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“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This comprehensive statement declares the eternity, the trinity, and the deity of the Word. The Greek term for Word is logos, which has various meanings such as speech, discourse, reason, doctrine etc. Ian Macpherson, in his book entitled The Burden of the Lord, tells us that the noun used in the Latin version of the New Testament to translate the Greek logos in the opening verses of John’s Gospel is “sermo”—a term from which the English word “sermon” is derived. He further stated that in order to get a sense of its impact one could put the term “sermon” in place of “Word” wherever it occurs. Notice: “In the beginning was the Sermon, and the Sermon was with God, and the Sermon was God.” He also gives the definition of preaching as the conveyance of a Person through a person to a company of persons, the Person so conveyed being the Lord Jesus Christ.
G. Campbell Morgan reminds us in his book Preaching, that there is really no distinction between the term ‘Word” when spelled with a capital “W” and when spelled with a small “w’. There is no contradiction between the Living Word and the written word. Preaching the word is in essence preaching Christ and this is God’s prescribed means of reaching the lost as the Apostle Paul tells us that “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe”. Following Pentecost we are told that the Apostles, “daily in the temple, and in every house, ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” Phillip went down to the city of Samaria and “preached Christ to them.” This is the message that we are called to faithfully proclaim.
When we preach Christ, our sermon will have great implication on morality, ethics, social behavior, holy and righteous living, simply because He is the heart of our message. While He was in the world we witnessed holiness lifted out of the abstract and saw it as a living reality. “He dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” He was God manifest in the flesh, dying for our sins, rising again for our redemption. Having purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high, he sent the promised gift of the Holy Spirit and is now the Mediator of a new covenant. Preaching Christ is like throwing a stone into a lake and watching the water send circular ripples wider and further than the eye can see. Let us, as preachers of the Gospel, be so faithful in its proclamation that men and women to whom we preach will see Christ. May none go away without seeing Christ because once you see Him you cannot, to coin a word, ‘un-see’ Him.
The Word was the Creator, therefore let us examine the person and power of the Word, Christ Jesus. John acknowledged and proclaimed Him as the Creator. “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.” The Hebrew writer said, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.” This is the Word of God speaking in creation. We are told that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” In other words, what comes out of the mouth is a revelation of the heart and apparently God’s heart must have been fairly bursting with anticipation for what He was about to do and He spoke, “let there be” and immediately the world came into existence because His words are His deeds. “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the water of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses……For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” Psalms 33: 6, 7, and 9.
John speaks of the incarnation of the Word when he said, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” Following the Fall in the Garden of Eden God promised one would come who would bruise the serpent’s (Satan) head. Four thousand years later, “when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Here we are introduced to the Savior of the world. Thus the Word was made flesh, Jesus the sinless assumed the likeness of the sinful in order to restore man to the image of the Creator lost in the fall. “To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on is name.”
Paul Rees said: “Here the communication was not a vocal word sounding across the spaces but the visible Word spelled out in living, human form. Here the eternal accommodates itself to the temporal. This was not the language of creation but re-creation, it’s the language of redemption.” The incarnation reveals that man is not a forsaken creature left to his own destructive devices but rather the object of God’s love. Jesus wrapped Himself up in human form in order to bring God savingly near to man. This is the stoop of the infinite in order to provide the finite with a Savior. In Bethlehem the Most High became the most nigh for John writes, “we have heard Him, we have seen Him with our eyes, we have looked upon Him, and our hands have handled the Word of life.”
John, in his epistle, speaks of the Propitiation of the Word. He has come to extend mercy to all who would receive Him through the blood of the cross. The incarnation anticipated the crucifixion. Jesus did not die the death of a disappointed reformer nor was He a martyr to a lost cause. The cross was not an accident He came on purpose for it. When He came near the time of His crucifixion He said, “now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour….if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This He said, signifying what death He should die.” God was doing something for man that he could never do for himself. God in Christ, at Calvary, has judged his sin, condemned it, made atonement for it and now offers eternally life to any and all who will receive Him through true repentance. He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
The resurrection of the Word was the central theme of the preaching of the Apostles. In the Acts the Apostles they did not preach the crucifixion and death of Christ but rather the resurrection of Christ. Of the thirteen messages recorded by the Apostles they all center on the living Christ. They were not preaching an antiquated doctrine about Christ but they were proclaiming what they had seen with their own eyes. They had witnessed eleven post resurrection appearances of our Lord and they repeatedly proclaimed “this same Jesus God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses.” They knew that if Jesus had not risen from the dead the crucifixion would have been the world’s greatest tragedy. Paul said: “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” The resurrection is indispensable in the plan of redemption. Had Christ not risen His death would have no redemptive efficacy. The resurrection changed their outlook on death. Before the resurrection of Christ death was frightening and alarming but now death had lost its sting and the grave its victory. John records Christ’s words in Revelation when He admonished him to, “fear not; I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and death.” Because He tasted death for every man and triumphed over it we now have the hope of eternal life.
The Word is now enthroned in regal splendor seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high. Now having been glorified He has sent the Holy Spirit into the world so that His children will not be orphaned but will rather be filled, taught, and led by the Person of the Holy Spirit. While in this world He is the executive of the Godhead and Administrator of the provisions of Calvary. He comes to “convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment….. and to guide His children into all truth.” One day Christ will return and for those who “believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we be ever with the Lord.”
In preaching Christ as the living Word it is our first undertaking to appeal to one’s heart. The written word will instruct the mind and invite one to engage the will. It has been said of Paul’s preaching that he would descend from the “heavenlies” to deliver practical messages in the realm of the “earthlies.” He never tried to enforce the ethical side of the gospel prior to the enlistment of the heart and mind on the meek and gentle Christ. He wrote to those in Rome and told them that when he came to them he would come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. To the Corinthians he said, “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” It is said of John Wesley that he was “a man of one Book,” meaning the Bible. It could be said of the Apostle Paul that he was a man of one person, meaning the Lord Jesus Christ. He declared, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” I fear it would be injurious to present the ethics of Christianity before presenting Christ. It would be equally damaging to proclaim Christ in such an abstract way that it would disparage Christian ethics. A real and true encounter with the living Christ is the supreme motivation to holy and righteous living. We must not only get into the word but the Word must also get into us.
John Wesley once declared, “But of all preaching, what is usually called Gospel preaching is the most useless if not the most mischievous, a dull, yea, a lively harangue on the sufferings of Christ or salvation by faith without sharply inculcating holiness. I see more and more that this naturally tends to drive holiness out of the world.” We must preach all that Christ is but also all that He says; we are called to preach the Word, both living and written. Let us remember that Bible preaching is not and end in itself. Christ is the Source, Substance, Subject, and Sum of all Scripture and if we are not preaching Christ we are not preaching the word.
The end of preaching is not merely to inform the mind nor arouse the imaginations nor have an emotional experience, though all of that will occur in the course and exercise of our ministry. The primary purpose will be to get men and women, boys and girls, to willfully open their heart to the living Christ. So that He who knows us intricately will be invited into our hearts and lives to know us intimately. It is then that our ministry will not only be a blessing but Biblical.