Sermon #1907[i] — Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: What is it to
preach the Gospel?
Text: 1 Peter 1:23-25
Subject: Gospel Preaching
A few weeks ago, Bro. John sent out a request to Steve, Darvin, and me, asking that we specifically focus our messages this week on the work of God the Holy Spirit, if the Lord might be pleased to give us such direction. In this day of Tongue-Speaking, Pentecostal prophets and Send-Me-Your-Money faith healers, with all their religious tom-foolery, there is great need for some clear instruction about the person and work of God the Holy Spirit.
With that in mind, I want to talk to you about the instrument by which the Spirit works.
Š It is not miracles.
Š It is not tongues.
Š It is not good singing.
This Book describes one thing, only one thing, one specific thing that God the Holy Spirit uses for the salvation of sinners, — one thing He uses to reveal Christ in the hearts of poor, needy sinners, — one thing He uses to reprove, comfort, edify, instruct, strengthen and guide His people through this world. This Book describes one thing, just one thing as “the power of God” unto salvation. And that one thing is Gospel preaching. So I want to talk to you for a few minutes about preaching the Gospel.
Gospel preaching is the power of God. Gospel preaching is the instrument by which God the Holy Spirit works in the hearts and lives of chosen, redeemed sinners. Yet, there is very little Gospel preaching in our churches today, very little Gospel preaching in churches that profess to be Gospel churches. I preach in a lot of places with a lot of men. Sadly, more often than not, when the preachers gets done and the assembly is dismissed, I feel like crying as Mary did at the Lord’s tomb, — “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.” — Oh, how I pray that the Lord might give us a revival of preaching, Gospel preaching, faithful, powerful, Christ exalting Gospel preaching! But what is it to preach the Gospel?
That is my subject. — What is it to preach the Gospel? We will begin in 1 Peter 1:23-25. Let me give you a brief exposition of that passage. Then, I want to talk to you as plainly as I can about preaching the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Be ye holy; for I am holy” (v. 16; Leviticus 11:44; 19:2; 20:7). — Holiness is not something we do. It is something God gives. If sinners are made holy God must make us holy. He makes us holy, as He is holy by two mighty works of grace: — Redemption and Regeneration.
Š Redemption by the precious blood of Christ gives us a legal holiness, a holy record in heaven.
Š Regeneration by the power and grace of God the Holy Spirit gives us a holy nature, a “new man created in righteousness and true holiness,” making us “partakers of the Divine nature.” — That new man is “Christ in you the Hope of Glory.”
(1 Peter 1:18) “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, [as] silver and gold, from your vain conversation [received] by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. 22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, [see that ye] love one another with a pure heart fervently: 23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”
Always read the Scriptures carefully. We are born again, “not of corruptible seed.” That simply means the same thing we are told in John 1:13. The “corruptible seed” is the seed of fallen man.
(John 1:13) “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
We are born again, “not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” “Seed” is a word often used in this Book in connection with Christ and His people.
Š Christ is the Woman’s Seed.
Š God’s elect are God’s chosen seed, scattered among the fallen sons of Adam, who shall serve Him.
Š Christ is Abraham’s Seed, in whom all the nations of the earth are blessed.
Š All believer’s are Abraham’s seed.
But, here in 1 Peter 1:23, that incorruptible Seed of life is God the Holy Spirit, from which springs the new man “created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24; 1 John 3:9).
John Trapp — “It is the Father that regenerateth us originally (Titus 3:5), the Son meritoriously and effectively (John 14:19; Ephesians 5:26); the Holy Ghost consummately and applicatorily, through faith wrought and increased in us by the Word (James 1:18).”
(1 John 3:9) “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
The means by which we are born again is the Word of God. — “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.”
(Romans 1:16) “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power (dynamite) of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
There is no power in the written Word of God to give dead sinners spiritual, eternal life in Christ. But the written Word is God’s ordained means of conveying life to chosen sinners. —— Read on…
(1 Peter 1:24) “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.”
