The common figure of the old-time wagon wheel provides an excellent illustration of what I like to call the spiritual preaching wheel Jesus has provided all preachers of the gospel. This spiritual preaching wheel will enable you to obtain lasting results in winning souls. As everyone knows, there are three parts to the ordinary whed—hub, spokes, and rim.
No Christian minister should have any difficulty in identifying the hub of the preaching wheel, because the center of all preaching is the One who is altogether lovely, the chiefest among ten thousand, the Lord Jesus Christ. Four texts of Scripture indicate that Christ is the hub of the preaching wheel:
"Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, . . . bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all" (Col. 3:11).
"Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:23).
"Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me" (John 5:39).
"In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3).
Three references selected from the messenger of the Lord emphasize this great truth that Christ is the hub, or the center, of preaching. "Jesus is the living center of everything."—Evangelism, p. 186. This statement includes all the subject matter for every sermon a gospel preacher is ever called upon to preach. To whatever extent Jesus is not in the center of what we preach, to that extent our preaching is not rightly centered. "Christ is the center of all true doctrine."—Counsels to Parents and Teachers, p. 455. "Every true doctrine makes Christ the center."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 54.
Please take note that any doctrine that does not make Christ the center is not really a true doctrine. It is possible that what a man preaches may be doctrinally correct, but if Christ is not in the center of it, it is not the true doctrine for the 'true children of the Lord. Any preaching that does not have Jesus in the center is not true doctrine, regardless of how forceful, how well constructed, or how interesting the preaching may be. The hub of the gospel preaching wheel, the center of all its attraction, is the lovely Jesus.
What are the spokes of the preaching wheel? Spokes always proceed from the hub of a wheel. Since Jesus is the hub of the preaching wheel, the spokes that proceed from Him must be the doctrines of Jesus. As every spoke needs to be centered in the hub, so every doctrine we preach needs to be centered in the Lord Jesus Christ. Ellen G. White has beautifully expressed this thought in the words: "He [Christ] is the chain upon which the jewels of doctrine are linked." —The Review and Herald, Aug. 15, 1893.
What is the rim of this preaching wheel? "A great work is to be accomplished in setting before men the saving truths of the gospel... . To present these truths is the work of the third angel's message."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 11. Since the third angel's message includes all the saving truths of the gospel, it may well be likened to the rim of this preaching wheel.
The rim of the wheel includes within its scope every spoke that proceeds from the hub. So the third angel's message, as the rim of our preaching wheel, includes within its scope all the saving truths of the gospel, all the doctrines of Christ.
The rim of the wheel, as you know, binds all the spokes into a unity to serve the appointed purpose of movement. So the threefold message binds all the truths of the gospel into a harmonious unit of belief and conduct for making ready a people for the Lord.
Some erroneously think that unless an Adventist evangelist quite generally confines his preaching specifically to the items mentioned in the threefold message as recorded in Revelation 14:6-12, he is not preaching the message. Such people fail to comprehend the tremendous breadth and depth of the last message of God, for the third angel's message includes all the saving truths of the "everlasting gospel."
The threefold message is introduced in Revelation 14:6 as the "everlasting gospel," the gospel of the ages. The final preaching of the saving truths of the gospel is to be in the setting of the threefold message. Noah preached in the setting of the impending flood. John the Baptist preached in the setting of the impending appearing of the Messiah. Seventh-day Adventists are to preach in the setting of the threefold message, which is to prepare the world for the second coming of Christ.
Christ and His righteousness have been the heart and the center of every revelation God ever has made, or ever will make so long as time shall last. Christ and His righteousness are the very heart and center of the threefold message. Indeed, " 'it [the message of justification by faith] is the third angel's message in verity.'" —Evangelism, p. 190.
God has been pleased to gather up the gems of truth and reset them in this threefold message as His present truth for this closing age. There is no essential spiritual truth that is not embraced under God's threefold message.
Picture this preaching wheel that Christ gives us for these last days. The central hub is the One altogether lovely, the precious Jesus, the Son of God. The doctrines of Christ are the spokes. There is a spoke that is labeled "justification," another one, "sanctification," another, "glorification," another, "the Second Advent." Then there are spokes labeled "judgment," "the sanctuary," "the law," "the Sabbath," "the state of the dead," "the home of the saved," "Christian temperance," "baptism," et cetera. And the threefold message of Revelation 14:6-12 binds all these truths together as a rim. In one united movement this preaching wheel summons a people from every nation under heaven to "keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus" (Rev. 14:12).
