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Archive for the ‘Romans 10’ Category

From Romans chapter 9 through to 11 the apostle Paul considers that people whom God has chosen to save. This is a people chosen not according to their birth in the flesh, but chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world, who in time are born again of the Holy Spirit. They are a spiritual people, the children of promise, pictured by Israel of old, but nevertheless, not that fleshly nation, but a people chosen amongst both Jews and Gentiles. As Romans 9:6-8 tells us “…For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”

 

Having pointed out in Romans 2:28-29 that the true Jew is not one who is outwardly a Jew, one born physically a Jew, but one who is inwardly a Jew, one whose heart is circumcised, being born of God by His Spirit, Paul returns to this truth in chapter 9 where he illustrates that God has elected to save a people from both Jews and Gentiles, who collectively are the spiritual Israel of God: “Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As he saith in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pas, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God” Romans 9:24-26

 

It is this people, chosen out of both Jews and Gentiles, to whom the promises of God apply, those promises made of old to Abraham and His Seed, the promises of salvation and of an inheritance in the world to come. It is these who are the true Jews, God’s people, those who are brought to saving faith in Christ. For it is by grace, through faith, that this people are saved, not by works, and in setting forth the truth of that people whom God saves, Paul contrasts in chapters 9 and 10 the righteousness which is of the law, which Israel of old sought after, with that righteousness of faith, by which all God’s people are saved: “What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosover believeth on him shall not be ashamed” Romans 9:30-33.

 

No, salvation is not by the works of the law, nor by virtue of our fleshly birth, but through faith in Christ, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth”.

 

But those people, both Jews and Gentiles, who are shown their sin, shown their utter inability to save themselves, to attain unto righteousness, or to keep the law of God, are taught their need of mercy. It is those whom God brings to call upon His Name for salvation, and everyone so brought, who so calls upon Him shall surely be heard: “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” Romans 10:12-13.

 

Yes, those whom God saves, His people, the true Israel of God, are a people of faith, a people elected unto salvation, born again of God by His Spirit and given faith to call upon His Name for salvation, believing on Christ and His work in dying to save sinners.

 

But what is it to call upon the name of the Lord? Why does Paul stress the name of the Lord here?

 

Well, we read of the name of the Lord in other passages of scriptures, for example in Philippians 2:9-11.

“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Here we read of that coming day when every knee – every man’s, every woman’s, every child’s – will bow to the Lord Jesus Christ. A day when every tongue will confess: “That Jesus Christ is Lord”. What a day that will be! What a tremendous confession, what glorious praise to God the Father and to Him whom He hath highly exalted, even Jesus Christ His Son!

But notice again how this passage is worded. It says “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.”

Why does scripture state it in this way? Why, like Romans 10:13, stress the name of Jesus, that name “which is above every name”? Why? Firstly, because of how exalted both the Person and His name are – how glorious they are. But also because of what the name of Jesus signifies: the truth of it. The truth conveyed by the very name itself. It is not only the Lord to whom we must call for salvation, but we must call upon the name of the Lord as believing the truth regarding Him. It is not only to Jesus that every knee shall bow, but to the truth He represents. For Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). Jesus is The Truth and His name declares truth.

The name ‘Jesus’ is the Greek form of the Hebrew ‘Joshua’, or ‘Jeho-shua’, which has its roots in ‘Jah-shua’ meaning ‘God Saves’. Not only does this name declare Christ’s deity but it declares Him to be the God who saves! Now, this is a truth to which every knee shall bow – that God Saves! That through Jesus alone God saves sinners; that salvation is entirely of Him – from start to finish. Man simply has no part to play in it – the work is all of God – for God Saves.

Oh! how man by nature, in the fallen depravity of his sinful heart, rails against such a truth! How he hates it! How his innermost spirit detests such a truth that asserts dogmatically the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation. How man must have some part to play in saving himself. How his pride rises up against, how it fights against, the plain and simple truth that salvation owes nothing to himself, but all to God and His grace. Man by nature simply must have some part to play, he must have something which he can do, something which he can contribute – however small it may be. Whether it be his good works, his prayers, his attendance to religious ritual or worship, his decision to follow God, his simple ‘acceptance’ of ‘Jesus’, his willingness to believe; something, something, he does must play a part in his salvation. However much he may confess his need of Christ to save him, ultimately there is a part of his own, whether it be fifty percent or one percent, upon which he trusts. Man’s sinful nature, his pride, his arrogance, will not confess that he is absolutely worthless, utterly lost, totally blind to the truth, dead in trespasses and sins. He can go so far, but not that far. He’ll bow the knee to the idea of a saviour who saves those who allow Him to, those who ‘accept’ Him, but he’ll not bow the knee to the truth of The Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, and not to the truth of His Name: Jesus, ‘God Saves’. For God does save and He saves those whom He wills absolutely, entirely, without the work of man (James 1:18).