All men, being born of Adam’s corruptible seed, are frail, mortal, withering grass. — “But,” we read in verse 24, “the Word of the Lord endureth forever!” — “Forever, O Lord, is Thy Word settled in heaven!” — God’s Word, by which God the Holy Spirit gives chosen, redeemed sinners eternal life in Christ, is the whole eternal, unalterable will of God set forth and made known to us in the pages of Holy Scripture.
Now, look at the last line of 1 Peter 1:25. — “And this is the Word which by the Gospel is preached unto you.” What does that mean?
Proposition: The Word of God, by which the Triune God makes Himself known to men, is preached by the faithful declaration of the Gospel. — There is no true preaching of the Word of God, except by the preaching of the Gospel.
Divisions: I want to raise and answer three questions.
1. How important is Gospel preaching?
2. What is it to preach the Gospel?
3. How is the Gospel to be preached?
1. How important
is Gospel preaching?
All who know God see that Gospel preaching is useful and needful, but few, very few (I fear), understand that it is vital, absolutely vital to the salvation of sinners and vital to their own souls.
The ministry of the Gospel is one of the ascension gifts of the exalted Christ to His Church (Ephesians 4:8-11).
(Ephesians 4:8-11) “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.”
Not only is it true that God sends His Word to Heal His elect and to deliver us from our deserved destruction (Psalm 107:20), it is also true that all God’s works of grace in chosen, redeemed sinners are accomplished by the ministry of the Gospel.
If God speaks to a sinner’s Heart, if God teaches any man anything, if God reveals anything to any of us, He does it through the instrumentality of Gospel preaching. Is Gospel preaching really that important? Let the Word of God alone decide the issue. The Scriptures plainly tell us that the preaching of the Gospel is absolutely necessary…
(Ephesians 4:8-16) “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
Without the preaching of the Gospel there is no possibility of salvation, sanctification, spiritual growth, spiritual direction, or spiritual stability. God did not give His Church the gift of the ministry for nothing. This ascension gift of Christ is not something a person may choose to avail himself of or despise without consequence. If God’s people could get along without pastors and teachers to guide them in and with the Word of truth, He would not have given them.
Four Hundred Silent Years
There was a time when God did not speak for four hundred years. His last word in the Old Testament was given by the prophet Malachi. After that, God sent no prophet into the earth. No angel was sent from Heaven. No vision was granted. No word was spoken from the throne of God to anyone upon the earth. What was the result?
Israel had all the law and prophets. The Lord had given them revelation after revelation for two thousand years. Throughout their long history, they alone had been given the Word and worship of God. God sent His prophets to Israel in abundance, and to Israel alone. Surely, that would be enough. Having the written Word of God would surely hold the nation in a steady path. Surely, there would be no need for a mere man to lead the nation. Surely, they did not need a man to instruct them in the ways of God.
Think again. After four hundred years of silence, after four hundred years of men and women acting as their own prophets, the worship of Israel had degenerated into utter abomination. Oh, no, they did not turn to the idols of the gentiles. They did worse. They turned the law and ordinances of God into idolatry! There were a few people found, here and there, who had received instruction, one believer to another, generation after generation, one man preaching the Gospel to another; but true faith was such a rare thing that when Christ came, very few knew Him. Even after three and one half years of our Lord’s incessant preaching, there were only about one hundred and twenty disciples in the whole world.
Gospel preaching is the catalyst necessary for the Spirit’s work in the hearts of men.
(Romans 1:16-17) “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”
A catalyst is an agent of action. If a chemist desires to unite two substances to create another, a third substance, in many cases, a catalyst is necessary. The catalyst does not cause the union and never enters into the union of those substances. But without the presence of that specific catalyst the union would never take place and could not continue. That is exactly what the preaching of the Gospel is in God’s saving operations.
