Preaching Christ 5

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)

It is so hard to communicate what it means to preach Christ in our day. Many think that they are preaching Christ when they preach morality because they are preaching what they think is the morality of Christ. Others think that they are preaching Christ when they preach doctrine because they think that they are preaching the truths of Christ. Others think that they are preaching Christ when they are preaching a text of Scripture. Others think that they are preaching Christ when they use the word “Christ” or when they speak of Christ or perhaps mention the cross of Christ at the end of a sermon.

The Gospel cannot be preached apart from the preacher having Christ as his life and of Christ teaching that man in the inward man. It does sound rather mystical to many, but this is simply to say that we must have spiritual knowledge of Christ and be taught of Christ. If that is mystical, then Christianity is mystical. If preaching is as Calvin said, then preaching is really a man that God has prepared to be His mouthpiece and He speaks through that man. When a man that God has prepared to preach and that man preaches, then in one very real sense when that man preaches God is speaking. That does not mean that the sermons are “God-breathed” or inspired as the Scriptures are, but that the man is speaking forth from God.

We can use an analogy to point this out. The work of the Spirit is to illuminate. However, the Spirit must not just illuminate the text; He must bring light into the soul and thus illuminate the person as well as the text. The same thing is true of preaching. The preacher must be taught something of the text, yes, but he must also be taught in the inward man and that only happens by conformity of the soul to Christ. When Christ teaches a man, He does not just teach him what the text says, but He teaches the man a spiritual meaning and in that the man will be conformed Himself. The man who is to preach must know something of the meaning of the text, but more important is that the man be conformed to Christ by Christ Himself.

We can also see this illustrated by the Gospel itself. The Gospel is not just a message as such, but it is the message of Christ and the work of Christ. The Gospel is not just words of Christ and what He does, it is about what He actually will carry out in the soul of sinners that He calls to Himself. We see this in the following text: “For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). It is not just that God promises light, but He shines in the heart to give that light and be that light in Christ. In order to preach this, then, the preacher must have the light of God in the soul and know something of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ in order to preach the Gospel. The Gospel is not just relating the facts; it is also proclaiming the glory of God from a heart that has had God work those truths in the soul.

Preaching Christ is not just giving a lecture about biblical facts, it is the soul of a man that has been conformed to Christ by Christ and His message declaring the Christ who is his life and declaring that in a spiritual way. Preaching Christ, then, comes from a heart that God Himself has taught in illuminating the text, illuminating the inward part of man, and then teaching the man by conforming the whole soul to Christ. Only the man can preach who preaches his own heart when he is preaching Christ who is his life and also has been conformed to Christ. This is not some mystical way of doing things, it is the work of Christ in the heart. In beholding Christ and His glory a man is conformed to Christ from glory to glory. Preaching, then, is when a man who has been conformed to Christ and His glory is relating the Christ of Scripture and his own heart as he beholds that glory and testifies to it.

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