unbeliever cannot do is preach on regeneration from the experience of regeneration. When preachers attempt to preach Christ in a way that an unbeliever could do, they are not truly preaching from the heart and they are not truly preaching Christ.

It is a sad thing in our day when there is orthodoxy but Christ is not preached. It is a sign that God has turned us over to hard hearts and has sent a spiritual famine in the midst of a lot of information about the Bible. We have Bibles and commentaries and so much in our day, yet in the midst of plenty we are in a severe famine. Men are preaching and teaching the texts of Scripture and they never get beyond a physical or external meaning. The people will not and cannot be spiritually fed unless there is spiritual teaching. Unless Christ is being spiritually preached then He is not truly being preached at all, He is only being spoken about in a way that any unbeliever could speak about if s/he wanted to. In fact, it is most likely the case that there are vast numbers of preachers who are unconverted because they are not preaching Christ at all. This is not a small issue, but it is vital.

If Luther was correct that the church stands or falls on whether it preaches the Gospel or not (justification), then we must see that when Christ is not preached in truth (in a spiritual manner), the Gospel is not being preached. The Gospel of God is when God shines forth His glory in the face of Christ and that is not a physical light, that is a spiritual light. The Gospel is not just information about some physical truths of Christ, but instead it is the truth of Christ and the glory of Christ and that must be spiritual because of the divine nature of Christ. But again, if the church (spiritual and invisible Church as well as any local church) stands of falls on the doctrine of justification, then the Gospel must be preached in the spiritual sense for a church to be a church and for one who takes the name of “preacher” or “minister” to be a true preacher who ministers the true Gospel.

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