Tuesday, August 16, 2011

How shall they hear? Exhortation Two: Preaching must remain central

I began last Sunday's message, How shall they hear? (Romans 10:14-15) by noting: "Today I stand as a preacher who is going to speak to you about a preacher, the apostle Paul, who wrote about the centrality of preaching." At the end of the message I offered four closing exhortations. Here is the second of the four:

Second:  Preaching must remain central in the ministry of Christ’s church.

We must turn a deaf ear to those who arise in every generation who want to replace preaching with something they believe to be more relevant or appealing.

Preaching is the ordinary means that God has ordained both for the salvation and sanctification of sinners. In 1 Corinthians 1:21 Paul wrote that “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” It is such a part of human hubris to believe that we need to improve on what God has ordained.

Yes, God can and sometime does work through other means. But consider here in v. 14 Paul does not say, “And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not received charitable act of mercy, or have not witnessed lifestyle evangelism.” No, he asks how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard in preaching.

Question 72 in Spurgeon’s catechism asks, “How is the word made effectual to salvation” and the answer given is this:

The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith unto salvation.

Why are there many lands where missionaries have labored for years building hospitals and schools and setting up sports programs in hopes of gaining a favorable hearing for the gospel but little fruit is produced? Perhaps it is because they have neglected preaching for lesser things.

Why are there so many professed Christians who lack holiness and comfort in Christ? Perhaps it is because they have been so little exposed to the preaching of God’s word. As one wag has said, Sermonettes produce Christianettes.

5 comments:

Chris Kelly said...

Totally agree, and liked the whole sermon (audio). More and more, I find my preaching (as a layman) directed by the Holy Spirit. These days, preaching is less and less a mental activity, and more and more an expression of my relationship with the Lord Jesus. It's marvelous!

But I can see why people dismiss preaching, as it has take me 6 years to understand and experience this. How easy it must be for preachers to burnout or become just "religious professionals" doing all the secondary stuff.

Thanks!

Pastor Jeff said...

Chris,

Thanks for the feedback and encouragement. I'd be interested to hear your take on the fourth exhortation (not yet posted) on authorized preachers in light of your self-described experience in lay-preaching. Do you agree, disagree, wish to modify? Let me know if you have the time.

Grace, JTR

Chris Kelly said...

I was going to mention it, but decided to wait for your post. Already got my comments ready, tho. :)

Chris Kelly said...

Spurgeon preached thus on the Great Commission:

Come we, then, to invite your earnest heed to the command which the Savior here gives: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” It was given to the apostles representatively. They represent the whole body of the faithful. To every converted man and woman this commission is given. I grant you there is a speciality to those gifted, and called to surrender themselves wholly to the work of the ministry, but their office in the visible church offers no excuse for the discharge of those functions that pertain to every member of the body of Christ in particular. It is the universal command of Christ to every believer: “Go ye into all the
world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

Pastor Jeff said...

Chris,

I'm supposing your comment here is aimed more at the later post (and comments) in this series on authorized preachers. Yes, Spurgeon noted that the Great Commission is for the whole church. I agree. All God's people are expected to be part of this, in their proper role. Christian parents are to evangelize and disciple their children and witness to their neighbors. All are also to support local churches and pastors who regularly preach the gospel. I think it would be quite wrong, however, to interpret Spurgeon's comments along a modern egalitarian mindset (i.e., we're all preachers). Spurgeon certainly would not have supported women preachers or indiscriminate lay preaching. To verify this, you can read Spurgeon's "Lectures to My Students," the collection of his addresses to students at his preachers' college. Read especially the essay on "The Call to Ministry" in which Spurgeon begins by saying that all Christians have a "a right to disseminate the gospel" but then proceeds to say the following: "All are not called to labor in word and doctrine, or to be elders, or to exercise the office of a bishop; nor should all aspire to such works, since the gifts necessary are nowhere promised to all; but those should addict themselves to such important engagements who feel, like the apostle, that they have 'received this ministry.' 2 Cor. iv.1. No man may intrude into the sheepfold as an under-shepherd; he must have an eye to the chief Shepherd, and wait his beck and call" (Zondervan ed., p. 22).

JTR