“Him We Proclaim”

 

The Content of Preaching

Scripture Readings: Genesis 3:15; Colossians 1:15-29; Colossians 1:28 (text)

June 3, 2012 Download this sermon (PDF)

 

"Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god…" ~ Veggie Tales founder Phil Vischer, regretting the Veggie Tales' Christless moralistic "Christianity"

"Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god…" ~ Veggie Tales founder Phil Vischer

Even a three-year-old toddler who regularly goes to Sunday school knows the details of the David and Goliath story. Unless, of course, he was raised watching Veggie Tales’ “Dave and the Giant Pickle.” Little Dave, the Jr. Asparagus, confronts the Giant Pickle, because he has so much self-confidence that “with God’s help, even little guys can do big things.” In its quest not to teach children anything “churchy,” Veggie Tales episodes like this ended up teaching them nothing about the Bible; just cute, little tales with moral lessons.

Or you may have heard your pastor encourage you what to do in desperate situations, ”Little young David confronted the giant Goliath by taking out his sling. Like David, take out the slings in your life, and slay your giants.”

Or if your church was swept by the Purpose Driven fad, you must have read that “David was transformed by Goliath’s 40-day challenge.” However, you might have noticed when you actually read 1 Samuel 17 that when David arrived at the battle scene, Goliath’s 40-day challenge was already over. In fact, young David’s fighting skills were battle-tested as a shepherd rescuing his sheep from bears and lions, not by listening to Goliath’s “40-day challenge.”

As well, some pastors try to show their psychological skills by analyzing King Saul. When confronted and mocked by Goliath, 1-1/2 feet taller and bigger than Shaquille O’neal, Saul and all his troops “were dismayed and greatly afraid.” Saul was also proud, so when he saw the shepherd boy volunteer to do battle with the giant, he mocked David because he was so young and untested. But when David embarrassed him with his confidence in the Lord, Saul let him fight against the giant. And after David slew the giant and led the Israelites to victory, King Saul became very jealous because the people adored David. Saul became paranoid, thinking that David was about to steal his throne away. Jealousy led to paranoia, and paranoia led to Saul’s obsession to kill David.

If you lived in the medieval era, you would have heard sermons on the five stones of David representing five things that are available to you to slay your giants: prayer, fasting, confession, the bible, and the Eucharist. Or if you were in some liberal churches today, the five stones signify five things: kindness, courtesy, tact, the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. But if you were lucky to be in a Reformed church, you might have listened to a five-point sermon expounding on each of David’s stones representing each of the Five Points of Calvinism!

To be sure, there are many spiritual lessons to be learned from the story of David and Goliath. Paul even teaches us that the stories of the Israelites in the wilderness are examples for us, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction” (1Cor 10:11). The writer of Hebrews also expounds on the faithful heroes throughout Old Testament history.

But these are hardly endorsements to preach Scripture texts in contextualizing, moralizing, spiritualizing, psychologizing, or even allegorical ways like the above examples. Because if Scripture texts are preached in these ways, preaching becomes just a collection of nice but unrelated stories with moral lessons at the end, not much different from Aesop’s fables. Or how would the examples of Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi differ from Jesus feeding the 5,000?

What then must preachers preach? Verse 28 of our text has the simple answer: “Him we proclaim!” Preachers, proclaim him, Christ alone! All the Scriptures proclaim him.

This is the good news that must be proclaimed in the church. In fact, when Paul says, “him we proclaim,” he uses a Greek verb katangelo, which comes from the same root as euangelidzo, “to proclaim or preach the good news.”

Our theme in this second part on the doctrine of preaching is the content of preaching: “Him We Proclaim.” We will study this theme under three headings: first, We Proclaim the Lord of Creation”; second, We Proclaim the Lord of Redemption; and third, We Proclaim the Lord of Glory.

We Proclaim the Lord of Creation

Jesus said to the incredulous Jews, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). How can a mere man say such a blasphemous statement? Because Jesus the Christ was, “in the beginning” of time, already “the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John also wrote of “Him” whom Paul preached to both Jews and Gentiles: “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3).

So that there is no doubt that Christ was before creation, Paul says, “by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth…—all things were created through him and for him” (verse 16). Before he was born, before the creation of the world, Jesus was already the Son of God. Against the 4th century Arian heresy, he can never be a created being, because he was the agent of creation. Before anything existed, he already existed. Even angels—thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—were created by him. (They were created perfect, not evil, but they later rebelled against God of their own free will.) Thus, Paul says, “in him all things hold together,” because “in him we live, and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). The writer of Hebrews says it in another way, “He upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb 1:3).

