The True Nature of a Gospel Church — 9
There are some essential features of the True Gospel Church that we can identify from the Scriptures
A True Gospel Church will have
1. BIBLICAL PREACHING. 2. BIBLICAL CHURCH GOVERNMENT. 3. BIBLICAL WORSHIP AND ORDINANCES. 4. BIBLICAL FELLOWSHIP.
Biblical Preaching at the top of the list reflects what the True Gospel church is really about. The Church’s supreme task is to teach and to preach the Word of God!
1. BIBLICAL PREACHING.
Do we want to hear God’s voice speaking to us when we read His word publicly and when His word is expounded, explained and taught? God has promised to teach His people – but he does it through the means of His word the Bible under the spiritual guidance and leadership of the Holy Spirit of His son the Lord Jesus Christ.
FOUNDATIONS OF BIBLICAL PREACHING.
We looked last time at a brief history of biblical preaching. Biblical preachers included Enoch, Noah, Moses, Joshua, Judges and Prophets – and then came the Great Preacher Himself – the Lord Jesus Christ; who was followed by the Apostles including Paul.
Paul was Christ's herald an appointed preacher of the gospel. He declared
We preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1 v 23)
Biblical preaching is what our society needs most today! People need to hear God speaking. But did biblical preaching continue after the first century when the apostles died?
Tertullian says “No congregation in the Primitive Church separated before being fed with holy sermons.”
Who was Tertullian you ask? Tertullian is thought to have been the first great Christian writer and preacher in the Latin language. He was born in Carthage in AD 160, was highly educated in Greek and Roman culture; converted when he was 30 and had a “fire breathing personality perfectly expressing the uncompromising hostility of the North West African Church towards the pagan society of the Roman Empire.” So says Nick Needham in his History of Christianity. He also challenged Greek culture asking what has Greek philosophy to do with the Bible? All the truth that a Christian needed to know had been revealed in the Word of God. He preached against the heretical Gnostics and some of the erroneous views about the Trinity – in these areas he functioned as a theologian. Yet he also had a Biblical pastoral role as he preached about morals and Christian behaviour. He maintained strict ideals and high standards in his personal life. He recommended frequent fasts – taught that a Christian could only marry once even if one of the spouses died. He glorified martyrdom saying in his preaching “He who fears to suffer cannot belong to Him who suffered.” He really believed in the sanctifying presence of God the Holy Spirit in the local assembly to be the unifying factor – and not the local bishop!
Tertullian was followed by many other able men. Cyprian born also in Carthage in 200 AD, preached Christ against much opposition. Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Jerome and Augustine of Hippo – all early preachers who preached the Word of God faithfully. Chrysostom preached through the Bible verse by verse applying the scriptures to believers and calling sinners to repentance and faith. Jerome was famous for the fact that he learned Hebrew, a unique achievement amongst Christians in his time of the late 4th Century. He translated the Hebrew Old Testament into Latin – it took him 23 years to do it. It was called the Vulgate and held its position as the church’s Bible until the Reformation in the 16th Century. Vulgate comes from the Latin word for common – that is the one in common use.
Augustine is known to us all as a young man who had a remarkable conversion experience. Under deep conviction of sin for his wicked immoral lifestyle he picked up the New Testament and it fell open at Romans 13 v 13
Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. 14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
After he read this he said “I did not want nor need to read any further. Instantly I finished the sentence, the light of faith flooded into my heart, and all the darkness of doubt vanished.” Later he became the Bishop of Hippo West of Carthage (present day Annaba in Algeria). Augustine preached for 34 years leading the Church as a much loved pastor.
Now we have spent a few minutes tracing preachers through History – but only as far as AD 430 when Augustine died. It would be nice to continue with a historical survey of preachers and their preaching – but that it not our purpose this morning.
It has to be noted that sadly, for many centuries Rome suspended Biblical Preaching, replacing it with Church teachings, traditions and dogmas, including rituals, masses and extra man invented sacraments – the period called the “Dark Ages”. But then came the success of the Protestant Reformation and the Revival of God’s Church in the world. It was a return to Biblical Preaching which marked these events as different. Men began again to preach and to teach the Word of God after centuries of Popes and Bishops and other supposed pastors leading churches in utter ignorance of what the Bible said.
These thoughts and facts have related to the FOUNDATION of Biblical Preaching – but now we should move next to the
FEATURES OF BIBLICAL PREACHING.
What are the characteristics of Biblical Preaching?
Biblical preaching is
Doctrine is teaching and the Word of God teaches us – about God, His universe, His character, His ways with His creatures and His way of salvation and approach to Him.