No, man by nature will never bow the knee to such a truth, he’ll never accept that ‘God saves’; that salvation is entirely of the Lord, entirely of His choice, entirely at His discretion (Romans 9:15); that God will either do everything to save a sinner, or he’ll do nothing at all, and if not, God will leave the proud, stubborn, rebellious, self-righteous, religious hypocrite to discover at the day of judgment that the filthy rags of his own righteousness could never wash away his sins – to discover that salvation has to be entirely upon a different footing from his own works, that he needs the blood of the Saviour to wash away his sins and make him clean before a Holy and Almighty God; such a one will be brought to see, when it is too late for him, that it is indeed the truth that ‘God Saves’ and God alone – then, on that day, his knee will bow to such a truth, even as the Lord God of Heaven and Earth delivers His eternal sentence of wrath upon him.

How merciful then to be delivered from such wilful delusion! What grace is shown by Almighty God when He arrests a sinner in his rebellious way and opens his eyes to the Gospel and the truth of the Name which is above every name. How wonderful to be brought to an end of ourselves and our own striving to save ourselves, and to be brought to see that “salvation is of the Lord”; how good to be brought to our knees to confess to God that we are nothing, that except He shows us mercy we will be lost; to cry out to Him “God, have mercy on me, a sinner”! (Luke 18:13) For it is those who are brought to call upon the name of the Lord in this way who shall be saved (Romans 10:13), for ‘God Saves’!

What a salvation God has wrought for sinners through His precious Son the Lord Jesus Christ! How God is glorified by it! This salvation was purposed by God the Father from all eternity when He chose a people in Christ whom He would redeem, called the “election of grace”; this salvation was effected by God the Son “who made himself of no reputation…and being found in fashion as a man… humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”, when He laid down His life in the place of His people, bearing their sins in His own body on the tree, suffering the wrath of God against sin, that He might deliver them from sin and condemnation and grant them eternal life in Him; and this salvation wrought by the Son is applied by the Holy Spirit to these people when He quickens them from death to life and grants them faith to look to the Saviour who suffered and bled in their stead, to rest in Him and the righteousness of God in Him which is put to their account. This threefold work of Father, Son and Holy Ghost sets forth the glorious truth that ‘God Saves’, by grace alone, and it is this truth to which God’s people will be brought, by the Spirit, to bow the knee: to confess at the name of Jesus that ‘God Saves’, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. For God “hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow”.

Yes, the work of salvation is entirely God’s work, from start to finish; all its handiwork, all its weaving, all its craftsmanship is of Him. All those who come to know such a salvation, all those who are quickened from death unto life by the irresistible work of the Holy Spirit, all those turned from darkness to light, from enmity to peace with God, from the dark paths of sin to the blessed way of righteousness, from misery unto joy, from a life lived for self unto a life lived for the Lord Jesus Christ and for His glory, all those chosen of God from amongst both Jews and Gentiles; all those will gladly, freely, willingly, lovingly, bow the knee to the Saviour, to Him who is Truth, and to this truth: that God Saves. And none who do will be passed by “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” Romans 10:12-13.

And whether man confesses this truth in his lifetime and bows the knee freely, or whether he comes to see it at the day of judgment, nevertheless, there comes a day when every man, every woman, every child, all, shall bow the knee to the truth that God Saves, for “Salvation is of the Lord”… “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow”.

“…and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

 

 

Amen.    

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How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” Romans 10:14-15

 

 

F

AITH comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. It is by hearing the word of God, the Gospel of Christ, that men are saved from their sins, for as Paul declares at the start of his epistle to the Romans: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation”.

     Yes, the Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation. It saves! It brings the knowledge of the Saviour into the ears of sinners, who, when quickened by the Holy Spirit from the deadness of their fallen, depraved state are given eyes to see and ears to hear, and having that God-given gift of faith wrought within by the Spirit are enabled to believe that word unto salvation.

 

Sent to preach

But that word must be heard – “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?”

     And to be heard it must be preached – “How shall they hear without a preacher?”

     “And how shall they preach, except they be sent?”

     So, it must be asked just who are sent preachers? What is it to preach the Gospel? Are all believers called upon to preach the Gospel? Or is there a specific call to preach which is given to some but not to others?

     Well, certainly scripture teaches the ‘priesthood’ of all believers. All Christians are called upon to testify to the work of God and to edify one another in the body of Christ. In this sense each member of the body ministers to the body. There is a place in the gatherings of the church for all to edify one another as the Lord leads according to the gifts given to each (see 1 Corinthians 12). One might bring a psalm, one might pray, one might read the word, another might give a word of exhortation and another might give a short devotional message. All these means of edification in the church have their rightful and proper place.

     However scripture is also very clear that not all are called to be apostles, not all are called to be prophets and not all are called to be teachers (1 Corinthians 12:29 ). There are those in the church who are specifically called to the work of the ministry, those who are sent to preach the Gospel, those who have received a particular calling to minister to others, that the church might be built up and strengthened, by delivering what the Lord has first given unto them – those who are called to devote themselves to the work of the ministry. Indeed, these are those who themselves are given to the church as ‘gifts’ by God for the building up of others in the faith. Such gifts are sent by God to His church. As Paul tells us in Romans 10: “How shall they preach except they be sent?”

