Yesterday I had the privilege to preach on the role and responsibility of the husband in the marriage relationship from Ephesians 5:25. As we continue to walk through Ephesians together as a church, we looked at the wife in our last sermon in our series and yesterday’s focus was the husband. This particular verse, although very popular in the heated debate of marriage, is one of terrifying responsibility. It could be titled—”The Great Command.”
The Great Command
Ephesians 5:25 – Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
In verse 25, we see Paul issue a firm and terrifying command to the husbands in the church at Ephesus. The word “love” is a present imperative, meaning that this is not an idea that’s up for debate, discussion, or vote. It’s commanded that all husbands love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. A few things must be noted grammatically.
- In this one verse, we see marriage language. It points to husbands and wives.
- We also see gender specific nouns being used, pointing to the complimentary roles of men and women—husbands and wives.
- It must also be noted that Jesus loved the church in Ephesus far differently than He loved the city of Ephesus. In that same way husbands are called to love their wives.
From the very beginning, the devil has attacked marriage and the institution of family. That has been one of the most common attacks in the arsenal of the devil. From the beginning, the devil cast a shadow of doubt on the Word of God, and he thereby divided the first marriage and brought great ruin into the world with misery and death. From that one sin, the devil successfully attacked the family. Things have not changed today.
Today, we see divorce culture in the church at basically the same rate as it is outside of the church. Covenants no longer mean anything to a secular culture. That’s why the word of man has been diminished to the point that we are forced to sign a pile of papers to borrow any money from a bank. What a person promises to do no longer is upheld to a level of believability.
The marriage language of Ephesians 5:25 rules out recreational dating, polygamy, and homosexuality. God’s plan from the beginning of time has been marriage and family. No matter what our secular culture tries to say or how the words “marriage” and “family” are redefined, God’s dictionary has not changed. This new wave of family life and marriage law in America brought on by the flamboyant sexual revolution in the wake of the feminist movement from the 1960s has radically affected the institution of family in America in a short number of years.
Add to this the perpetual adolescence trends with delayed parenthood and the society as a whole is starting to feel the pains of change. Only time will tell the whole story, but such radical shifts in the way family operates and functions in a culture will bring about many other changes—and many of those changes will not be positive.
The husband is called to “love” his wife. This was a backward command to the culture of Ephesus—a city wholly given over to pagan prostitution and false god worship. To be committed in a very intentional love – one of self-sacrifice and covenant keeping love – was antithetical to the culture of Ephesus. That’s why Paul wanted the church to be reminded of their responsibility to uphold Christian doctrine through their marriages.
The love mentioned here by Paul is “ἀγαπάω” — to have a warm regard for and interest in another, cherish, have affection for, love and it also means… to practice/express love, prove one’s love.  In other words, this type of love was far different than the sexual love of the Greek culture or the brotherly love of the Greeks. It was a love based on an intentionality to love rather than feelings or sexual appetite. To think that this is commanded of all husbands – to love our wives as Christ loved the church – is a sobering thing.
I really appreciate Ray Ortlund Jr and his definition of husband in his commentary on Proverbs. He writes:
What does the word “husband” mean? We have the related English word “husbandry,” that is, cultivation. And when the word “husband” is used as a verb, it means to cultivate. If you are a husband, here is your job: to cultivate and nurture your wife. Your lifetime impact on your wife should be that her life opens up more and more, and that she is enabled to become all that God wants her to be…Her children rise up, they stand up, and they speak respectfully to their mom. They tell her why they esteem her, whey they admire her as a woman of God. Where did the kids learn that? From dad: “…he praises her” (Proverbs 31:28)…A husband cultivates his wife by setting a high tone of praise in their home. No putdowns. No fault-finding. No insults. Not even neutral silence. But rather bright, positive, life=giving praise. 
The Great Example
Ephesians 5:25b – …as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
When we consider what’s stated next, it’s quite sobering. It’s like standing on the side of the Grand Canyon and being asked to jump across it. It’s like standing on the beach and being asked to swim across it. It’s like standing at the base of Mt. Everest and being asked to climb to the summit. It’s extremely intimidating. However, it’s not only intimidating, it’s reassuring at the same time.
