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Category: Gospel Articulation

“The Grand Theme of the Christian Ministry”

“The Grand Theme of the Christian Ministry”

In a sermon entitled, “Preaching Christ,”[1] Particular Baptist Pastor, Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), carefully considered what it means for true ministers of the gospel to truly preach Christ.  His sermon is very relevant in that he argues for the central place that preaching Christ must take in the ministry of a true gospel minister.

From his main text—“We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor 4:6)—Fuller considered the preaching model of the apostles and asked these questions: What did they not preach?  What did they preach?  What did they consider themselves to be?[2]  Negatively, he argued that the apostles did not preach themselves because their goals were not “worldly advantage… ease and indolence… applause… [and] proselytes to ourselves.”[3]  Positively, he contended that as the apostles preached, by extension, ministers today ought to preach, “Christ Jesus the Lord….  [Ministers should] exhibit his Divinity and glorious character…, hold up his atonement and mediation as the only ground of a sinner’s hope…, hold up the blessings of his salvation for acceptance, even to the chief of sinners…, [and] preach him as “the Lord” or Lawgiver, of his church, no less than a Saviour.”[4]  And he concluded by claiming that as the apostles did, ministers today should consider themselves to be servants for Christ’s sake.

In Fuller’s introduction he warns that not all ministers are true Christians.  The ministry is not a mere religious occupation.  It is a service to Christ.  The gospel truths which ministers must teach are worthy of meditation by the ministers themselves and not just their flocks.  Ministers themselves must meditate on the Word in order to feed their own souls before they can feed their churches.  The Word will not benefit a minister and his preaching unless his preaching is mixed with his own faith and religious affection.

Fuller’s sermon is relatively short but full of many timeless instructions.  Here are three of the choicest excerpts from Fuller’s sermon:

What the apostles did preach:—We preach “Christ Jesus the Lord.” This is the grand theme of the Christian ministry. But many have so little of the Christian minister about them, that their sermons have scarcely any thing to do with Christ. They are mere moral harangues. And these, forsooth, would fain be thought exclusively the friends of morality and good works! But they know not what good works are, nor do they go the way to promote them. “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”.… Preach Christ, or you had better be any thing than a preacher. The necessity laid on Paul was not barely to preach, but to preach Christ. “Woe unto me if I preach not the gospel!”.… Some are employed in depreciating Christ. But do you honour him. Some who talk much about him, yet do not preach him, and by their habitual deportment prove themselves enemies to his cross.… If you preach Christ, you need not fear for want of matter. His person and work are rich in fulness. Every Divine attribute is seen in him. All the types prefigure him. The prophecies point to him. Every truth bears relation to him. The law itself must be so explained and enforced as to lead to him.[5]

Hold up his atonement and mediation as the only ground of a sinner’s hope.—It is the work of a Christian minister to beat off self-righteous hope, which is natural to depraved man, and to direct his hearers to the only hope set before them in the gospel. Be not concerned merely to form the manners of your congregation, but bring them to Christ. That will best form their manners. The apostles had no directions short of this: “Repent, and believe the gospel.” They never employed themselves in lopping off the branches of sin; but laid the axe to the root. Your business with the sins of mankind is, to make use of them to convince your hearers of the corruption of their nature, and their need of a radical cure.[6]

Preach him asthe Lord,” or Lawgiver, of his church, no less than as a Saviour.—Christ’s offices must not be divided. Taking his yoke, and learning his spirit, are connected with coming to him. Believers are “not without law unto God, but under the law to Christ.”  The preaching of Christ will answer every end of preaching. This is the doctrine which God owns to conversion, to the leading of awakened sinners to peace, and to the comfort of true Christians. If the doctrine of the cross be no comfort to us, it is a sign we have no right to comfort. This doctrine is calculated to quicken the indolent, to draw forth every Christian grace, and to recover the backslider. This is the universal remedy for all the moral diseases of all mankind.[7]

 

[1]Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 1: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 501-04.

[2]Fuller, The Complete Works, 502.

[3]Fuller, The Complete Works, 502.

[4]Fuller, The Complete Works, 503-504.