 

Sent by God to preach

So to preach the Gospel one must be sent. But sent by whom? By man? By the church?

     No, the call to preach comes from God and God alone. Such a calling may be recognised and acknowledged by others in the church, and indeed will be if it is true, but nevertheless the calling itself comes direct from God to those whom He sends to preach. The scriptures provide abundant examples of this pattern. Throughout the Old Testament we read of many prophets and each one has a particular and distinct calling of God. God meets with the man and sends him forth with His word as directed by the Lord. Many examples could be provided such as Moses in Exodus 3, Samuel in 1 Samuel 3, or Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1. The Lord appeared unto each one and specifically sent him forth with His word.

     “Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” Jeremiah 1:4-5

     Likewise we see a similar pattern in the New Testament with those whom God called and sent forth to preach His word. Jesus called his disciples by name to follow Him and sent them forth to preach the Gospel (see for example Mark 16:15 and Luke 10). In the case of Saul of Tarsus, one who was not called by Jesus during the time when Jesus was on earth in the flesh, he too received a specific call from Christ to preach, being stopped on his way to Damascus by a bright light from heaven and a voice from heaven, even that of the Lord Jesus Christ who specifically called him to the work of the ministry. As we read in Acts 26:-

     “At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

     And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.

     But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

     Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:” Acts 26:13-19

     So we see clear examples in both the Old and New Testament of the direct calling and sending of men to preach the Gospel. Each heard the word of the Lord and each was sent forth with a specific charge.

     But it may be asked whether these experiences were unique to the prophets and apostles?

     Well, it is true that the ministry of the prophets and apostles recorded in scripture was unique. They received the word of God by direct revelation at a time when the scriptural canon was incomplete. They had direct dealings with God often by hearing His voice audibly or in a vision or dream. The disciples indeed lived at a time when they actually beheld the Son of God incarnate in this world. Such experiences were obviously unique to them.

     Nevertheless the general principles and patterns set forth by the calling of these men to preach hold good to the end of time. The principle of Romans 10, “How shall they preach except they be sent?” is as true today as it was in the early church. God still calls and sends men into the ministry. Men sent to preach the Gospel. Men taught of God. Men prepared by God for that work. Men, such as Timothy, who though not an apostle was still nevertheless called by the same God to the ministry. Like his spiritual ‘father’ Paul, he too was saved through the same Gospel, by the same Saviour, and sent to preach the same truth. The example of Timothy and the charge given to him by the apostle remains in Holy Writ as a precedent for all those to follow who might consider themselves to be called of God to the same ministry. For the Gospel of Christ will continue to be proclaimed down through the ages until the very last of God’s sheep has been brought into the sheep-fold and the Lord returns again to gather his people to Himself for eternity to come. Until that great day the Lord continues to feed His sheep and He does so by sending men to preach His word.

     But what is the call to preach? Just how does God call men to the ministry today?

     Well, whilst the examples of the prophets and apostles may be unique, and whilst there may not be such signal, direct, appearances of God to His servants today, nevertheless God does still call His servants to His work, He does still speak to them and they will know that their sending is of God. His word may come as a ‘still small voice’ and one sent to preach may well be beset by doubts to his calling for some time, but nevertheless the man truly sent to preach will hear the Lord’s voice in direction, he will know the Lord’s will in the matter and it will be made plain to him that his sending is of God not man.

     The call of God to the ministry is very definite and if and when a man is called to preach he will know it. He will know that God has called him and ultimately he will have few if any doubts about it. His call will be much more than just a desire to preach, or a conviction that he should preach because of the need. No, a call is definite – the man called of God knows that God has called him to preach and he must do so. He feels compelled to – the love of Christ constrains him. He may well be unsure of whether he has been truly called for some time, but when he is called then he will come to know it.

     William Huntington wrote about the call to preach in his work, “The Servant of the Lord – Described and Vindicated”, which is very helpful regarding this matter. He deals not only with what is a call is but also with what isn’t a call. So, in like manner, I would like to provide here a few pointers of what doesn’t in itself represent a call to preach (although some of these things may well form ‘part’ of an overall spiritual exercise leading to a call):-

1. Seeing the need for the Gospel to be preached.

How great a need there is for Gospel preachers today! Yet seeing the need and feeling burdened about the state of the church isn’t in itself a call to preach.

2. Feeling that we can possibly ‘do better’ than some other preachers, who by the deadness of their preaching demonstrate that they are quite possibly not called to preach.

Sadly there are many in pulpits today who really shouldn’t be there. Many men ‘send’ themselves into the ministry who simply have no calling and no gift from God for the purpose. Scripture speaks of them as ‘hirelings’ and ‘false shepherds’. They bring real grief to the true children of God who groan to see such men leading others astray whilst making a name for themselves – and all under the guise of doing God service. Yet, recognizing such things; being able to see the errors of such men; knowing the true gospel better than they do; feeling that one could preach that gospel more correctly; may all be very good – but it doesn’t in itself represent a call from God to such a work.