Without question, were it His pleasure to do so, God almighty could have chosen to save sinners without the use of any means or agency of any kind. Had He chosen to do so, He could have sent angels to pull us into heaven by our noses, once atonement was made for us. But that is not His pleasure.
The Lord God has chosen to regenerate and call chosen, redeemed sinners through the agency of Gospel preaching. The fact that God has so ordained it makes the preaching of the Gospel the catalyst necessary for the communication of His saving grace.
I know that many cry out against this and say, “That limits God’s sovereignty. That makes salvation depend upon man.” Do not be so foolish as to be found fighting against God.
We must never force the Scriptures to mean what we want them to mean. We must never bend the Word of God to our doctrinal notions and theological system. Rather, we bow to God’s Word. We cannot extol and honor God if we refuse to submit our reason to His Revelation.
Carefully read the Scriptures once more. It is impossible to read the following passages in their context without concluding that regeneration and faith in Christ, gifts of God the Holy Spirit and operations of His irresistible grace, are communicated to chosen sinners through the instrumentality of Gospel preaching (Romans 1:15-17; 10:13-17; 1 Corinthians 1:21; Ephesians 1:13; 1 Timothy 4:12-16; Hebrews 4:12; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23-25). In each of those passages the Lord God plainly declares that it is His purpose and pleasure to save His elect through the preaching of the Gospel.
I am often asked, — “What if one of God’s elect is in a remote barbarian tribe in the jungles of New Guinea where no Gospel preacher has ever been?” I can see how that would create a problem, except for one thing: — There are no problems with God! He knows exactly how to get His prophet to the people to whom He has purposed to show His mercy. — Just ask Jonah!
Urgency and Confidence
We should always preach the Gospel with a sense of urgency, knowing that sinners cannot believe on Christ until Christ is preached to them. Yet, we preach with confidence of success, knowing that our labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). God’s Word will not return to Him void. It will accomplish His will and prosper in the thing it is sent to do (Isaiah 55:11). Every chosen, redeemed sinner must be regenerated and called by God the Holy Ghost. And that work will be accomplished through the preaching of the Gospel.
In Romans 10:14-17 the Apostle Paul tells us that four things are impossible. He has declared, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” And we rejoice to know that it is true. Yet, we must not ignore the fact that Paul plainly tells us certain things must take place before any sinner can call upon the name of the Lord and be saved.
(Romans 10:14-17) “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.”
1st — No one can call upon the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy until he believes on Christ. In order for a man to seek the mercy of God in Christ by faith he must believe the testimony God has given concerning His Son. — “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?”
2nd — No one can truly believe on Christ until he hears the Gospel of Christ. — “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” Sinners today are being asked to “believe on Jesus,” but the preachers are not telling anyone who the Lord Jesus Christ is — What He has done — Where He is now — Or how God in justice saves sinners by the Substitutionary Sacrifice of His Son. Until a sinner has heard these things faithfully proclaimed he cannot have or exercise true faith in Christ and be saved. No one is saved where the Gospel is not faithfully proclaimed.
3rd — No one can hear the Gospel of Christ without a preacher. I repeat what I said at the outset: — God has chosen to save sinners by the instrumentality of Gospel preaching. God does not call sinners to Christ by the voice of angels or the voice of singers. God calls sinners to Christ by the voice a preacher, by the voice of a man proclaiming the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. — “How shall they hear without a preacher?...Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”
4th — No man can truly preach the Gospel of Christ in the power of the Holy Ghost unless he is sent of God. — “How shall they preach, except they be sent?” When God intends to call His elect to Christ He always sends a preacher, in the power of the Holy Spirit to that place where His elect is found, just as He sent Philip to preach the Gospel to the Eunuch at the appointed time of love.
How important is Gospel preaching? Words cannot adequately describe the importance of this great work. — Gospel preaching is vital!
Š It is the ascension gift of Christ to His Church.
Š Without it no one is born again.
