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The gospel of the Lord - the preaching of the Gospel

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The Gospel of the Lord

The Preaching of the Gospel

Morning Worship 21 September 2008, 9.30am

© Rev D Rudi Schwartz[1]

Bible Readings

Old Testament:                     Isaiah 52:7-12

New Testament:                   Colossians 1:24-29

Hymns/Songs

1.       Approach:                     “I’ll praise You Lord with all my heart” (Psalm 138)

2.       Forgiveness of sins:     “It passes knowledge”

3.       Thanksgiving:                “Healing God, almighty Father”

4.       Offering:                        “As men of old their firstfruits brought”

5.       Response:                     “Your words to me are life and health”

Main Points

1.       Introduction
2.       Ministers of the Gospel:  mouthpieces of Jesus Christ
a.       Korah, Dathan and Abiram
b.       Messengers called and sent by God
c.        Paul and the apostles
d.       The practice in our church today
e.        More than just a speaker giving a talk
3.       Ministers of the Gospel:   proclaiming f Jesus Christ
a.       Proclamation
b.       Proclamation of Jesus Christ
c.        Proclamation with a view to worship Christ
4.       Conclusion

 

1.  Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ, today I have the privilege to once again proclaim the Gospel of our Lord to you.  Our theme for this sermon is:  The preaching of the Gospel:  the preachers of the Gospel.

First of all, for the sake of the children, let’s remind ourselves of the story of David and Absalom his son.  2Samuel 18 records the rebellion of Absalom against his father, King David.   Absalom was ready to kill his own father so he could become king. David fled the city of Jerusalem and eventually crossed the Jordan.  Absalom sacked Joab as commander of the army and replaced his with a man of his own choice.  Joab remained faithful to David.  The men who gathered in rebellion against David pursued them.  Under the command of Joab, David’s men engaged in battle against the army of Absalom in the Forest of Ephraim. We know the story of how Absalom’s hair got stuck in the thick of a tree where Joab drove his javelin through him and he died.

In the meantime David was waiting in the city for news from the battlefront. Two messengers ran to the city to tell David the news of what had happened, and that Absalom had been killed.  One of the men who ran back with the news was Ahimaaz, son of Zadok, the priest.  He thought if anyone he should be bringing the good news.  But Joab commanded a Cushite, and he immediately started running.  Ahimaaz couldn’t help himself and also started running.   As these men ran home, one after the other, and they were spotted by the watchman, David said, “They must be bringing good news.” (2Samuel 18:25, 27).

With this in mind, as were the custom then in times of war, runners running along the mountains from the battlefront were the bringers of good news.  Prophets and ministers of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ are seen as those with the good news, sent by God, running to tell about the victory of Jesus Christ of hell, sin and Satan.

The four last worship services we heard about different aspects of the Gospel of the Lord. We heard about the effect of the Gospel, the demand of the Gospel and the content of the Gospel and then the Lord of the Gospel:  we understood from the Bible that Jesus Christ, as the origin of all things and therefore also of the Gospel, is at the same time the main theme of the Gospel.

This morning we ask the question:  “What does the preaching of the Gospel entail?”  What do ministers do when they preach when they preach?  Who are ministers and who gives them the right to preach?  When the people of God hear the Gospel preached by the ministers called by God, why should their reaction be?

2.  Ministers of the Gospel:  mouthpieces of the Jesus Christ

Let’s start with this question:  Who are ministers and who gives them the right to preach?

The Bible is clear about the fact that God calls people to the ministry of the Word.   God ordained certain tasks for certain people and He also equips and empowers them to fulfil their ministry.  God specifically called Moses to be a mediator between Him and his people.  God called the sons of Aaron to be the priests.  God called specific people to be the prophets of his Word to the people, and He ordained that there would be elders who would lead the people.

