Some today may hear a strong Gospel message and think ‘well that was a very negative message’. We want to ask ourselves ‘why do they say that?’.
And so what I desire to do here is to give a simple answer by giving the components of a Gospel centred preaching message.
First, preaching the Gospel requires that we teach it to them.
We are commanded by Christ: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world.”(Matthew 28:19).
If you have noticed carefully with me, our Lord commands us to go everywhere and anywhere, when we find opportunities to tell every soul about Him. He also admonishes us to teach them. The message that we are to deliver is a teaching message concerning the Gospel. Gospel in the original Greek means the good news or good tidings. So in order for sinners to understand what the message means we must teach and explain to them the meaning behind these great truths. What happens if we do not teach it to them? If I was to come into the streets of Cheltenham and began to shut ‘Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour! Believe! Believe!’ it would not be foolish when someone from the multitude asks me ‘why? What’s the reason for me to believe in Jesus?’.
Or if we say ‘come to God! Repent!’ without explaining why; it is natural that it will mean nothing to them. If people are to be saved by the Gospel which is the power unto salvation; then we must also give enough instruction and teaching so they would embrace it. Don’t think my dear friends, like many professing Christians sadly say, that it is better to leave some doctrines out in order to win souls for Christ. Though the intention maybe nice, the method is unwise. We read in Proverbs 19:2 “That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good”. It is the Lord who uses the word as an instrument to save souls and so we must use it we all our might and trust that the power of the Holy Spirit might rest upon it. That the Spirit will turn fallen sinners from darkness to light. Possibly the most neglected doctrine is the doctrine of total depravity, which teaches that we are born in sin and that we thus are evil by nature (Ephesians 2:1-2). (Which brings me to my second point). But text says that we must teach them to observe all things, that is, all the important doctrines that surround the Gospel message must be preached and instructed to them.
Secondly, preaching the Gospel must be boldly proclaimed to men that Christ died for their sins.
This here is the difference of a true Gospel preaching with those messages done by the false teachers we watch on ‘Christian’ television. The ministers of the Gospel preached and taught not some, but all things which the Lord has commanded them (Matthew 28:19). They even preached Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2) which was an offensive thing for a Greek or even a Jew to hear. It is offensive because people believed that this man who claims to be God died for our sins on a cross. The cross was such a humiliating thing and to say that this man who was a Saviour was more like a joke. But even so it was offensive, Paul preached this way because he believed that the Gospel is power unto salvation (Romans 1:16). One may accept this but still hesitate when I mention to him that sin and judgement must be carefully exposed, explained and preached. Our intention is not to offend people nor to cause a havoc, but to teach and preach the truth powerfully in love. And telling the truth and warning someone of the coming danger is an act of love, even if that person is offended.
So why do we need to give much on sin? The reason is because though men know they are sinners,(for they often confess with a smile ‘we all do wrong. we are all sinners right?’), they don’t realize how bad they truly are.
People do not understand or grasp the consequences of their own wickedness. I can say that I knew I was a sinner before reading God’s word, but after I read it, I as utterly off guard and shocked. Because I thought I was fine until I saw that I have I was a wretched sinner and have sinned against God. If we ask people ‘do you know that you’re a sinner?’, they say ‘yes’ they may even boast about their sin ‘I am bad. And a mighty fine one’. You see they don’t have any idea what it means when we say to them ‘you’re a sinner’. If they did, they would tremble the moment we read to them from Scripture “for all have sinned” (Romans 3:23). According to the Bible, men are born in sin (Psalms 51:7), they are deceived and inwardly wicked by nature (Jeremiah 17:9). They are blind and believe in lies even though they know the truth and suppress it(Romans 1:18-23, 2 Corinthians 4:4). That every thought and intention of man is only towards evil (Genesis 6:5-8, Matthew 15). They love darkness and hate the light (John 3:18-19).
Therefore, the Gospel preacher like a teacher needs to expose their folly. As an evangelist he must be like a scribe explaining to them their sinful nature. And with compassion tell them the reality of their soul. That they are heading to Hell unless they repent and trust in Christ for their salvation. None will understand why they need to repent and run away from sin unless you warn them about it and tell them why they need Christ. They must come to a sinner with compassion in the same way as a doctor would tell his patient that they have cancer. The doctor does not go to the patient who is in their 20’s or 70’s to be all fuzzy and fun and speak off cancer in a non-serious manner ‘you know you have cancer right?’ as if it’s a small thing to make a fun of with a smile on his face. How unloving it is if preachers do and speak this way when they speak to people about life and death.
C.H Spurgeon the great Baptist preacher, indeed a true soul winner, said:
“The withholding of the doctrine of the total depravity of man has worked serious harm in many who have listened to a certain kind of preaching. These people do not get a true healing, because they do not know the disease under which they are suffering. They are never truly clothed because nothing is done to strip them.”(Soul Winner, p15).