3. Simply wanting to do something for the Lord or to be useful in His service.

This can be a great trap, a great snare into which many young men fall. Many young believers, especially young men, feel a great zeal for the things of God. They have a great desire to serve God and to make His word known, and many desire – often out of good motives – to be useful in the service of God and hence feel drawn to the work of the ministry. Yet all these desires, no matter how good, do not represent in themselves alone, a true call to preach.

4. Dissatisfaction with one’s current job/situation and feeling that preaching would be more to God’s glory.

This is another danger. One can feel drawn to preach because in some way the task seems more attractive than one’s current employment. Some young men just starting out in life shun secular work in favour of the ‘spiritually higher’ task of preaching. Other men, later on in life may feel weary with their present occupation and thus consider the work of the ministry as something more worthwhile. Much confusion can be entered into by such feelings. Yet they must be guarded against – they do not represent a call by God to preach. More often than not when God calls a man to preach he is called to make a sacrifice – called to give up, not a tiresome, unsatisfactory employment, but to give up that which is very favourable to the flesh – that which is well paid perhaps, or comfortable. Like Moses when he turned from the treasures of Egypt because he esteemed the reproach of Christ as greater riches (Hebrews 11:25 -26), God’s servants are called to suffer affliction with the people of God. Those truly sent of God to preach will know hardship, suffering, persecution, rejection, poverty, loneliness. But they will also know great joy and consolation in their Lord. For there are unsearchable riches, everlasting riches, to be found in Christ and His Gospel.

5. Pressure from men/churches given the lack of men these days entering the ministry.

In a day when there are fewer and fewer seemingly being called to the ministry there can be great pressure placed upon men to consider the work. Many see the need for Gospel preachers and many look to the young men in their congregations in the hope that they will serve the Lord in this way. This presents a great pressure upon many. Yet, feeling this pressure, seeing the needs and the hunger of others, does not represent a call to preach. We must be careful not to be ‘forced’ into the ministry, nor to force others into it.

     Yes, there are many points which may together form part of a call to preach, but in themselves they do not represent such a call, and we need to be careful to discern which impressions we have in our hearts which are really from God, and which are not. Many things may seem like a call to preach, but aren’t.

     Knowing what is a call to preach, however, can be rather harder to define. It is similar in some ways to how we know the Lord’s will and guidance in other matters, but obviously as this is such a high calling we need to be very sure about it. I believe the sent minister will know his calling in various ways – ways in which the Lord speaks to Him and reveals His will in this matter to him. For example through various passages of scriptures being laid very powerfully upon the man’s heart (not just because he ‘looks for them’ once he feels inclined to preach, because obviously there are texts there which can be found, but because when he isn’t looking for them they seem to leap out at him, or come up in his daily readings, or at services where he has heard preaching and so on), and also through direct providences in life. By this I mean various incidences in life showing the Lord’s calling to preach in ways that are simply not just (what men often call) ‘coincidences’. The kind of thing I mean is reading a certain passage (which may have to do with preaching), then having the very same passage preached on at the next church service, then having something similar happen the next week. When that keeps on happening you know that the Lord is saying something!

     I heard one preacher say something about preaching which I believe is good advice. He said that if a man feels that the Lord is calling him to preach he should resist as long as he can until he can resist no longer. That is sound advice – if the Lord really is calling then you won’t be able to resist His call. When God truly calls a man to preach He makes His will known to him. That man will feel an increasing burden in his heart about preaching. He will think about it constantly. He may try to escape it but the thought keeps coming back. The Lord will keep prompting him from within. Passages of scripture will keep on convicting him regarding the matter. His heart will be filled with a sense of compassion for God’s sheep, a desire that they might be fed, a desire that Christ would be lifted up in the ministry and in the hearts and minds of His people. Such a man will find that the everyday providences of his life keep pointing him towards this matter. The Lord will place landmarks in his path, continual pointers in this direction. The man may feel his utter unworthiness and inability, yet the Lord will keep reminding him ‘this is the way, walk ye in it’. He will complain of lack of strength, but the Lord will assure him that He will be his strength. He will complain of ignorance, yet the Lord will teach him and be all sufficient to him. In the end he will have his doubts cast aside, his objections answered, and ultimately he will feel that the love of Christ constrains him – he can’t but preach.

     Yet, withal there are many dangers in the way. Satan does all he can to sow confusion and he loves to encourage men into the ministry who have no true calling to it. Some things we need to be most careful of are:-

1. Pride.

This can affect all preachers. Certainly when he sees so much false preaching about a man can think “I wish I was preaching, I could do better than that etc.” and could easily get carried along by his own pride. Preaching is a high calling and obviously a position of authority, of being seen and noted in public, and we have to be very careful not to seek any approval from men, but only that approval that comes from above. Those called to preach seek not their own things, but the things of Jesus Christ, they seek not honour for themselves, but for all honour and glory to be ascribed to their God and Saviour.

