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DOES GOSPEL PREACHING
PRODUCE SHALLOW CHRISTIANS?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, May 18, 2003


"But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (I Corinthians 1:30-31).


There is a theory today among those who teach homiletics (that is, they teach preaching) and among pastors themselves (who learned it from their homiletics professors), that too much gospel preaching produces shallow Christians. This is such a prevalent idea in our time that hardly anyone opposes it or disagrees with it. It is a common belief today that preachers must spend most of their time in the pulpit teaching the Christians verse-by-verse from the Bible. Only very rarely should there be an evangelistic message. Only very rarely should the gospel be preached. That's what these modern professors of homiletics and the vast majority of today's pastors will tell you. "You must teach the Christians verse-by-verse," they say. "You must not preach the gospel every Sunday, or your people will be superficial, shallow Christians. They will always be baby Christians - because they will never get anything but the milk of the word if you just preach the gospel." So say these modern professors of preaching and their dutiful students - who pastor so many churches.

Too bad Paul didn't learn from them! Paul went right on preaching the gospel in every service!

"For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2).

But I think it's a good thing that Paul didn't learn from these modern professors, because Paul's ceaseless preaching of the gospel produced the greatest Christian generation of all time!

"For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified" (I Corinthians 1:22-23).

I must admit that there have been those who rejected my constant preaching of the gospel. One man told our church secretary, Miss Jeanne, "He's more of an evangelist than a pastor." But he got his idea of what a pastor is - and what an evangelist is - from modern men, not from the Bible itself. In the Bible itself pastors are told,

"Do the work of an evangelist" (II Timothy 4:5).

If more pastors obeyed the Bible, and actually did the work of an evangelist, they wouldn't have to teach the Bible so much, because the true converts would read and study it on their own! There would be a lot less need for teaching if more people in our churches were truly converted! They would find the teaching in Sunday School and on Wednesday night more than enough Bible study!

Many pastors are trying to "feed" goats and turn them into sheep, by "feeding" them more and more Bible in their verse-by-verse sermons. But no matter how much Bible you feed a goat, he will still be a goat! He can only become a sheep by a miracle - and that's what conversion is! That's why we need more gospel preaching!

You can't feed Bible verses to a dead man and slowly get him to live! No - he must be transformed from death to life by conversion. You can't "teach" a skeleton to be a living man! He must be resurrected! And that's exactly what real conversion accomplishes! That's why we need more gospel preaching!

Sadly, today we have preachers "feeding" the Bible to goats - verse-by-verse, hoping these stinking Baptist goats will gradually "grow" into sheep. Nonsense! They'll stick around being "fed" until their horns grow out - and then they'll butt the preacher out of his pulpit! Once a goat, always a goat. You have to

"Do the work of an evangelist" (II Timothy 4:5)

to get a goat to turn into a man! No amount of Bible teaching can turn a stinking evangelical goat into a true-hearted Christian! "Ye must be born again"! (John 3:7). That's why we need more gospel preaching!

The Apostle Paul knew full well the necessity of conversion - and that the Christian life must rest on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ. And the Christian life itself flows out of a constant reminder of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must continually - daily - be thinking about Christ - or we will wander in our thoughts and backslide in our devotion. So, we must preach the gospel to get the lost saved - and we must continue to preach the gospel to build up the Christians and keep their hearts focused on Christ! This brings us to our text:

"But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (I Corinthians 1:30-31).

We will examine these verses carefully.

I. First, you must be in Christ.

"But of him are ye in Christ Jesus" (I Corinthians 1:30).

If you are not "in" Christ, nothing else can help you. Church attendance will be just a matter of habit at best - and will seem like drudgery at worst. There will be no "divine excitement," no anxiousness to worship God - and no real enjoyment of God, Himself. The hymns will be sung listlessly and mechanically. The heart will wander from one thought to the other during prayers. The mind will be dull, the eyes will close, and the words of the sermon will have no effect. The Bible readings will be dry, mechanical, and boring. All of this will be true until a person is "in Christ Jesus."

