Preaching a Christ-Centered Gospel

Presenting the distinctive truths of the third angel's message with more emphasis on Christ.

E. ROBERT REYNOLDS, Pastor, West Pakistan Union

This outline is prepared with the thought of helping national evangelists, particularly, find a simple way of presenting the distinctive truths of the third angel's message, with more emphasis upon Christ than they have perhaps grown accustomed to, with less emphasis upon logic and the proving of a doctrine, important as that may be at times, and with the placing of stronger emphasis upon a spiritual message that will grip the hearts of listeners. Yet we should not minimize the distinctive truths we as a people have been called to preach, nor lose the appeal to public interest from an advertis­ing standpoint. Most of this material has been prepared through several years of study and experimentation, and with a Moslem audience in mind most of the time, though much of it might be adapted to any other kind of audi­ence.

It might be of interest to some to know that one of our indigenous evangelists recently com­pleted a series of meetings based on these prin­ciples in which his audience, composed entirely of Moslems, swelled from twenty-five the first week to two hundred the eighth week, and their mullahs who were present were shouting Arabic "Hallelujahs" to certain of the points that he made—a hitherto unheard-of thing in Pakistan. He told me that one cannot imagine the thrill that it brings until he has experienced it. When he opened a new series of meetings, his Moslem audience requested that he not stop at the close of one month, though the feast of Ramzan would begin before that month was over, but carry on for several months.

Some may question the principle of narra­tive for an educated audience, but experience has shown that even they will appreciate a story in the hands of a capable storyteller. This art this outline makes no attempt to discuss. Hence, we chose to begin this outline with the funda­mental importance of Christ-centered preaching for success as laid down by the Bible stand­ard. We believe this is not debatable.

I. Christ-centered Preaching Essential

  1. We are not to be ashamed of the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16).
  2. Preaching of the cross of Christ is foolishness and a stumbling block to the world, but it is nonetheless the power and wisdom of God unto salvation (1 Cor. 1:18, 23, 24).
  3. Determination to know no other kind of preaching save Christ and Him crucified will result in a demonstration of the Spirit and of power (1 Cor. 2:2, 4).
  4. No stronger foundation can be laid than this (1 Cor. 3:11).
  5. Christ-centered preaching will draw men to Him (John 12:32).
  6. The love of Christ will constrain us in our preaching (2 Cor. 5:14).
  7. The ministry of reconciliation committed to us is one in which we in Christ's stead are to beseech men to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18-20).
  8. The true ambassador for Christ has it laid upon him as a necessity to preach this way (1 Cor. 9:16).

II. Biblical Narrative a Valuable Aid

  1. Words easy to be understood must be spoken (1 Cor. 14:9).
  2. Jesus often conveyed truth by means of stories and parables (Mark 4:33, 34; Matt. 13:34-36).

III. Preaching Christ Through Bible Narrative

Before these lessons are divided, it would be well to state that in all these divisions it is not the thought that they are all to be covered in one story or sermon, but rather that each one may be a ser­monic story in itself, with stress upon the theme or lesson suggested. In other words, each point in this outline may itself be the topic of a sermon-story; and there is no limit to the lessons of truth one can teach this way. The narrative approach assumes two things: (1) The listener does not know the story, so details must be told that have a bearing on the lesson one seeks to teach. (2) No attempt at direct proof of truth is necessary—the storyteller is telling what is truth, not dogmatically, but with ready ease, with proof texts not usually supplied or quoted at length, but rather the pertinent parts of a text woven into the story from memory (without supplying the reference). Remember, this is a story. It may also be said here that nowhere through this outline is the endeavor made to arrange these lessons in correct order for telling. That will de­pend upon the local situation in each case. But duplication will not be lost, as it will fix the lessons more firmly in the minds of the audience.

