Acts 20.24-27 says, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.”
Paul reminded the Ephesian pastors of his message. Paul was not known for his eloquent speech (2 Corinthians 10.10). Paul wanted to be known for the content of his message rather than the style (1 Corinthians 1.23; Philippians 3.9-14). Paul referred to his preaching and its content to encourage the Ephesian pastors to follow his example.
Men, we preach the power of God. We preach the wisdom of God. We preach even the foolishness of God. Paul identified all of these characteristics of preaching as coming into focus or reaching their climax in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Our message is based on the substitutionary and penal death of Jesus Christ. We preach that salvation is by grace through faith alone. We preach that there is no other mediator for mankind than Jesus Christ. Any other message is not the Gospel of the Scriptures, even though an angel might preach it (Galatians 1.8).
We preach that the Old Testament reveals the wonderful truths of the New Testament. We preach that the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. Our belief rests in the fact that if you cut the Bible open at any page or verse, it would bleed Christ.
Our faith in the sufficiency of the Bible is the foundation of why we preach Christ crucified. The Scriptures are our final authority concerning every area of our lives (2 Peter 1.3-4). We believe that the Bible is a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces (Jeremiah 23.29). In other words, the Bible and the Gospel make a change every time it is read and preached. The change is either a rebellious hardening to the Gospel or a humble submission to it. The change may be nearly imperceptible, or it might be as dramatic as the parting of the Red Sea, but the change is occurring one way or the other, and there are no other changes besides hardening and softening.
For this reason we encourage each other with the preaching of the Word at our fellowships. We do not gather to showcase our latest homily. We do not preach so as to impress with our style or interpretational skills. We preach Christ because He is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega of the Gospel and its preaching.
Furthermore, we believe that the preaching of God’s Word is the most effective way to build a church. There are many philosophies of ministry today, most revolving around some adaptation of the church marketing strategy. The only method of church growth that has proved most effective to the building up of the body of Christ in love and unity (Ephesians 4.13) is one that is centered upon and saturated with the preaching of God’s Word. The moment Christ is removed from our preaching is the moment that we fail as pastors. John Owen, a Puritan pastor, preacher and theologian, once wrote, “A neglect of preaching is a most sure sign of defection in the church.”
Let us gather to encourage the continued proclamation of the Gospel. If we do not gather for fellowship, we leave ourselves open to the temptation of an Elijah complex, which says, “I’m the only one left.” There are others who preach Christ and Him crucified, and we in the HAPF are just a handful of the many who faithfully proclaim the gospel of the grace of God.
I close with two poignant quotes. The first quote comes from J. C. Ryle, who wrote: “A preaching ministry is absolutely essential to the health and prosperity of a visible church. The pulpit is the place where the chief victories of the Gospel have always been won, and no Church has ever done much for the advancement of true religion in which the pulpit has been neglected. Would we know whether a minister is a truly apostolical man? If he is, he will give the best of his attention to his sermons. He will labor and pray to make his preaching effective, and he will tell his congregation that he looks to preaching for the chief results on souls.”
Here is the second quote. As we have been chosen by our Saviour to preach the Gospel, we sense our inadequacy to the task, much like Paul (2 Corinthians 2.16). Charles Spurgeon opened one of his sermons with the following words, and we echo with him: “I felt when I was coming up to preach tonight as if I had been down like a little child to the sea, and I had stooped to the wave and filled my palms as well as I could with the sparkling water, but as I have been coming to bring it to you, it has nearly all trickled away, for I am not able to hold it by reason of my leaking hands.”