Š Without it no one can be edified, comforted, and taught of God. And…
The preaching of the Gospel is vital because the Scriptures are not preached except by the preaching of the Gospel. — “This is the Word which by the Gospel is preached unto you!” Every sermon we preach is to be a Gospel message, showing eternity bound sinners the way of life and salvation in Christ. If we fail here, we fail altogether. — I repeat — If we fail here, we fail altogether!
It is our responsibility, every time we stand before eternity bound sinners as God’s ambassadors, to preach Christ crucified, to preach the Gospel. Once I have found the passage from which I believe the Lord would have me to preach, I 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.
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!’”
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 Corinthians 2:2). It ought to be every preacher’s determination! Any 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 Corinthians 1:17-25).
As I have already stated, 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!”
2. What is it to
preach the Gospel?
The only true, biblical preaching there is Gospel preaching. Remember what the Spirit of God reveals in 1 Peter 1:25. — The Word of God is preached when the Gospel is preached. If the Gospel is not preached, the Word of God is not preached.
No man has preached, in Bible terms, until he has preached the Gospel. No man has truly and accurately expounded any text of Scripture, until he has preached the Gospel from the text. No Bible subject has been faithfully and properly handled, if it has not been set forth in the context of Gospel light. No sermon should ever be preached which does not show eternity bound sinners the way of life and salvation in Christ. The singular, universal subject of Holy Scripture is the Gospel of God’s free and sovereign, saving grace in Jesus Christ, our crucified, risen, exalted Lord and Savior (Luke 24:24, 44-47; 1 Peter 1:23-25).
Knowing these things, I say with the apostle Paul, — “As much as in me is, I am ready to preach the Gospel to you… For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith…Christ sent me…to preach the Gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God…I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified…God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. 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!” (Romans 1:15-17; 1 Corinthians 1:17-18; 2:2; Galatians 6:1-4; 1 Corinthians 9:16)
To preach the Gospel is not merely declaring the historic facts of Christ’s person, incarnation, virgin birth, life of perfect obedience as our federal Head Representative before God the Father, sin-atoning death, resurrection, and glory as our Substitute, that God might be just and the Justifier of all who believe, though these facts must be faithfully proclaimed. There is more to preaching the Gospel than merely repeating to sinners the necessity of the new birth, Holy Spirit conviction, and faith in Christ, though we must never fail to show sinners the way of life in Christ.
Illustration: Five Sermons at Calvin College
The Man Who Visited Once
To preach the Gospel is to set forth the beauty and glory of Christ in all His glorious person and work as the God-man, our Mediator, in all the Scriptures. It is to proclaim Christ crucified as the basis, motive, and inspiration for all faith, obedience, devotion, worship, and praise. To preach the Gospel is to show in all the Scriptures the things concerning Christ. Pastor Maurice Montgomery wrote…
“The subtlety of Satan is such that there are those in our day who so vehemently stress and emphasize Christ’s imputed righteousness as the sinner’s only ground of justification before God, that they fail to preach Christ Himself who is our righteousness, Christ, “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” Consequently, they may be leading men and women to trust in a system of theology, rather than in CHRIST, who is the sum and substance of all theology.
Paul did not say, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not.” We have scads of preachers. The world would be better off without most of them. The Lord Jesus Christ never sent any man just to preach. Those men who are called, gifted, and sent of God to preach are sent by him to preach the Gospel, to preach the Gospel exclusively, and to preach the Gospel in its entirety. Paul said, “Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel!” There is but one Gospel, the Gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ; and it is the great privilege and responsibility of all who preach, every time they preach to eternity bound sinners, to preach the Gospel. That makes this question a matter of immense importance. – What is it to preach the Gospel?
The Truth About Man
To preach the Gospel is to tell the truth about man. What is the truth about man? “All flesh is grass,” withering, worthless, insignificant grass (Isaiah 40:6-8). All men are fallen, depraved, helpless, guilty sinners, without the least inclination or ability to do good, seek God, or know God (Romans 3:9-18), dead in trespasses and in sins (Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:1-3).
