Steven J. Lawson often likes to say in his sermons, “God sent His only begotten Son into the world…and He made Him a preacher.” In the predetermined plan of God (Acts 2:23), the means of grace by which men would be saved was preaching. It is preaching that highlights the centrality of God’s Word, in declaring the whole purpose of God (Acts 20:27). God’s Word is His revelation to man. His Word is light, truth, law, and life.
The called man of God, appointed by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28), is sent by God to preach the Gospel of God in the power of the Holy Spirit (Jn 3:34; Rom 10:15; 1 Pet 1:12). The Gospel of grace comes in Word, power, and in the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:4; 1 Thess 1:5). In this, the preacher of the Word is not superior, nor clever, or even persuasive (manipulative) with his speech. Rather, his speaking is done in plain words (2 Cor 3:12).
In preaching the faith handed down to all the saints (Gal 1:23; Jude 3), the singular message is Christ crucified (1 Cor 2:2). The Person and work of Christ, in life and death, is the testimony of God to all nations (Mt 24:14; 1 Cor 2:1). The scope or extent of Gospel preaching is to all the world — the whole creation (Mk 16:15).
Through the preaching event, the Spirit implants the seed of the Word in the hearts and minds of those who have been appointed to life by God the Father in His pre-cosmic election (Mt 13:23; Acts 13:48; Eph 1:4–5; Jas 1:21). Thus, we see the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached and received by God’s grace (1 Cor 15:1–2). The effectual receipt of the Word is the work of the Spirit who opens the heart of the hearer of the Word (Acts 16:14). The response is faith in the Word of Christ proclaimed. Who has believed our report (Is 53:1)? God’s elect, redeemed, regenerate, believing people.
The Word of faith preached does not always produce faith in a hearer (Rom 10:8, 17). Preaching heard without faith is unprofitable (Heb 4:2). There is no assurance that just because the preacher faithfully preaches the Word that there will be any receipt of the Word (Heb 4:6).
There are actually two effects when the Gospel is made known. The power of God unto salvation becomes evident in the hearer who believes. In contrast, the unbelieving hearer assesses the Gospel to be foolishness (1 Cor 1:18). For long ages past, the Gospel was hidden from the nations, except for the one nation of Israel. Today, the promises of God made to the fathers are preached to all — some being fulfilled and some yet to be fulfilled (Acts 13:32).
Just as God brought forth the remnant believers in ethnic Israel in the Old Testament, so He brings forth remnant believers, today, from all nations. As the excellencies of Christ are heralded, God is calling His chosen people to come into Christ’s church, the Israel of God (Gal 6:16; 1 Pet 2:9). Peace with God (Rom 5:1) comes by the Spirit-filled preacher preaching peace through Jesus Christ (Acts 10:36). Better than Abel’s blood crying out for vengeance and justice, the blood of Jesus cries out that the forgiveness of sins is granted by the new covenant in Christ’s precious blood (Mt 26:28; Acts 13:38; Eph 1:7; 1 Pet 1:19).
God stands with and strengthens the man of God for the proclamation that God has appointed Jesus Christ to be the Judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; 2 Tim 4:1, 17). The Word of life is abiding, forever (1 Pet 1:25), and its goal in being preached is to help the saints live by faith (1 Pet 4:6) and to be made complete in Christ (Col 1:28).
The Gospel of Jesus is not according to man (Gal 1:11–12), which is why we do not preach ourselves (2 Cor 4:5). In fact, the Bible issues the warning that if anyone comes preaching a gospel contrary to the true Gospel, that man is accursed (Gal 1:8–9). False teachers are many, and their objective is to deceive as many as possible. The Holy Spirit never attends to the work of false Christs and false prophets. Rather, the blind lead the blind into the pit. The delusion is great because these preachers will approach Jesus in the end with claims of service to Him. They will be utterly exposed and rejected for being charlatans on the Day of Judgement (Mt 7:21–23).
False religions and false gospels will never hinder the work of God to gather in Christ’s sheep into His church (1 Cor 12:13). The elect, who have been redeemed, will all be made alive in Christ (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13). Predestination cannot lead to any other end than glorification (Rom 8:30). No one will separate those loved by God from the Father and the Son (Jn 10:28–29) because each one has the indwelling Spirit (Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9, 11), who never leaves nor forsakes them (Heb 13:5). Those without the Spirit may have tasted the good Word of God and may have been privy to the working of the Spirit in the church (Heb 6:4–6), but unless the Holy Spirit falls upon a soul (Acts 10:44), as they listen to the Word preached, they remain dead in sin and without God or hope in the world (Eph 2:1, 12).
To summarize the preaching event, we have the elements of the Spirit and the Word along with a preacher and his hearers. The faithful preacher, filled with the Holy Spirit, preaches the Word of the cross to a mixed effect, based on either the void or the power of the Spirit accompanying the Word — that effectually calls elect sinners to come out of the darkness and into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col 1:13).
In conclusion, we stand amazed that God has deemed Gospel preaching as the means of grace employed to call sinners to repentance and faith. We rejoice that some unwilling, hard-hearted sinners do repent and believe when the Spirit grants them His grace unto salvation. In other words, by grace we are saved (Eph 2:8–9), and it is not of ourselves because there is nothing good in our flesh that desires God or His salvation (Rom 3:10–12).
It is a gracious act of God’s mercy for sinners to sit and listen to a Gospel preacher who is not ashamed of the truth as it is in Jesus. Remember that, O sinner, the next time you are invited to join in the company of the faithful, who were made faithful by the Spirit producing that fruit in them, as branches grafted into the living Vine who is Christ (Jn 15; Gal 5:22).
May God send forth more preachers into the field to sow the Word and to reap the harvest of righteousness that only increases because God has ordained the preaching event to grow His church up into Christ…who we gladly proclaim.
August 9, 2022