Preaching the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ
We are informed that Philip told the Ethiopian “the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35). It is His gospel; it is all about Him. He is its source and theme. The good news is Jesus Christ, in the glory of His person and the perfection of His finished work. And He is for every sinner. I can go to any person and I can say to them, “I have a Saviour for you.” And if I don’t continually use those precise words like some mantra nevertheless that precise conviction is part of my theological universe. I believe that I have a Teacher who will overcome your ignorance. I have a great Priest who will speak on your behalf to God. I have a Lord who will protect and keep you, and He is for you. I can use the language of the Marrow men without any reservation. I am not using the preposition “for” in the sense of substitution but in the sense of offer. Christ’s teaching-for you. Christ dead-for you. Christ reigning-for you. Christ interceding-for you, that is, for you to receive, to have and to hold in this world and the next, to know His protection and be educated by Him.
Preach the Fullness of Christ in the Gospel
One Christ – of course in three offices (Prophet, Priest and King), of course in two natures (divine and human), and of course in three states (pre-incarnate, incarnate and glorified)-but still one Christ. One Christ-of course one in being and substance with the Father and the Spirit-the triune God, but one indivisible Christ who is a powerful King, an instructing Prophet and a serving Savior. You cannot separate Him when you offer Him to sinners. Think of a computer, and  the power of its motor, and  the instructions of its screen, and  all the services that it provides you-e-mail, wake-up calls, diary, spread sheets, the Net. Could you go into a computer store and say that you want a computer which only does the services-without the power-box and without the screen? The assistant would say to you that that was impossible, that the box and the modem and the services provided are all one, and you cannot have the one without the others too. He would say to you that what you would like is impossible, for a PC is one.
So it is with Christ, the gospel is that the sovereign Lord who directs and protects, is also the great Prophet who teaches and enlightens, and also the High Priest whose blood de-sins and whose righteousness wraps us about safe and sound for tithe and eternity. This one Saviour is freely offered to all. He is one God and Surety and by Himself He has fulfilled all those three offices for every one of His people. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve…” He said, and in all these ways He serves His people. God doesn’t do half a job. He does not leave us washed, but lacking His protection. He does not leave us informed, but in our guilt and shame. He does not leave us shepherded, but in the dark. I am saying that we cannot disconnect His offices. You have neither the wit nor the power to disentangle them, and anyone who tells you he can is deceiving himself and the truth is not in him.
*  I have Prophet Christ who will teach you who you are, who God is, what the good life is, what you must do to be saved, how you can inherit eternal life, what lies beyond death. That is the message we have for everyone.
*  I have Priest Christ whose blood cleanses us from all sin, no matter who you are, where you come from, what your reputation has been or the quality of your life. Here is the remedy for every guilty conscience, here is peace for every troubled soul, here is the source of a clean heart.
*  I have King Christ whose Lordship is such that He has put everything under an obligation that if it touches me in any way, as shattering as the crash of a plane or as gentle as a mother’s kiss on the cheek of her sleeping child-the best things that happen to me and the worst things that affect me- He will ensure it must work for my good.
This complete Christ of the three offices is for you. I am saying that this is our message in the glory of the gospel. God draws near and He makes men an offer. God visits and makes us a proposition. God offers forgiveness. He promises more. He offers us Himself: “I will be your God. I will bless you with every spiritual blessing.” And what is unbelief? It is the rejection of that offer.
Preach the Urgency of Immediate Faith in the Christ of the Gospel
We can listen to our young people as they look back at us Sunday by Sunday, a glazed look customarily having fallen over their eyes, and then they graciously condescend to discuss with us their position, and they will always describe it in a different way. They will try to give the impression that their position is something rather strong and positive, that they are seeking, that they are searching, that they are considering, that they are approaching this whole matter of the glories of the person and work of Christ from a position of strength, that they are sifting the evidence, that they are examining the facts.
I would say to them that that is not the way it is. The way it is is that they know the facts and they have heard the offer and they refuse to bow the knee and they will not yield the heart. The way it is is that they will not accept the offer God makes. It is not insufficiency of evidence keeping them away from Christ. Their chief need is not more time to think. That is not their problem. Everything hangs upon a commitment they will not make when God says “Come!”. Theirs is an attitude of disobedience and from it come many acts of disobedience.
Most of them are laying down conditions before God and they are saying that they will come when they’ve got the evidence, when they’ve established the foundation, when their hearts are strangely warmed, when their taste for the world is getting jaded, when they are sure God will answer them, when the hairs on the back of their necks stand on end. And to them all God is saying, “Come! Come as you are! Come with your weakness. Come with your mental reservations! Come as an ungodly man!
Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness he requireth
Is to feel you need of Him:
This he gives you-
‘Tis the Spirit’s rising beam.