 [5]Fuller, The Complete Works, 503.

 [6]Fuller, The Complete Works, 503.

 [7]Fuller, The Complete Works, 503-04.

Urban Mission to the Glory of God

Urban Mission to the Glory of God

Why is it important to establish the biblical basis for urban mission and ministry?

What is in the heart of God for today’s cities of the world? How should we – as sons, stewards and servants of God in urban environments – view the cities and their inhabitants from the perspective of the Creator God Almighty?  What does the Scripture say about urban mission and ministry?  Why is it important, then, to establish the biblical basis for urban mission and ministry?

The Lord of all creation made the first dwelling place of beauty and wonder for the earth’s first inhabitants – the exquisite Garden of Eden.

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15)

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve exceedingly enjoyed God and related with Him and with each other perfectly and without sin.  Mandated to be fruitful, they would bear holy sons and daughters and would have multiplied people in the likeness of God in person and in character. Their pure, innocent and unpolluted sons and daughters would fill the earth, work it, take care of it and grow it into a grand and holy dwelling that God has meant it to be.  Without the Fall of Adam, these image bearers would have excellently worked the Garden well and taken great care of it in ways that would foster unprecedented growth, promote unimaginable greatness to all of mankind and to all of God’s creation and advance the magnificent glory and honor and ceaseless praise to the Majesty of God. As sinless people in God’s likeness, their God-image bearer qualities and capacities would produce awesome arts and inventions, create aesthetic concepts and creative crafts and construct things of usefulness and beauty. They would develop and turn the beautiful Garden of Eden into an awesome city – a city of God.  They would multiply their creative genius and build one beautiful city after another – filling the earth with temple cities whose inhabitants reflect the glory and majesty and wisdom of their Creator.

Craftsmanship, technology, arts and all potentials of human genius without the devastating effects of sin would be awesome creations of the image bearers of God – interacting, complementing, and producing everything good in the city. Cities become centers of human complementation [sic] of human creativity and productivity with the resources brought by the earth. These cities would have been cultural centers and temple cities as they all reflect the glory of God.  All the production and human welfare are to the glory of God (Greenway, Audio-Lecture 2: A Biblical Basis for Urban Mission and Ministry).

But this has not been so. Sin damaged everyone and everything (Romans 3:23 and 6:23). All of man’s cultural and creative outputs and all of his artistic expressions and human genius have all been corrupted and tainted. Nothing and not one is pure and righteous. This is why God became man and dwelt among us. Mankind and all of his human expressions and creations and all of God’s creation need to be redeemed. The Almighty God, in Christ, had to buy everyone and everything back. The cities where we live and move and have our beings are now temporal. They will soon be burned in judgment.

Yet, in Christ, there’s a city that is to come. But while we are here on this fallen earth, we hold on to this sure hope. We live and work in this decaying world as those commanded to love the Triune God with all our all and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We serve and interact and involve with everyone and everything in the rural and urban settings we are in as those commissioned to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:16) and to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20). The cities of today and all of their inhabitants need the Gospel of Christ. Only those who believe in Christ can enter and live in the holy city that is to come. The New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven is the holy city of God where all of the redeemed ones dwell. In this holy city where God will dwell with His people, there will be no sin and death and pain. Only beauty and purity and honor and glory abound there and the redeemed ones will live with the Triune God forever.

Why is it important, then, to hold this biblical perspective in mind as we engage in urban mission and ministry? Without this biblical basis, the energy and the power behind all our efforts to reach people of all kinds will be limited and inadequate. The end results we want to see in our outreach to the cities’ inhabitants would only be temporal and without eternal significance. With a solid biblical foundation in urban mission and ministry rooted in our hearts, we become more realistic in dealing with the human problems that people face. It is because we have the bigger picture that God wants us to hold firmly and clearly in our thoughts, we can and we have the spiritual resources to help solve the human problem of sin and its ill-effects in human beings, environments, infrastructures and systems. The Gospel of Christ proclaimed in words and deeds will have great power in its effects.  With our dual citizenship – of earthly and heavenly countries – clear in our hearts and our allegiance to the King of kings of all heaven and earth secure, we can victoriously engage in the spiritual battle that rages in the cities and in all of the earth’s inhabitants.  Indeed, a clear Scriptural basis for what God wants us to be and for what the Lord desires for us to do in all of the nations is not only important.  It is extremely essential to our existence and to our engagement – to survive and to thrive – like the oxygen that we breathe each moment to be alive. It is with a clear understanding of what God has in mind and in heart for the people of the world can we truly be fruitful and effective in laboring hard in this vast harvest field. In the authority of Christ and His Word and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will preach the Gospel by our lives and by our lips for the nations to come in repentance for the forgiveness of sins unto the glory and praise to our Father who is in heaven.

