Sermon #1625 Miscellaneous Sermons
Text: 1 Corinthians 9:16
Subject: My Thoughts About Preaching
Date: Friday Afternoon — June 24, 2005
Black Pastors Fraternal
I am honored to be with you today. Bro. Carter asked me to come here today to speak to you about “the practical aspects of the ministry”. It is my firm conviction that the most practical aspect of the ministry is the preaching of the gospel. In fact, I am fully convinced that a faithful pastor must involve himself in nothing else. Our business is preaching, nothing else, just preaching. It is the responsibility of every pastor to give himself faithfully and entirely to the work of the ministry for the glory of Christ, the good of God's church and the salvation of God's elect (2 Tim. 4:15; 1 Tim. 4:12-16).
Most people think that a pastor's work is mostly that of a social worker, promoter and psychoanalyst. They see the work of a pastor in terms of hospital visiting, taking tea with old ladies, playing with children, involvement in community affairs, getting people to join the church, conducting weddings and funerals and counseling those with problems. But the Word of God never mentions any of these things in describing pastoral work.
· It is not our responsibility to get people into the church.
· It is our responsibility to preach the gospel.
So that is what I want to talk to you about. I am going to begin with Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 9:16.
(1 Corinthians 9:16) "For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!"
Notice, Paul did not simply say, “Woe is unto me if I preach not.” What Paul said is, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” We have an abundance of preacher. We don’t need more preachers! In fact, I wish most would find some other way of robbing people. But we do need gospel preachers; and we who are gospel preachers must preach the gospel. And that is the thing I want to talk to you about this afternoon.
God promised that he would give his church pastors according to his own heart who would feed his people with knowledge and understanding (Jer. 3:15). Paul told the Ephesian elders that they were to “feed the church of God.” And the Holy Spirit tells us that one of Christ’s ascension gifts to his church, for the perfecting of the saints and the edification and stability of their souls was pastors, teachers of the Word of God (Eph. 4).
I make no pretense of being a scholar, a theologian, or an authority of any kind on any subject, especially on preaching. I am a simple man with average abilities. That statement is not a show of modesty, but a statement of fact. But I am a gospel preacher. And if I can help any man in the great work of preaching the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ to eternity bound sinners, I want to do so. After preaching the gospel of Christ for 38 years, I think I may have learned a few things that will be of help to you. It is with that desire, hoping that our God will be pleased to honor it, that I am here.
First, let me say a little bit about sermon preparation. I do not suggest that the method I use is preferable to other methods suggested by other men. It is simply that which seems to work best for me, as I seek to serve the interest of our God and his kingdom in this world.
In sermon preparation, I endeavor in my daily reading and study of the Scriptures to seek a message from God for our next meeting. Once I have found the passage from which I believe the Lord would have me to preach, I try to read the entire context very carefully, if not the entire book in which it is found, making notes of prominent things in the context. Never forgetting (hopefully) the grammatical, historic context, I then look for the message of Christ crucified in the passage, comparing Scripture with Scripture.
I make it a determined practice never to "freely" spiritualize the Scriptures. Yet, I am fully convinced that the Scriptures are to be interpreted spiritually. That is to say, no passage is interpreted correctly until Christ (the gospel of God's free grace) is seen clearly presented in the passage. If I fail to see Christ in the passage and am not able to show from the Scripture that that is the intent of the Holy Spirit in it, I wait until I do to preach from it.
Then I consult the works of other men. Those will usually include a fairly large group; but I consult John Gill's and Robert Hawker's commentaries and usually C. H. Spurgeon's sermons and expositions on almost every passage from which I preach. In doing so, I always find some thought or turn of the text I have missed in my own reading.
The mechanics of preparation follow a regularly established pattern. For me, it is helpful to be very thorough in my sermon notes. It is a rare thing for me to preach a message as fully as my notes might indicate that I would. However, writing out detailed notes (whether or not they are actually used in preaching) has proven helpful to me in many ways.
