Application and Preaching aren't the same thing


Once, many moons ago and in a land (relatively) far away, I preached a sermon on the second half of 2 Corinthians 5. I spoke about Christ taking our sin and clothing us with His righteousness. I spoke about how Christ reconciled us to Himself through His sacrifice on the Cross. I spoke about being a new creation. And I spoke about us being Christ’s ambassadors in taking His Good News to others. You know, the stuff that’s in the text! Well, the next day I got a long email from the worship leader of the church where I had been preaching. Although it was long, the point boiled down to this:

‘Why’d you waste so much time telling us about the cross and salvation? We’re Christians, so we already know that and don’t need to hear it again! You should have used the time to expand on the evangelism bit – that’s the point of what the text was telling us to do.’ 
Is it? There’s one verse in that text saying ‘therefore we are ambassadors’ (2 Cor. 5:20), not a whole chapter commanding us to be ambassadors and telling us how to do it. The rest of the passage deals, not with our ministry, but with Christ’s ministry of reconciliation. But that was old hat. We’re all Christians. We’ve all heard about that before. We don’t need to hear about the cross again, so give us some application instead!

And although I might not get such emails very often, I do encounter the same underlying attitude time and time again. Sometimes people say ‘I’m preaching now’, just as they get to moral exhortations. People have told me ‘we prefer sermons that tell us what to do’, but if I’m doing my job properly what I should be telling people about is what Christ has done!

You see, that’s what true preaching is. The point of preaching isn’t to tell people what to do. The point of preaching isn’t to tell people how to evangelise. The point of preaching is to give people Jesus!

Yes, give people Jesus, even if they’re already Christians. Even if they’ve heard the gospel once before. For the gospel, you see, is for the whole of the Christian life. It’s not just something for us to hear once, pray a prayer, and then move on to things bigger and better, like being told what to do. The gospel isn’t there for entrance into a life lived by following commands.

Jesus is the subject of preaching (Col. 1:27-28; 1 Cor. 1:23; 1 Cor. 2:1-2). In fact, true preaching is preaching Christ. Anything else may pass the time, provide intellectual stimulation, provide a bit of good advice in life, etc., but only preaching Christ and Him crucified is good news. The preaching which is ‘the power of God’ for those ‘who are being saved’ is ‘the word of the cross’ (1 Cor. 1:18). Preaching isn’t about biblical advice; it’s a biblical proclamation of the Good News of Christ crucified.

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The Tenets of the Apostolic Church

The Unity of the Godhead, and Trinity of the Persons therein.

The utter depravity of human nature, the necessity for repentance and regeneration and the eternal doom of the finally impenitent.

The virgin birth, sinless life, atoning death, triumphant resurrection, ascension, and abiding intercession of our Lord Jesus Christ; His second coming, and millennial reign upon earth.

Justification and Sanctification of the believer through the finished work of Christ.

The Baptism of the Holy Ghost for believers, with signs following.

The nine gifts of the Holy Ghost for the edification, exhortation and comfort of the Church, which is the body of Christ.

The Sacraments of Baptism by immersion and of the Lord's Supper.

The Divine inspiration and authority of the Holy Scriptures.

Church government by apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, elders and deacons.

The possibility of falling from grace.

The obligatory nature of tithes and offerings.