What exactly do you believe the church should preach on any given Sunday? Is it whatever God puts on your heart the night before? I have often wondered if the church should preach the gospel of Christ only or if I should expect to learn fresh and new things. Is the meeting on Sunday for Believers or Unbelievers? I have noticed that there is often a preaching of how we need to repent of our sin, but little teaching of the plan of salvation.
The answer to this question may be as varied as the number of worshippers on any given Lord’s Day. Suffice to say that only the gospel of Christ should be preached, but that covers the entire scope of scripture. True, the gospel is usually associated with the New Testament, but the gospel begins before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:20) and has existed in prophecy since the first Messianic prophecy in Genesis 3:15. There is nothing wrong with learning fresh and new things as long as they are increasing our knowledge from the gospel. It goes too far if, like the Athenians to whom Paul spoke on Mars Hill, they long to hear or tell of some new thing no matter what it is, sometimes seeming to want the “new thing” to vary from the “old paths” (Jeremiah 6:16). Clearly “evangelistic” sermons fall within the scope of preaching the gospel. In Mark’s account of the Great Commission Jesus commanded to go into all the world and “preach the gospel.” In Acts chapter 8 Phillip “preached Jesus” to the Ethiopian eunuch. Paul adjured Timothy to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2Ti 4:2 KJV). Preaching to those who have never been saved is appropriate; preaching to those who are saved is appropriate; preaching to those who have been saved but have gone astray is appropriate. What emphasis is given to each area is a matter for those who know the needs of the congregation and those present to decide. Surely the decision maker(s) should keep in mind that the greatest number of folks in the assembly are Christians who have been fighting the good fight of faith during the week and have gathered, weary from their labors, seeking encouragement and the Balm of Gilead for their wounds. Pouring salt in those wounds is seldom if ever helpful. On the other hand, some folks always want the sermon to be to “outsiders” which means that the preacher won’t step on their toes! Over a period time all bases should be covered.
The purpose of the Lord’s Day assembly is for his children, the redeemed, to worship the God who saved them. Any sermon that is preached should always keep this in mind and be so ordered that it will honor the God of Glory and assist his children in lifting their hearts of praise and thanksgiving before him.
You Must Hear the Gospel
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
You Must Believe
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You Must Repent
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You Must Confess
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
You Must Be Baptized
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
You Must Be Faithful Unto Death
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)