2. The applause of man and the fear of man.

Similarly, another trap is to seek the applause of man or to be afraid of men and their reaction. There are many who can preach in a way which is pleasing to man, which draws great acclaim, much adulation and honour from others. But those sent of God to preach will do so for God’s glory only, proclaiming that message which God lays upon their heart to preach – no matter what men might say. The fear of man and what others might say can be a great stumbling-block to many, but those whom God sends forth with His word will preach it with boldness and with great plainness of speech. The message of the Gospel is not pleasing to man in the flesh, indeed it is foolishness to him, but what man counts as foolish God calls wisdom – the power of God unto salvation (1 Corinthians 1).

3. Sending ourselves or resorting to the ‘arm of the flesh’.

Once a man feels inclined to preach it is very easy to wonder whether he has been sent or not, and to be inclined to run before he has been truly sent. To look for passages in scripture to confirm his calling, before God really shows those passages to him, or to try to ‘open doors’ to preach before God opens those doors for him.

     If we read the testimonies of past preachers who were truly used of God we can learn much from their accounts of God’s dealings with them and their own attitudes. The last thing, before God called them to it, that most preachers wanted to do was to preach and I think that is a good place to be – to not want to preach, but to feel that the Lord nevertheless is calling us to such a work. Then we will know it is His will and not ours.

     Ultimately if God calls a man to preach he will know it when it has happened. He will be brought to a settled, inward, persuasion in his heart and mind of the Lord’s will in the matter. The confirmation of this being true will be that God will open a door, and an effectual one, for the preaching of the Gospel. Often that doesn’t come simply because that man has told others of his calling, but he will be asked to preach, or a door will open, without any contrivance of his own. Then when a door opens that man will know that the work is all of God.

     To preach in God’s name is a solemn and weighty calling which carries with it a huge responsibility. Hence no man should enter into the ministry hastily. But when God sends a man to preach, then that man will know that he walks in God’s will, that God has called him, and that God will help him. For the word is not his, but God’s, and he merely speaks as God’s ambassador.

 

Sent by God to preach the Gospel

Yes, a man must be sent to preach, and he must be sent of God to preach. But what does he preach?

     The Gospel of Christ!

     Whilst that might sound obvious to some the fact is that often it seemingly isn’t so obvious to many. Many preach what amounts to anything and everything but the Gospel of Christ. They preach morals, the wisdom of men, anecdotes, advice, funny stories, history, philosophy, intellectualism, sacramentalism, legalism, dispensationalism… and the list goes on. Yet, few, very few, really, truly, preach the Gospel of Christ as it is revealed in the scriptures.

     Many preach another gospel and another Jesus. But those truly sent of God, called of God, preach THE Gospel; The One Gospel; The Gospel of Christ. In fact, we may test a man’s calling by whether or not he truly preaches that Gospel, in the power of God, by His Spirit – see 2 Corinthians 11.

     But any sent of God to preach will preach the Gospel. As Paul declares:-

     “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17

     “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

     But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:17, 23-24

     This Gospel which Paul preached was that which he learnt of God. Not only was Paul not sent by man, but by God, but also the Gospel he was sent with was given to him not by man, but by God. As he states in Galatians 1:11-12:-

     “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

     All those truly sent by God will be taught of God. The word they bring is not theirs, not man’s, but God’s. They look to Him to teach, and the word they bring is that which He gives them. When Jeremiah was called of God he felt his poverty and his ignorance. He complained Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child“, but God’s answer was Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD. Jeremiah writes, Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.

     To preach isn’t simply to know the doctrines of the Gospel well and to have a desire to convey those truths to others. It is to be God’s mouthpiece. To preach what God would have us preach, at that particular time, by the Spirit. This requires great humility, much exercise of soul, and much prayer before God, searching out what He would have preached from the scriptures. Sermons aren’t simply ‘constructed’ from commentaries and books, but are sought out from the Lord.

     The fact that a preacher is God’s mouthpiece, His ambassador on earth, cannot be stressed enough. Ultimately it is not men who preach, but God. It is Christ who preaches from the heavens. He is the one that speaketh and He speaks from heaven (Hebrews 12:25 ). God is Sovereign in all things, especially in the proclamation of His word, and He is not constrained to sending forth that word through the mouths of mere men – God is quite able to speak directly to someone by His Spirit as they read His word. Yet the fact remains that “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). It pleases God to send forth men to preach His word. But though God’s servants might speak on earth it is still Christ who speaks from heaven through them by His Spirit. It is God’s word which is conveyed by the Holy Spirit and placed upon the lips of those men whom He sends forth in this world to proclaim that word. Except a man preach as the Holy Spirit leads him, his words will be of nothing worth. It is not man’s word that must be proclaimed, but God’s word, and the One truly sent forth to preach is Christ through His Spirit. When He preaches there is power in the word!