From the beginning, we know that we are incapable of fulfilling the “marriage law” of love. However, we also know that our dependence is on God’s ability to give us strength, wisdom, and a cultivating love for our wives in such a way that honors Him. We ask for Him to strengthen us in this great task and then look to Christ as our great example. Just as we come to the sobering and humbling knowledge that we are incapable of living the Christian life on our own, we likewise come to the reality that we are incapable of loving our brides in the same way as Christ loved the church—His bride.
It is our duty to exemplify the gospel through marriage and family. Headship for men is important, but it cannot be detached from a self-sacrificing, covenant keeping love. We have different roles as husbands and wives, but each role compliments the other in such a way that honors God’s intention from the beginning. We must cultivate our wives in a physical and spiritual leadership that honors God. Anything less demonstrates a low view of Jesus, a love view of salvation, and a low view of Jesus’ relationship with the church.
- William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 6.
- Raymond C. Ortlund Jr., Proverbs—Wisdom that Works, ed. Kent Hughes, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 150-51.
Some people call it “drawing the net” or an “invitation,” while others simply refer to it as an “altar call.” It’s typically a time of decision at the end of a sermon where people are invited to the front to counsel and pray to receive Christ. What methods do we see employed in the Scriptures?
Years ago I was approached by our local association of Baptist churches to support a local evangelism event in our community. Since I value the work of evangelism and the collective work of local Baptist churches, I supported the event. Each evening the sermon came to an end by the guest evangelist offering an invitation to respond. It was a fresh reminder that methods matter.
As I watched the whole scene unfold, I became very uncomfortable. When the “invitation” was given, the counselors all got up and walked to the front from where they were seated in the audience. All of this was a preplanned and well organized routine that happened each evening at the conclusion of the sermon. It was a means of priming the pump—resulting in others following in their footsteps to be counseled. As you can imagine, it worked. Many people over those few days walked to the front for counseling. I’m not saying that there wasn’t a single true convert in that meeting, but I have yet to meet one in the years that have passed since that meeting. Tactics like this have been employed for many years in the evangelical church. What does the Bible teach about altar calls and the public invitation system?
God calls people to Himself. He invites sinners to come to Him. As early as Genesis 6:18, we see God directing Noah to come into the ark with his family where they would be spared from God’s wrath. Later, through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah, we see these words, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Is. 55:1). It’s clear that God calls people to come to Him for salvation.
In Jesus’ ministry, we see similar language. Jesus once said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). God loves sinners and He calls sinners to come. God calls sinners to Himself where they will receive mercy (Rom. 10:13). In Mark 1:17, we see Jesus calling His first disciple to “follow him.” In Matthew 10:32-33, Jesus said these words, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
The Bible comes to an end with a glorious invitation from God. We find these words in Revelation 22:17:
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
Through the Holy Spirit and the work of God’s church, sinners hear the words, “come.” This is the work of evangelism. As we go teaching and preaching as God’s ambassadors, we are to implore people to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20). We direct people to find their hope in God through Jesus Christ. Through the power of the gospel, God calls sinners to Himself (Rom. 1:16).
Charles Finney and the Manipulation of the Invitation
In many cases, the images of Billy Graham’s crusades are still fresh on the minds Christians in the evangelical church in America. Graham used the tactics that were greatly popularized by Charles Finney in the 1800s. Finney, an unlikely convert, rose to great popularity during the days of the Second Great Awakening. Finney directed people to come to the “anxious seat” at the front of the church where they could literally agonize over their soul. It would be there that they would receive counsel and be instructed to pray the “prayer of faith” for the salvation of their soul.
Still today, at the conclusion of many evangelical church services, you will hear these familiar words, “Please bow your heads and close your eyes.” It’s at this moment that music is often played softly as the pastor gently speaks to unbelievers. Soon, he will say something like, “If you believe you need to be saved today, please raise your hand so that I can see it. Nobody is looking around, and I don’t want to embarrass you.” As you sit there with your eyes closed, you often hear his voice echoing in the quiet room, “I see that hand. I see that hand.” Soon, he will direct them to come forward to receive counsel.
