It is evident from the teaching of the Scriptures that Christ comes to us and gives himself to us, placing us in his fellow­ship, in and through his Word. This article is about Jesus Christ as the central focus of our preaching, the relation of law and gospel, and Jesus Christ and the believer's new life.

Source: Clarion, 1985. 2 pages.

Christ Must Be Preached

The church has as its source of life, the living Christ Jesus. As believers we (must) live out of Christ, like branches receive their life from the vine. Christ Jesus gives Himself to those whom the Father has given Him through His Spirit and Word. The Spirit regenerates them and works faith in their hearts. In this regeneration and through this faith, the Holy Spirit places those who believe in communion with Christ, in that communion or fellowship with Christ the believers receive that new life that comes from Christ.

It is evident from the teaching of the Scriptures that Christ comes to us and gives Himself to us, placing us in His fellowship, in and through His Word. Calling upon the Name of the Lord is there through faith. Faith is there through hearing the Gospel. Hearing the Gospel is there through preaching. This is what Paul teaches us in Romans 10. And Peter writes that believers are born anew of imperishable seed. This seed is the living and abiding Word of God, that is preached (I Peter 1:23, 25).

When Christ is the only source of that new, regenerated life, and when He gives Himself and His saving fellowship in His Word that is preached, it is clear not only that preaching is a must, but also that Christ has to be the contents of that preaching. What is preached must be Christ, and Christ only. Not experience, not the law or anything else, only Christ must be preached.

Of course, herewith we do not deny that in the preaching of Christ the spiritual experience of a true faith can and must receive its proper place. The apostle Paul speaks about joy in the Lord, about love for Him, about willingness to obey Him, and so on. Dealing with conversion our Heidelberg Catechism speaks of a heartfelt sorrow because of sin and a heartfelt joy in God through Christ and delight to live according to all His commandments, (Lord's Day 33). The experience of faith is also mentioned in the Canons of Dort, e.g., Chapter III/IV, Article 12.

That Christ must be preached does also not deny that in this preaching the law with its commandments and prohibitions must have its own proper place. Christ said Himself that those who love Him will keep His commandments, e.g. John 15:10. He told His apostles that they had to go and preach the Gospel and make the nations His disciples, and that they had to teach them to observe all that He had commanded them, (Matthew 28:19).

Nevertheless, this giving the proper place to the experience of faith and to the law in the preaching must never degenerate in preaching experience or preaching the law. The experience of faith is fruit of a life in fellowship with Christ through faith. And so is keeping God's commandments. The source of new life is and remains the living Christ Himself. And the commandments must always flow forth from the living Christ. Experience does not save us. Neither does the law. Christ Jesus does. That is why He must be preached. Salvation with its experience and with its keeping of Christ's commandments is found only in the living fellowship with Christ.

Now it is so that as far as I know, we do not run the danger to preach subjective spiritual and psychological experience as basis for the certainty of salvation. It is rather so that we are scared of subjectivism. But how is that with preaching the law? Is there not a danger that in our preaching the law is sometimes stressed in such a way that it tends to become a preaching of the law?

Preaching the law – is so easy, not only in the Church of Rome, but also in a Reformed church. You must attend church twice on Sunday; you must be faithful in your church contribution; you must be a member of a true church; you must be against divorce and abortion and revolution. You must maintain the law of God. You must adhere to the confession of the church. I mention only a few things.

Now these are things that we stand for and should stand for, as well as for many more things. But why is it that here and there the afternoon service is attended less than the morning service? Why are there quite a few who do not financially contribute to the church? Why do quite a few not see the need to support the schools with their membership and involvement or anyway with donations? Why is there among us a growing lack of church consciousness and do we so easily attend worship services of other denominations? Why is there also in our churches among our young people, our teenagers, that spirit of rebellion? Why is there divorce, dishonesty in business, jealousy? And so I could continue.

One could give as an answer: this is because we are all sinful and inclined to backsliding. Someone else could say: the need for regeneration is not stressed enough, and the call for conversion and repentance is not sufficiently heard. This is possible. But we must also ask the question: are those things that we must do or not do which I mentioned above, and more, perhaps, preached to us in a legalistic way as just laws and commandments? Let us not forget that the law cannot deliver us from the power of a sinful nature. The law cannot convert people. The law cannot change our heart. It cannot sanctify us and make us obedient in faithful dedication to our God. Conversion and obedience is only possible through Christ. It can only be found in the living communion of faith with Him. Only when the Holy Spirit has regenerated a person, and ingrafted him into the fellowship with Christ, can that person begin to live in humble obedience. Only those who are truly born again or born from above can see and enter the Kingdom of God. Only in them the just requirement of the law will be fulfilled, as the apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:4.

We know these things. We must maintain them in our churches, in our schools, and not less in our homes. Whatever commandment is given and maintained, whatever prohibition is established in our families, from the pulpit and on the family visit, or in our schools, it must not be separated from Christ but flow forth from Him. Christ must be taught, shown, and preached. To the communion with Christ we must call each other. Only in the true living communion with Christ, true obedience in humble submission to what Christ has commanded will flourish. Only in the living fellowship with Christ through faith, through the Holy Spirit will there be a keeping of God's law. Christ as the living active Saviour and Lord must be preached. Then there is also place for the law, His law.

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