The Lord Jesus spoke of Biblical Doctrine in John 7
14 Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. 15 And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? 16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. 17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
We need preaching that teaches us the truth as it is in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Preaching ought to be
To preach in an expository way is to expose something that would otherwise be hidden. It is to explain or to set forth truth so that it can be understood by others. In a Biblical sense it refers to an explanatory discourse. Preachers are to make the text plain often putting it into other words. Notice what was happening in Nehemiah 8 –
1 And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel. 2 And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. 3 And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law. 4 And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. 5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: 6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. 7 Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. 8 So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
Notice that last verse –
8 So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
This is expository preaching – and often we find ourselves mystified by the text and need someone to explain it to us – that is the task of expository preaching.
Evangelical preaching is biblical preaching about salvation. There is only one true gospel – which means good news or glad tidings. There are of course other gospels – Paul scathingly calls them “another gospel” in Galatians 1 v 6 – 7. And he goes further by saying that some of the things preached by false teachers are no gospel at all – it is bad news not good news!
We can think of it like this. A man has been found guilty of a terrible crime and has been sentenced to death. He is now in prison awaiting the day of his execution. A friend comes to visit him. The friends calls out “I have good news for you!” Eagerly the condemned man asks “What is it?” The answer comes back, “Be good! Behave yourself! Be the best prisoner that you can while you are awaiting execution!”
My friends in that message there is not so much as a shred of good news for the condemned man. It is the most cruel mockery. Yet many ministers and preachers today proclaim to sinners in their churches, sinners under the sentence of death, a message precisely equivalent to the hopeless message in the prison. That is called “another gospel” – but it is a gospel of no hope.
Now see another friend coming to the prison – and he shouts out “I’ve got good news for you!” With the same eagerness the condemned man asks, “What is it?”
The answer comes back “The King has issued a pardon to you – he has executed His only Son in your place – you are free to live! No more are you condemned – and you may walk free! There is nothing to pay – He has done all that is necessary.”
My friends, is this good news or not? Yes – it is. It is an evangelical message that announces to condemned sinners that a penalty has been paid and pardon has been bought – and sinners can come to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Evangelical preaching – the church’s task.
Let me ask you this morning how much evangelical preaching do you need to hear before you will walk free from the prison of your condemning sins? There are those amongst us this morning that are still in jail – you are awaiting the execution of the death sentence – yet the pardon has been obtained and the price paid. Why do you still languish in the prison cell of sin? Why don’t you get up, this morning and walk free – leaving the prison is repenting and leaving sin behind! Believing that the pardon is yours, is faith towards God and His work through the Lord Jesus Christ. Is God speaking to you this morning my friend? Have you realised that you are a condemned sinner? Have you realised that being as good as you can, by being as kind as you are; by being as helpful and polite as you can be will do you no good whatsoever in this life – unless you are walking in the free air of God’s salvation? Being good will not save you! Claiming you have done no one any harm will not save you! Only acceptance and belief in the finished work of Jesus Christ God’s only Son for you will save your soul from execution in hell that lasts for ever with no relief!
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ this morning!
4. EXPERIMENTAL Preaching.
Experimental preaching is biblical preaching that leads to an experience both in the preacher’s and in the hearer’s lives. Preaching does some good if it is accepted in the mind. But it does most good when it is received through the mind into the heart and soul and is lived out in the life. It is the preaching that brings about a change within us. It is preaching that challenges indwelling sin and calls us to leave such sins behind. It is preaching that drives us to Christ; to an experience of Him; to love for Him; to service for Him. Dr Martin Lloyd Jones says that one of the most exhilarating experiences in the life of a preacher is what happens when someone whom everyone thought was a Christian is suddenly converted and truly becomes a Christian! That is experimental preaching – leading to true experience. Has God done this amongst us recently? Will He do it in our church – Oh let us ask Him to do it – so that we may see the real experience of the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ evident amongst us!
5. PRACTICAL preaching.
There are many aspects of the Christian faith that need to be learned by every believer. Whenever Bible truth is preached it must also be applied. It is one thing to state doctrine as it has been set down in scripture. It is yet another to explain it and illustrate it to help the hearers to understand – but the 3rd element of application is vital – apply it to the heart. Application can sometimes be obvious to us. We hear, we are challenged and we are stimulated to take action in our lives. This is the work of the Holy Spirit as we sit to hear.
Yet we also need it spelling out sometimes. Francis Bacon said –
“It is not what men eat but what they digest that makes them strong; not what we gain but what we save that makes us rich; not what we read but what we remember that makes us learned; not what we preach but what we practice that makes us Christians.”
A.W. Tozer, said “Unused truth becomes as useless as an unused muscle.”
