Stylos is the blog of Jeff Riddle, a Reformed Baptist Pastor in North Garden, Virginia. The title "Stylos" is the Greek word for pillar. In 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul urges his readers to consider "how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar (stylos) and ground of the truth."
Image (left side): Decorative urn with title for the book of Acts in Codex Alexandrinus.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Evangelism Series (Part One): The Primacy of Preaching
Last month at CRBC we had an afternoon “Sunday School” lesson
on the topic of Biblical evangelism. Time was limited, so I
thought it might be worthwhile to write a series of blog posts as a
follow-up.One of the obstacles to
overcome in understanding Biblical evangelism is the fact that most of us in conservative
churches have been affected by the views of evangelism popularized in
mainstream, broad evangelicalism.For
the most part, these approaches are rooted in an Arminian rather than a
Reformed view of salvation.We have been
influenced by methods that arose in the First and (more importantly) Second
Great Awakenings, with ripples that extend to today.Such views have been popularized by
“evangelists” from Charles Finney and D. L. Moody to Billy Graham, Bill Bright,
and Rick Warren (for the readers and studiers in our midst who want to know
more, get hold of Iain Murray’s Revival
and Revivalism:The Making and Marring
of American Evangelicalism 1750-158 [Banner of Truth, 1994] and his Evangelicalism Divided:A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950
to 2000 [Banner of Truth, 2000]).Thus, when one mentions the word “evangelism” he might immediately think
of mass “crusade” events, “four spiritual laws,” the “Jesus Film,” or gospel
bracelets (black is for sin, red for the blood of Christ, white for forgiveness,
yellow for streets of gold in heaven), etc.
In contrast to much of what we see and hear promoted in the
name of “evangelism” today, however, Scripture emphasizes the simple primacy of
preaching.Here are just a few relevant
In Mark 16:15 Jesus commands the eleven apostles:“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the
world and preach the gospel to every creature.”
The apostle Paul declares that “it pleased God by the
foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21).
Romans 10, Paul waxes eloquently on the centrality of preaching in evangelism:
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!
He then adds, “So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (v. 17).Likewise, in Titus 1:3 Paul argues that God
“hath in due times manifested his word through preaching.”
We should be clear as well as to what is meant by
preaching.This refers to the minister
of God, a man appointed by the Lord and recognized by the church, standing in
the midst of a gathered congregation in a meeting usually hosted by a local
church, attended by believers, and open to the “unlearned, or unbelievers” (1
Corinthians 14:23), where the Biblical message of the life, death, burial, and
resurrection of Jesus Christ is proclaimed as God’s means of saving sinners and
where hearers are commanded to repent and believe this gospel.Thus, it is not a sermon by example or
metaphor but the objective verbal and propositional declaration of the good
Charles Spurgeon once gave “An Address to Open-air
Preachers” in which he offered this encouragement:
first, we must work at our preaching. You are not getting distrustful of
the use of preaching, are you? ("No.") I hope you do not weary of it,
though you certainly sometimes must weary in it. Go on with your preaching.
Cobbler, stick to your last; preacher, stick to your preaching. In the great
day, when the muster-roll shall be read, of all those who are converted through
fine music, and church decoration, and religious exhibitions and
entertainments, they will amount to the tenth part of nothing; but it will
always please God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
Keep to your preaching; and if you do anything beside, do not let it throw your
preaching into the background. In the first place preach, and in the second
place preach, and in the third place preach (from The Soul Winner, Pilgrim Publications, p. 188).
The emphasis on preaching as the Biblical means of
evangelism invariably raises the following question:Since only those appointed to the preaching
ministry are sanctioned to this task does this mean that there is no place for
“personal evangelism” to be practiced by all believers (e. g., all who hold the
general office of believer but who do not hold the specific office of minister
or elder)?Lord willing, we’ll tackle
that question and others as the series unfolds.