Come, ye weary, heavy-laden,
Lost and ruined by the Fall;
If you wait until you’re better,
You will never come at all:
Not the righteous-
Sinners Jesus came to call.
We do not come as those who are absolutely persuaded. We do not come with strong faith. If our faith is as thin as a spider’s thread, as long as it is fixed in Christ alone, it is so infrangible it can take the weakest believer across the bottomless pit and over the lake of fire. “Come with smoking flax faith. Come with bruised reed faith. Come with every single one of your doubts and questions and perplexities. Come with your personality problems. Do not come as someone who has solved all his problems before he comes,” we tell them that plainly. That is our message. We tell them to take Christ now as we offer Him to them. Take Him! You bow to Christ when He is offered to you. You come to Christ when He invites you to draw near.
Preach the sincere offer of Christ to all men in the Gospel
Too many of our congregation have some half-understanding of the great doctrine of God’s sovereign grace in salvation, and so they are wresting it to their own destruction. I believe in a sovereign God and in sovereign grace, but I believe I am speaking His mind when I say to congregations that He loves weaklings and doubters and ungodly men and women so much that He offers Himself to them.
That is our message. I believe I am speaking His word when I say to them that He commands and beseeches them to come now to Him, and that He is ready to receive them now, and if they come now He will in no wise cast them out.
When favoured sinners hear the gospel they hear it in their shame. They feel that they are so unique in their sin. They are not like anyone else in the congregation. They feel they are personally disqualified because of their hypocrisy and weakness. They are conscious of the aggravation of their own condition. But God is bringing this message to them, that no matter who they are, what they have been or how they have lived, He will never cast out any who come to Him in repentance and faith. There has never been a single instance of rejection in the history of the world.
Can you imagine the angels looking down from the portals of heaven and they are concentrating just at this moment on the man who is the chief of sinners-the very worst one of all. He has been dormant for years, but he is stirring, and he is turning, and, yes, he is actually coming to Christ-in all his filth, pulling on the chains that tie him to all his past-and, yes, he is coming to the Son of God in the glory of His person and the perfection of His work. He is coming to the One who smote the fig-tree, to the One who called the Pharisees white-washed sepulchres and King Herod a fox. This blackguard who has committed the very worst sins the angels have ever beheld is coming to the One John saw on the Isle of Patmos before whose feet John fell as one dead. This piece of trash is crawling and limping and staggering to the One before whom the sinless seraphim hide their eyes, and the angels are looking at one another in amazement and they are saying, “No hope for that one! Not a chance! He’s for the pit!” And then they see something far more amazing so that there is utter silence in heaven. They see the Son of God running to that man lest he change his mind, and cutting short his rehearsed apologies, and they see Christ wrapping His arms around him and hugging him and Christ’s hot tears wetting that man’s cheeks, and God rejoicing and saying, “This my son was lost, and is found; he was dead and is alive again.”
There is nothing today more marvellous in the whole universe than that we can stand before a congregation in our frailty and youth and mortality burdened with all our personal inadequacies, facing many who have but the slightest interest even in Christian morality, and our message to every single one of them is that Jehovah God is offering Himself to them that moment to be their Savior and Prophet and Priest and King and Husband and Lover and Friend forever and ever. He is sincerely offering every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ Jesus to them.
We only long for them to stop rationalising their unbelief, and cease attempting to justify it. Do they want a warrant to come to Christ? Do they plead their unfitness because they do not have a warrant? Are they searching for a warrant in their own experience? Are they waiting for a verse to jump out at them one day and zap them? Those things may happen, but they are not the warrant for faith. They are looking in the wrong place if they are saying, “Give me an experience and then I can trust.” God says, “I will make you an offer; here is my Son, the divinely appointed Prophet, the Priest and the King, and He is for you to receive now.” Those who receive Him to them He gives the right to become the sons of God. This is an utterly sincere and genuine offer. The Lord is not at the front of the meeting making this offer or we would ask sinners to come to the front to receive Him. The Lord is near you, in the message we preach, in your ears, in your conscience, in your heart, in your mouth, that whosoever calleth on the name of the Lord shall be saved. The Holy Spirit takes the message and the offer and He enables you to hear it, and he moves you to receive Him. He is being offered now. You accept this offer or you reject it. That is our message. It is a message of grace, and it is centred upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
Four Meditations from John Owen September 26, 2023
This is a reprint of an article that was first published in the Banner of Truth magazine, July – August 1968. His words remain searching and pertinent today. * * * The Value of the Gospel No men in the world want help like them that want the Gospel. A man may want liberty, and […]
Peacocks and Rutterkins: Calvin the Colloquial Communicator August 31, 2023
John Calvin is thought of, principally, as a theologian. Of course, he was that. But, as Andrew W. Blackwood once told me, in his day he was first of all considered a preacher. Too few of his sermons have been preserved.1 English translations are mainly in 16th century English!2 Nevertheless, the more I read them, […]