Biblical Study of Discipleship (p. 3)

Biblical Study of Discipleship (p. 3)

Jesus’ model of discipleship may be summarized as involving prayerful preaching and teaching of the kingdom of God to which people respond in faith. This is followed by a significant investment of time with those followers in order to give pointed instruction, correction, and modeling. The goal of this discipleship is a changing of one’s life to become increasingly kingdom-oriented and reflective of the life and priorities of Jesus. Disciples who grow and mature will themselves begin to make disciples as Jesus did. This appears to be the model set forth in the Gospels and Acts.

Although it is important to understand and emulate Jesus’ approach to discipleship, it is of greater importance to acknowledge the supernatural power required for effective disciple making. By definition, a disciple has been born again through the Holy Spirit (John 1:12-13; 3:3). Furthermore, enablement for ministry ultimately comes from God. Thus, the success of the Twelve to engage in the Great Commission was directly proportional to the spiritual power they received. Indeed, Jesus had assured them that they would receive power to become his witnesses (Acts 1:8). So, it was only after the Holy Spirit had fallen on them that the catalyst for the Christian movement had taken place (Acts 2). Apart from the activity of the Holy Spirit, disciple making cannot be accomplished. The early church is evidence that Jesus is continuing his work through his disciples by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The essential role of the Holy Spirit in disciple making is evident throughout the book of Acts. On one hand, the Holy Spirit is active as an agent who speaks, guides, and commands believers (Acts 5:32; 8:29; 13:2, etc.). On the other hand, the Spirit participates with and empowers believers by falling upon them, filling them, and being received by them (Acts 2:4, 2:38; 4:8, etc.). As a result of the Spirit’s activity, lives are transformed and God is glorified.

As a result of the above discussion, it may be said that the Holy Spirit picked up where Jesus left off. The process of disciple making modeled by Jesus was carried out by the disciples of the 1st century Church under the power of the Holy Spirit. This process included prayerful preaching, teaching, and calling upon people to respond to the Gospel. The early Church spent a significant amount of time meeting for teaching, prayer, fellowship, worship, and sharing meals. Their lives became radically kingdom-oriented, which was demonstrated in practical ways such as generosity, humility, and racial reconciliation.

 Conclusion

This study has shown that biblical discipleship as seen in the Gospels and Acts is a supernatural and dynamic process wherein God and man participate toward a goal of life transformation. True disciples are those who have responded by faith to the message of the Gospel and have become born again by the Spirit of God. The authenticity of spiritual life is indicated by the progressive development of a kingdom-oriented life commanded and modeled by Jesus. Such a life exchanges the values and ambitions of the world for the values and ambitions of Christ; namely, humility, generosity, sacrifice, thankfulness, and love.

The critical means of discipleship, as indicated by Jesus and his early followers, are prayerful preaching and teaching of the word of God accompanied with admonitions to follow Christ wholeheartedly. Disciplers are alert to those who eagerly respond to God’s word and thus initiate continued relationships for training, maturity, and encouragement. Those who respond require large amounts of time in order to foster these meaningful relationships. Christian doctrine is best taught “on the ground” where faith and real life intersect and where corrections and encouragements can be offered.

The above model is relatively simple but costly. It requires diligent preaching and teaching in addition to large investments of time. May the Lord encourage his people to return to these “old paths” and may He empower them through His Spirit to continue in this monumental task.