Are we using the truth, applying the truth in our Christian lives my friends? Are we merely reading or are we remembering God’s word to our practical profit? And if we are preachers are we striving as much as possible to practice what we preach?
6. RELEVANT preaching.
The aim of preaching is to give men and women a sense of God and His presence. Christians are looking for this, they long for it and they desire it! People who are hearers will forgive a man for a bad sermon – in fact they will forgive a man almost anything if the preacher gives them a sense of God, something for their souls. The preacher is handling some thing great and glorious – the Word of God – and he needs to give the congregation a glimpse, even a dim glimpse, of the majesty and glory of God, the love of Christ the saviour and the magnificence of the Gospel. My dear friends I am wasting my time if I do not point you to God in relevant preaching today! You are wasting your time coming to listen to me if you do not leave with the impression that the Lord God has spoken through His word! I pray most earnestly this morning that this is indeed happening amongst us! I long to tell you of my wonderful saviour and the things concerning His word and His church! Pray that both I and other men who preach here may so lead us all to God that we know that we have been to God in our meeting! And that it will be utterly relevant for our souls! The Lord Jesus Christ knew how to preach in a relevant way.
He preached to rural crowds about sowing seed into different soils and how weeds can grow at the same time as good grain.
He preached to religious leaders about basic moral and theological issues in such a way that ordinary non theological people could understand.
He preached to ordinary folk in a synagogue so that at the end they exclaimed, “He has authority!”
Mark 1 v 22 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.
Doctrinal, Expository, Evangelical, Experimental, Practical and Relevant Biblical preaching should all be features of the messages heard her in the local Church.
The systematic expository method of biblical preaching is vital. The Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible should be preached. We need to have the Bible explained to us and then we need to know how to apply the teaching in our lives.
And the delivery of Biblical Preaching should be marked by 3 THINGS –
1. SINCERITY. The preacher should be born again! He should be a Christian. He must know the truth of the message he preaches – personally.
2. FERVENCY. The preacher should mean what he says and say what he means – and he should be earnest, bold and compassionate.
3. WISDOM. The preacher should not be too long nor too short. He should not be too profound for the simple nor too simple for the profound!
Biblical Preaching is the preaching of God’s grace in the Lord Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9 v 16
For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
What does the Apostle mean here – Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel?
Does he mean that if he doesn’t he won’t get paid and that he will starve? No!
Did he mean that he was forced or compelled in some way to preach Christ and His Gospel? No! Paul was ready and willing to preach His Saviour and cheerfully carried out this responsibility – not forced!
What does he mean then?
Paul was under an obligation from the divine call to this work of preaching, and from his own conscience, which he knew to be a heaven sent one.
He knew that he should preach because of the nature of the trust committed to him, that he was responsible for a message to immortal souls, and the honour of Christ.
These things weighed heavily on his heart, and obliged him in duty, love, and gratitude, to get on with it!
Yes, woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel;
Woe is not an affliction such as reproach, persecution, famine, nakedness, sword; these sorts of woes frequently accompany those that preach the Gospel – Paul knew that!
Woe is the wounding of his conscience, and exposing of the preacher if he neglects his calling.
Woe is the effect on the preacher’s conscience when he feels the contempt of the divine will, and even feels the danger of the wrath and curse of God for ever. Paul by no means feared this would be his case, or that it possibly could be; but he speaks like this to show what he or any other minister of the Gospel would deserve, at the hand of God, who having abilities to preach, should not make use of them and exercise them.
He is saying that any minister would deserve woe if he doesn’t preach the truth as it is in Jesus, the whole Gospel; he deserves woe if he should preach, but not preach the Gospel; or only preach a part of it, and not the whole; or should entirely shrink from preaching it, through self-interest, or the fear of man, or through being ashamed of Christ and his Gospel; or even as a man not able to bear the reproach and persecution associated with it.
My brethren who have a preaching gift and calling – take heed and learn from Paul – there is woe in front of us if we preach anything else but the Bible! There is woe if we fail to preach when we have the gift to preach! There is a needy world around us and the world needs the Gospel!
Our community needs to hear the Good News, glad tidings of a Saviour’s love and mercy – and His forgiving compassion through His death at Calvary!
And it is a mark of the local church that she sends preachers to preach! Our Brethren Ken and John are commissioned to go to Ebberly, Allerford and Lovacott this evening. Woe to them if they do not preach the Gospel – Paul’s words – God the Holy Spirit’s words!
It is an awesome thing to preach the Gospel! We are all involved as we pray for these men and support them! Let us all know our responsibility as a Church in this first mark of a local church BIBLICAL PREACHING.