In the case of the wagon wheel the rim is what breaks the way for the wagon to move forward. The rim is what makes contact with the road. So the threefold message, as the rim of our preaching wheel, is to be our point of contact with the public. It is to break the way for the advance of the great gospel wheel.
How to Preach the Doctrines
This preaching wheel illustrates how to present the doctrines of the faith. Do the spokes proceed from the rim, or from the hub? Obviously from the hub. Do you see the significance of this in evangelistic preaching? It suggests that we are not to present the doctrines merely as being the teachings of the Adventist Church, or merely as being from the Adventist Church. They are to be presented as proceeding from Jesus Christ.
How does our preaching cheek with this? I think it must be admitted that the doctrines are often presented in the spirit of being something which our church stands for, in the attitude that people have to accept them or they cannot be baptized. There is a more excellent way. Every doctrine and every practice of this people must be brought to the attention of the world as the Christian steps to take in walking with Jesus our Lord.
If we present the doctrines merely as being the teachings of the Adventist Church, then we have a disarrangement of the preaching wheel. We are then trying to fasten the spokes in the rim first, and then endeavoring to figure out how to get them into the hub. This is not the right way. When we rightly present the doctrines, the people will see Jesus in the center of the Sabbath, in the center of the 2300 days, in the center of the judgment, in the center of baptism, and at the heart of every subject preached.
In our evangelistic preaching we need to be particularly on our guard with respect to two subtle perils. (1) lAre have such a vast array of doctrines and logical evidences to present to establish the points of our faith that we do face the subtle peril of having Christ on the outer fringe of the sermon, when He should be in the center. (2) In placing emphasis on Christ-centered preaching, we face the subtle peril of failing to preach the threefold message as it should be preached. The threefold message must be Christ centered, and our Christ-centered preaching must include God's special threefold message for these last days.
The preaching of the apostles was pre-eminently Christ centered, but they did not and could not in their day preach the threefold message. The preaching of Luther was Christ centered, but Luther did not and could not preach Revelation 14:6-12. The Christ-centered preaching for our day includes this Christ-centered last warning message.
The Threefold Message
Think again of the figure of the wheel. If the spokes in the wagon wheel are to serve their needed purpose, each one must be fastened into the rim at the outer end, even as each must be fastened into the hub at the inner end. So Adventist evangelistic preaching must not only be Christ centered, fastened into the hub on the inner end, but it must be fastened into the rim of the threefold message on the outer end.
Make no mistake about it. The threefold message of Revelation 14:6-12 is what our God has foreordained to be preached, believed, and obeyed in these days. These are the most decisive, identifying verses in all Holy Scripture for locating the truth of God, and the special work of God, the people of God, and the way of the Lord for these last days. This is why the Christ-centered, threefold message must be kept to the forefront in all our evangelistic preaching.
Have you ever considered what decisive matters in religion are settled once for all in Revelation 14:6-12 and Revelation 12:17? These scriptures reveal God's present truth for this present time. They define what the Lord wants people to do in these last days. They identify God's remnant as the last part of Christ's true church in these last days. They reveal the only adequate reason for the existence of Seventh-day Adventists as a separate people in the religious world. They identify the special work of God for our day. They reveal the people of the faith of Jesus who are the continuation in these last days of that church which our Lord founded when He was here nineteen hundred years ago.
In view of these great truths, why are we not more zealous in proclaiming the dynamic message of Revelation 14:6-12 and 12:17 in our evangelistic preaching and teaching? We may well raise the question, What advantage then have Seventh-day Adventists? Chiefly because unto them have been committed God's present truth for this closing age, the threefold message as the consummation of the gospel. Other churches may have pulpit giants. The only aspect in which Seventh-day Adventist ministers can really excel is in the preaching of God's special message for this hour.
We face the subtle peril of losing our sense of vividness and the importance of the threefold message. Make no mistake about this: as surely as we lose sight of the threefold message, we lapse into the status of an ordinary denomination instead of being God's special last-day movement of prophecy foretold in Revelation 14: 6-12. Every sermon preached, whether in the evangelistic campaign or on the Sabbath day, should be Christ centered in the setting of the threefold message.
(To be continued)