And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. (Acts 5:42 )
That which separates the truth from a mere religion is that the truth concerns a person, the Lord Jesus Christ. This may seem a trite and worn out phrase, but it is true that salvation is a Person, not a doctrine. The longer I preach, the more I see the importance this distinction.
There are doubtless many who would find fault with such a generalization saying that one cannot preach without preaching doctrine. In this they would be correct, for doctrine is simply teaching. I would be impossible to preach the Person without preaching doctrine. However, it is quite easy to preach doctrine and never preach the Person.
Allow me to illustrate: Truth is, in some ways like a jigsaw puzzle. A jigsaw puzzle is made of many parts, each one important. The puzzle could not be complete if any individual part were missing. Yet, we all realize that the value of such a puzzle does not lie in the individual pieces, but in the image that is made when all these pieces are joined together in their proper relationship. Even though an unassembled jigsaw puzzle contains the very same materials and pieces as an assembled one, we recognize that there is a great difference between the two: the assembled puzzle gives us an image, a picture to enjoy. An unassembled puzzle is just a box of cardboard pieces.
The truth of God is similar: It is made of many parts, each one important. Yet the value of these parts lies not in themselves, but in the image they create when “assembled” through preaching. All the doctrines of the Scriptures are pieces of a Divine “puzzle” which, when assembled, provide us with an image of the Lord Jesus. One may emphasise the various individual “pieces” of this puzzle, and become quite expert in them, and never see the image which they were designed to create. As the Lord said to the Pharisees:
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. (John 5:39)
The Pharisees were expert in the “pieces” but utterly ignorant of the image they made. When the Scriptures speak of “preaching Christ,” they mean:
- That all preaching is to be done with the purpose of revealing Christ in order that men may see Him, believe on Him, and worship Him. The goal of all the apostles and their successors has been to make Christ known in truth.
- To that end, preaching Christ means to view all Scripture as a revelation of Him and interpreting it according to that rule, not being satisfied with the mere “pieces” of truth, but determined to learn and declare how each piece fits into the “puzzle.”
Preaching this way will help in these areas:
- Preaching Christ will deliver us from becoming a mere religious movement. Someone once said that all organizations go through three stages: “the Man (who founded it), the Movement (an organization that carries on under the momentum the man generated), and the Monument (a dead organization which may bear the name of the founder but has little or no connection to him or his vision.) The only thing that preserves the church from such a fate is that “the Man,” (in this case, the Man, Christ Jesus) is continually revealing Himself from generation to generation. This revelation is accomplished through the preaching of Christ.
When Christ is preached, the Spirit of God takes those things of Christ, shows them to His elect and a new generation is joined to Christ. When Christ is preached, we are never dependant on the momentum of one generation to carry the work of the gospel into the next generation. When Christ is preached, every generation is a brand new work, full of the vitality and energy of the Man who founds it, the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Preaching Christ will deliver us and our hearers from dry and lifeless sermons. No doubt the goats will not be satisfied with what they here, but we are not concerned with them. The sheep find the preaching of Christ to be “green pastures” and “still waters.” Christ is their bread, and the preaching of Christ is the bread coming down from heaven to nourish their souls. Incidentally, this relieves the preacher of any necessity to design messages that are clever or exciting. The message of Christ is as clever and exciting as any sheep could wish for; and as we said before, we are not concerned with what the goats think of it.
- Preaching Christ reveals the sheep and purify the church. I have noticed among many churches that the two major concerns are the morality of the sheep and the purity of the church. This is revealed in the attention they give to the work of church discipline. But I say, (even more, the Scriptures teach) that the preaching of Christ will accomplish this work very nicely. The preaching of Christ provides the content and motivation of godliness.
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:17-24)
There it is! Ungodliness is contrary to the truth of Christ. Where Christ is preached, growth in grace is the result!
Moreover, preaching Christ will purify the church, that is, it will remove from its professing members those who do not truly love the Lord Jesus.
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.1 (1Cor 1:18)
Those who do not know Christ will, in time, weary of hearing Him preached and leave. People will not long endure the preaching of what is foolishness to them. The surest way to maintain a herd of goats in a congregation is to preach Christless doctrine to them. “Knowledge puffeth up,” and Christless doctrine, no matter how true it may be, puffs men up with a sense of knowledge. Even the goats can tolerate true doctrine if their knowing it gives them an occasion for pride. But, knowing the truth through the revelation of Christ leaves no room for pride, only a sense of gratitude that the truth has been revealed. In this way, the preaching of Christ purifies the church. More correctly, by the preaching Christ, Christ purifies His church.
- Preaching of Christ has the promise of Divine accomplishment.
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isa 55:11)
The word that “goeth out from” God’s mouth, is Jesus Christ, called by John, “The Word.” (John 1:1) The Isaiah passage refers primarily to the coming of Christ in the flesh, teaching us that whatever purpose God intended in the sending of Christ was accomplished; and when Christ returned to God, He did so, not as a failure, but as a champion who had fully accomplished all the work given him to do. But the Isaiah passage can also be expanded to include the preaching of Christ which is, indeed, a sending of Jesus Christ. Every time Christ is preached, God has a purpose in it, and that purpose shall be accomplished.
- Preaching Christ protects the preacher from pride and the hearers from idolatry. Those who hear the preaching of Christ will love and respect the man that preached to them; but they will worship Christ! Those who preach Christ will rejoice in the results that are obtained by it, but will glorify Christ for those results. How I weary of hearing of preachers a though the works wrought through them were wrought by them! As though it were Calvin and Luther who brought about the reformation, as if Spurgeon filled the tabernacle! If there be any sadness in glory, it must be found among those faithful men of the past whose names are now revered as though they accomplished anything. If these men were to return to earth, they would be appalled at the churches and colleges raised in their names! I say that any work done by a man will die with the man. Let us preach the work of Him who never dies and pray that He shall work through us!
- Preaching Christ is the only message that will do sinners any good.
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.
(I Cor. 1:21)
The word translated “preaching” puts the emphasis on the content of what is preached. The “foolishness” that is preached is Christ or “the cross”. Christ is what sinners need. If they will not have Him, there is nothing else good to give them, so there is no value in giving them something else. Brethren, pour on the coal! Preach the sovereign, unchangeable Christ to sinners. Flood them with the “truth as it is in Jesus” until they shout “Crucify Him” or “My Lord and my God.”
- Preaching Christ glorifies Christ. Dare a preacher aim for less? I may hope for the salvation of sinners through my preaching, but, whatever may come of sinners, may Christ be honored and glorified by what comes from these lips. Does not every God-called preacher feel the same? Does not every believer feel the same with regard to his testimony of the truth. God grant it be so.
So, preach and teach Christ. Deny every fleshly temptation to preach anything else. Follow this pattern until it seems foolishness to your flesh, then you will have entered into that which is the power and wisdom of God.
Joseph R. Terrell
HL : http://www.donfortner.com/bulletin_articles/topical/Preaching%20Christ.htm