1. I am, by this method, less likely to unintentionally use the same Scripture texts and/or arguments to prove a point.
2. I am able to present the message in a more precise and logical way. When I was a young man I heard a preacher say, "Rambler makes a good car. I drive one. But a rambler is a very poor preacher.
3. By writing my notes out in considerable detail, by the time I have finished, the sermon is fairly well fixed in my mind, and recall is much easier.
4. If I have reason to use the material for other purposes (writing an article or a chapter for a book) the material does not need to be gathered again.
I make it a point to use the most simple grammar and words that cannot be misunderstood. If someone has to ask what a word I have used means, I am embarrassed by my arrogance and poor judgment in using it.
I both write my notes and preach with determined dogmatism. I do not come to the pulpit to present ideas for consideration, but a message from God to be believed. If I were not confident of the message, the doctrine, and the interpretation, I would not give it.
It is not the purpose of preaching merely to inform the mind and stir the emotions of those who hear us. The purpose of preaching is to move men Godward in repentance, faith, worship, gratitude and consecration. Rolfe Barnard used to say, "Preach for a verdict." Someone else said, "Where there is no summons, there is no sermon." I prepare my messages with a conscious awareness that I am preparing to preach to eternity bound sinners who must know and have Christ, immortal souls to whom I may never speak again.
With those things in mind, I find it helpful to have a stated subject (or title) and to write out a proposition (a summary of the doctrine I wish to convey). Sometimes I state it. At other times I do not. But I always have it in mind.
· Then, I write out the major points I hope to make in the sermon and briefly sketch out the conclusion or application of the message. That may seem to be like putting on your shoes before your socks, but it helps to keep my mind focused.
· Then, I write out the notes, filling in the points, using Scripture abundantly to demonstrate that the message is truly the message of Holy Scripture.
The American Puritan, Cotton Mather, instructed his students with these wise and needful words of counsel. — “Among all the subjects with which you feed the people of God, I beseech you, let not the true Bread of Life be forgotten; but exhibit as much as you can of the glorious Christ unto them; yea, let the motto upon your whole ministry be, ‘Christ is all!’”
In 1771 John Berridge wrote to his friend and fellow-laborer in the gospel, Rowland Hill, “Avoid all controversy in preaching, talking, or writing, and wage no war but with the devil. Preach nothing down but the devil and nothing up but Jesus Christ.” Happy is the preacher who follows that wise counsel and blessed are those who hear him.
What a blessing it would be if every man who claims to speak for God, who claims to be a gospel preacher, would heed those words! How blessed the church of God would be if those who fill her pulpits were determined to preach and teach nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified! That was Paul’s determination (1 Cor. 2:2). It ought to be every preacher’s determination! Every man who is sent of God to preach is sent of God to preach Christ crucified, always, in all places, in all his fullness (1 Cor. 1:17-25).
(1 Corinthians 1:17-25) "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. (18) For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (19) For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. (20) Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? (21) For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (22) For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: (23) But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; (24) But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (25) Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men."
(1 Corinthians 2:2) "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified."
Christ crucified is “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). He is the singular subject of Holy Scripture.
· He is the sum and essence of all true doctrine. He is the life of all gospel ordinances.
· He is the secret ingredient of all true worship.
· He is the mercy-seat in whom God meets with men.
· He is the motive of all godliness, obedience, service, and devotion.
· He is the reward of heavenly glory.
· Jesus Christ is our God! Jesus Christ is our Savior.
· And Jesus Christ is salvation.
· He is the Way to heaven; and he is Heaven.
· He is the Revealer of truth, and he is Truth.
· He is the Giver of Life; and he is Life. “Christ is all!”When we talk about divine sovereignty, we are declaring that Jesus Christ is Lord.
· When we proclaim God’s glorious work of predestination, we are showing how that sinners have been predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ.
· God’s election is his choice of some to everlasting salvation in Christ and for Christ’s sake.
· Total depravity, a thoroughly biblical doctrine, is God’s revelation of our need of Christ.
