Seeking and saving the lost (5): The challenge of presenting God’s word

GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 638 • May 5, 2021

SEEKING AND SAVING THE LOST – Number Five
THE CHALLENGE OF PRESENTING GOD’S WORD

It can be provocative and productive, putting things into a perspective slightly different from the usual, to see that God challenges us, lays a challenge before us and urges us to accept it. For example, we are speaking here of: (1) God’s challenge to the church: Demonstrate God’s eternal purpose to bring all the saved together into Christ (Ephesians 1:10 and 3:10). (2) God’s challenge to His people everywhere to speak up for Him: Preach the gospel of God everywhere in the world (Mark 16:15-16, Matthew 28:18-20). This is sometimes called “the great commission.” It is not only for the original apostles and inspired evangelists. Matthew’s account makes it clear that the task is passed on to each one who becomes a disciple. It is not just “inspired” men but all Christian men who are to teach to others the truth they themselves have received (2 Timothy 2:2). Judging from the poor execution of this charge we might refer to it as “the great omission.” Few are doing it, and even fewer are teaching that we must observe and do all that Christ has commanded.

In this present lesson we will focus our attention upon the work of the preacher/teacher and the challenge of preaching, teaching, or otherwise proclaiming the whole counsel of God in the church and in world today. Perhaps we would rather speak of it as “the general commission” or “suggestions and instructions about preaching” or “guidelines for effective preaching.” Perhaps challenge sounds too confrontational, too intimidating or inhibiting. But sometimes we need to use different words to get a familiar message across, to get people to pay attention to something they have heard so many times before that it just doesn’t register any more.

THE COMMAND TO PROCLAIM THE WORD: TO WHOM DOES IT APPLY?

A quick sampling of the commands to preach and teach the word of God.
• The great commission statements. Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:44-48 • Preachers are to preach the word. 1 Timothy 4:1-4, 2 Timothy 4:1-4 • Elders are to teach the word. 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:9
• Older women are to teach younger women. Titus 2:3-4
• Parents, especially fathers (although it too often falls to mothers to do it), are to teach children. Ephesians 6:1-4; compare Deuteronomy 6:4-6, 2 Timothy 1:5.

To whom do the commands apply? Who should do the teaching? The quick answer might be: preachers, evangelists or missionaries, perhaps classroom teachers. But it is broader than that. In some sense every Christian, every member of the church is to be involved in the proclamation of God’s word. Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, Hebrews 10:22-25.

WHAT ARE WE TO TEACH AND PREACH?

• Preach Jesus Christ. Acts 5:42, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.
• The gospel, literally the “good news” or “good message.” As Godspiel or Gottspiel it
is a message from or about God or a god. This word appears about 96 times in the New
Testament writings (including the four biographies of Jesus: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). It translates EUANGELION.

The gospel focuses on but is not limited to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1Corinthians 15:1-4). It is much more than that. The biographies of Jesus, called “The Gospels,” spend more time talking about his birth, life, and ministry than about his death, burial and resurrection. When Jesus said he himself was preaching the gospel to the poor, he certainly did not limit it to his own death, burial, and resurrection (Matthew 4:23, Luke 4:18). Apostle Paul speaks often of all his own preaching and teaching as “my gospel,” that is, “the gospel as I have taught it or delivered it to you.” He includes the instruction about the Christian way of life as gospel (Galatians 2:14; compare 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13, 1 Peter 1:25).
The gospel is the doctrine of God. Much more than just His commands regarding human salvation. Of course it includes that. The doctrine includes commands that one can and must obey to be saved by God. (Romans 6:17, Matthew 28:18-20). But doctrine is also information and instruction. The biographies of Jesus are doctrinal. The history of the church, from its beginning on the day of Pentecost, is also doctrinal. All the New Testament letters, written to individuals or to churches are doctrinal. To be indoctrinated means to be instructed, informed, and directed in proper
application of what one comes to know and understand. Example: one may be indoctrinated in communism, humanism, evolution, politics, or any one of a thousand religious “isms,” in addition to Christianity.

The gospel is the word of the Lord, the whole revelation of God. This is the most inclusive term. Everything revealed by God to or through men is called the word of God, the word of the Lord, the word of Christ, the word of truth, etc (Acts 4:31, 1 Peter 1:25, Colossians 3:16 and 1:5). All the scripture that was written down under the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit can also be called the word of God., the gospel. 2 Timothy 3:16, 1 Corinthians 14:37.

Summary: what are we to teach, proclaim and preach? The revelation, message, doctrine, word, gospel of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit – the message delivered by the apostles and prophets of the Lord.

HOW ARE WE TO TEACH AND PREACH THE WORD OF THE LORD?

• Clearly, coherently. Nehemiah. 8:8, Acts 8:30-31, Luke 24:45, Ephesians 1:18 and 3:4. • Correctly. 2 Timothy 2:15.
• Convincingly. Acts 2:37, Acts 18:28, Titus 1:9.
• Consistently. 1 Corinthians 7:17, 2 Corinthians 1:17-20.
• Comprehensively. The whole counsel of God, not just part. Acts 20:27, Romans 15:4, 1 Corinthians 10:1-12. • Continually. Galatians 2:5, 1 Timothy 4:16, 2 Peter 1:12-15 and 3:1-2.

TO WHOM SHOULD WE PREACH THE WORD OF THE LORD, AND WHY?

An easy rule: teach and preach to any and all those Jesus wants to save. That does not exclude anybody. The Lord’s desire is that none perish, but rather that all come to know the truth, repent, obey the truth and be saved. 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, John 3:16.

With whom did Jesus spend time? The rich and highly placed, self-righteous, etc. gave him little time. He spent time with the poor, publicans, prostitutes, the physically disabled and disadvantaged – people who often were not wanted by others. Why did he associate with them? He was seeking to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Our association with all people should be on the same level as his: not to accept them as they are, but to lift them up and bring them to salvation in Christ.

A second easy rule: teach all who do not yet know everything they need to know about the Lord and his will for our lives. Of course that means those who have never heard the gospel. How can they call upon the Lord for salvation if they are not properly taught? (Romans 10:12-15). But it also includes “babes in Christ,” the new Christians (1 Peter 2:2). It includes the old Christians too, because they should continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:18, Hebrews 5:12–6:1.

TYPICAL RESPONSES TO THE PREACHING OF THE WORD OF THE LORD.

• Resistance (2 Timothy 3:8). We must learn to overcome resistance to the Lord. • Resentment (Acts 4:2). They were grieved, disturbed, annoyed by the preaching.
• Ridicule Acts 17:18, 2 Corinthians 10:10, 1 Corinthians 4:10. We are fools for Christ’s sake.
• Rejection (Acts 5:33 and 7:54). The world that rejects Christ rejects his preachers.
• Reception and rejoicing. Acts 2:36-41, Acts 17:11; compare Acts 8:39 and 16:34.

CONCLUSION:

The fact that some do receive the word gladly and obey it from the heart (Romans 6:17) keeps us going, keeps us standing up for the Lord and presenting his word to the world. We want everybody to receive the word of the Lord gladly, respond to it properly, and rejoice in the blessings and benefits it brings to their lives. We make no apology for our attempts at straightforward preaching of the Lord’s word, and for telling it just as it is to all people who will listen. After all, the Lord’s challenge to the preacher is just that: “Tell others what I have told you in this book of the gospel given by my Spirit.” Here is the Lord’s challenge to you who are hearing this today (paraphrased from Romans 6:17): “Obey from the heart this doctrine that has been delivered to you, so that I can make you free from sin and enlist you as servants, carrying out works of righteousness in my kingdom.” – To be continued

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