2.1 Korah, Dathan and Abiram

There was a day in the history of Israel when some rebelled against Aaron and Moses.  They were not happy with the idea that they had to submit to the authority of these men.  Listen to what they said:

They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?” (Numbers 16:3)

Now, they were not wrong in what they said in the first part of their statement.  The whole community was holy, everyone of them, and the Lord was with them.  That was and still is the absolute truth about the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

When the people left Egypt and they were summoned by the Lord to gather at the foot of the Mountain of the Lord, before the Law was given to them, the Lord declared to them:

You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites. (Exodus 19:4-6)

Indeed, they were called God’s holy nation and a kingdom of priests.  But it also true that the Lord commanded that Aaron and his sons would be the priests who would to the service around the altar.  It was not the prerogative of every man to do so.  The service of the priests on their behalf, and the sacrifices offered on their behalf by the Levites was accounted to them as if they did it themselves.

In the same way the Lord Jesus Christ gave his life for us as the sacrifice which was pleasing to God, we stand before Him as his children – but only in the Name of Christ, and only on account of his sacrifice.

The mistake Korah, Dathan and Abiram made was to assume the authority God ordained for the priests only to appear on behalf of the people onto themselves.  When Moses and Aaron did their appointed duties they saw it as if these men were elevating themselves above the rest as if they were more important.  This was not the case.  They only obeyed the command of the Lord.

God dealt with these rebels; they went alive into the ground through and earthquake and 250 others were swept away in fire.

2.2 Messengers called and sent by God

This very same principle is continued into the New Testament.  The Apostle Paul asks this question in Romans:

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:13-15)

Here he quotes a verse from Isa 52:7.  The feet of those who proclaimed the Word of God were those called and sent by God to be His mouthpiece to the people.  God appoints ministers to preach the Word.  God calls and enables them for this task.  God sends them out to be his mouthpiece with the Gospel, the Living Word of the Lord.

The backdrop of all the charges against the people in the time of Isaiah was exactly that they lent and ear to anyone who proclaimed himself a prophet.  The Word of God is clear in many passages: Not anyone can go to the people as prophet, and no prophet may proclaim anything else that what God charged him to proclaim.

Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” declares the Lord. “They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:32)

There were some prophets not send by God.  They had no authority from God, their message was a phony message which led the people astray to the point that they could not distinguish between the false and the appointed prophets of God.

2.3 Paul and the Apostles

In the case of the Apostle Paul he refers to himself as “a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God.” (Rom 1:1).  So then, when in Colossians 1:24-25 he refers to his ministry in Jesus Christ for the sake of the Church, he clearly wants all to understand that he was doing God’s work.  He actually puts it more specifically in verse 25:

I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— (Colossians 1:25)

God commissioned him.  What did God commission him with?  The task to present the Word of God.  Only bits and pieces of the Word?  No, in its fullness.

The Church through the ages understood this to be an ordination of God for his church until the return of Christ:  God called prophets, then apostles, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and others to be teachers.

2.4  The practice in our church today

It is in the understanding of this principle that not everyone waltzing into a church may present himself as a minister of the Lord.  There is usually a very stringent process to determine the authenticity of the call of a person presenting himself for the ministry.  After equipping and study, the church, through its courts then ordains a minister into the ministry of Word and Sacrament.

What does all of this mean?  It at least means that the ministers, for as long as he is faithful to the Word and his calling before God is the mouthpiece of God to the people.  The people understand it to be this way when accept the ordination of a man by the wider church.  They induct their ministers into the office and they pledge to follow the leadership of the minister – of course only for as long as his teaching based on the Word of God!

2.5  More than just a speaker giving a talk

The implication is that when the minister proclaims the Word he is doing far more that just giving a talk.  Too many ministers have gone down this path.  Is it perhaps in reaction to some colleagues who might have all the right robes and apparel, but lack godliness, still preaching a gospel that I dead and unattractive?  If this is the case, God has to do a mighty job of salvation in the life of that minister, or he has to go!

Or is it because they don’t want to offend the people in the pew by leaving the impression that they might elevate themselves above the rest of the congregation?  They then don’t preach or proclaim the Word of God; they give a talk or just share a thought with the people.  They avoid the pulpit like the plague out of fear that people might think they are different from them; they then only preach from a lectern. 