     A preacher who preaches in the power of the Holy Ghost is one who effectively ‘disappears’ into the background so that the hearers aren’t so much impressed by him, his learning or his oratory, but feel that they are hearing the Lord speak through him. He should be like a window through whom the light shines in. And I think every true preacher would probably confess that more often than not ‘he gets in the way’ of the clear shining of that light, but nevertheless when the Spirit is present he knows it and has liberty in his preaching. As Romans 1:16-17 says the power of God is in the GOSPEL. Not in the church, nor yet in preachers. Not actually in the Spirit either, but in the Gospel. Indeed, the power of the Holy Spirit is in the preaching of that Gospel – the Gospel of Christ.

     The very same Gospel of which Paul was not ashamed, for it is the power of God unto salvation. A Gospel which he received not of man, neither was he taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:12 ), as one who was called, sent and prepared by God for such a ministry.

 

Sent by God, and prepared by God, to preach the Gospel

Not only are Gospel preachers sent by God, not only are they taught the Gospel by God, but they are also prepared for the work of the ministry by God. God equips those whom He sends to preach for the task which they are given.

     No man by nature is fit to preach the Gospel. All are sinners, all have gone astray, all are weak in the flesh. Yet those whom God sends to preach are those whom He has elected and called from eternity past, those whom He has saved from their sins, those whom He has justified by the work of Christ at the cross, those whom He has quickened unto eternal life by His Spirit, those whom He has given faith to live by, those whom He has “led forth by the right way”, those whom He has revealed His Son unto, those whom He has granted grace to, those whom He has tried in the furnace and brought through many afflictions and trials for Christ’s sake. Such are those whom God calls and sends forth with His word.

     Why? So that it might be seen that their fitness for the work is not found in themselves, in their own might, or in their own strength, but in God. God prepares such men for the ministry so that all the glory might be given to God and not to man. The flesh is mortified and the work of God is magnified.

     The preaching of the cross in mens’ eyes is foolishness, and those whom God sends to preach it are counted as fools by the wisdom of this world. As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 1:25-31…

     “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

     For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.

     But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

     God calls those who are ‘nothing’ in both the eyes of the world, and in their own eyes, to preach His Gospel. And having called such men He prepares them for the task – for the work is all of God – to this end: that “him that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord”.

     We can see this in Moses for example. When God called him to His work Moses protested “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue”. But God’s answer was “Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.” Exodus 4:10-12.

     Likewise with Jeremiah, as we have already seen, he protested that he was a child, unfit for the work. But God said that He would be with him to deliver him, and He would put His words in his mouth. God prepared and fitted both Moses and Jeremiah for His work. All their sufficiency and strength was to be found in Him and in Him alone. In themselves they were nothing.

     But what of the apostle Paul? Surely he had much ability in the flesh for the task of preaching the Gospel? As he wrote in Philippians 3:4-6…

     “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

     Paul had much to boast of naturally. He was very bright, well taught, well versed in the Old Testament scriptures; surely an excellent man for God to send to his brethren in the flesh, the Jews, to preach the Gospel to them, as he was a ‘Hebrew of the Hebrews’? Yet, man’s ways are not God’s ways and God’s ways are not man’s ways. God called Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles, not the Jews. Many would have accused him of wasting his prior ‘training’, but Paul had to submit to the calling of God, whatever man might think. To the Gentiles he went, and how powerfully GOD used him!

     What did Paul himself think of his own natural abilities?

     “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ

     Paul counted all his abilities in the flesh, as not an aid, but a positive hindrance to the work of God! ALL the work must be of God, not man, and so it was. It was God who prepared Paul for the ministry, not man, neither the school of Gamaliel, nor even Paul’s fellow apostles, but God. As Paul testifies in Galatians 1:15-24…

     “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.

     Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me.”

     In the cases of Moses, Jeremiah and Paul, God prepared each one to preach His word. They were men who knew their God, men who knew the Gospel, men who knew God’s grace and salvation, and men who knew what it is to walk with God. They were taught the Gospel, they were taught in the School of Christ, they were men prepared of God to preach that Gospel by being brought through fires, through afflictions, through trials and persecutions, and yet withal, standing fast in the strength of their God, and they thought nothing of themselves but all of Christ whom they sought to glorify, for…

     You must know Christ to preach Christ,

     You must experience grace to preach grace,

     You must be saved by the Gospel to preach the Gospel,

     You must be brought low to lift Christ high, and,

     You must experience the pathway to comfort those on the pathway.