In many of these cases, the person who responds is counseled with and then immediately presented as a new brother or sister in Christ. Without any fruit demonstrating genuine conversion, the entire church is expected to embrace the individual as a fellow Christian. However, if we’re all honest, the glorious invitations by God in the Scriptures—including the direct invitations to specific men by Jesus—look and sound different than what we see practiced in our modern churches today.
Charles Finney severely manipulated the biblical invitation methods that we see used by the apostles. At one point, Finney told parents that he could assure the salvation of their children in 15 minutes if they would come to the “anxious seat” and pray the “prayer of faith.” Today’s form of Finneyism is full of all manner of tricks, gimmicks, and games to elicit a response. As the golden rule of pragmatism always says—whatever works, do it. So it is with so much of the modern invitation system. Charles Spurgeon once lamented, “It very often happens that the converts that are born in excitement die when the excitement is over…. Some of the most glaring sinners known to me were once members of a church; and were, as I believe, led to make a profession by undue pressure, well-meant but ill-judged.” 
Toward a Biblical Invitation System
As we look at the preaching and teaching of Jesus and the apostles, we hear the echoes of the ancient prophets. All of those men were faithful and bold preachers of God’s Word. Rather than giving an “invitation” at the end of their preaching, their entire sermon was invitational. That’s what we should strive for in our church ministry. Rather than using gimmicks and trickery to entice people to come to the front of a room, we should point people to faith alone in Christ alone for the remission of their sins.
Charles Finney, reflecting on his ministry, doubted the authenticity of the overwhelming majority of the decisions he witnessed. R. L. Dabney, in his day, commenting on the invitation system said that most people had come “to coolly accept the fact forty-five out of fifty, or even a higher ratio, will eventually apostatize.”  Not only do we see many people who seem to fall away after making such a decision through the modern invitation system, but we likewise see many false converts coming to faith and needing to be rebaptized.
The same Jesus who called sinners to Himself also made a very important statement in John 6:44 (later repeated in John 6:65). He said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” In all of the debate about the methods of the altar call and public invitation, we must remember that the preacher is not in charge of the souls of people. Only those whom God calls can respond to embrace Jesus. Sadly, too many pastors and evangelists truly believe that if they can get people to the front of the room, they can get people saved by having them “ask Jesus into their heart” through a quick prayer.
How many people are in hell today who once walked to the front of a church and repeated a prayer? How many went to hell with a false assurance that they were saved when in all reality their assurance was based on their decision to walk to the front and pray? We must not lose sight of the fact that there are two very different calls that take place. One call is offered by a preacher (general call) while the other call is offered by God (divine or effectual call). The preacher calls everyone to repentance in a general manner, but only those to whom God calls by His effectual and special call will respond in true saving faith.
Charles Spurgeon would often point people to respond to God’s call by saying, “Today is the day of salvation, tomorrow is the devil’s day.” Spurgeon was urgent in his invitational preaching, but he didn’t employ the tactics of men like Charles Finney. For Spurgeon, he preached the gospel boldly and left the work of conversion up to God. In one sermon titled, “Now,” preached on December 4th, 1864, Spurgeon repeated the word, “now” 173 times in the sermon as he urged people to cling to Christ. In his sermon on that day, he said:
As a sinner, I also address thee concerning this “now.” “Now is the day of salvation: thou needest it now. God is angry with thee now. Thou art condemned already. It is not the torment of hell thou hast to dread only, but if thou hast thy senses, thou wouldst tremble at thy present state. Now without God, now without hope, now an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, now dead in trespasses and sins, now in danger of the wrath to come, thou wantest a Savior this morning, young man. 
Offering a time for biblical counseling at the end of a sermon is not a bad thing. Allowing people to meet with the pastor for counsel—especially those who have a troubled soul—is never a bad idea. However, if your idea of an invitation and biblical counsel time is three verses of “Just As I Am”—just long enough for the individual to repeat a robotic prayer before being presented before the church—you need to seriously rethink your methods. If your idea of an invitation is a pastor challenging people at the end of his sermon to stand up and come to the front in order to prove they aren’t ashamed of Jesus, you need to rethink your methods.