Vast multitudes of people know about Christ. They are members in good standing of our churches. But they have dead hearts and sluggish minds in the church services because they know about Christ, but are not "in Christ Jesus."

To be "in Christ" is to be united to Christ - a living union with Christ. "In Christ Jesus" - "en Christoi Iesou" in Greek. Paul often speaks of being "in Christ." For instance, Paul says,

"If any man be in Christ,he is a new creature"
      (II Corinthians 5:17).

This union takes us from earth to Heaven and places us in contact with Christ, at the right hand of God. It is a real contact with Christ, a divine-human encounter, which places a person "in Christ Jesus."

Being "in Christ Jesus" is like being in Noah's Ark. In fact, the ark is a type of Christ (a picture in advance). The ark is the type. Christ is the antitype, the fulfillment of the type. People were either "in" the ark or they were "out" of it. If they were out of it, they drowned in the Flood. If they were in the ark they were saved. If you are not "in Christ Jesus" you are lost. Only those "in Christ Jesus" are saved.

How do you get into Christ? That is answered in the first words of the text, "But of him [God, v. 28] are ye in Christ Jesus." "Of him" - "ex auto." "Ex" denotes the originating cause - and the originating cause is God.

"Of him are ye in Christ" (I Corinthians 1:30).

That is why Jesus said,

"No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44).

It is God who draws a person into Christ. You are "in Christ Jesus" when you come to Christ.

The lost person's responsibility is not to figure out how to get into Christ. That is God's responsibility, not yours. The lost person's responsibility is to do all that he can to be convinced of sin. When you are convinced of sin, God will quite easily bring you to Christ.

II. Second, you will find all you need in Christ when you are in Him.

When a person comes to Christ, when he is "in Christ Jesus," then Christ

"…is made unto us [becomes for us] wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (I Corinthians 1:30-31).

Christ will be your wisdom, when you come to Him, when you are "in" Him. He is the embodiment of all wisdom and understanding in spiritual things. All that you need to know about God, and life, are found in Christ. When you are "in" Christ, you will not be tricked by false teachings of any kind. You will be able to say with the Psalmist,

"I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation" (Psalm 119:99).

Christ will be your righteousness, when you come to Him, and are "in" Him. Christ justifies you before God. By His Blood you are made clean. His righteousness is imputed to you. Your record is made clean. You are in Christ, so God does not see your sin. God sees only Christ - and you are in Him.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee.
      ("Rock of Ages" by Augustus Toplady, 1740-1778).

Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne.
      ("The Solid Rock" by Edward Mote, 1797-1874).

Christ will be your sanctification, when you come to Him, and are "in" Him. His holiness is imputed to you. You are counted holy because you are in Christ. You have holiness through union with the Son of God, when you are "in Christ Jesus."

Christ will also be your redemption, when you come to Him. Christ redeems you from sin, from Satan, from the accusations of the law, and from this present evil world, when you are "in Christ Jesus."

What more do you need than what is found in Christ? Those who know Jesus Christ can sing heartily with Charles Wesley,

Thou, O Christ, art all I want, More than all in Thee I find.
      ("Jesus, Lover of My Soul" by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

Thou, O Christ, art all I want! More than all in Thee I find! All my trust on Thee is stayed! All my help from Thee I bring! Spring Thou up within my heart! Rise to all eternity!

Five bleeding wounds He bears, Received on Calvary,
They pour effectual prayers, They strongly plead for me;
"Forgive him, O forgive," they cry, "Nor let that ransomed sinner die!
Nor let that ransomed sinner die!"
      ("Arise, My Soul, Arise!" by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds In a believer's ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, And drives away his fear.

Jesus, my shepherd, Brother, Friend, My prophet, priest and King,
My Lord, my life, my way, my end, Accept the praise I bring.
     ("How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds" by John Newton, 1725-1807).

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds! It soothes our sorrows, heals our wounds, and drives away our fears! And drives away our fears! Christ is all I need! Christ is all I want! Christ is everything!

This is what I need to hear on Sunday morning! This is what I need to hear on Sunday night! This is the gospel - the good news - of Jesus Christ!

"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8-9).