· Limited atonement is the biblical assurance of effectual redemption and grace by Christ, the declaration that all for whom Christ died shall be saved.
· Irresistible grace, or effectual calling, is the almighty, irresistible revelation of Christ in the soul by the Holy Spirit, which causes the chosen to come to him.
· Regeneration is the implanting of Christ in us.
· Justification is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to all his redeemed.
· Faith is trusting Christ.
· Sanctification is Christ being formed in us, begun in regeneration and consummated in glorification.
· Perseverance is Christ holding our hearts by grace and keeping us in life and faith.
· Baptism is the believer’s public confession of faith in Christ. Being symbolically buried in the watery grave and raised with him, we confess our faith in his finished work of redemption as our Substitute.
· The Lord’s Supper is our blessed remembrance of Christ.
· Eternal life is knowing Christ.
· Heaven is being with Christ and like Christ perfectly and forever.
Preaching is telling people about Christ. Anything else is not preaching. Call it what you may; but it is not preaching!
There are none who hold the offices of prophet or apostle today, none who have the gifts accompanying the writers of Inspiration. There are none today who have the gifts of speaking in tongues, miracles, healing, or prophecy. There is no need for any of these things. We have the full, final, complete revelation of God in the Scriptures. Since that which is perfect is come, that which was in part is no longer needed.
Though those supernatural gifts of the apostolic era died when the apostles died, the message of the apostles and of the prophets is unchanged. Their message is our message. “We preach Christ crucified”(1 Cor. 1:23). I know that these words are used as a religious cliché by almost all who claim to be preachers. With God’s servants, this is not a cliché, but the absolute truth. – “We preach Christ crucified.”
True, biblical preaching is not merely giving a methodical, historic, grammatical exposition of Scripture. Any man who is not too lazy to study can do that without any special gift. Bible colleges and seminaries produce such preachers by the hundreds every year. There is something more to preaching than reciting facts! Yes, true, biblical preaching is always true to the historic, grammatical facts in the Book of God; but it is much more. Gospel preaching is the preaching of the gospel. It is the preaching of Christ crucified, as he is revealed in the whole Book of God.
Christ crucified is not simply the most important message of Scripture, the central message of Scripture, the primary message of Scripture, or even the dominant message of Scripture. Christ crucified is the message of Scripture. When the apostle Paul said to the Ephesians, “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” in Acts 20:26, he was saying exactly the same thing as he did in 1 Corinthians 2:2. — “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
It is the office, work, delight, and glory of God the Holy Spirit to speak of, reveal, and convince chosen, redeemed sinners of the person and work of Christ (John 16:7-14). He takes the things of Christ and shows them to us.
· He convinces men of sin, because they do not trust Christ.
· He convinces men of righteousness established by Christ’s obedience to the Father as the God-man Mediator and Representative.
· And he convinces men of judgment finished, forever finished for God’s elect, by the sin atoning death Christ, our sin-bearer, who put away the sins of his people by the sacrifice of himself.
The convicting work of the Spirit, that work by which he savingly convinces sinners of these things, is done through the instrumentality of the Word of God (Rom. 10:13-17), that Word of God by which all who believe are born again, that Word of God “which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1 Pet. 1:23-25).
(Romans 10:13-17) "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (14) How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? (15) And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (16) But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? (17) So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
(1 Peter 1:23-25) "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (24) For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: (25) But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."
God called men are men who, like Paul, have been sent to preach the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17). I have absolutely no interest in debating points of theology with men, defending a creed, a denomination, or a position. The Spirit of God tells us plainly that debate is nothing but the lust of the flesh venting itself in pride to the hurt of another (Rom. 1:29). All my personal experience in the practice has painfully verified the Spirit’s testimony. It is the business of gospel preachers to preach the gospel, to preach the gospel exclusively, earnestly, and incessantly. That is what it is to preach the Word of God (1 Pet. 1:23-25).