We must stop treating the public invitation at the end of the service like a salvation pill. Please stop giving bad invitations. If you need mood music and a team of counselors to march forward at the end of a sermon to prime the pump and get people moving to entice people to respond, then you don’t need the Holy Spirit to do His work. Bad invitations hurt the local church and provide false assurance to lost sinners. Remember, the most biblical way to offer a public profession of faith is through baptism, not by walking down the aisle at the end of a sermon.
- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Soul Winner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963), 19-20.
- Jim Ehrhard, “The Dangers of the Invitation System” (Parkville, MO: Christian Communicators Worldwide, 1999), 15.
- “Now” – A Sermon (No. 603), Delivered on Sunday Morning, December 4th, 1864 by C. H. SPURGEON, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to preach from John 2:13-22 on Resurrection day. It was a good day of celebration for our church as we witnessed two people follow Christ in believer’s baptism, we engaged in the singing of the gospel to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, we observed the Lord’s supper, we worshipped through the preaching, and we concluded with the presentation of new members as three families were added to our church family.
As I began my sermon yesterday, I asked a simple question: How do we know that Jesus is the risen Savior of sinners? On many occasion, we’re asked to provide proof of our identification to prove we are who we claim to be. It may be that we’re asked to show our driver’s license, provide our social security number, or to show our passport, but in all cases, it’s to validate our identification. After arriving in Jerusalem at Passover, Jesus was asked for proof of His identification by the Jewish community. How Jesus responded was one more proof of His masterful teaching and preaching ability.
Jesus Purged the Temple
Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus found the temple in an absolute mess. As more than 2.5 million people would have crowded the streets of Jerusalem for Passover, many of those people came from outside of the city. Some traveled from far away locations. Therefore, there would be the need to sell animals to visitors for sacrifices and to exchange money. The temple, a house of prayer and designed for worship, had been turned into a marketplace of trade. In fact, it was a “den of robbers” as Jesus saw it.
The exchange rate for money was elevated to nearly 25% according to many historical accounts. The stench of the animal waste surrounding the temple and the circus atmosphere was breathtaking. For Jesus, it was tragic to see His Father’s house abused in such a manner. Many of those people had nothing to do with the temple and the heart of worship all year long, but they showed up at the temple at Passover.
According to the text, John tells us that Jesus made a whip of cords and ran all of the animals and people out of the temple and poured out all of the money and overturned the money changers’ tables. This got everyone’s attention. According to Mark’s account of the story, Jesus took that opportunity to teach the people (Mark 11:17). Jesus quoted Isaiah 56:7 – “these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
Jesus’ actions here in the temple would have caused great harm to the profit of the money changers and those who sold animals in the makeshift market at the temple. It caused a massive stir in the city.
Jesus Prophesied of His Resurrection
As the people came to an abrupt standstill, they demanded a sign from Jesus that He had authority to act in such a manner. They had heard of His miracles, wonders, and signs, and now this One who performs such signs is standing in the temple. They wanted to see something. Perhaps he could make something happen in the sky or cause some miracle to take place before their very eyes.
Jesus responded with a simple statement. He said:
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
That certainly wasn’t what they were looking for, but it was a sentence that shocked them. The temple had been rebuilt years earlier, but had undergone a massive remodeling project over 46 years. Jesus’ statement was spread all across the city. We see evidence of this in two places. On one occasion, after Jesus’ arrest and during His trial, someone falsely accused Jesus by twisting this very sentence against Him (see Mark 14:57-58). As Jesus was hanging on the cross, we also see people passing by the cross and hurling insults at Jesus. Matthew records these words:
And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads  and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matt. 27:39-40).
They had no idea what Jesus was saying, but it was one more prophecy of His resurrection to add to the many others in Scripture (Psalm 49:15; 16:10; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10″34; Matt 12:38-42). After Jesus’ resurrection had occurred and following His ascension, the disciples were talking with one another about Jesus’ prophecy. Perhaps they were eating fish sandwiches and one of them said, “Hey, remember when Jesus made that statement about the temple and it rocked all of Jerusalem?” They began to remember the whole scene of the temple purging and the intense prophecy and they remembered the Scripture and the words of Jesus and their faith was strengthened.
As we read Scripture and as we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, it should serve as a means of faith strengthening. Such verses should solidify our faith. We must see that our faith is in a risen Savior of sinners—the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. Unlike all other religious leaders of world history, Jesus lives.
