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The Word of Faith Which We Preach

Alan M. Stibbs, M.A.
Vice-Principal, Oak Hill Theological College

 



The Campbell Morgan Memorial Bible Lectureship, No. 9
Wednesday, 19[th] July 1957
Westminster Chapel, Buckingham Gate, London, S.W.1
[Reproduced by permission]

"For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, that the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith, speaketh on this wise: Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? That is to bring Christ down from above. Or, Who shall descend into the deep? That is to bring up Christ again from the dead. But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that is the word of faith which we preach, that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."

"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent? as it is written: How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!"

"So then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

Romans x. 5-9, 14, 15, 17.

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INTRODUCTION

Ar the beginning of September, 1918, when I was just seventeen, I spent my first Sunday in London. I was taken on the Sunday evening to Highbury Quadrant Congregational Church to hear Campbell Morgan preach. Dr. Morgan was on that Sunday beginning a special pastorate of one year at that North London Church. His text on that Sunday evening was St. Matthew xi. 28: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. He said, I remember, that this was not the first time that he had preached on this text. Indeed, he confessed, that ever since he had been a preacher, he had preached on this great word of our Lord's at least once every year. At the end of his sermon, deliberately, as I remember, without request for any evidence of response visible to men, he invited hearers quietly and personally to respond direct to the Saviour's invitation. The impression left clearly upon my mind was that here was a preacher who had for souls in need a present word from God, a word to be responded to here and now by coming to Christ.

This recollection, which I am particularly happy on this occasion to be able to recall, simply and vividly illustrates the principles of the theme which I desire to use this opportunity to expound - a theme which so markedly found outworked fulfilment in the public ministry of George Campbell Morgan. The theme is this - that the Christian preacher is called and sent by God to speak to men's deepest needs, and to lead them to faith, not in himself but in Christ and the gospel of saving grace, by offering them not his own ideas but the God-given word.

Simple and obvious as this may seem to those who are already persuaded that it is so, it is right that we should recognize that it requires a personal commission from God Himself and an accompanying activity of the divine providence to produce such a preacher. For circumstances have to be overruled, and the responsive human will has to be specially disciplined, before such a messenger of the Lord fulfils his God-given ministry.

It is appropriate on this occasion that we should let Campbell Morgan himself testify afresh to these fundamental truths; and first of all to the primary necessity of the personal divine call. "Men cannot choose," wrote Dr. Morgan, "to become ministers of the Word. This calling is differentiated from all others, in this very fact. While a man can, upon the ground of natural

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ability, decide whether he will be a doctor, lawyer, or commercial man, he cannot so choose to become a minister. The words of our Lord are of abiding application, and must be taken in their fullest sense; 'Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you'. So strongly do I feel upon this matter, that I never ask men to enter the Christian ministry. The only men who can really enter this ministry are those whom the Lord chooses, calls, and equips, by the bestowment of gifts according to the wisdom of His will".[1] The same truth is pointedly emphasized by the Apostle Paul in Romans x. 15, when he asks, And how shall they preach except they be sent?

In the second place, the Christian preacher is sent to minister to men's deepest needs, not to his own pride or ambition. Dr. Morgan himself recorded how at the age of sixteen he was helped by a faithful friend to face this issue. "David Smith," he wrote, "conducted the meeting and I preached. I do not think that I dare now quote my text, but I will tell you where it may be found. Let those interested refer to Isaiah 51. 6. I have not preached from it recently. The walk home was by moonlight, and six miles long. It seemed longer, for David Smith made full use of it to point out to me the uselessness of speaking before people, merely that they might be given an opportunity to discover my ability. I rebelled at first, but, finally, I was convinced. A few weeks later, I went again with the selfsame man and spoke in the selfsame cottage - this time from the words of Jesus, Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. There had been much searching of soul in the intervening time and much prayer. In the middle of that address I broke down utterly; but ere we left two or three had obeyed the call of Christ. It was to me an experience, the effect cf which has never left me. One day, in the Land of Light, I expect to thank David Smith."[2]

