Preaching Christ in Every Sermon

Preaching Christ in Every Sermon—No. 1

The importance of the principles here discussed can scarcely be overestimated. Our success or fail­ure as preachers, particularly as Seventh-day Ad­ventist ministers, is definitely gauged by our relation to this issue.

By CARLYLE B. HAYNES, President of the Michigan Conference

The importance of the principles here discussed can scarcely be overestimated. Our success or fail­ure as preachers, particularly as Seventh-day Ad­ventist ministers, is definitely gauged by our relation to this issue. Such is the inescapable declaration of the Word, and such is the supporting counsel of the Spirit of prophecy. No theme can, therefore, be of greater importance for Our study and application. --Editor.

 

After preaching the gospel for a period, it is helpful to check up and thus make sure we are still following the pattern given. It is easy to get into, but hard to get out of, ruts. Talks can easily be prepared by stringing a number of quotations together and calling this a sermon, but real preaching is something different, and is not so easy. It re­quires real effort. And the very finest preach­ing in this world should be connected with this last gospel message. Paul laid down a pattern when he wrote:

"And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weak­ness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power : that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." I Cor. 2:1-5.

Here is a complete summary of ideal gospel preaching. Its character is that of the testi­mony of God. Its doctrine is that of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. Its spirit is that of humility and consciousness of weakness. Its form is not of human wisdom. Its power is in the demonstration of the Spirit. Its effect is the establishment of faith upon God's foun­dation.

When all our sermons are made to set forth Christ, and to magnify Him as Saviour and Lord, we are using the only mode of preaching which God has promised to bless. This does not mean that we are to plan upon a name as if that name would operate with the magic of a charm. There are men who seem to think they are fulfilling all requirements of preaching Christ if they just use His name every ten minutes. That is to miss the point entirely, and is not necessarily preaching Christ at all. There are others who fastidiously criticize every sermon as a failure which does not have Christ for its immediate subject. That attitude discloses a childish misconception of what preaching Christ really means.

Every part of the Bible contains the gospel substantially, but not every part contains it in exact form and in so many words. We must not force unnatural interpretations upon God's word for the purpose of constantly introducing the name of Christ. All the principles and duties of the gospel bear more or less relation to Him. The enforcement and inculcation of these duties and principles in connection with an explanation of the word of God is as closely conformed to the apostolic method of preach­ing as would be the most complete setting forth of Christ's suffering and death.

Paul was concerned about setting forth the duties of husbands in relation to their wives. But in doing so, He preached Christ. Turn and see how he did it in Ephesians 5:25-33. To another church, Paul laid down the princi­ples of church discipline, but in doing so he preached Christ. i Cor. 5:1-7. To the be­lievers scattered abroad, Peter set forth the duties of servants to their masters, but in doing so he preached Christ. I Peter 2:18-25. In his letter to Titus, Paul took occasion to deal with the sin of evilspeaking. Observe how he preached Christ in doing so. Titus 3:2-6.

Apostolic Models of Preaching Christ

As we study these models, we are struck with the transitions of thought and subject which are made with such exquisite skill that, even though unexpected, they are Still natural and graceful. There is nothing in the greatest classics of literature to compare with these skillful transitions, these masterly and beauti­ful strokes, which enable an apostle when deal­ing with such a subject as an incestuous Co­rinthian, to pass, by a most artful digression, to the dearest topic of his heart—a crucified Saviour. As we follow him closely in his thought about disciplining this fallen member, we are not prepared for his swift reference in such a connection. Yet, when made, it does not seem out of place. We are compelled to admire both the propriety of its introduction and the delicacy with which it is made.

So let us be careful that the divine name brings life and glory to all our ministrations, that every sermon is made to draw sinners to Him, and to establish believers in their faith. Throughout the whole book of Acts we are furnished models for preaching Christ, and in the Epistles are other models of doctrinal in­struction which never fail to present the cruci­fied Saviour. No more helpful course of study could be pursued by the growing preacher than a study of these apostolic models.

Do not be influenced by the fear that such preaching of Christ in every sermon will con­fine our preaching to just a few points. There is not a point of Christian doctrine, truth, privilege, principle, practice, or study, which has no reference to Christ crucified. Paul, in the first chapter of his epistle to the Ephesians, sets forth Jesus as the medium of "all spiritual blessings." Eph. 1:3-14. The quickening in­fluence of every doctrine and privilege, every personal and relative obligation mentioned in the entire epistle, is drawn from this one source. We have already noticed how the apostles so easily and naturally introduced their Master and His atoning work into the very heart of their discussions no matter how irrelevant it might appear, on first thought, to be.

All Truth Embraced in Christ

Jesus Christ and His atoning work is the center of a widely extended circle which em­braces our whole relationship to God, every­thing that is profitable to men, all the delight­ful ways of divine faithfulness and love, all that concerns our character, professions, privi­leges, obligations, hopes, beliefs, and our pros­pects for eternity. Consequently, the determi­nation to know nothing, to preach nothing, and to glory in nothing but Jesus and His cross, is no narrowing- course for a minister to choose. That kind of preaching sets forth Christ to the people as the only remedy for all the evil in the world, the only supply for the whole world's desperate need, the only hope of salvation from sin.

The lesson we need to be learning now, and to keep learning all our lives, is that of skill­fully shaping all our sermons, the whole range of our subjects, to this one point. Learning that lesson more perfectly, and practicing it more effectually, is worth all the labor and effort we are likely to put on it. Writing on the importance of preaching Christ, the com­mentator, Matthew Henry, strikingly observes that, though "the Scriptures are the circum­ference of faith, the round of which it walks, and every point of which compass it toucheth, yet the center of it is Christ. That is the polar star, on which it resteth."

In the whole truth of the solar system there is no single teaching or fact which can be accurately understood until we begin with its relation to the sun, which is the center. Every single thing has relation to that. So it is with Christ in relation to everything that touches human salvation. No truth can be properly understood except in the light of His atone­ment. No man has a proper comprehension of any teaching of Scripture unless he views it in this divine light.

It was this preaching of Christ and Him crucified which was so constantly accompanied "with the demonstration of the Spirit, and with power," in the days of the apostles. It was this preaching which, in succeeding cen­turies, kept the light burning in the church, so that it never went out. It was this preaching which successfully resisted popery in the time of the Reformation. It is this preaching today which becomes to men in darkest heathenism "life from the dead." It is this preaching which will finish the work of the gospel on earth, and prepare a people for the Lord. It is to this preaching that we are called. Every sermon is to have this for its supreme burden.

"Christ crucified for our sins, Christ risen from the dead, Christ ascended on high, is the science of salvation that we are to learn and to teach."-- "Testimonies," Vol. VIII, p. 287,

"No discourse should ever be delivered without presenting Christ and Him crucified as the founda­tion of the gospel."--Id., Vol, IV, p. 394.

We shall not accomplish our supreme task in this world by any other means than by this preaching:

"There is a great work to be done. The world will not be converted by the gift of tongues, or by the working of miracles, but by preaching Christ crucified."—"Testirnonies to Ministers,” p. 424.

This is not to turn aside from the threefold message for this time. It is rather to preach it effectually.

"Where the people assemble to worship God let not a word be spoken that shall divert the mind from the great central interest,—Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. The third angel's message is to be our burden of warning. The side issues are not for us to meddle with."—Id., p. 331.

_______ To be concluded in April


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By CARLYLE B. HAYNES, President of the Michigan Conference

March 1939

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