1 Cor. 4:7
A gospel preacher friend of mine was asked a few years ago, "What's the difference between what you preach and what is being preached in churches that preach another message? -- and, if what you're preaching is true, how do I know that it's true?" My friend's response was a good one because he said, "but for the grace of God, you won't know the difference. You will find some churches preaching a message that sounds good to you, and you may settle down there, but unless God Almighty by His Holy Spirit delivers you from going down into the pit, you'll die in that church." This was not a man's haughty statement trying to bring some attention to himself, but one based solely upon the revealed word of God. God has clearly set forth the Gospel in His word, and we must preach that gospel. We are bound to declare the truth. Woe unto us if we preach not the gospel. This message is the message of hope (Rom. 1:16). Men must hear this message for this is the message that will be blessed by God's Spirit to the calling out of His elect (John 10:4-5).
It is an amazing fact that all denominations think they are preaching the truth, so we must look to the holy scriptures for a foundation for any hope of salvation. These things are set forth in the scripture and must be proclaimed in true Gospel preaching:
- Who God is. God is the eternal Sovereign of the universe. The first verse in the Bible sets the foundation of His existence: "In the beginning, God ...". He is revealed as the great "I AM" (Exo. 3:14), the God of all creation. Scripture declares God to be One Who has mercy upon whom He will have mercy, and Who is gracious to whom He will be gracious (Exo. 33:19). If He shows love, kindness, and compassion to any fallen child of Adam, it is because He is a merciful God, and has the power and the right to do so. If He passes by, or leaves a man to himself, it is because He is a just God Who will not clear the guilty. God Almighty does save sinners, but never at the expense of His holy justice. The death of our Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary clearly shows God to be one who will punish sin, for He sacrificed His own Son because of our sin laid on Him. God is holy in all that He does.
- Who man is. The second thing clearly revealed when the Gospel is preached is who man is. Scripture establishes a man's position before God: "... the whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment." (Isaiah 1:5-6) While man thinks that he can somehow reconcile himself to God, scripture says that he cannot. Since man is dead spiritually, he cannot accomplish anything that can stand up under the judgment of God's Law. When Adam sinned against God in the garden, judgment passed upon all mankind, that is, spiritual death. Spiritual death renders Man unable to love God, to lift himself out of his fallen nature, or to even realize the plight (that is, his lost condition). Man is conceived in sin, comes forth from his mother's womb speaking lies, and has but one end if left in that condition -- eternal death. The Word proclaims, "there is none righteous, no not one; there is none that understandeth; there is none that seek after God." (Isaiah 1:5-6)
- How God saves sinners. The third thing that is declared when the Gospel is preached is how God saves sinners. Job asked the question, "how should man be just with God?" (Job 9:2) How does man find himself justified before a holy God Who will in no wise clear the guilty? In most churches today, men are declaring that a man can be saved by giving his heart to Jesus. Men are told to exercise their free will, but the scriptures do not support this kind of talk. The Word reveals that men are born "not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:6) The word of God says that salvation is "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." (Titus 3:5) Men are saved on purpose, but not by their purpose. It is by the purpose of God Almighty that men are called out of spiritual darkness into His marvelous light. Salvation is totally of the Lord. God the Father chose a people that He everlastingly loved unto salvation. These elect were chosen in Christ that they should be holy and without blame before Him in love. This election of grace was not according to any good found within the sinner, for there would be none (Psalm 14:2-3), but God chose a people unto salvation based totally upon the good pleasure of His will, and did this to the praise of the glory of His grace. All that the Father chose unto salvation, Christ redeemed. He redeemed this chosen people because they are His (Isaiah. 43:1). As the Surety of His sheep, the Lord Jesus Christ "made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:7). "He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:8) for His elect. The Lord Jesus, as a man, obeyed God's law as the representative for His elect. He was made to be sin (by divine imputation, for He knew no sin) for His people that His people might be made the righteous in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). All that the Father chose, the Lord Jesus Christ redeems, and the Holy Ghost shall surely call unto salvation (John 6:37). God's Spirit quickens unto life by irresistable sovereign power. The sheep are willing in the day of God's power -- willing to come, willing to bow, willing to seek, willing to love, and willing to believe (which is the mark of salvation) the report given from above.
Yes, there is a difference in what we preach. The difference is that we preach God to be God Almighty, Sovereign in all things. We preach that man is totally depraved and without strength to reconcile himself to God, a hopeless and helpless sinner against the God of all creation, and we preach that salvation is of the Lord from beginning to end.