True Preaching Leads to the Theology of the Cross

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?[a] And how are they to hear without someone preaching? (Romans 10:14)

This verse is one of those monumental verses we have in Scripture that point to the absolute necessity of preaching. Those who belong to Christ, must hear from Him, and the means by which we hear from Christ, is through the faithful preaching of His word.

Michael Horton, in his book A Better Way, makes the case that preaching is God’s means for reaching His people. While we can do all other manner of outreach, preaching is what God has ordained for us to do in order to reach the lost.

Horton writes:

To protect the ministry of the gospel and the integrity of its content, Christ the King reigns in the church through the officers whom he has commissioned. In this way, the congregation may know that they are recipients of the message that God himself has authorized, since through his church he has sent (authorized) the messengers.

These officers he speaks of are elders, made up of pastors and teachers. It’s sad that we must point out that God has actually set up officers for the church. Many want to think that there is no order to the church at all, but Ephesians 4, and 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus show us otherwise. Horton continues:

This is why the method of grace’s delivery cannot be separated from its content. If it is by grace alone, salvation must be delivered by a medium in which the sinner is a receiver. That medium is preaching (as well as sacrament). A service in which the congregation is almost exclusively active (for instance, in singing, especially in singing about what they are doing and will do) abruptly interrupts this Pauline logic. There is a time for the involvement of the people, of course–but that is not a means of grace; it is a means of responding to the grace that has been delivered by God alone.

No, Paul singles out preaching–and not just any preaching but a certain kind of preaching: “that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming” (Romans 10:8), “the word of Christ” (v.17). It is the preaching of God’s commands that brings conviction, while the proclamation of Christ in the gospel creates and keeps on creating faith and its fruit.

This is the miracle that occurs through the fragile instrument of preaching: God is not only the object; he is also the subject who himself judges and justifies, humbles and lifts up, kills and makes alive as the sermon unfolds.

In other words, the service is to be all about God. It’s not about our feelings, our desires, our wants, but what He calls us for. Jesus tells us that the Father is looking for people to worship in spirit and truth (John 4). But that is not so we can focus upon what we are doing, or have done, or will do, but what He has done through the Son to make us His children. Worship is focused on the Triune God, not man.

So many people hear the good news when it comes to Jesus’ saving work: It’s by grace, not by works. But the trouble comes when they discover how many gimmicks, techniques, methods, and means there are out there for climbing up to God and experiencing a vision of his glory, a touch of his power, a glimpse of his majesty. When they get burned out of this sort of religion, they will be ready either for atheism or the theology of the cross and resurrection. This theology of the cross is weakness, not power–and yet, because of the resurrection of Christ, is ‘the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes’ (Romans 1:16).

The theology of the cross and resurrection are the best place for the believer to be. In finding ourselves there, we realize just how little we have to do with our own salvation, and the grace of God is magnified in our hearts. This is no easy truth, but one we must accept and embrace if we are going grow in Christ.

Hopefully you will see the importance of true biblical preaching and make sure that you are in a church where the pastor is just as committed to preaching as our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ was. If not… move on and find a church where they refuse to succumb to the spirit of the age, in which the sermon becomes a pep talk, or a counseling session. We don’t need pep talks or counseling, we need the gospel.

A true pastor preaches God’s word, both Law and gospel. He preaches the Law to show us the righteous standard of God that is required by all of us. He preaches the gospel for those who realize how dreadfully short they fall from that standard. The Law slays us, and the gospel saves us. Without both, we end up with a truncated and warped faith, if a faith at all.

6 thoughts on “True Preaching Leads to the Theology of the Cross

  1. Just found your blog, loved this article. Thanks for the insight and the application of the theology of the cross to preaching. Keep up the great work over here!

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