1. LESSONS FROM CREATION

a. The greatness and love of God revealed in creation and nature.

b.Jesus Christ was the Creator (tie with His pre-existence).

c. The creation of other worlds, of the angels, and the relationship Jesus sustained to the whole in heaven. This may well set the stage for the presentation of the great controversy.

d.The origin of this world.

e. The high destiny intended for man—created in the image of God, that the divine image in the person of Jesus might not be dis­torted into any of the animal creation in the birth of Christ into human flesh. Man in­tended to be sons of God.

f. The sacredness of the home (the principle of monogamy may well be introduced at this point)—ordained by Christ at creation and reconsecrated by Him at Cana at the be­ginning of His earthly ministry.

g. The divine plan of diet and temperance. (Wonderful for use with both Moslem and Hindu audiences. The many facets of our health and temperance message have not been exploited as well as they might in dealing with these peoples.)

h.The time principles relating to the Sabbath: evening and morning, the weekly cycle. (In­troduced here without reference to the Sab­bath at all, it dispels necessity of argument later over the question. It is a positive approach. The public interest in the World Calendar or kindred subjects provides a suitable title for this story.)

i. The origin of the Sabbath, with Christ the Creator as its Lord.

j. The five things God gave man in Eden: life without dying, a Paradise home, domin­ion and a kingdom, a holy character, and the Sabbath. (Only the Sabbath remained with man after sin, to point forward to the eternal rest from sin and the restoration through Jesus of the other four in heaven and the new earth.)

k.  Miscellaneous additional topics that might come in under this heading could deal with creation and evolution, the nature of man, talking with God, et cetera.

2. LESSONS FROM THE FALL OF MAN

a. Origin of sin in heaven in conflict with Christ (story of Lucifer).

b.Origin of sin in the earth and disloyalty to Christ.

c. Nature of sin, and its remedy in Christ.

d.The kind of religion or worship or life that pleases God, as illustrated in the offerings of Cain and Abel—righteousness by faith ver­sus righteousness by works.

e. Blood atonement for sin introduced—why God ordained animal sacrifices. Both Mos­lems and Hindus still have certain animal sacrifices today, though they have imparted different meanings to them than were meant to be in Bible times. The true meaning of them as given by God can easily be brought out in this way. It will obviate much criti­cism of a divine atonement when later the cross of Christ itself is studied.

f. The law, and the necessity of Christ's death.

g. Results of sin: death, its nature, the state of man in death; the resurrections, millennium, hell-fire, punishment of the wicked, death to the carnal nature, and the new birth. Kindred topics may be dealt with sepa­rately, tied to this lesson and the fall of man. Christ the remedy should always be re­peated. (His name need not be used at first; but reference to Him as the promised Re­deemer, God's Lamb, et cetera, to the igno­rant will not be objectionable, and when Christ is pointed out as being that One, they will be more ready to accept Him.)

3. LESSONS FROM ENOCH AND NOAH

a. Righteousness by faith as exhibited by Enoch, with its resulting reward.
 
b. Types of the end of the world given in the story of the Flood—close of probation, the ark—Christ or His truth (His church may be used); the work of the Holy Spirit; the great preparatory message, and with care the thought of the new world for the right­eous (without conveying the false theory of a second chance), but this time without sin and blemish. "Noah and the End of the World" might be a topic on the signs of the second coming. "The Man Outside the Ark" is also a very effective parable for one of the final appeal sermons of a series.
 
c. The law and the covenants. The everlasting covenant given to Noah, with the blood of the everlasting covenant centered in Christ. If firmly established here, it consolidates the Sabbath between creation and Sinai for later reference.
 
d. The permission given for a flesh dietary, dealing with unclean meats and the short­ened life span resulting, confirms the orig­inal diet given by Christ as the best.

4. LESSONS FROM THE TOWER OF BABEL

Babylon's apostasy was the first after the Flood. Hence, spiritual Babylon is the name given to all rebellion against God. Lucifer is its spiritual king. See Isa. 14:4, 12.

a. The origin of sun worship and Sunday—hence the hatred God bears to it in spiritual Babylon.
b. Parallels of the two Babyions.

