Every time I preach I make sure to include one thing, an express presentation of the gospel. When I say I include an express presentation of the gospel what I mean is that I succinctly describe the incarnation, perfect life, sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ, and the implications of His birth, life, death and resurrection for both believers and unbelievers (often quoting Rom 10:9). I often use the exact same (or at least very similar) words. No one has ever complained to me, and even if they did, I wouldn’t change what I do. That every sermon contains a succinct presentation of the gospel is a nonnegotiable for me. Let me give you some of my reasons.
Believers Need to Hear the Gospel
I believe whole heartedly and unreservedly believe that (in human terms) the church is for believers, and my primary reason for presenting the gospel succinctly every week is that believers need to hear the gospel constantly.
There is something deep within us, possibly a trace of our old nature that remains in our flesh, that finds the facts of the gospel and what they mean for believers hard to believe, at least as it practically applies to us.
What I mean is that believers are too often weighed down by guilt. Now I am in no way saying that there is no place for godly sorrow over sin (and yes believers sin and we sin prolifically and we sin in such a way that we should be moved to sorrow). But I am saying that we should never be so weighed down by guilt that we forget we are fully forgiven in Christ and that even if we have just sinned, even in a gross way, we have the freedom in Christ to be obedient the very next millisecond. Psalm 103 admonishes us to bless the Lord and forget not all his benefits, and the very first benefit mentioned is the He forgives all of His people’s inequity (Psalm 103:3).
This is a truth that believers know, but often fail to live out. We often accept the facts of the gospel (that Christ came, and lived and died, and rose again), and the eschatological implications of the gospel (that we will dwell with God forever because of the reconciliation we have in Christ) but fail to lay hold of the temporal implications of the gospel (that we are forgiven right here, right, now).
But we are forgiven. Right now. Without a doubt, the passage I most frequently share in “informal” counseling is Colossians 2:13-14. I quote it often because it is a truth that hurting believers broken over and paralyzed by their past (and present) sin need to hear.
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross. – Col 2:13-14
God’s people need to hear about the cross of Christ frequently. So every time I preach I remind believers of the incarnation, the life, the death and the resurrection of Jesus and that in Him they are fully forgiven.
Unbelievers need to hear the gospel.
Although I absolutely believe and affirm that the church service (again in human terms) should be geared toward and ordered for the benefit of believers. I am aware that not everyone who goes to church, even theologically conservative, expository preaching churches, are saved.
Jesus said as much in Matthew 13:24-30. The Kingdom (and therefore the Church) has both wheat and tares. The Church has both believers and make-believers. And people dead in their trespasses need to hear the good news of Christ, even religious ones.
And sometimes professing unbelievers come, not to hear the preaching or to learn the things of God, but to please or as a gesture to believing family members. Sometimes God draws unbelievers who have no connection to the church through the doors. These people need to hear the gospel of Christ, and If I only get one chance to tell them, I want to be sure they hear it.
Of Course there is one group of unbelievers that hold a special place in my heart, the children of the church. We are all born sinners, and the cute, little, precious, sinners who are a blessing from the Lord (See Psalm 127:3) are, as Calvin put it, depraved as rats. They need to hear the gospel. Often!
When God’s Word is preached and the Holy Spirit brings conviction there is one reaction in the elect, their hearts’ burn with the same question the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, “what must I do to be saved (Acts 16:30 cf Acts 2:37)?” I don’t want anyone to leave Piedmont Bible Church (or anywhere I preach) not having heard the answer.
I need to preach the gospel
I am bound to preach the Gospel. The pattern for biblical pastoral ministry is set out in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. Paul in writing his final instructions to his ministry protégé gets to very nitty gritty in 2 Timothy 4:1-5. He concludes the paragraph that he began “I charge you in the presence of God and of Jesus Christ” with “always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” For a number of reasons, most notably Ephesians 4:11-16, I am convinced that what Paul is talking about is not personal evangelism or street preaching, but doing the work of an evangelist in the pulpit as a regular part of the pastoral task of equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry.
Others may take a different approach, but for me, the best way I can think of doing the work of on evangelist in the pulpit is by making sure that every sermon includes an explicit presentation of the gospel.
Preaching the gospel glorifies God
I saved the big one for last. God’s glory is magnified in the gospel. We have this tendency to think salvation is about us, because it is so momentous for us, but ultimately it is about God and His glory. Consider Ephesians 4:4-9:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
God’s glory is magnified in the gospel. That is why I will never tire of preaching “Christ came, fully God, was born a helpless babe, He lived a perfect life, completely fulfilling the Law, He died a sacrificial death making full atonement for the sins of His people, and rose again in defeat of sin and death. If you confess Him as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved (Rom 10:9).