The Almost Christian – a Sermon by John Wesley

 

The Almost Christian Preached at St. Mary’s, Oxford, before the University, on July 25, 1741.
 
“Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”
 
AND many there are who go thus far: ever since the Christian religion was in the world, there have been many in every age and nation who were almost persuaded to be Christians. But seeing it avails nothing before God to go only thus far, it highly imports us to consider,
 
First. What is implied in being almost,
 
Secondly. What in being altogether, a Christian.
 
I. (I.) 1. Now, in the being almost a Christian is implied, First, heathen honesty. No one, I suppose, will make any question of this; especially, since by heathen honesty here, I mean, not that which is recommended in the writings of their philosophers only, but such as the common heathens expected one of another, and many of them actually practised. By the rules of this they were taught that they ought not to be unjust; not to take away their neighbour’s goods, either by robbery or theft; not to oppress the poor, neither to use extortion toward any; not to cheat or overreach either the poor or rich, in whatsoever commerce they had with them; to defraud no man of his right; and, if it were possible, to owe no man anything.
 
2. Again: the common heathens allowed, that some regard was to be paid to truth, as well as to justice. And, accordingly, they not only held him in abomination who was forsworn, who called God to witness to a lie; but him also who was known to be a slanderer of his neighbour, who falsely accused any man. And indeed, little better did they esteem wilful liars of any sort, accounting them the disgrace of human kind, and the pests of society.
 
3. Yet again: there was a sort of love and assistance which they expected one from another. They expected whatever assistance any one could give another, without prejudice to himself. And this they extended not only to those little offices of humanity which are performed without any expense or labour, but likewise to the feeding the hungry, if they had food to spare; the clothing the naked with their own superfluous raiment; and, in general. the giving, to any that needed, such things as they needed not themselves. Thus far, in the lowest account of it, heathen honesty went; the first thing implied in the being almost a Christian.
 
(II.) 4. A second thing implied in the being almost a Christian, is, the having a form of godliness; of that godliness which is prescribed in the gospel of Christ; the having the outside of a real Christian. Accordingly, the almost Christian does nothing which the gospel forbids. he taketh not the name of God in vain; he blesseth, and curseth not; he sweareth not at all, but his communication is, yea, yea; nay, nay. he profanes not the day of the Lord, nor suffers it to be profaned, even by the stranger that is within his gates. he not only avoids all actual adultery, fornication, and uncleanness, but every word or look that either directly or indirectly tends thereto; nay, and all idle words, abstaining both from detraction, backbiting, talebearing, evil speaking, and from “all foolish talking and jesting”—eutrapelia, a kind of virtue in the heathen moralist’s account;—briefly, from all conversation that is not “good to the use of edifying,” and that, consequently, “grieves the Holy Spirit of God, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.”
 
5. He abstains from “wine wherein is excess”; from revellings and gluttony. He avoids, as much as in him lies, all strife and contention, continually endeavouring to live peaceably with all men. And, if he suffer wrong, he avengeth not himself, neither returns evil for evil. he is no railer, no brawler, no scoffer, either at the faults or infirmities of his neighbour. he does not willingly wrong, hurt, or grieve any man; but in all things act and speaks by that plain rule, “Whatsoever thou wouldest not he should do unto thee, that do not thou to another.”
 
6. And in doing good, he does not confine himself to cheap and easy offices of kindness, but labours and suffers for the profit of many, that by all means he may help some. In spite of toil or pain, “whatsoever his hand findeth to do, he doeth it with his might;” whether it be for his friends, or for his enemies; for the evil, or for the good. For being “not slothful” in this, or in any “business,” as he “hath opportunity” he doeth “good,” all manner of good, “to all men;” and to their souls as well as their bodies. he reproves the wicked, instructs the ignorant, confirms the wavering, quickens the good, and comforts the afflicted. he labours to awaken those that sleep; to lead those whom God hath already awakened to the “Fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness,” that they may wash therein and be clean; and to stir up those who are saved through faith, to adorn the gospel of Christ in all things.
 