5. LESSONS FROM ABRAHAM

Almost limitless possibilities. Excellent stories for Moslems. Care must be exercised in dealing with Isaac and Ishmael references.

a. Abraham's call and obedience.

b. Why God called Abraham as His chosen servant: his faith, immediate obedience, will­ingness to leave the past, separation from all that was dear, going out not knowing the future, et cetera. (For Jews, as well as Moslems, this study makes a wonderful parallel with God's remnant people, once one has accepted Christ—a good decision study for joining the remnant church.)

(1)     Called out of Babylonian apostasy, which permeated Ur.

(2)     Immediate obedience.

(3)     His faith in the Messiah as the Lamb of God (cf. John 8:56 with the offering of Isaac).

(4)     He was not afraid to stand alone.

(5)     His was a call to evangelize the nations (which literal Israel failed in).

(6)     It was these spiritual characteristics that caused God to make Abraham His choice. If we would be heirs of the promise made to Abraham, we must possess these characteristics, and through Christ be regrafted into Israel.

c. Abraham's faith.

d. The everlasting covenant confirmed with Abraham. (Strengthens the Sabbath posi­tion nicely, with Ps. 105:8-10.)

e. The story of Hagar and Ishmael—"Hagar and the Angel of God," with God's promise relating to Ishmael, but with the covenant promise of Christ confirmed through Isaac. With Rom. 11 and Gal. 4:22-31, concluding with Gal. 3:27-29, a strong appeal can be made to join in the fullest blessing of being a son of Abraham by accepting Jesus Christ. One may be a fleshly son of Abraham through Ishmael, or even Isaac, but become a spiritual son through Jesus Christ. (Great care must be used in the choice of words in this study to avoid creating prejudice while conveying truth.)

f. Abraham's search for a God-built city and a heavenly country—heaven and new earth.

g. Abraham's offering of the son of promise a type of the giving of God's Son of promise. Wonderful possibilities for presenting Christ as God's Lamb. Reference here must be made not to Isaac or to Jesus (among Moslems), but to "the Lamb of God" and "the son of promise." See next item.
 
h. Abraham's son and God's Lamb. In this study Isaac, the type of Christ, is superseded by the antitype, Jesus Himself, as Abra­ham's son. This follows g nicely, and, coupled with Isa. 53 and Dan. 9, lends itself well to a presentation of the 70 weeks, show­ing when Christ would come. Here Christ may be called by name, but will be better referred to as the Lamb of God—never called at this early stage in a Moslem audience as the "Son of God." Islam, incidentally, teaches that it was Ishmael who was offered and not Isaac. Hence it will avoid prejudice and teach truth concerning the central sub­ject of the Lamb of God if such terms as "son of promise," "the only-begotten son of promise," "the promised heir," "the boy," "the lad," "the young man," "Abraham's son," et cetera, are used in reference to Isaac. Also the use of Khaleel-ullah for Abraham will be appreciated by a Moslem audience; it is the Arabic term for "friend of God."

i. Abraham and the Melchizedek priesthood.

j. Abraham and tithing.

LESSONS FROM MOSES

  1. Moses and the Word of God. The Arabic names for Moses and Jesus, Kalim-ullah and Kalam-ullah respectively, make it possible to conduct a fine study on Moses as the mouthpiece of God and Jesus as the Word of God (as the two names above signify). Jesus is called in the Qur'an (Koran) "the Word of God," and we might well use that name for Him in a Moslem audience initially rather than the prejudicing "Son of God," as John does in opening his Gospel, and the way can well be set for the giving of the law by Christ through Moses.
  2. The prophet like unto Moses—Christ (not Mohammed as Islam teaches, so caution in semantics is in order).
  3. Moses and the resurrection.
  4. Christ, Moses, and the Law.