     Yes, God sends His servants to preach the Gospel, God teaches them the Gospel, and God prepares them for the ministry of that Gospel. For the work is ALL of God. It is the Gospel of Christ which God sends forth as it is uttered by the One who speaks from heaven, whose speech is carried forth by the Holy Spirit and is put upon the lips of those whom God sends to preach His word, that sinners might hear that word, that faith might come by hearing that word, and that all those for whom Christ died might hear and call upon the name of the Lord that they might be saved. As it is written…

     “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

     Oh! That the Lord would be pleased to raise up men in our day – men set apart for His service, called and sent forth to preach the everlasting gospel of peace; men called of God, sent of God, taught of God and prepared of God; men of faith who like Paul are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation; men who are prepared to spend and be spent for Christ’s sake and His glory alone!

     For how shall they preach except they be sent?

Amen.

     “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“Listen” Isaiah 49:1

“The Word of Life” 1 John 1:1

“I have preached righteousness in the great congregation” Psalm 40:9

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”And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” Romans 10:14  

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UST one hear the Gospel preached in order to come into salvation?  

The plain answer to this question, is very simply, yes. I don’t state that as an opinion, for my opinions really don’t matter. What matters is what the word of God says – and any truth we hold to must be founded upon the word of God. From reading the scriptures, it can be seen that God repeatedly stresses in several places that it is by the preaching of the Gospel that He is pleased to save sinners. A few simple references will demonstrate this.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it [the gospel] is the power of God unto salvation…” Romans 1:16.

“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.” 1 Corinthians 1:21

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” … “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” 1 Peter 1:23,25

Now here are just three verses which demonstrate that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, that it pleases God by the foolishness of the preaching of that gospel to save them that believe, and that we are born again (regenerated by the Spirit) by the word of God, that word being preached unto us in the gospel. There are many other passages of scripture which emphasise the same things.

It is certainly true that God is sovereign and can do as He pleases. He certainly isn’t confined in His power to having to use the actual preaching of the Gospel through the lips of mere men in order to save people. However the fact is that He has chosen to do His work this way. It has pleased Him to save sinners through the preaching of the Gospel. He could, and He is able to, just save sinners Himself by the direct inworking of the Holy Spirit without the use of the gospel whatsoever. But what God is able to do and what He pleases to do are sometimes two different things. The fact is that scripture repeatedly stresses that God is pleased by the foolishness of preaching (the gospel) to save them that believe. That is His appointed means. Why? Because it confounds the wise for God to take poor weak base men and to speak His word through their lips to the saving of others (see 1 Corinthians 1), because God is pleased to make known the truth of His salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ in this way. Very simply, in God’s great wisdom He has chosen to work this way.

However, some people have reacted to this truth with a certain wariness based upon essentially good (though misguided) motives, and because of an overemphasis of other truths. What they rightly recognise is that salvation is entirely of God, that until man is born again of the Holy Spirit he is dead in trespasses and sins and unable to comprehend the truths of God aright, that man can only believe the Gospel when God regenerates him and gives him faith to believe it. Man doesn’t comprehend the truth with his natural mind. He has no strength or ability in himself to turn to God and no faith by nature with which to believe. In seeing all these points some then conclude that the preaching of the Gospel itself cannot save, because man first needs to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit before he can understand and believe that Gospel. Thus they emphasise that regeneration (the new birth) is a sovereign act of God, entirely ‘without means’ (without the preaching of the Gospel), and as a result of that new birth man is given faith to then believe the Gospel when he hears it. Some of these peopel have thus divided things into two stages in which they stress regeneration by the Spirit without means, and then (afterwards) ‘gospel conversion’ where a person, already regenerated, hears the gospel and believes it with the faith which they have been given by the Spirit in regeneration.

Now, all that sounds plausible, and is certainly based upon certain truths. 1 Corinthians 2:11-16 emphasises that the natural man (before the new birth) cannot understand spiritual things, so until he is born again by the Spirit he cannot fully comprehend the truth of the Gospel. Some things may make sense in the natural intellect, but not properly. However whilst that is true, and whilst man cannot believe the Gospel until God regenerates him (causes him to be born again of the Spirit), because naturally he has no faith (faith being a gift of God), nevertheless that does not alter the fact that God has said that it is by the preaching of the Gospel that He is pleased to save His people. Romans 10:13-17 emphasises the necessity of the preaching of the Gospel and the fact that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”. In order to believe the Gospel heard, one must be sovereignly born again of God. But God is pleased to quicken/regenerate sinners to life actually under or as a result of that preaching of the Gospel. This is how He is pleased to work. The work is entirely of His sovereign mercy and grace, but the Spirit of God chooses to work through the preaching of the Gospel, through the lips of those men whom He calls and sends to preach it, in order to quicken sinners to life. He sovereignly sows the word of God as a seed, and when He is pleased He causes that seed to bring forth life in the hearts of those whom God has chosen in Christ.