Yesterday I preached from Ephesians 5:22-24 on the subject of the roles and responsibilities of the wife—as designed by God. In our previous sermon through Ephesians, I took an overview approach to Ephesians 5:22-33 in order to set the stage for the each section that would be covered in the family section.
In this section, the wife is the focus. What is a “wife” and why is her role of such great importance in the family? The first time we see the term “wife” used in Scripture is in Genesis 2:24 where God commands a man to leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife. God instituted the family and designed it in such a way that it brings honor to Him and organization to our society. As the Proverb states, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD” (Prov. 18:22).
The Command to Submit
Although submission is an ugly word in our culture, it’s a biblical concept that must be followed. In fact, if we can’t practice submission in our homes, how will we be able to submit to God, to employers, to rulers of the land, or various other hierarchies? The word “submit” is carried over from verse 21, and must be taken in the imperative form. In fact, if you look at Colossians 3, you will see that Paul does intend to communicate to the wife that her role is to submit to her husband.
Submit = “ὑποτάσσω” – A Greek military term meaning to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader. In non-military use, it was a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.
Although submission is something that our culture resists at all levels, the Christian—and especially the Christian home—should exemplify what it means to live in submission to God and His commands. One of the most practical ways that a wife can put her Christianity on display is by being a faithful submissive wife who aligns herself under the leadership of her own husband. R. C. Sproul has stated:
It is the Lord’s will that the wife be submissive to her husband, and if she wants to honour Christ, then one of the concrete ways she does this is by being in submission to her husband. If a woman is contentious and refuses to follow the leadership of her husband, she is in rebellion, not simply against him, but also against Christ. 
The very word “submit” has become a very nasty word in our culture. Employees don’t like to submit to their bosses. Children don’t like to submit to their parents. Wives don’t like to submit to their husbands. In a culture filled with anti-authority attitudes, often times that spreads beyond the border of culture and invades the life of the local church. This type of rebellion has become a normative aspect of what it means to be an American. However, that type of attitude and rebellion is not what it means to be a Christian. Peter O’Brien writes, “The idea of subordination to authority in general, as well as in the family, is out of favour in a world which prizes permissiveness and freedom.” 
Just as Peter and the apostles were to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29) when they were commanded to stop preaching the gospel, so must the wife be in total submission to Christ. If she is asked to violate God’s Word and live in disobedience to her Savior, she is to refuse to submit to the leadership of her husband in that particular area of her life. If she is married to an unbeliever, she should remain married to him as long as he will have her as his wife (1 Cor. 7:13-14). Who knows what her faithful submission will lead to in their marriage? It could very well lead to her husband’s salvation as he watches the faithfulness of his godly wife.
The Roles Explained
In verses 23-24, Paul explains the roles of the wife and illustrates it by using Christ and the church. The role of the wife is to be under the authority of her head—her husband. The word translated “head” is the Greek term, κεφαλή and it is a direct reference to an authoritative position of leadership for the husband. Our culture has reversed the roles of husband and wife for many years now, and this reversal has given birth to many problems. Those same cultural problems are visible in the life of the local church as well.
It is God’s will for the husband to be the provider, the worker, and the leader of the home. Although both the man and his wife are equal intellectually and both are created in the image of God, it is God’s design for the wife to submit to her husband as her leader and for the husband to take the primary responsibility as the breadwinner. Unfortunately, that is not the way the American dream is achieved, and therefore, a large number of wives leave their homes everyday for corporate America. In 2015, 69.9 percent of mothers with children under age 18 were in the labor force, representing over a third (34.2 percent) of working women. 
With this type of lifestyle, we must ask a serious question—who will raise the children, disciple them for God’s glory, and love their children and their husbands for God’s glory? If the wives abandon their homes for other jobs, who will perform the work of the wife in the home? Titus 2:3-5 provides us a helpful look at God’s designed role for the wife:
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,  and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
Notice the short phrase, “working at home” in Titus 2:5. It is God’s will for the wife to make her home the center of her life and labor. Even the Proverbs 31 woman is pictured as working diligently, but it’s obvious that her labor was centered on the wellbeing of her home and she put her love on display for her family through her labor. She was not neglecting her family in pursuit of a career.