After telling them that they are sinners by nature, we must bring them to realize that they have done wrong and whom they have done wrong to: that is God. Preaching the holiness of God which is followed by the proclamation of His righteousness is extremely crucial. Because it helps the sinner see that his crime is elevated beyond the mere thought of a ‘small sin’ but a very serious one. Imagine if I was to commit a crime at the bank, I would be surely be put to jail. Imagine then if I commit a crime against the state, then I am in big trouble. But even more, imagine if I committed a crime against the presented, now I am at war against the whole Nation and the world. If they get me then; how serious would my punishment be? Very. It would lead me to be executed because of the crime I have committed against someone. But even so then, how much more must we show to sinners that they have offended not the president but Almighty God Himself!? The small sin theory that the sinner has at this point is not a small issue but rather a life and death one.
Then show them that God is the Judge and He is Just by comparing that Justice of God with the unrighteousness of men so that they realize the serious penalty of their sin and fear God. Isaiah preached that our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6-7) in God’s eyes. That none can be right before God (Romans 3:10, 20, 23). Proverbs 1:7 says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. That is, knowing God and ourselves. Christ Jesus in John 6 exposed the idolatry of his hearers and they concluded that the words he was saying to them were too hard for them to bear (John 6:60). For He was saying to them ‘leave this, and follow me if you want to live’. And the life He was calling them to live was separating themselves from their sins. Their love of the world, self and their own sinful desires (Matthew 16:24-27, Romans 12:1-2, 1 John 2:15-17). But they rejected Him. People are deceived and have no idea how bad they really are. Do you know why they could not bear with the preaching of Christ who is the most pure and finest preacher who ever lived? Not because he failed to preach to them the Gospel, for it is His Gospel He was preaching to them. It was because men love self rather than a Saviour. Christ was saying to them ‘your helpless, repent and come to me’ and we go ‘no!’. They wanted to hold on to their self-righteousness. This is the reason why He had to preach so hardly for them, because they had to be convicted by the truth. That they cannot save themselves. That the problem is not evil from outside of them, but rather, they are evil they are wrong in themselves. Again that great Baptist preacher C.H. Spurgeon has something to add here:
“The preachers work is to throw sinners down in utter helplessness, so that they may be compelled to look up to Him who alone can help them”(p.16, Soul Winner).
The reason why people do not understand their sin and don’t take much of it and weep over it is because they don’t know who God is. The waves bow down to God’s commands and the mountains humble themselves and the stormy sky remains solemnly silent when God says ‘be silent!’. And God commands us ‘obey’ and we with ignorance say ‘no!’. All of creation bows down and worships God and we lift up our hand in anger against God. That is how wicked we are. That we even may call it insanity. When I heard that God is Holy, as a non-believer, it meant nothing to me. If it was not for the grace of God I would have not been saved without first fearing Him with an understanding of who He is (Proverbs 1:7). That He is just and good.
After showing them the glory of God and the depravity of man, this leaves the sinner to think that ‘if God is good and I am not, what does God do with unjust criminals like us?’ He will do us justice. The word of God convict’s the sinner. I don’t need to preach it, he can read it for himself as i did when i was an enemy of God (Hebrews 4:12). That after death there is judgement and all flesh will stand on that day to give an account before God.
These truths must be impressed upon them with Scripture after Scripture verse. Why is it necessary?
If you ever heard of C.H Spurgeon, he is known to many Christians as the prince of preachers. He was a real soul winner. And in one of his sermons preaching that Christ became a curse for us, he begins by telling some very heavy things which people may find offensive if they were preached today. Yet he was one of best soul winners in the second half of the 20th century. He said in his sermon:
“Oh, heavy tidings have I to deliver this day to some of you! Hard is my task to have testify to you thus the terrible justice of the law. But you would not understand or prize the exceeding love of Christ if you heard not the curse from which He delivers His people,”.
What Spurgeon said was wise and effective. Because if we don’t tell people were they are heading and why and explain to them from the Bible what is sin and expose their own sins, when they make a false profession of faith, show them their need for a Savior, they will not value nor cherish the love and suffering of Christ for their souls. So, in order to know the good news, first we must know the bad news.
My own personal experience can testify to that as well. I was believing that God does not mind if I come to Him so I can have my life changed. For God to fix my problems and help me in life. Many people can do that even without God. But what I really needed to hear was that my life without Christ, everything I was thinking of for the future was all in vain if i did not have Christ as my Savior and Lord. In the end I was asked ‘do I want Christ?’. That is the role of the preacher, to show the people their need of Christ as their Saviour to save them from their sins. I used to seek for a helper. I in past, came to Christ because someone said he would offer me a better life (in my immature, worldly thinking that meant success in this life) financially, socially and physically. Nothing to do with my evil heart, which had to be changed. I am glad I went through this time of error, because God was showing me truly how wrong I was and how Just He was. It was when i have learned that i was all wrong and God was Just, that i begun to seek the need for a Savior and not a helper as i have done in the past. This helped me see that Christ Jesus was that one and only perfect Savior for me ( John 14:6-7) and i am confident that if you see Christ as your Savior and Lord, He will never leave you nor forsake you.