· It is the gospel of Christ which is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:15-17).
· It is the gospel of Christ which is the standard of godliness (John 13:15; 1 Pet. 2:21-24).
· It is the gospel of Christ which is the motive for and basis of all consecration, devotion, self-denial, sacrifice, and service (Rom. 12:1-3; 1 Cor. 6:9-20; 2 Cor. 8:8-9).
God never sent a man to preach politics, liberal, conservative, or otherwise. He never called a man to preach psychology, marriage counseling, family values, or social reform. All these things will certainly be dealt with and affected by the faithful preaching of the gospel; but God never called any man to devote himself to the preaching of such drivel.
Those men who are called and gifted of God to preach, are called and gifted to preach the gospel. It matters not where or to whom God sends his servants, they are all sent with the same task and sent with the same message. Every servant of God attests, “Christ sent me to preach the gospel.”
If we are men gifted and called of God, we must be undaunted by charges of extremism, dogmatism, and a lack of balance. Let the servants of men grovel before their masters about such matters. God’s servants are totally unconcerned about the approval or disapproval of men. Being sent of God to preach the gospel, “we preach Christ.” Our doctrine, our only doctrine, is what John calls “the doctrine of Christ.”
The Word of God is not a book about science, but the Book about Christ. It is not a book about morality, but the Book about Christ. It is not a book about history, politics, philosophy, or law. It is not even a book about prophecy, church dogma, or theology. The Scriptures, of course, address all these issues and many others; but that is not what they are about. The Book of God is a HIM-BOOK. It is all about him, the Lord Jesus Christ. The message of Holy Scripture, in its entirety, is the Lord Jesus Christ and him crucified. There is not a page the Book of God that does not speak of Christ, not a page!
The Son of God tells us plainly that he is the message and theme of Holy Scripture, that he is the living Word of whom the written Word speaks. This is not a matter of conjecture, speculation, or hermeneutical principal, but something plainly stated in Scripture (John 5:39; Luke 24:27, 44-47).
(John 5:39) "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."
(Luke 24:27) "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."
(Luke 24:44-47) "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. (45) Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, (46) And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: (47) And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."
As we have seen, the Apostle Paul considered the preaching of Christ to be synonymous with preaching all the counsel of God, for Christ is all the counsel of God. He said to the Ephesians, "Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:26-27). To the Corinthians he wrote, "I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2). And Paul was not one of those men who preached one thing to one crowd and something else to another. He was not the servant of men, but the servant of God. Therefore his message was always the same.
We need to see this clearly. The Bible, the Word of God, is a Book with one message, and that one message is redemption, righteousness, and eternal life in Christ. The gospel of Christ is the message of Holy Scripture. All the law and all the prophets, all the psalms and all the proverbs, all the gospels and all the epistles, all the history of the Old and New Testament, the whole Book of God was written to point us to and show us the Lord Jesus Christ.
Substitution is the message of the gospel. Substitution is not one doctrine among many. Substitution is the gospel. All true doctrine arises from and is based upon the gospel doctrine of substitution. It is impossible to understand election, redemption, justification, sanctification, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, preservation, the great white throne judgment, or eternal glory until we understand these things in the light of substitution.
The gospel of Christ, this message of substitution is the message God sends his servants to preach to all who will hear them (1 Cor. 9:16). Our message never varies. We preach Christ to draw lost sinners to him, and to draw believing sinners to him. We preach Christ to convict, convert, and correct, and to comfort, console, and consecrate. Our message is Christ.
The Old Testament Scriptures speak of Christ, point us to Christ, and call us to faith in Christ. From the moment that God announced in the Garden of Eden that the Seed of the woman would crush the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15), Christ was the central fact and figure of Old Testament prophecy. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, and all the prophets spoke of him. Here are a few of the many prophetic statements that pointed directly to the coming of Christ, his glorious Person, and his redemptive work — (Gen. 22:13-14; 49:10; Deut. 18:15-18; Psa. 2:7-8; 45:6-7; 110:3; Pro. 8:22-23; Song of Sol. 1:2-4; Isa. 53:8-11; Mic. 5:2; Zech. 12:10; Mal. 3:1).