In the third place, the true Christian preacher must proclaim the word of the Lord, not his own ideas. Again Dr. Morgan himself related how, when he was twenty-nine, he was finally made to choose between being either a popular preacher of his own making, or the Lord's messenger. "God was speaking to me," he wrote, "that I knew, and the crisis in which His voice rang out clearly, almost peremptorily, making known to me His will, came at Rugeley, one Sunday night, after service. I had preached, and we had held an after-meeting, in which men and women had decided for Christ. At the end of the day I went

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home to my own study, and sat there alone. As clearly as though it had sounded in the room, a voice put this question, 'What are you going to be - a preacher, or My messenger?' For a moment I knew not what it meant, except to realize that the Spirit of God had created a crisis. I stood at the parting of the ways. Presently I began to ponder that night's sermon - to review my ministry. To my dismay I discovered that the desire to become, and to be known as, a great preacher was beginning to get the upper hand.

"What are you going to be - a preacher, or My messenger?' For hours I sat, vainly endeavouring to answer the question, but not until the night had died down, and the light of morning glinted through my study window, did I arrive at my decision. It was a night of conflict between a man and his God. It was my brook Jabbok - the place where God met me, face to face. Just as the light of morning scattered the darkness of the night, so did the light divine stream into my soul, and joyously I cried out, 'Thy messenger, my Master - Thine!'

"But the victory was won, only when the ashes of a bundle of sermons lay in the study fireplace. The work of many years was destroyed on that golden morning, when I stepped out to follow God at all costs, determining to do so without the sermons. During the night hours I came to see that they had been moulded and made so as to include a large element of self. For that reason they were destroyed. As they burned, I said to my Master, 'If Thou wilt give me Thy words to speak, I will utter them, from this day forward, adding nothing to them, taking naught away. Thine whole counsel I will declare, so help me God.' So did the Lord prevail."[3]

It was out of such personal awareness of the divine commission, it was out of such personal experience of divine constraint, that Dr. Morgan later wrote, "We are facing today the biggest hour the world has ever known for preaching. The miseries of theological controversy that are blighting our age cannot satisfy. The mass of men are waiting for preaching of the New Testanent kind, with a great message of grace to meet human need, delivered by men who realize that they represent a Throne, and have the right to claim submission to it."[4]

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I. THE GOD-GIVEN WORD

The first thing that is fundamental, both to the ministry of the preacher and to the faith of the hearer, is the God-given word. Without it the preacher has nothing proper to proclaim; without it the hearer has nothing proper to believe.

Here we do well to pause, and to consider the decisive and indispensable function of words, as a means not only of man's but also of God's personal self-expression and communication. Without God-given words God's presence, God's purpose, and God's performance would all be unappreciated. God makes His presence known by His words. God makes others aware of His purpose by His words. God promises His action, He records His action, He interprets His action, all by His words. So, as Amos was inspired to declare, Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets (Amos iii. 7).


A WITNESS TO GOD'S PRESENCE

At the burning bush Moses realised that he was in God's presence, not because he saw any visible form, but because he heard words which declared, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (Genesis iii. 6). The same was true later at Sinai, when God made His presence known to all the people. They saw no image or similitude, no visible figure or form; only they heard a voice (see Deuteronomy iv. 12). Words thus spoken are a decisive witness to the actual existence and living presence of their author.

Similarly at our Lord's baptism, and again at His transfiguration, a cloud was seen. This was a recognizable symbol of the· divine presence. So at the transfiguration the three disciples 'feared as they entered into the cloud'. But what made the divine presence unmistakably certain was the spoken words which came out of the cloud. They heard God say, This is my Son, my chosen: hear ye him (see Luke ix. 34, 35).

Nor does it end there. The apostle Paul plainly declares that in the Christian congregation, when the spiritual gift of prophetic utterance is truly exercised, words thus spoken can and should make the visitor to the meeting fall down on his face in worship, acknowledging the presence of God in the midst (see 1 Corinthians xiv. 24, 25). Somewhat similarly some of our own

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ancestors, who went to great pains, and faced death itself, to make the Bible available to be read in a language which the ordinary man could understand, believed that by such means the earnest reader could draw near to God in personal communion, and hear God speak to his own soul.

