A final thought on our second study in Romans 1:8–15 yesterday morning (June 21, 2015) entitled, “A Successful Church”:
I mentioned that we can be a church full of prayer with all of us praying all the time and we can have a church full of participants where everyone is fully serving but that without a third ingredient none of that matters. Without this third thing we are not a church. Without this third thing the Holy Spirit is not in our midst. What is it? That third thing is the preaching of the holy gospel.
I want you and I to re-affirm this. This centrality of the preached Word is a part of our DNA as a congregation in the confessional documents I as your pastor as well as your elders and deacons have vowed “sincerely and in good conscience before the Lord…that we heartily believe and are persuaded…do fully agree with the Word of God.” And because we believe this doctrine,”we promise therefore diligently to teach and faithfully to defend…without either directly or indirectly contradicting the same by our public preaching, teaching, or writing” (Form of Subscription). Here is what we believe about the preaching of the Word and why it is central to our life as a church family:
- We confess it in the Heidelberg Catechism when we say that “the Holy Spirit works [true faith] in me by the Gospel” (Q&A 21; 65), that “the Word [is] designed to direct our faith to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation” (Q&A 67), that “the kingdom of heaven [is] opened and shut by the preaching of the Holy Gospel” when “it is proclaimed and openly witnessed to believers, one and all, that as often as they accept with true faith the promise of the Gospel, all their sins are really forgiven them of God for the sake of Christ’s merits” and “to all unbelievers and hypocrites, that the wrath of God and eternal condemnation abide on them so long as they are not converted” (Q&A 84), and that “God…will not have His people taught by dumb idols, but by the lively preaching of His Word” (Q&A 98).
- We confess it in the Belgic Confession of Faith when we say that the first of the three marks of a true church is that “the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein” and that in summary of all three marks (preaching, sacraments, discipline) we say what makes us a church is that “all things are managed according to the pure Word of God” (Art. 29). We say that the duty of “ministers or pastors [is] to preach the Word of God” and that along with the elders and deacons our church government ensures that “true religion…be preserved and the true doctrine everywhere propagated” (Art. 30).
- We confess it in the Canons of Dort when we say “in order that people may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends proclaimers of this very joyful message to the people he wishes and at the time he wishes. By this ministry people are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified” (1.3). We say that God “decided to give the chosen ones to Christ to be saved and to call and draw them effectively into Christ’s fellowship through his Word and Spirit” (1.7). We say that “the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life…together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel” (2.5). We say that “What, therefore, neither the light of nature nor the law can do, God accomplishes by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the Word or the ministry of reconciliation” (3/4.6). We say that “just as the almighty work of God by which he brings forth and sustains our natural life does not rule out but requires the use of means…so also the…supernatural work of God by which he regenerates us in no way rules out or cancels the use of the gospel, which God in his great wisdom has appointed to be the seed of regeneration and the food of the soul” (3/4.17). Finally, we say “just as it has pleased God to begin this work of grace in us by the proclamation of the gospel, so he preserves, continues, and completes his work by the hearing and reading of the gospel, by meditation on it, by its exhortations, threats, and promises” (5.14).
God give us such confidence, never to be ashamed of the preaching of the gospel, but to boldly proclaim until Christ comes again!