The Truth About God
To preach the Gospel is to tell the truth about God. Isaiah 40:9-31 tells us who God is. The only God there is is the eternal, holy, sovereign Monarch of the universe. It is He who made all things, rules all things, and disposes of all things (including you and me) as He will. — “All things are of God.” Nothing in this universe writhes or wiggles apart from God’s purpose, predestination, providence, and power (Romans 11:36). It is this great and glorious Lord God who lifts his hand and says, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”
The Truth About Christ
To preach the Gospel is to tell the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is God in human flesh, God come to save. He was called “Jesus” because He is Jehovah our Savior. He came here on an errand of mercy, with a commission from God the Father as our covenant Surety to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21; John 10:16-18); and when He left here, all that He came to do was done. Righteousness was established. Justice was satisfied. The sins of God’s elect, which were made His, were put away. His people were fully and forever redeemed, justified, and sanctified by His blood (Hebrews 10:10-14).
The Truth About Salvation
To preach the Gospel is to tell the truth about salvation. What does it take to save a sinner? It takes a work of God’s sovereign, eternal, electing love and predestination (Ephesians 1:3-6). It takes a work of effectual, blood redemption, the satisfaction of divine justice by an infinitely meritorious Substitute – The Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 3:24-26). It takes all the work of God’s universal providence (Romans 8:28-30). It takes the infallible, irresistible grace and power of God the Holy Spirit in regeneration and effectual calling, by which chosen, redeemed sinners are raised from the dead and given faith in Christ (Ephesians 1:17-20; Psalm 65:4). It takes a work of immutable grace, preserving the called in life and grace, causing them to persevere in faith, keeping them unto the end (Philippians 1:6). It takes a work of resurrection glory, by which these bodies sown in corruption shall put on incorruption, mortality shall put on immortality, and God’s elect shall enter into that eternal state of bliss called “the glorious liberty of the sons of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Š This salvation, in its entirety, is found in the Lord Jesus Christ alone (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).
Š This salvation is obtained by faith in Him. — “He that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life!”
Š To preach the Bible is to preach the Gospel (Acts 20:26-27; 1 Corinthians 2:2); and to preach the Gospel is to proclaim God’s free salvation in Christ.
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.”
Such men, being gifted and called of God, are 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.” — Preach Christ or don’t preach!
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!
3. How is the
Gospel to be preached?
When I hear a man preach, I want to hear a man preach from his heart. When I preach, I want to preach from my heart. Let no one mistake my meaning. I do not suggest or imply that doctrine is secondary. It is not. Gospel doctrine is vital. But the Gospel must be preached from the heart, passionately.
Two hundred years ago John Rusk wrote, “I want an experimental preacher, one who, when he has had one meal, is tried how he shall get the next; one who is tormented with devils fit to tear him limb from limb; one who feels hell inside himself and every corruption in his nature stirred up to oppose God’s work; one who feels so weak that every day he gets over he views it as next to a miracle”.
Preaching at one of our Bible conferences several years ago, Pastor Scott Richardson made a profound statement about preaching. He said, “Preaching is getting a message from God’s heart to my heart and delivering it to your heart. Anything else is just filling in time”.
What a profound, insightful and needful statement! The Lord God promised to give His church pastors after His own heart, who would feed His people with knowledge and with understanding (Jeremiah 3:15).
He commands His prophets, “Speak ye comfortably to” (to the heart of) His people (Isaiah 40:2). That is the responsibility of a Gospel preacher every time he speaks to eternity-bound men and women in the name of Christ. But it is a task no man can accomplish. The only way a mere man can speak the things of God to the heart of another is if God Himself is pleased to speak through him.