It is, therefore, by His word that God is pleased to bring Himself near, and to make men aware of his presence. It is the preacher's solemn privilege, as he is used to proclaim the God-given word, to make hearers aware that God is here, and that the opportunity to have dealings with Him is near at hand.


A WITNESS TO GOD'S PURPOSES

Again by His words God not only makes known His presence; He also makes known His purposes. Such words of revelation both complement, and are themselves completed by, God's performance. By His words God predicts and promises what He is going to do. By His words God records and interprets what He has done. While full divine revelation and fulfilled divine redemption are accomplished only by God's personal intervention in deeds, awareness and appreciation of His doings, and responsive appropriation of their benefit, depend upon God's words. It is only through the divinely inspired words of the prophets, evangelists and apostles that we know what God has done, and that we discern its significance, both in revealing Him and in saving us.


THE WORD TO BE PREACHED

These God-given words, therefore, and none others, are the words to be preached and taught in all their fulness, without addition or subtraction. Only those who faithfully do this are truly God's messengers. It is to the understanding and proclamation of these words that the divinely commissioned preacher must give his whole mind.

Here it is once again very relevant to quote Campbell Morgan. There is something very pertinent to be learnt from the confessed detail of his personal self-discipline, and of his deliberate choices, as he prepared himself to preach. "For many years," he confessed, "I have observed this rule, that when I am at work, preparing either sermons or Bible work of any kind, I never allow myself to open a newspaper until after one o'clock of the day."[5] "I would rather have," he wrote, "on my study shelf one book of scholarly exegesis than forty volumes of devotional exposition,"[6]

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THE WORD MADE AVAILABLE IN THE SCRIPTURES

There is something deeper and more fundamental still to be learnt from Campbell Morgan's confessed faith in the divinely-inspired Scriptures, and in his submissive acknowledgment of their supreme authority. "In order," he wrote, "that men might know and profit by the Speech of God, whether in the divers portions and manners of the past, or in the Son, it was necessary that the expressions should be preserved in such form that they might be at the disposal of men for all time, This was accomplished in the sacred Scriptures. In the second letter of Peter we have a statement which reveals, so far as it is possible, the method by which these writings were produced (i. 21); 'Men spake from God, being borne along by the Holy Spirit'. In that statement we discover the natural and the supernatural elements. Men spake from God. That is the natural in the highest sense of the word. As they spake, in their own languages, in conformity with their own mental powers, influenced by their own surroundings, so also they wrote. But they were borne along by the Holy Spirit. The figure is that of a vessel with all sails stretched to the winds, and carried out beyond all the limitations which hold it, apart from that action of the wind, into the deeps. So these men, speaking and writing with all the simplicity of a perfect naturalness, were supernaturally guided into the most profound deeps; being thus inspired to say and write what should be said and written, and equally to omit the things which should be omitted. The result of this method, at once human and Divine, we have in our Bible."[7]

So IT IS THE SCRIPTURES WHICH MUST BE PREACHED

It is, in consequence, the Bible to whose authority Dr. Morgan. submitted in all his preaching. "Preaching," he said, "is nothing else than bringing God's message, as it is found in the Oracles Divine. When the sermon has a text which is authoritative, all the rest is to be tested by it. That is the value of the text. I read a text to my congregation. That is the message. That is the one thing that is absolutely and finally authoritative. My sermon has no authority in it at all, except as an interpretation or an exposition or an illustration of the truth which is in the text. The text is everything. That is the point of authority."[8]

Here let us also remind ourselves that these words do but reecho and re-affirm the teaching of the Apostles and the con-

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viction of the Reformers. When Paul, the aged, wrote to Timothy to give him counsel concerning the discharge of ministry, he solemnly charged him to preach the word (see 2 Timothy iii. 14-iv. 2). It is worthy of notice that the Scriptures here explicitly referred to in the immediate context are the Old Testament Scriptures. In order to add the confirming testimony of the Reformers on this point may I quote from a sermon on this very passage by John Calvin, a sermon entitled, The Proper Use of Scripture.