When Paul says that all things were created “for him,” it means that all creation was for his praise and glory, for all human and spiritual beings to worship him alone. Even when God chose us before the foundation of the world, it was only“according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph 1:5-6). And this election was a “a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1:10).

If all things were for his glory and praise, for all beings to worship him, then he must be God himself. This is why Paul says he is “the image of the invisible God.” The Hebrews preacher again says it in different words, “the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb 1:3). “Exact imprint” is the Greek word karakter, which means that Christ has the same “character”—attributes, substance and essence—as God.

Therefore, Paul says, “the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” in Christ (verse 19). The meaning here is the same: Jesus has the same substance as God the Father; all that God is, Jesus is. This reminds us of God’s immensity: he fills the whole universe with his presence. Ezekiel says of God’s glory in his vision, “the glory of the Lord filled the temple” (Ezek 44:4). Later, Paul says of Jesus, “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col 2:9). He is God incarnate.

If Christ was eternal, and of the same substance as the God the Father, why then does Paul say he is “the firstborn of all creation”? (verse 15) This is used by many cults today, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Iglesia ni Cristo, to teach that Jesus was a created being who became a god. No, Paul was using an Old Testament expression of the rights and privileges of a firstborn son, especially the firstborn son of a king, who has full inheritance of his father’s throne and possessions. For example, God says of King David, who was not a firstborn son, “I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Psa. 89:27).

“Him we proclaim,” this Christ by whom all things were created, who is of the same substance and has the same attributes as God himself. Since he is fully God, he is sovereign over all things, because he has full knowledge of all things. He knew not only every single human being who will be born into this world, but also even the fall of the first Adam into sin. Therefore, Christ knew from eternity all of the Triune God’s plan to redeem his people and all creation from sin.

We Proclaim the Lord of Redemption

The Christ we proclaim is not only the Lord God of Creation, but also the Lord God of Redemption. He came down from heaven as God-Incarnate to “reconcile to himself all things” (verse 20).

Last Lord’s Day, we examined how Christ reconciled man to God and God to man. This he did by offering his own body and blood on the cross as a ransom payment—“in his body of flesh by his death”—to God who is wrathful against all mankind because of sin. There is now peace between God and man because of his offering of his body and blood on the cross.

Because of Christ’s work of reconciliation, God has also “qualified [the Colossians] to share in the inheritance,” people who used to be outside of God’s covenant promises. They, and all other Gentile believers are now also Abraham’s children of promise (Gal 3:29), and have equal access to the Father.

Not only that believers now have inheritance. Christ has now reconciled you “in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (verse 22). As sinners reconciled to God, you are being transformed daily from sinners outside of God’s kingdom, to a people who are holy, blameless and above reproach before the sight of God.

Because of his atoning work on the cross, Christ is also “the head of the body,” which is the church (1Cor 12:27). As head of the church (Eph 1:22-23), he leads the church, has authority over it, and he nourishes it (Col 2:19).

If asked what is the greatest verse in the Bible, most Christians would answer with the familiar verse John 3:16. Obviously, this is a very important verse, speaking of God’s great love for all creation that he gave his only-begotten Son for its redemption. But all of Scripture, not only from the Gospel of John, but from Genesis to Revelation, has one single theme: the redemption of God’s people from the curse of sin and death. The whole Bible speaks of Christ’s work of redemption throughout all of man’s history. This is why Jesus said to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, “Everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44; cf Luke 24:27).

And this single theme of redemption is most fully expressed in Genesis 3:15:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

From the day that Adam and Eve were deceived into sin by the serpent in the Garden of Eden, God had already prophesied a Seed of the Woman who will crush the serpent’s head. In God’s plan, the Seed of the Woman will defeat Satan, the ancient serpent. After Cain kills Abel, the godly line of the woman continues with Adam’s son Seth, and then to righteous Noah who found favor with God. But the serpent continued its deception of the nations, so that wickedness spread to all the earth, leading to God’s destruction of mankind with a flood.

After God’s judgment of the earth with the flood, Noah’s line eventually continued to Abraham, to whom God promised that all the families of the earth will be blessed through him. From Abraham came his descendants who formed God’s chosen people Israel. In time, Israel became a kingdom with a king, of whom David was the greatest. God then makes a covenant with David, choosing him to be the first of Israel’s everlasting dynasty of kings.

