Our works don’t replace the verbal preaching of the gospel, but in them we demonstrate, tangibly, the love and grace that we proclaim with our mouths. Effective gospel preaching is explaining with our words what we demonstrate with our lives. In our service, we make visible the invisible Christ.
The deader your gospel, the flashier your package.
Today, the pressure to fill auditoriums and services has driven many pastors to place the felt needs, or tastes, of the people above their duty to Christ. On every hand we hear of the Gospel being molded into a non-confrontative message intended to meet felt needs and impress the sinful heart. And, by most standards, this new philosophy of church life is working, as more and more auditoriums are filled with people hungry for a message that will affirm that they are actually on fairly good terms with the Almighty. But the biblical message is the message of the cross. It cuts right across the grain of the modern age’s preoccupation with pride, tearing down the façade and exposing the wretchedness of the human heart… Unfortunately, while the modern “un-gospel” may fill seats, it is the true gospel of sin and grace that is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16).
If we don’t consider the gospel context of the Bible as a whole, even well-exegeted imperatives turn into moralism. And this fosters a legalistic culture in our churches.
A ministry which is weak and flabby on the subject of sin is a useless ministry. A preaching ministry that does not result in conviction of sin is useless. If it does not wound, how can it heal? The good news is only for sinners.
When Christians preach, every command, every exhortation, every “how to” must be grounded in the gospel…any and all challenges must be placed within the context of announcing what God has done or promises to do. It’s the very opposite of self-help teaching.
There are certain things which have to be said over and over again, of necessity, and yet this is the marvel and the wonder of the cross, that however many times a man may preach about it, he has never finished preaching about it. There is always something fresh to say, always something new. There is a great central message that is always there, but nothing is so wonderful as to see that one thing in different ways.
It is a myth to think that because I’m somebody famous or well-known or because I’m slick or clever, or because I package my little presentation in lingo and terminology that’s kind of at the core of contemporary vernacular that somehow this influences people. You know what gets people saved? Not that kind of influence. What gets people saved is a recognition of who Jesus Christ is and an honest evaluation of their condition and the need for the Savior. What we need is not more people trying to influence society. We need more people preaching the gospel. It’s confrontation, not influence.
Your shrinking from this truth about hell is not due to your sympathy with people’s pain. It is due to your lack of sympathy with their pain. God is the one who is sympathetic. He is the one who gave His only begotten Son to rescue us from this misery and to inform us insistently, dogmatically, and compassionately that we are in for an awful end if we persist in unbelief. Don’t say that you feel for people when you blunt the edge of the word of the Spirit. What have you ever done that shows that you truly feel for sinners’ eternal pain? Denying the truth of God’s Word about it certainly offers them no help whatsoever.
People need to be discomforted and delivered over to distress by indomitable preaching that insists that if they refuse the love of God extended to them in the Lord Jesus Christ, they are going to be physically tormented! … God is so seriously in earnest about this that during the Tribulation, He will warn people through the loud voice of an angel. This angel will tell them that if they worship the beast or his image or receive his mark, they will be “tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb” (Rev. 14:9-10). You are on the wrong side of this issue if you ridicule sincere preaching that warns “with a loud voice” about the dreadful hurt of hell!
Our single-minded purpose in declaring the gospel is to give a clear and accurate presentation of the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Father purposes and delights in His Son’s supremacy in everything – and not least in the gospel and its preaching. Gospel preaching fails if it does not set forth the glories of our once crucified and now risen and glorified Savior. Everything we proclaim about the gospel must be viewed in its relationship to Him (Derek Prime and Alistair Begg).