John Calvin says, "And that no man might take the liberty to choose what he pleaseth, and so obey God in part, St. Paul saith, the whole Scripture hath this majesty of which he speaketh, and that it is all profitable. To be short, St. Paul informeth us that we must not pick and call the Scripture to please our own fancy, but must receive the whole without exception. Thus we see what St. Paul's meaning is in this place; for when he speaketh of the Holy Scripture, he doth not mean that which he was then writing, neither that of the other apostles and evangelists, but the Old Testament. Thus we perceive his mind was that the law and the prophets should always be preached in the Church. of Christ."

Also, in the same sermon, John Calvin speaks more generally of the divinely-inspired Scriptures as a whole. "Thus we see," he says, "St. Paul's meaning is that we should suffer ourselves to be governed by the Holy Scripture, and seek for wisdom nowhere else." Whosoever will not show himself a rebel against God, and set Him at nought, must submit himself to the Holy Scripture. "Let us always remember that the Holy Scripture will. never be of any service to us, unless we be persuaded that God. is the author of it." Therefore the Holy Scripture will be life-less and without force until we know it is God that speaketh in it, and thereby revealeth His will to man." St. Paul requireth us to confine ourselves to the Holy Scripture because God speaketh there, and not man. Thus we see he exciudeth all. human authority... When we go into the pulpit, we ought to be assured that it is God that sent us, and that we bring the message which He committed to us."[9]

Such then is the unique, fundamental, indispensable function of the God-given word, and particularly of the divinely-inspired Scriptures. This is the word to be preached. Dr. Campbell Morgan fully devoted himself to this ministry, and desired to preach none other. May God give us more of such preachers and teachers.

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II. THE RESPONSE OF FAITH

The second truth that gives far-reaching significance to the God-given word and its faithful ministry is that these are the two essentials which God uses to bring men to faith. Without them faith is impossible. For faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans x. 17). "And how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans x. 14. R.V.).


FAITH MADE POSSIBLE

All words from God, which reveal His character, and declare or promise His action, bring their hearers into immediate potential relation with God, and particularly with the person and work of God in Christ. Also, it is these - that is, God Himself and what 'God does - and not the words heard nor the faith exercised by themselves, that make ours both assurance and benefit. For when God's words are seen or heard, they always give their readers or hearers, something, or rather Someone, to believe; and they often give them some fulfilment to expect. So they invite responsive acceptance and committal, confidence and hope.

This truth may be illustrated at the commonplace human level. The would-be traveller by train or bus only begins to believe and to act, when words seen or heard tell him the time of a train's departure, or the route and destination of a bus. Then he trusts those who operate these public services, and issue timetables, to be true to their declared intention, and to fulfil it for his benefit. His faith, therefore, is not something which he himself can produce or make possible by his own work. It is only called forth by the announcements or declaration of intention made by the transport services.

Similarly words from God call forth faith in Him. They bring faith to the birth, they make its exercise possible. It is the divinely-commissioned preacher, who is used to cause men to hear them and to understand them, as a present message from the living God in relation to their personal need. Once such words have been heard, there is Someone to believe and something to expect. Such faith, therefore, and still more its ground of confidence, and its appropriated benefit, are all the gift of God. Also, once decisive words from God are thus heard, faith is no longer a mere pious hope or theoretical supposition. It becomes a sure confidence and a certain expectation. It becomes "the substance of things hoped for", and the evidence of the living

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presence of the One unseen (see Hebrews xi. 1). Thus do simple believers count in quiet confidence on the great unseen Doer, and on His faithful doing.

So, for instance, was the Gentile widow of Zarephath moved to responsive faith in the God of Israel, when Elijah gave her in her dire distress God's word of hope and said, "For thus saith 'the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth". So "she went and did according to the saying of Elijah; and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days" (1 Kings xvii. 14, 15).