The order goes something like this: A dead sinner hears a God-sent preacher preach the Gospel. Initially being dead in trespasses and sins the sinner cannot truly understand that Gospel – he remains dead under it. He may comprehend many facts of the Gospel in his head, in his natural mind, but really they just remains facts, mere head knowledge. He never comes to see Christ by faith as He really is, and know the power of His grace, or experience eternal life in Christ by His indwelling in the heart by the Spirit. No, such a sinner merely hears the outward word of the Gospel in his ears, he hears various facts, and may comprehend them to a degree, even ‘believe’ them (with a natural persuasion) as being right, with his natural intellect, but nevertheless his heart isn’t changed, he remains spiritually dead…. And such a state can go on for many years. With others, if they are not the elect of God, that is the state they will remain in until the day they die. Some people sit under the preaching of the Gospel all their life but are never saved by it, because it isn’t the outward word alone which saves. This is important to recognise. The Son of God must speak to us inwardly by His Spirit in order to quicken us unto life.

However, for the elect, there comes a time in God’s sovereignty, by the preaching of the Gospel when God is pleased to sovereignly regenerate that man unto life, give him a new heart, and grant him faith to believe the truth which he is hearing. Now the word ceases to be just the outward words of man, but become living words of the Holy Spirit which come in power. Having been alarmed by the Gospel to the truth of the day of judgment, having been awakened to his own sinful condition before God, having been convicted of that sin, now, being born again, by the word of God (as spoken by the preacher yes, but also by the Spirit inwardly within the heart), this elect child of God is given faith and by that faith he comes to truly see Christ in the Gospel and believe on Him, embracing Him for salvation, for deliverance from the wrath to come. Now the words which he used to hear in the Gospel which were once just in the ‘dead letter’ are now living words. What was once a mystery is now revealed, is now made known, and the elect, being born again, knows what it is to know Christ, the power of God, as revealed in him in the Gospel.

So you see, those who question the importance of the preaching of the Gospel in salvation are right to recognise that regeneration is a sovereign act of God the Holy Spirit, and they are right to recognise that the Gospel when spoken by man can remain as simply the ‘dead letter’ of scripture, words which fill the natural mind, but never enter into the heart in life. However, it is wrong to separate what God has joined together. It is wrong to see these things and separate the new birth by the Spirit from the preaching of the Gospel, or the word of God. It is wrong to react to errors such as the modern emphasis on ‘easy believism’ and man’s supposed ‘free will’ and natural ability to believe, by not only rejecting those errors but also rejecting an emphasis upon the preaching of the Gospel for salvation as though that presupposes some natural ability in man to believe it. It does not. The scriptures teach, repeatedly and in many places, that salvation is entirely the work of God, but that God uses the foolishness of the preaching of the Gospel to save them that believe. Who are they that believe? The elect of God, chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world, and redeemed by Christ at the cross, to be sovereignly born again of the Spirit in due course… by the word of God, “and this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” 1 Peter 1:25. God uses the preaching of the Gospel to save His people. Not every one that hears the Gospel with the outward ear will be saved, for man by nature is dead in trespasses and sins, yet God is pleased to take the outward words preached by those whom He sends to preach it, and speak them quietly by His Spirit into the hearts of His own, quickening them into life, and granting faith that they might believe that word unto the salvation of their souls.

In Ezekiel 37 we read of the vision of the valley of dry bones and how God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy unto the bones that they might live. Was there any ability in Ezekiel to bring dry bones unto life? Or were the words of a mere man able to do such a thing? No, only the power of God can work such a miracle. Yet, God was pleased to show forth His power in this case by having His prophet speak unto the bones. Through that speech God mightily worked in the vision to bring the bones to life – the whole vision being a picture of the Gospel and its proclamation unto dead sinners, ‘dry bones’, who are totally dependent upon God’s free grace to quicken them unto life. The power to do this does not lie in the preacher or in the eloquence of his words, but in the Gospel preached when applied by the Holy Spirit in power to the hearts of the hearers – living words which bring life. “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” John 5:25. 

This is God’s usual and normal way in which He is pleased to save sinners – through the word of God, through the preaching of the Gospel, not “in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance” 1 Thessalonians 1:5. That Gospel which sets forth the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. That Gospel of which Paul was not ashamed for “it is the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). Some may contend for exceptions to this ‘rule’ and point to exceptional conversions such as that of Saul on the Damascus Road (Acts 9), and it is certainly true that God can, and has, saved certain people in such exceptional ways by a direct preaching of the Gospel from on high, in certain circumstances. God is, after all sovereign and all powerful. But nevertheless this isn’t His usual way, or the way in which He is usually pleased to work. We can’t take the exceptional experience of one of the twelve apostles to overturn what God repeatedly states in the scriptures about the preaching of the Gospel. It pleased God by the preaching of the Gospel to save them that believe, and this is why God has through the ages continually sent forth preachers of that Gospel to proclaim it in power, by the Holy Ghost, that fallen, elect sinners might hear of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of Sinners, be born again by the word of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and with God-given faith believe on the Lord Jesus Christ even unto the salvation of their souls. No wonder then that Paul writes, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth”.

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“My Sheep Hear My Voice” John 10:27-28

“The Word of Life” 1 John 1:1

“Listen” Isaiah 49:1

“I have preached righteousness in the great congregation” Psalm 40:9

 


 

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