Many of the pulpiteers of the past fifty years acted as though the first and last object of their calling was the salvation of souls, everything being made to bend to that aim. In consequence, the feeding of the sheep, the maintaining of a Scriptural discipline in the church, and the inculcation of practical piety, was crowded out; and only too often all sorts of worldly devices and fleshly methods were employed under the plea that the end justified the means; and thus the churches were filled with unregenerate members. In reality, such men defeated their own aim. The hard heart must be ploughed and harrowed before it can be receptive to the gospel seed. Doctrinal instruction must be given on the character of God, the requirements of his Law, the nature and heinousness of sin, if a foundation is to be laid for true evangelism. It is useless to preach Christ unto souls until they see and feel their desperate need of him.
Some Christians misunderstand God’s plan for His kingdom. They want to establish it their own way rather than waiting for God to do it His way. God’s way of establishing the kingdom is primarily through the preaching of the cross. But that does not seem very effective to most people. They would prefer to use force, which is the kind of thinking that leads to bloody crusades. Or they would rather entertain people into the kingdom, which is the kind of thinking that leads to man-centered worship.
The reason the church tries so many other things besides preaching Christ is because it suspects the kingdom can be established some other way. But there is no other way. People will not come into the kingdom because they like the minister, support the children’s program, or enjoy the music. They may come into a church that way, but not into the kingdom. The only way people ever come into God’s kingdom is by hearing His heralds proclaim a crucified King.
Christ is never fully valued, until sin is clearly seen. We must know the depth and malignity of our disease, in order to appreciate the great Physician.
I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchanging, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.
I do not believe that any man can preach the gospel who does not preach the law. The law is the needle, and you cannot draw the silken thread of the gospel through a man’s heart unless you first send the needle of the law to make way for it. If men do not understand the law, they will not feel that they are sinners. And if they are not consciously sinners, they will never value the sin offering. There is no healing a man till the law has wounded him, no making him alive till the law has slain him.
Let this be to you the mark of true Gospel preaching – where Christ is everything, and the creature is nothing; where it is salvation all of grace, through the work of the Holy Spirit applying to the soul the precious blood of Jesus.
The sermon which does not lead to Christ, or of which Jesus Christ is not the top and the bottom, is a sort of sermon that will make the devils in hell laugh, but make the angels of God weep.
I sometimes wonder that you do not get tired of my preaching, because I do nothing but hammer away on this one nail. With me it is, year after year, "None but Jesus!" Oh, you great saints, if you have outgrown the need of a sinner’s trust in the Lord Jesus, you have outgrown your sins, but you have also outgrown your grace, and your saintship has ruined you!
I believe that God will save His own elect. And I also believe that if I do not preach the Gospel, the blood of men will be laid at my door.
I question whether the defenses of the gospel are not sheer impertinences. The gospel does not need defending. If Jesus Christ is not alive and cannot fight His own battles, then Christianity is in a bad state. But He is alive, and we have only to preach His gospel in all its naked simplicity, and the power that goes with it will be the evidence of its divinity.
I would propose that the subject of the ministry of this house, as long as this platform shall stand, shall be the person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist, but if I am asked to say what is my creed, I think I must reply, “It is Jesus Christ.” The body of divinity to which I would pin and bind myself forever, God helping me, is Christ Jesus, who is the sum and substance of the gospel, who is Himself all theology, the incarnation of every precious truth, the all-glorious personal embodiment of the way, the truth, and the life.
Preach Christ, always and everywhere. He is the whole gospel. His person, offices, and work must be our one great, all-comprehending theme.
He who talks upon plain gospel themes in a farmer’s kitchen, and is able to interest the carter’s boy and the dairymaid, has more of the minister in him than the prim little man who keeps prating about being cultured, and means by that – being taught to use words which nobody can understand.
Our Savior has bidden us to preach the Gospel to every creature (Mk. 16:15). He has not said, “Preach it only to the elect,” and though that might seem to be the most logical thing for us to do, yet since He has not been pleased to stamp the elect in their foreheads or put any distinctive mark upon them, it would be an impossible task for us to perform. When we preach the Gospel to every creature, the Gospel makes its own division, and Christ’s sheep hear His voice, and follow Him.