Similarly, the apostle Paul, on the storm-tossed ship in the Mediterranean, was assured by the God-given word that neither he nor his fellow-travellers were to perish in the sea. So in responsive heart faith, and in open public confession, he exhorted all those on board the ship "to be of good cheer". "For," said he, "there shall be no loss of any man's life among you…. For I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me"(Acts xxvii. 21-25). Thus did the God-given word make new faith possible, and bring new hope to the birth.


FAITH MADE EASY AND SUFFICIENT

The full truth of the New Testament Gospel goes further still. For 'the word of Christ' (see Romans x. 17. R.V.) - words, that is, which speak of Christ, as well as words spoken by Christ - not only makes faith possible; it also makes it easy and all-sufficient. For Christ has Himself already done all that is necessary to bridge the gap between men and God, and to triumph over the depths of sin and the grave. In order to get reconciled to God we do not have ourselves to climb to heaven to bring Christ down. For the Gospel tells us plainly that the eternal Word has already become flesh, that the Man Christ Jesus is the one available and all-sufficient Mediator between God and men. It is enough to believe in Him.

Or again, on the other hand, in order to free ourselves from the power and the penalty of sin we do not have to storm the depths of Hades. For by dying Christ has already broken the power of the prince of death, and delivered us. Christ is already risen from the dead. Death can have no more dominion over Him. He has the keys of Death and of Hades. He is the Lord of death as well as of life. So the word of this Gospel brings eternal salvation immediately within our reach where we are, and as we are, as frail mortals and vile sinners. It asks of us faith, and

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faith only - faith in the person and in the work of the God-Man crucified and exalted.

So salvation is within easy and immediate reach. It can be embraced by the appropriating activity of our hearts and our mouths. Such - so St. Paul asserts - "is the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans x. 9, 10). This means that, because of the amazing word which God has spoken in Christ, salvation can be embraced and enjoyed by sinners solely through the obedience of faith. It is this simple sufficient response which, the God-given word invites, inspires and informs.

So, when the Philippian jailor asked Paul and Silas, "Sirs,. What must I do to be saved?" he was not told to do anything by his own personal achievement, but to trust wholly to the person and work of another." Believe," they said, "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" (Acts xvi. 31). Such good tidings make faith easy and faith all-sufficient, or rather they proclaim that Christ is all-sufficient. They thus bring salvation within the reach and embrace of all who hear. They make no distinction between Jew and Gentile. "For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord, shall be saved." Thus, "the apostle," wrote Dr. Morgan (commenting on Romans x. 13), "again quoting from the Old Testament... shows by the use of the great word 'Whosoever' that salvation is at the disposal of all who believe"[10]. Indeed (in commenting further on Romans x. 16-21), Dr. Campbell Morgan went on to write, "The truth which is brought out here with great clearness is that God elects those who believe to salvation rather than that those believe whom God elects". "This," he wrote, "does not... clear away all the mystery that surrounds the subject. It does, however, place the emphasis at the right point, as it reveals the fact that responsibility rests upon those who hear."[11] So important is the place which Dr. Morgan understood Scripture to give to the faith of the hearer.


THE BELIEVER JUSTIFIED

The word of Christ, which thus brings salvation within the embrace of the believer, is a word of creative power because it is a word possessing divine authority, and giving expression to the

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mind and will of God. It is this mind and will which determine what is and what is to be. By His word and at His pleasure God can and does quicken the dead, and call the things which are not as though they are; and henceforth so they are.

This is the truth about God which underlies the doctrine of justification, namely that a man's standing before God is primarily determined and finally fixed by God's mind towards him, by God's will for him, and by God's word about him. So, if God Himself has declared by word and deed that sinners, who trust in Christ, and in Christ crucified for sinners, share His acceptance before God, and are counted righteous in God's sight; then, they are righteous in God's sight. This decisive word of God none can either deny or defy. It is this word of God's justifying grace which the sinner believes when he embraces the gospel, that is, "the word of faith which we preach".