Mahan at Appomattox
Thirty-five years ago Bro. Henry Mahan and I were preaching together in a Bible conference in Appomattox, VA. I was a very young man, preaching with him and several other men of much age and experience. Each day we were there, Bro. Mahan came by my room for a visit. Each time, he gave me a word of wise counsel about preaching. I can almost recall his exact words. I have rehearsed them countless times over the years. They have, I hope, shaped my preaching.
Bro. Mahan’s first word of wisdom to me was “Preach the Gospel.” He urged me to preach like Richard Baxter, “as a dying man to dying men.” From that day to this, it has been my determination every time I preach to do so with the conscious awareness that I am preaching to eternity bound sinners, who must soon stand before God in judgment. — Let no sermon ever be preached that does not clearly show sinners how God saves sinners by his grace, urging them to seek his mercy in Christ.
Next, my wise counsellor urged me, “Don’t try to preach to preachers. Find a man in the congregation who looks like he may have been digging ditches his whole life, who looks like his heart is broken and heavy, who needs comfort and encouragement.” That is exactly what God himself demands of those who speak for him (Isaiah 40:1-2). — Every Gospel sermon is a message of consolation to God’s elect, urging them to look away from themselves and their woes to Christ and His fulness of grace.
The third wise word of counsel Bro. Mahan gave me that week was, “Bro. Fortner, find something in that Book that speaks to you, that you need. If you need it and it speaks to you, chances are somebody else will need it and it will speak to them. If you don’t need it, nobody else does.” In other words, it is utter vanity to stand in the pulpit answering questions no one is asking. — Gospel preaching is not defending points of doctrine, but declaring the boundless mercy and grace of God in Christ. I pray that God will never allow me to forget these words of wise counsel.
I think hell must roar with laughter when preachers stand in the pulpit and try to untie theological knots no one is aware of and argue debates no one cares about. Until I find a message more glorious than Christ crucified, more needful than free grace, more delightful than infinite mercy, more comforting than absolute forgiveness, more assuring than perfect righteousness, more compelling than redeeming blood, more hopeful than heavenly glory, and more joyful than the infinite, immutable love of God in Christ, I am determined to preach nothing else, but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. — “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
Toplady and Brewer
Almost two hundred and fifty years ago (July 1768) Augustus Toplady spent the afternoon in London with an older, veteran Gospel preacher, whom he greatly admired and from whom he learned much.
The older preacher was a Mr. Brewer. I know absolutely nothing about him except what he told Toplady that hot July afternoon in London. Toplady thought his words were worth writing down; and I’m glad he did. This is what Mr. Brewer said to the 28 year old preacher, Augustus Toplady, as Toplady later recorded them in his diary…
“I cannot conclude without reminding you, my young brother of some things that may be of use to you in the course of your ministry:
1. Preach Christ crucified, and dwell chiefly on the blessing resulting from His righteousness, atonement, and intercession.
2. Avoid all needless controversies in the pulpit; except it be when your subject necessarily requires it; or when the truths of God are likely to suffer by your silence.
3. When you ascend the pulpit, leave your learning behind you. Endeavor to preach more to the hearts of your people than to their heads.
4. Do not affect too much oratory. Seek rather to profit [your hearers] than to be admired [by them].”
I cannot imagine four more needful admonitions. Every preacher needs to constantly remind himself of these things. I try to give heed to them every time I preach.
How are we to preach the Gospel?
I 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. 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.” Preach with a conscious awareness that are preaching to sinners who are about to meet God in judgment.
Š Preach for the Glory of God.
Š Preach for the good of men’s souls.
Š Preach in the power of God the Holy Spirit.
Illustration: Christmas Evans — “Lord, I’ve gone into the pulpit by myself for the last time. If You do not go with me, I’m not going up those stairs again.”
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[i] Todds Road Grace Church Preachers’ Class — Lexington, KY — June 5, 2011
Danville — Sunday Morning — June 6, 2011
Bible Conference — Kansas City, MO —
Reading: Romans 10:1-17
Tape: # AA-17