In addition to the direct prophecies about the coming of Christ, God gave numerous types and pictures to foreshadow his coming. The types are so numerous that I cannot begin to name them But let me mention just a few. They may be divided into four different categories:
1. Typical People: Adam (Rom 5:14), Noah (Heb. 11:7), Melchizedec (Heb. 7:1-3), Moses (Deut. 18:15-18), Aaron (Heb. 5:1-5), Joshua (Heb. 4:1-9), Boaz (Ruth 2:1; 3:18), David (Acts 2:25-36), Solomon (1 Kings 10:1-24).
2. Typical Things: Noah’s Ark, The Ram Caught in a Thicket (Gen. 22:8-13), Jacob’s Ladder (John 1:51), The Brazen Serpent (John 3:14-16), The Paschal Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7), The Scapegoat (Lev. 16:21), The Manna (John 6:32-33), The Smitten Rock (1 Cor. 10:4), The Altar of Sacrifice (Heb. 13:10), The Mercy-Seat (1 John 2:1-2).
3. Typical Events: The Coats made for Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:21), The Deliverance of Israel out of Egypt across the Red Sea (Ex. 14-15) The Slaying of Goliath (1 Sam. 17:38-54), The Deliverance of the Hebrew Men from the Fiery Furnace (Dan. 13-30); Daniel’s Deliverance from the Lions’ Den (Dan. 6:4-28).
4. Typical Places: The Tabernacle (John 1:14), The Temple (John 2:18-20), The Cities of Refuge (Heb. 6:18).
The lists could go on and on. I have not even mentioned all the instituted, ceremonial types, the sabbath days, and the many other instituted types of the Old Testament, all of which pointed to the Person and work of Christ as our Surety, Mediator, Substitute and Redeemer. The reason we are forbidden to observe any of those carnal ordinances of Old Testament worship is that Christ has fulfilled them (Col. 2:16-17).
The New Testament
The doctrine and message of the entire New Testament is the Lord Jesus Christ. As he was pre-eminent in all the types and prophecies of the Old Testament, so he is pre-eminent in all the New Testament. The four Gospels give us four views of Christ. Matthew presents him as the promised King. Mark presents him as the Servant of God. Luke presents him as the Son of Man. John presents him as the Son of God. The Book of Acts demonstrates that our Lord Jesus Christ was the singular subject of preaching in the earliest days of Christianity.
The words “preach,” “preached,” and “preaching” are used thirty-seven times in the Book of Acts. It is not insignificant that every time they are used the subject preached was Jesus Christ and the resurrection! If the Book of Acts is to be taken for our standard, it must be concluded that unless Christ has been preached no preaching has been done. That man who pretends to be a preacher but does not preach Christ and him crucified mocks the people who hear him, and rather than serving their souls he destroys them!
The Epistles reveal and explain the mysteries of Christ and his gospel: Justification by His Obedience (Rom. 5:1-21), Sanctification by His Blood (Heb. 10:1-14), The Universality of God’s Mercy, Love, and Grace to his Elect in Christ (Eph. 3:1-21). Grace is for chosen sinners out of every nation, kindred, tribe, and tongue, not just for Jews. The Book of Revelation is a declaration of the sure triumph of Christ and his church by the gospel (Rev. 1:7; 5:9-14; 19:1-6).
The only two ordinances of worship prescribed in the New Testament are designed to focus our hearts upon Christ. Baptism is a symbolic burial and resurrection with him (Rom. 6:3-6). The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic remembrance of Christ and his great work of redemption as our Substitute (1 Cor. 11:24-26). Without reference to Christ, the ordinances are meaningless rituals.
In a word, I would say to all who stand before eternity bound sinners to speak to them in the name of the eternal God — PREACH CHRIST, OR DON’T PREACH!