The Christian family must reject the harsh criticism of the culture regarding the biblical family structure. The culture laughs at the church, makes fun of God’s children, and suggests that we are all backward people who need to get up to speed with reality. What voice should we listen to—culture or Christ?
Are you a working mother? Is it out of necessity to take care of your family or is it out of a desire to live on a certain socioeconomic level? We live in a fallen world where at times, it’s absolutely necessary for a wife and mother to work outside of the home. However, that’s not always the case. If you stayed home and made your home your focus with your children under your care and love put on display in the home, would your family be more healthy? Would your children be more loved? Would your love for your husband be more obvious? Would you have less regrets in the years to come?
These are serious question that must be addressed. In the end, the eternal souls of your children and your husband matter. Make the biblical decision for how you structure your family. If you need to take less vacations, live in a different neighborhood, drive less expensive automobiles, and drop do a lower socioeconomic level in order to obey Christ—it will be worth it. The biblical family structure is not outdated or outrageous as the radical feminists try to suggest. The biblical family doesn’t need to be updated to fit into our culture. God’s plan doesn’t need to be revised, and interestingly enough, it works across the board in all cultures. Imagine that—a God who designs a family structure that actually works.
If you pay attention to the news and look at our culture you will see teen suicide, a rise in secularism and a pagan worldview, broken homes through divorce, and a massive number of people who are being treated by psychologists through medication for deep rooted depression. Could any of this be linked to a role reversal and altered family structure? It would be foolish to make adjustments to God’s design for the family. Not only will it harm your family, but the church will suffer as well.
How can all of this be carried out? Paul points to the relationship between Christ and the church as an example. Look to Christ and the church as an example of faithful submission and faithful headship and as the wife submits fully to God, she will learn to submit to her husband and follow his leadership in the home.
- R. C. Sproul, The Purpose of God: Ephesians (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 135.
- Peter Thomas O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 412.
- Issue Brief, Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor, June 2016.
When you listen to a sermon, do you feel the weight upon the preacher’s shoulders? Do you recognize that every sermon is designed to leave an indelible mark upon your soul and to shape you by God’s Word? When you listen to a sermon preached, do you get the idea that the overall aim is to bring glory to God? Are you captivated by the drama of God’s redemptive story as you see God’s plan and your connection to the story? If not, perhaps you’ve never heard real preaching.
When J. I. Packer was a 22-year-old student in the years of 1948-1949, he heard Martyn Lloyd-Jones preach each Sunday evening in London. He said that he had “never heard such preaching.” According to Packer, it came to him “with the force of electric shock, bringing to at least one of his listeners more of a sense of God than any other man” he had known. 
Preaching Involves a Weighty Responsibility
When Paul charges Timothy to “preach the Word” in his final New Testament letter (2 Tim. 4:1-5), he was not talking about a casual conversational approach to the pulpit. One glance at Jesus’ preaching, John the Baptist’s preaching, and Paul’s preaching will prove that true biblical preaching is not casual. John Piper accurately summarizes the work of preaching by stating, “Preaching is God’s appointed means for the conversion of sinners, the awakening of the church, and the preservation of the saints. If preaching fails in its task, the consequences are infinitely terrible.”  In an interview on January 31, 1892, Charles Haddon Spurgeon was asked if he was ever nervous when he preached, and Spurgeon replied:
I tremble like an aspen leaf. And often, in coming down to this pulpit, have I felt my knees knock together – not that I am afraid of any one of my hearers, but I am thinking of that account which I must render to God, whether I speak His Word faithfully or not. On this service may hang the eternal destinies of many.
Every person who enters the sanctuary of the local church and sits down to hear the sermon will spend eternity in heaven or hell. We must never forget that preaching matters. Preaching has an impact upon eternal souls—for good or bad. It is the duty of the preacher to feed the flock of God. Too many preachers miss opportunities to feed God’s flock because they waste time seeking to entertain or motivate. Preaching cannot be casual because every preacher should recognize that every person in their congregation will be in eternity in just a short while. There is a stewardship that comes with preaching. Time is valuable. Souls are eternal. Eternity is forever. George Whitefield once described the type of preachers that he was praying for God to raise up:
And what manner of men will they be? Men mighty in the Scriptures, their lives dominated by a sense of the greatness, the majesty and holiness of God, and their minds and hearts aglow with the great truths of the doctrines of grace. . . .They will be men who will preach with broken hearts and tear-filled eyes, and upon whose ministries God will grant an extraordinary effusion of the Holy Spirit, and who will witness ‘signs and wonders following’ in the transformation of multitudes of human lives. 
