Preaching of the Gospel

The gospel is the good news of our salvation in Jesus Christ. It is foundational that our entire salvation is from and of the triune God. God the Father eternally elects us, God the Son redeems us by his death on the cross, and God the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ and all his benefits by a living faith. In his sovereignty and wisdom, God has chosen to use means in the salvation of his people. The chief of the means of grace is the preaching of the gospel. 

The church has been given the calling to proclaim this gospel. As this good news is proclaimed to us, the Holy Spirit works in our hearts, so that we believe and confess our faith in that gospel. 

Romans 10:13–17 lays this out clearly for us. First, in order to call on the name of Jesus, one must believe in him. Calling on Jesus is a conscious activity of faith, something we neither would nor could do apart from this gift of God. Second, in order to believe, one must hear of Jesus and, by the work of the Spirit, hear Jesus himself. Man’s word, full of man’s working and man’s attempts at righteousness, is useless. We need to hear the good news of the Son of God who came down from heaven to lay down his life for our sins. We need Christ’s word, which says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). We need to hear our Shepherd’s voice calling us his sheep to come and follow him (John 10). Finally, to hear, there must be a preacher. This preacher must be sent by the established church to preach these glad tidings to us.  

One might, however, raise these objections. Is the Bible alone not good enough for salvation? Are not there some who come to faith without sitting under the preaching? Is God not powerful enough to save outside of an established church? Yes, God is all powerful and nothing is impossible with him. God certainly could have chosen to save his people by individual special revelation, or by mystical intervention in our lives, or by dramatic performances. And even if some may have come to conscious faith without sitting under the official preaching of the gospel, this exception would not disprove God’s regular use of means. God has revealed that his ordinary plan is to establish and strengthen the faith of the elect through the means of the preaching of the gospel by ordained officebearers in his church. 

This is evident in Matthew 28:19, when Jesus commissioned the disciples, and by extension the church, to go forth and teach all nations. We can also look at Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ in Matthew 16. Jesus said he would build his church upon this confession, thus giving the disciples, the early manifestation of the church institute, the keys of the kingdom of heaven. The church exercises these keys when it proclaims the good news of Jesus, which was the heart of Peter’s confession. The early New Testament church was faithful in its calling to preach the word, as we see in Peter’s sermon on Pentecost, Phillip’s preaching to the Ethiopian eunuch, and Paul’s missionary journeys. The church today fulfills this calling in the official proclamation of the gospel.  

For the Jews who were looking for an earthly savior, Jesus was a stumbling block. For the Greeks who were fascinated with the wisdom of the world, the simple gospel was foolishness. Although men may despise and disdain the gospel of Christ, God is pleased to save his people by it (1 Cor. 1:17–31). Verse 18 calls the preaching of the cross “the power of God” unto those who are saved, and verse 24 further explains that Christ is this power. This closely parallels Romans 1:16, which calls the gospel “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” Putting these two texts together, we see that God uses the preaching of the gospel powerfully for the salvation of his elect people. 

Notice that the preaching of the gospel is this: the good news of Christ Jesus. Christ is central to the preaching. Christ, and him crucified, is the content of the message (1 Cor. 1:23). Christ is the one who speaks to us in our hearts so that we believe and worship him. 

There is then both a warning and a comfort to ministers of the word. This is a warning because a minister must preach Christ. He must be faithful to the word of God, expounding it to the congregation. The pulpit is not a place for man’s words or man’s opinions (1 Cor. 2:4–5). There are grave warnings in Scripture to all false teachers and those who seek to add to or take away from the word of God (Rev. 22:18–19). But this is also a comfort, because God is the one who works, not man. Imagine if the efficacy of the preaching depended on the oratorical skills of the speaker. How weighty it would be if the minister himself needed to convince the congregation to believe! A minister must simply bring God’s word, trusting that God will quicken the hearts of the elect and harden the hearts of the wicked. As Hebrews 4:12 states, the word of God is “quick, and powerful…a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” God be thanked that the efficacy of the preaching does not depend on weak and sinful men, for who is sufficient for these things (2 Cor. 2:16)? 

We ought not be ashamed of this truth, thinking that our ways are better than God’s ways. We must cling to the word of God, maintaining the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture. As a church we must maintain the necessity of clear, exegetical, expository, antithetical, edifying preaching. We ought not be swayed by any who would tell us we need to revamp our worship service, exchanging the simplicity of the gospel for something more engaging. We also must be thankful for the faithful preaching of the word. Saints have died throughout history for the sake of proclaiming and holding to the truth. Even today, saints in other lands are not able to worship openly and freely. May we understand what a blessing we have and praise God for it. 

Rachel is a high school teacher at Hope Christian High School and a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Redlands, CA.