Again and again, all of us need to hear the gospel of Christ! It is our life! It is our hope! It is our salvation! It is the breath of our nostrils, and the life-blood of our veins! It is the glorious gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! This brings us to our final point.

III. Third, you will glorify Christ alone when you are in Him.

Let none of us glory in mere religion. Let none of us glory in his own goodness and merit. Let us glorify God alone.

"But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (I Corinthians 1:30-31).

No wonder the Apostle said,

"For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2).

That is what sinners need to hear. That is what saints need to hear. That is what all of us need to hear - repeatedly, strongly, clearly, ceaselessly - again, and again, and again!

That is why we are given four gospels - the gospel according to Matthew, the gospel according to Mark, the gospel according to Luke, and the gospel according to John. Those of us who are reading through the Bible again this year know it well. We have been reading about a chapter a day in the New Testament for over four months this year. We have read the gospel, as given by Matthew. We have read the gospel, as given by Mark. We have read the gospel, as given by Luke. And now we are reading John's account of the gospel, the life of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Why does God give us four separate gospel accounts of the life of Christ? There can really be only one answer: God wants us to read the gospel story four times! God wants us to read about the gospel over, and over, and over, and over. God wants us to get the gospel into our brains, and then into our hearts. As Richard Baxter put it, God wants "to screw truth into [our] minds and work Christ into [our] affections." That is why God gave us four gospels.

Then, in the Book of Acts, we have the recorded sermons of the Apostles. What did they preach? Why, they preached the gospel of Christ! Every sermon but one, recorded in the Book of Acts, is a sermon about the gospel. They preached almost nothing but gospel sermons! Some men now say that gospel preaching produces shallow Christians. But they are wrong. Gospel preaching produced the greatest generation of Christians in all of history - in the Book of Acts!

Then, what is the theme of the epistles? Again, the great theme of the epistles is the gospel of Christ. The Book of Romans is an exposition of the gospel of Christ. And the gospel is the leading theme in nearly all of the other epistles.

And finally, in the Book of Revelation - again and again the gospel of Christ is recorded.

"Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood" (Revelation 1:5).

"And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Revelation 5:9).

"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb"
     (Revelation 12:11).

From one end of the New Testament to the other, the gospel of Christ is God's theme. Let those of us who preach, then, keep the gospel where God puts it on the pages of Scripture - in first place! Let us preach what God Himself preaches on the pages of the Bible! Let us preach the gospel of Christ!

"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God"
     (I Corinthians 1:18).

"For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified" (I Corinthians 1:22-23).

"For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2).

"But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (I Corinthians 1:30-31).

I love to tell the story Of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, Of Jesus and His love,
I love to tell the story, Because I know 'tis true;
It satisfies my longings As nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story, 'Tis pleasant to repeat
What seems, each time I tell it, More wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story, For some have never heard
The message of salvation From God's own Holy Word.

I love to tell the story, For those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting To hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
'Twill be the old, old story That I have loved so long.

I love to tell the story, 'Twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.
      ("I Love to Tell the Story" by Catherine Hankey, 1834-1911).

Christ died on the Cross to pay for your sins. Will you believe it? Christ is alive at the right hand of God up in Heaven. Will you come to Him, and be washed clean from your sins by His Blood? Will you trust Jesus Christ tonight?

I would like to talk with you about that in my office. Will you leave your seat and come and stand here in front of this pulpit while we sing? Just leave your seat and come, while we sing.


(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: I Corinthians 1:18-2:2.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds" (by John Newton, 1725-1807).

THE OUTLINE OF

DOES GOSPEL PREACHING
PRODUCE SHALLOW CHRISTIANS?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (I Corinthians 1:30-31).

(I Corinthians 2:2; 1:22-23; II Timothy 4:5; John 3:7)

I.   You must be in Christ, II Corinthians 5:17; John 6:44.

II.  You will find all you need in Christ when you are in Him,
Psalm 119:99; Galatians 1:8-9.

III. You will glorify Christ alone when you are in Him,
Revelation 1:5; 5:9; 12:11; I Corinthians 1:18, 22-23;
I Corinthians 2:2; 1:30-31.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."