They shun all forms of “official” dress, and don themselves in clobber to not really stand out as the minister.  They deliver their talk without being acceptably dressed, in some cases with no socks on, shirts hanging out and no tie in sight.  They are acceptable to the people with a user-friendly attitude, but, they forget one major point:  they are God’s representative to the people.  They command no respect, and their message becomes their opinion about a portion of the Word of God. 

Does God look at apparel?  Does what one puts on make a difference?  No, God looks at your heart, but the problem is that people can’t see your heart.  What they see on the outside to them in most cases is a reflection of what they think is going on in the inside.

With and after the Reformation, ministers were given official garb to wear.  They got an academic gown as part of it.  This was something real fresh in the teaching of the church.  After centuries of unschooled and illiterate priests, some of whom could not even read or understand the Latin in which they had to conduct the worship, there were men educated and approved by the church as people who had the ability and the background to teach the Word of God; of this the academic gowns was a symbol.  By these gowns were pitch black; they symbol behind that was that ministers were not supposed to be seen.  They were hidden behind the robes, so as to not attract attention to themselves but to the Word they preached.

O, that ministers would become teachers again!  O, that ministers would be burdened by the Gospel to educate, equip and edify the people of God so that they would hear the Word of God and not the words of man! May ministers once again rediscover the yoke put on them when they were ordained and set apart as ministers of Word and Sacrament and proclaim that Word with authority coming from God!

3.  Ministers of the Gospel:  proclaiming Jesus Christ

When the apostle then says he acts as the commissioned minister of God, he assumes a few things as his prophetic calling. 

3.1  Proclamation

First of all, he understands that his task is defined by the Gospel of the Lord.  He says in verse 28, “We proclaim Him.”   The verb here is to tell with conviction, with the implication that the authority does not lie in the speaker himself who now endeavours to convince his hearers.

Paul uses another word for what he does as a result of God’s calling.  In 2Corinthians 5:20 he says he is Christ’s ambassador as though God were making His appeal through them.  Because this is true, Paul implores, as if standing on his knees, the people on Christ’s behalf to be reconciled to God.

His message is about Christ and on behalf of Christ.  He said to the Corinthians in his first letter to them:

 “I have resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1Cor 2:2)

3.2 Proclamation of Jesus Christ

Why is so important to preach Jesus Christ?  Well, everything said in the lead-up to this point in the chapter of Colossians 1 underscores it.  Listen:  the Gospel is about Jesus Christ – full stop!  He is our hope (1:5); He warrants the truth of the Gospel (1:6); He qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light (1:12); He rescued us from the dominion of darkness by conveying us into the kingdom of light (1:13); He redeemed us, and He forgave us our sins (1:14). 

That’s not all this chapter says about Christ:  He is the image of the invisible God (1:15); by Him all things were created and all things belong to Him (1:16); He is supreme over all rulers and powers (1:16); all things hold together in Him (1:17); He is the Head of his Church (1:18); all the fullness of God dwell in Him (1:19); we are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ (1:21-22).

3.2  Proclamation with a view to worship Christ

All these things together are what Paul means when he says he proclaims Jesus Christ.  His message is not only for people to have a mystic understanding of a source of energy that might make them feel better on bad days; Paul wants every man – this expression is repeated three times in verse 28 – to understand that Jesus Christ is the Saviour King of all kings; he wants then to develop a Biblical mindset different from what this world can offer.

4.  Conclusion

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, pray that God give me that burden.  Pray that God gave me that servant heart I need to proclaim to you this Gospel, and nothing else.  Pray for the ministers of the Word of God; pray for others to join this army of soldiers of Christ.  Pray that they would be fully committed to the truth of the Gospel in teaching and equipping the people of the Lord.

Amen.


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[1]  Feel free to duplicate this file or quote from it.  The Name of the Lord be glorified!

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