Scott Lee is pastor at Rockport Baptist Church in Arnold, Mo. He has also taught at Missouri Baptist University for some years. He is speaking on The Doctrines of Grace and the Christian Minister in the Pulpit.
1 Corinthians 1:17-2:5
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
What is the goal of preaching? It should be for the glory and honor of God. We live in an age where we are looking for many different methods of presenting the gospel message. Or is still true that God is still pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of the preached Word.
Salvation is only effected by the means of the proclamation of the gospel.
The first thing we should see is that far too much preaching is little more than a display of the power man. The Corinthians would have expected Paul to come with high language and rhetoric. Paul, though capable, did not succumb to their wishes. Paul came, rather, with the power of God.
The doctrines of grace show us that preaching is not about us and that the means by which the Lord will save is up to Him. In other words, it does not depend upon you. If salvation is brought about by God through His appointed means, then it frees me (the pastor) from having to come up with the means to see men and women saved.
This is one reason why the Puritans had no use for fine sounding rhetoric. Rather, they allowed the Scriptures to speak for themselves. Paul’s motivation was the glory of God in Christ.
Know that I am not talking about a boring lecture. Are we like Nadab and Abihu bringing man-made fire to the pulpit or are we bringing the God of the Bible? Not all fires are the same. We must understand that true biblical preaching is always a display of Christ.
We preach a God who has revealed Himself in the flesh and blood. Who chose for Himself a people and gave Himself so that He would save His elect. This is why Paul determined to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified. Paul could not imagine preaching anything that didn’t center on Christ.
A Christless sermon is an abomination in the pulpit. Paul is determined to focus on Christ. So should we. By not doing so, we rob the gospel of its power.
The Doctrines of Grace safeguard us from inserting ourselves between the gospel and the person needing it. These Doctrines point us directly to God. Unconditional Election is the warm and loving choice the Father made in the Son and we see it play out through the preaching of His Word. What grace!
Limited Atonement speaks of the heavenly love Christ has for His bride, the church. Irresistible Grace is the almighty power of God unleashed to take hold of His people so that none will be lost.
Perseverance of the Saints is not necessarily “once saved always saved.” It is so much more than that! It is the personal commitment made by the Father to the Son in that He will keep us persevering in the faith. These doctrines point us to Christ.
Biblical preaching that is radically focused on Christ (the Trinity) will instruct all believers regardless of time and location. If you preaching does not focus on Christ, then it is not biblical preaching.
True preaching depends on the power of the Holy Spirit and not man’s persuasiveness. Paul lets the truth speak for itself in the power of the Spirit. If you give the task of preaching much thought at all, you should feel a sense of desperation. Is there a desperate man in your pulpit? Does he labor so that the congregation will hear from God and not him? Does he tremble at the thought that he may misrepresent Christ?
Our whole task is to say, “It ain’t me, it’s Him.” The preacher must be one who upholds the Word. The Doctrines of Grace both humble and encourage us. As Spurgeon said, “Preach down man and preach up Christ?” The preacher needs the message of the sovereignty of God more than the hearers need it!
Do we preach like men who think all we have to do is persuade the wills of men or do we preach knowing that grace comes from God alone? We want power! We want the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit does not empower cleverness or light joking. He empowers biblical preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am not saying that we should not prepare a sermon. I am saying that when preparing, our goal ought to be to reveal more of God.
If you want to really minister to your people, point them to a sovereign God. Take them from focusing on self to focusing on God. Your first line of attack for ministering to your people is the preaching of the Word of God. They need God. They need to see Christ.
The real power and effect of preaching does not come from us. It comes from God mediated by the Spirit through the faithful declaration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul knows that only God can do in the human heart what needs to be done. To this extent, he says that our “faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” This is why all man-centered persuasion is useless. Sure, you can get them down the aisle, but you can’t make them a Christian.