Worship Is Not Casual
In many circles, preaching is something that comes after the worship takes place. Far too many Christians fail to recognize that preaching is worship. If we consider the goal in worship and how our aim is always the glory of God, how can that pursuit be casual? How do redeemed sinners pursue God in a mundane manner? The reason this happens in some circles is because the type of preaching the people are hearing is not bringing them into contact with the true image of God and His glory. A low view of God leads to a low view of worship. The result is a posture of worship that’s ultra casual.
One look at the preaching of Ezra in Nehemiah 8, Jesus in His earthly ministry, Peter at Pentecost, or Paul in his apostolic ministry will prove that preaching is not casual. The Jews listening to John the Baptist didn’t listen casually. The ground thundered when such men preached. The problem today is that the ground rarely shakes. Preaching is not like taking another at-bat as a baseball player. The risk as a baseball player is personal glory or the team’s glory, but in preaching it’s all about God’s glory. This should be at the forefront of every preacher’s mind each time he approaches the pulpit. Preaching is not casual because the glory of God is not casual. Too many sermons make the glory of God appear to be cheap. There seems to be no opportunity to behold the glory of God in many sermons.
God’s Drama is not Casual
How many times have you heard people claim that the Bible is boring? In some circles, people claim that the Bible is not relevant, so they use drama presentations in order to spice things up in their worship services. Is the drama of God’s redemptive plan boring? While it’s possible to preach a boring sermon, we must never lose sight of the fact that God’s drama is exhilarating. If preachers will preach the drama of the text in the way God intended, the drama team will no longer be needed in the weekly worship service.
What would your church say about the worship service next week if the additives were removed and people were expected to look earnestly into God’s Word to reflect upon His glory and witness His drama? Would true biblical preaching be enough? Alistair Begg has a noteworthy point that we would do well to consider as he writes:
One of the reasons for the disinterest in expository preaching is surely that so many attempts at it prove lifeless, dull, and even thoroughly boring. I never cease to be amazed by the ingenuity of those who are capable of taking the powerful, life-changing text of Scripture and communicating it with all the passion of someone reading aloud from the Yellow Pages! 
The next time you worship with your gathered church—look for the thrill of God’s drama as the preacher unpacks the Word of God before you. Worship God with a proper and honoring posture. A true sense of God and His glory will not be a casual experience.
- Christopher Catherwood, Five Evangelical Leaders, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1985), 170.
- John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 54.
- Jason Meyer, Preaching: A Biblical Theology, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), 301.
- Alistair Begg, Preaching for God’s Glory, (Wheaton: Crossway, 1999), 22.
A couple of years ago, I met a man who seemed to really love baseball. He knew a lot about the past players, current players, and their statistics. However, the more I talked baseball with this particular man, the more obvious it was that he didn’t truly know baseball. He understood some facts about baseball, but he didn’t really understand the game itself. There is a big difference between knowing about baseball and actually knowing the game.
The gospel is more than a topic covered by the church. The gospel is at the very core of the purpose and function of the local church. Through the years, I’ve heard some really good sermons about the Bible, about the gospel, and about the commitment of God’s people to God’s Word in relation to the Reformation era. As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this October, we are likely to hear many sermons that talk about the historical landscape of the sixteenth century. While the church needs to have a good grasp of church history, more importantly than that is her need for the gospel. Stop preaching about God’s Word and start preaching God’s Word.
Paul’s Charge to Timothy
When we consider Paul’s final words to Timothy recorded in the New Testament, we see a passionate charge for Timothy to preach the Word. Notice that Paul didn’t instruct Timothy to preach about the Word. Instead, Timothy was given the high charge to preach God’s gospel. All through Paul’s two letters to Timothy in the New Testament, we find a clear emphasis upon the preaching of God’s Word.