IV. The I Am of the burning bush; also Jeho­vah of the pillar of fire and cloud, and the Rock (1 Cor. 10), and used in the right sequence, will help even Christian audiences to clarify "the rock" upon which the church was founded. Christ has always been "the Rock" (Dent. 32:4; Dan. 2:44, 45; Matt. 21:42, 44).

LESSONS FROM THE SANCTUARY

  1. The meaning of animal sacrifices premises the death of Christ.
  2. The earthly and heavenly sanctuaries.
  3. 2300 days, 70 weeks, and the judgment.
  4. The work of the priest—type and antitype.
  5. Lessons from the furniture and emblems of the sanctuary (quite fitting where Catholic audiences are present, as well, and can be made most Christ centered; in fact, the use of sanctuary lessons sandwiched into other topics as given above aids in Christ-centered preaching in the over-all emphasis of a series). For topical examples: bread, lack of leaven, salt, oil, water, the laver (the wash­ing gives a good basis for a discussion of baptism, though again care must be used among Christians who use this as proof of sprinkling), the altar, incense, candlestick, ark, angels (ministry for salvation as shown by angels on veil and over the ark).
  6. God's communication with men as introduced by Urim and Thummim, angels at the altar (as in the case of Zacharias), the Shekinah presence, et cetera, set the stage for the gift of prophecy.
  7. LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF DAVID

David is highly thought of among Moslems. The Psalms, or Zabur, are listed in the Qur'an as equal with the Law of Moses. Among the Old Testament prophets David and Moses stand out above all others as far as the Moslem in concerned, with the exception of Abraham (but he stands in a differ­ent relationship inasmuch as he never wrote any Scripture). Therefore, lessons from David may be used effectively. I will here use only one illustra­tion, which has been used successfully, leaving it to the reader to find others. Ibn-i-Daud, or the Son of David, using Matt. 22:42-45, can effectively introduce Christ in His power perspective of hu­manity clothing Deity. There are many other pos­sibilities.

IV. Conclusion

These, and many more, are stories that will hold both the simplest and the most educated audiences, if told as a story, without the argu­mentative intent to prove something. Naturally some of these topics adapt themselves to nar­rative form more readily than do others, and the speaker will find it necessary to tax his ingenu­ity in some instances to make the topic appear as a story. It is not that these topics may not be used otherwise with profit—for well they might —and if one cannot tell a story well, he still might preach a sermon on any one of them and put the truth before his hearers in a new and more Christ-centered way; but we have found the narrative approach to be highly suc­cessful. It has a number of advantages. Fore­most among these is that a story easily grips one's attention, and in listening to a story he is not consciously building up a lot of mental barriers to an argument. There may be ques­tions, but the spirit of caviling will be greatly reduced, and new light may thus penetrate darkened minds. If one wants to question an assertion, he may arrange a personal appoint­ment, and that helps one to get to dealing with individuals without bringing error—in the at­tempt to prove the truth by contrast—to the at­tention of the masses. This method also pro­vides "the corner in the sermon" for children even in evangelistic meetings.

The telling of the story may be either a de­scription of activities or a chronological ar­ranging of events in an interesting way, using, if available, the simplest of visual aids or pic­tures. Lessons from the lives of Jacob, Joseph, Daniel, Elijah, and others are excellent for cer­tain groups and subjects.

The outline above has been presented only as an illustration of the possibilities in present­ing Christ-centered truths through Biblical nar­rative. With this approach we do not believe it necessary to be deep scholars of apostate doc­trines of any group in order to find their weak­nesses, or even their good points, with which to convince them of truth, any more than one would use the counterfeit in currency to dis­cover the genuine. The full knowledge of the genuine will reveal every counterfeit that comes along, but the reverse is not true. However, it is well to be aware of certain differences of un­derstanding over phraseology as used by differ­ent groups to know what will be helpful to them in conveying truth to them in language they un­derstand, and to know what we should avoid be­cause of a difference in connotation. May the Lord bless this outline to the winning of souls for the kingdom of God.

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E. ROBERT REYNOLDS, Pastor, West Pakistan Union

March 1957

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