THE BELIEVER GIVEN ASSURANCE AND HOPE

The same word of God, which we are given to preach, gives the simple believer assurance of much more than present acceptance in God's sight. By faith in this word, or rather in God, who can be counted on to fulfil it, the believer gains entrance into either the outworked experience or the joyful anticipation of all that it promises. Thus the present blessings of the new covenant, and the certain hope of a personal share in the coming heavenly glory, become his in realized possession.

This enjoyment of benefit and embrace of hope by faith in Christ's word are significantly illustrated in the records of some of the miracles wrought by our Lord during His earthly ministry. Then the word that he spake made faith possible, easy and sufficient because to the responsive it was complemented by His creative deed. Thus hope was not only born; it also became strong and found fulfilment.

Thus, at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, to the servants Jesus said, "Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast". And they bare it. So did the ruler of the feast taste not water but wine (St. John ii. 1-11). Similarly, on what Luke calls "the lake of Gennesaret", Jesus said to Simon, "Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught". And Simon answering said, "At Thy word I will". "And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes" (St. Luke v. 1-11). Again, later to ten lepers who cried for mercy, Jesus said," Go shew yourselves unto the priests". "And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed" (St. Luke xvii. 11-19). So the

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word of Christ spoken to men in their need and in their defilement makes faith possible, easy, sufficient, and abundantly worthwhile, "And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you"(1 Peter i. 25).


III. THE TASK OF THE PREACHER

We come, in conclusion, to the place and task of the preacher. God Himself has ordained that the word He has spoken shall be brought near to men in present living utterance and in urgent exhortation by preachers.


THE PREACHER'S AUTHORITY AND APPEAL

Such preachers speak with a twofold authority. On the one hand, their message is God-given. The word they have to proclaim is not their own ideas, nor the opinions of men, but the word of God. On the other hand, they themselves are God-sent. They possess a divine commission. A stewardship in the gospel is entrusted to them. Woe is unto them if they preach not the gospel.

Such preachers also beseech men with a twofold appeal. On the one hand, they speak as themselves sinners, saved by God's grace in Christ. They invite other men to share in the response of faith which they themselves have made. Their own personal experience of God's saving grace, of its peace and joy, its liberty and hope, its constraint and power, is itself a living testimony confirming the truth of their words, and giving warmth and, earnestness to their appeal. So, when they preach the gospel, the offer of righteousness from God that is therein revealed is by such preachers offered "from faith to faith" (Romans i. 17).


THE PREACHER AS GOD'S FELLOW-WORKER

On the other hand, since they are divinely commissioned, true preachers of the gospel of Christ beseech men "in Christ's stead" (see 2 Corinthians v. 18-20). It is as though through them Christ Himself urged men to be reconciled to God, to embrace God's terms of peace. So true is this that those who reject such preachers reject Him who sent them. Nor is that all. Since the preaching of the gospel is a work divinely originated, God Himself works in and through the human preaching. The preachers become in vital deed God's fellow workers. While they plant or water, it is God who gives the increase. For it is this activity of pro-

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claiming the truth of Christ crucified and exalted, which God Himself is pleased actively to use to save those who believe.

No wonder Paul said that he owed the proclamation of this gospel to all men, that he was ready to preach it everywhere, that he was not ashamed to preach it anywhere. For he knew that God would make such preaching the instrument and the occasion of the manifestation of His power to save men. So, when Paul says, "I am. not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth," by the word 'gospel' he refers not only to the message preached, but also to the dynamic activity of preaching it (see Romans i. 14-17).

"The word gospel denotes here," writes Godet on Romans i. 16, "as in verses 1 and 9, not the matter but the act of preaching; Calvin himself says: De vocali praedicatione hic loquitur. And. why is the apostle not ashamed of such a proclamation? Because it is the mighty arm of God rescuing the world from perdition, and bringing it salvation... No one need blush at being the' instrument of such a force."[12] Or let me (from a translation) quote in full John Calvin himself. He says "But observe how much Paul ascribes to the ministry of the Word, when he testifies that God thereby puts forth His power to save; for he speaks here not of any secret revelation, but of vocal preaching".[13]

It is such an announcement of the good tidings, it is such evangelisation of men by preaching, that becomes by the divine co-operation "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth".