- 2 Timothy 1:13 – “sound words”
- 2 Timothy 1:14 – “guard the good deposit…”
- 2 Timothy 2:2 – “the things which you have heard from me….entrust to faithful men…”
- 2 Timothy 2:5 – “according to the rules”
- 2 Timothy 2:9 – “the Word of God is not bound!”
- 2 Timothy 2:15 – “rightly handling the Word of truth”
- 2 Timothy 2:18 – “the truth”
- 2 Timothy 2:24 – “able to teach”
- 2 Timothy 2:25 – “knowledge of the truth”
- 2 Timothy 3:7 – “knowledge of the truth”
- 2 Timothy 3:10 – “my teaching”
- 2 Timothy 3:16 – “all Scripture”
- 2 Timothy 4:2 – “preach the Word”
- 2 Timothy 4:2 – “teaching”
- 2 Timothy 4:3 – “sound teaching”
In each case, the Word of God is either specifically named or heavily implied. The content of the sermon mattered to Paul, and it should matter to us as well. The church at Ephesus needed to have the Word preached instead of merely preached about. That same thing is true for our local churches today.
The Necessity of the Gospel for Conversion
It must be noted that without the gospel, sinners will not be saved. Therefore, to preach about the gospel and never get around to actually preaching the gospel is to completely miss the mark of what it means to be a gospel preacher. Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome and said the following in Romans 10:14 – “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Later in verse 17, Paul would say, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
In the Great Commission, Jesus didn’t command us to go to the nations to preach about the gospel. People are not converted to Christianity by knowing facts about the gospel. Sinners must come to know the true gospel, and this requires true biblical preaching. The preaching of the gospel must be the central aim of every Sunday sermon, every funeral sermon, every Sunday school lesson, and every children’s lesson. Paul was not ashamed of the gospel (Rom. 1:16), and we must not be ashamed to preach the gospel. It is possible to know about the gospel and perish. How many people are in hell today who once memorized John 3:16? Sinners need to hear the preaching of the gospel.
The Necessity of the Gospel for Sanctification
Preaching is not one of many things the church does, it’s the central thing the church does. However, it’s essential to define what type of preaching the church should be engaged in. While true biblical preaching is expositional preaching, we must make sure that we’re preaching the gospel and not merely preaching about the gospel. The church still needs the gospel.
No matter how mature, how faithful, and no matter how long people have been following Christ, they still need the gospel. According to Acts 20:32, we need the “Word of his grace” in order to be sanctified. Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:17, and in His high priestly prayer we see that the Word of God is called “truth” and the means by which God’s children are sanctified. Paul likewise described himself as a “minister of Christ Jesus” who is in the “priestly service of the gospel of God” (Rom. 15:16).
Preaching must be the central mark of the authentic church of Jesus Christ, and that type of preaching is gospel preaching. Our aim is not moralism messages so that people will “do better” in life. The goal of biblical preaching is to penetrate the heart so that the gospel will bring about lasting change that results in a life that brings glory to God. That’s why Ephesians 5:26 refers to the bride of Christ being “washed of water with the word” in the process of sanctification and the pursuit of holiness.
Finally, a consistent diet of the gospel not only enables the church to pursue holiness, but it enables the church to know the gospel and share it (out of a growth in grace) as is commanded by Christ (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). That’s why Timothy Raymond suggests that every sermon should contain one concise explanation of the gospel. The church needs the gospel, and it’s vital for her ministers to actually preach the gospel as opposed to preaching about the gospel.
It’s one thing to know who Mickey Mantle was and that Nolan Ryan is the all-time strikeout leader, but it’s quite a different thing to actually know the game of baseball. The same thing is true regarding the gospel. It’s possible to know about Jesus without knowing Him. Martyn Lloyd-Jones addresses this important point in his excellent book, Preaching and Preachers:
The business of the preacher is not to present the Gospel academically. This again is done frequently. The preacher can analyse it and show its parts and portions, and show how excellent it is; but still he is saying things about the Gospel, whereas we are called to preach the Gospel, to convey it, and to bring it directly to the individuals who are listening to us, and to bring it to the whole man. 
- Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, 40th Ann. Ed., (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 79.