But throughout Israel’s history, Satan continued his war against the Seed of the Woman by sowing unbelief and rebellion among the Israelites. Therefore, God judged them by sending a series of invaders to conquer and destroy them. Israel and its temple were destroyed, and the people exiled to foreign lands. They were again restored by God to the Promised Land, and for 400 years, the people longed for a Messiah to come and bring the kingdom glory back to Israel.

This Messiah came in the person of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, “the Son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt 1:1). But Jesus is not only the Son of David; he is also the “salvation… [and] a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:30-32). He is the true Israel of God (Matt 2:15) and the true Temple of God (John 2:19-21; Rev 21:22). Thus, Jesus fulfilled all of the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms, and all of God’s promises to Abraham of a great nation, a blessing to all the nations, and of a great inheritance.

We preach this Lord of Redemption, not the false lord of prosperity, promising health and wealth to all who will be faithful to him. We do not preach Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. They are but imperfect types and shadows of the full and perfect Redeemer who would come after them and fulfill all of God’s commandments. We do not preach a different, watered-down, Christless gospel to attract and entertain the unchurched. We do not preach self-esteem as sin, but sin in its most gruesome ways, provoking God’s wrath and judgment. We do not preach feel good “messages,” but sermons to convict unbelievers of sin and lead them to Christ the Redeemer. We do not preach the social gospel of doing good works for the poor, but the gospel of reconciliation for those who are poor in spirit, those who don’t have the Spirit of God. We do not preach maturity in Christ by doing quiet times and mindless “praise and worship,” but by preaching the whole counsel of God, the law and gospel of Christ, fall and redemption through Christ, and sin and salvation in Christ.

“Him we proclaim,” this Christ who is the Lord of Creation and the Lord of Redemption. Lastly, we preach Christ who is the Lord of Glory.

We Proclaim the Lord of Glory

Earlier, I quoted a portion of Hebrews 1:3 where it says that the Son of God is “the exact imprint of [God's] nature.” The same verse says that Christ is “the radiance of the glory of God.” In fact, the Apostle John describes his vision of Jesus in the same language that Daniel describes God:

As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire (Dan 7:9).

The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace (Rev 1:14-15).

Christ whom we proclaim is the Lord of Glory.

When he returns, Christ will also glorify the Father as he presents all the redeemed saints to him (1Cor 15:24). But the Father will also glorify his Son. This is what Paul talks about in Ephesians 1:18, “the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” The glorious inheritance that the Father bestows on Christ is his everlasting kingdom. Daniel 7:14 speaks of this glorious kingdom that Christ inherits, “And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

But the Father and the Son also promise a glorious inheritance to all his people. Paul says to all believers, “if indeed you continue in the faith” (verse 23), you will have a glorious inheritance waiting for you in heaven:

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (verse 27).

If you persevere in the faith until the end, the riches of a glorious future await you. The return of Christ is your blessed hope. Daniel also prophesied about the glory that will be given to the saints, “And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High” (Dan 7:27). The Hebrews preacher says that Christ will “bring many sons to glory” (Heb 2:10).

What great comfort, especially when we suffer in this age. Paul says that “we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” All our afflictions in this life will be nothing compared with the glory that awaits, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:17-18). And, “those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom 8:30).

Beloved in Christ, whenever you come to the worship service in this church, be comforted that you will receive the benefits of the preaching and proclamation of Christ.

You will hear him proclaimed who is the Lord of Creation, sovereign over all things, people and events, working all things for your own good.

You will hear him proclaimed who is the Lord of Redemption, who has chosen you from eternity to receive his grace and mercy in salvation, in spite of your rebellion and sinfulness.

You will hear him proclaimed who is the Lord of Glory, so you can look forward to your own full redemption from sin, to the resurrection of the body, and to the new heaven and new earth.

What a comfort to hear Christ proclaimed!

Related Articles:
admin says:

“We do not preach Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. They are but imperfect types and shadows of the full and perfect Redeemer who would come after them and fulfill all of God’s commandments. We do not preach a different, watered-down, Christless gospel to attract and entertain the unchurched. We do not preach self-esteem as sin, but sin in its most gruesome ways, provoking God’s wrath and judgment. We do not preach feel good “messages,” but sermons to convict unbelievers of sin and lead them to Christ the Redeemer. We do not preach the social gospel of doing good works for the poor, but the gospel of reconciliation for those who are poor in spirit, those who don’t have the Spirit of God.”