THE IMPORTANCE OF PREACHING

It is, therefore, of primary importance that this preaching of the gospel of Christ should be maintained in every generation, and carried in its discharge to the uttermost parts of the earth. It is those who belong to this order of divinely-sent preachers of the gospel, whether at home or overseas, who belong to the true apostolic succession, which God Himself never allows to die out in His world. It is the work that such preachers do that is particularly beautiful in God's eyes, and the more so when, to reach some with their message, they travel on foot over the mountains to places difficult of access or remote from large centres of population. Even as it is written, How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tiding.... that publisheth salvation (Isaiah lii. 7; and Romans x. 15). This

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work is fundamentally so simple that it requires no elaborate accompanying paraphernalia of ecclesiasticism. This gospel, as Charles Spurgeon acknowledged, with thanksgiving to God, can be carried to the ends of the earth by a man on his two feet.


EARTHLY LIFE'S SUPREME PRIVILEGE

This gospel of Christ offers to "whosoever believeth" the greatest privilege of eternity - to have one's name written in heaven as one of God's redeemed people. For those who have thus embraced the heavenly blessings of the gospel, there is no higher privilege to be enjoyed in one's earthly life as a Christian than to be a divinely-commissioned herald of this same gospel, and thus to be used to lead others to believe in it, or rather to believe in Christ, and to confess Him as Lord.

It is, therefore, no surprise that the apostle Paul confessed with wondering awe, Unto me, who am less than the least of all the saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians iii. 8). Nor is it any surprise either that George Campbell Morgan wrote, "To serve the Word is to fulfil the highest function of which man is capable. Let those called to its holy privilege halt in awe, worship in wonder, and go forward with glad confidence."[14] "The supreme work of the Christian minister," he wrote, "is the work of preaching. This is a day in which one of our greatest perils is 'that of doing a thousand little things to the neglect of the one thing, which is preaching."[15] "Given the preacher," he said, "with a message from the whole Bible, seeing its bearing on life at any point, I cannot personally understand that man not being swept sometimes right out of himself by the fire and the force and the fervour of his work."[16]

Nothing surely would please Dr. Morgan more than that God should use such a lecture as this to call young men to this same ministry, to be preachers of the God-given word of faith. This :is a task before which none can rightly say on his own initiative, "Yes, I will undertake it". But before the divine call and commission to "Go... preach", it is life's highest privilege, whatever the cost or the sacrifice, joyously to cry out with George Campbell Morgan, "Thy messenger, my Master - Thine!" If Thou wilt give me Thy words to speak, I will utter them, from this day forward, adding nothing to them, taking naught away. Their 'whole counsel I will declare, so help me God."[17]


References

[1] The Ministry of the Word (Hodder and Stoughton, 1919), pp. 200, 201.

[2] G. Campbell Morgan, John Marries (Revell, 1930), pp. 32, 33.

[3] Op. cit., p. 46

[4] Preaching (Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1937), pp. 17, 18.

[5] Preaching, p. 96.

[6] Preaching, p. 99.

[7] The Ministry of the Word, pp. 53, 54.

[8] Preaching, pp. 61, 62.

[9] The Mystery of Godliness (Eerdmans, 1950), pp. 129-133.

[10] Commentary on Romans, p. 164.

[11] Op. cit., p. 165.

[12] Commentary on Romans, Vol. I, p. 151. (Translated by A. Cusin.)

[13] The Epistle to the Romans, Commentary, p. 62 (Translated by John Owen, 1849.)

[14] The Ministry of the Word, p. 58.

[15] Preaching, p. 12.

[16] Preaching, p. 56.

[17] G. Campbell Morgan, John Harries, p. 46.

Prepared for the web by Robert I. Bradshaw in July 2005. Reproduced by kind permission of Westminster Chapel, London.