7. he that hath the form of godliness uses also the means of grace; yea, all of them, and at all opportunities. he constantly frequents the house of God; and that, not as the manner of some is, who come into the presence of the Most High, either loaded with gold and costly apparel, or in all the gaudy vanity of dress, and either by their unseasonable civilities to each other, or the impertinent gaiety of their behaviour, disclaim all pretensions to the form as well as to the power of godliness. Would to God there were none even among ourselves who fall under the same condemnation! who come into this house, it may be, gazing about, or with all the signs of the most listless, careless indifference, though sometimes they may seem to use a prayer to God for his blessing on what they are entering upon; who, during that awful service, are either asleep, or reclined in the most convenient posture for it; or, as though they supposed God was asleep, talking with one another, or looking round, as utterly void of employment. Neither let these be accused of the form of godliness. No; he who has even this, behaves with seriousness and attention, in every part of that solemn service. More especially, when he approaches the table of the Lord, it is not with a light or careless behaviour, but with an air, gesture, and deportment which speaks nothing else but “God be merciful to me a sinner!”
 
8. To this, if we add the constant use of family prayer, by those who are masters of families, and the setting times apart for private addresses to God, with a daily seriousness of behaviour; he who uniformly practises this outward religion, has the form of godliness. There needs but one thing more in order to his being almost a Christian, and that is, sincerity.
 
(III.) 9. By sincerity I mean, a real, inward principle of religion, from whence these outward actions flow. And, indeed if we have not this, we have not heathen honesty; no, not so much of it as will answer the demand of a heathen Epicurean poet. Even this poor wretch, in his sober intervals, is able to testify,
Oderunt peccare boni, virtutis amore;
Oderunt peccare mali, formidine poenae.
[Good men avoid sin from the love of virtue;
Wicked men avoid sin from a fear of punishment.]
 
So that, if a man only abstains from doing evil in order to avoid punishment, Non pasces in cruce corvos, [Thou shalt not be hanged.], saith the Pagan; there, “thou hast thy reward.” But even he will not allow such a harmless man as this to be so much as a good heathen. If, then, any man, from the same motive, viz., to avoid punishment, to avoid the loss of his friends, or his gain, or his reputation, should not only abstain from doing evil, but also do ever so much good; yea, and use all the means of grace; yet we could not with any propriety say, this man is even almost a Christian. If he has no better principle in his heart, he is only a hypocrite altogether.
 
10. Sincerity, therefore, is necessarily implied in the being almost a Christian; a real design to serve God, a hearty desire to do his will. It is necessarily implied, that a man have a sincere view of pleasing God in all things; in all his conversation; in all his actions; in all he does or leaves undone. This design, if any man be almost a Christian, runs through the whole tenor of his life. This is the moving principle, both in his doing good, his abstaining from evil, and his using the ordinances of God.
 
11. But here it will probably be inquired, “Is it possible that any man living should go so far as this, and, nevertheless, be only almost a Christian”? What more than this, can be implied in the being a Christian altogether? I answer, First, that it is possible to go thus far, and yet be but almost a Christian, I learn, not only from the oracles of God, but also from the sure testimony of experience.
 
12. Brethren, great is “my boldness towards you in this behalf.” And “forgive me this wrong,” if I declare my own folly upon the house-top, for yours and the gospel’s sake. —Suffer me, then, to speak freely of myself, even as of another man. I am content to be abased, so ye may be exalted, and to be yet more vile for the glory of my Lord.
 
13. I did go thus far for many years, as many of this place can testify; using diligence to eschew all evil, and to have a conscience void of offence; redeeming the time; buying up every opportunity of doing all good to all men; constantly and carefully using all the public and all the private means of grace; endeavouring after a steady seriousness of behaviour, at all times, and in all places; and, God is my record, before whom I stand, doing all this in sincerity; having a real design to serve God; a hearty desire to do his will in all things; to please him who had called me to “fight the good fight,” and to “lay hold of eternal life.” Yet my own conscience beareth me witness in the Holy Ghost, that all this time I was but almost a Christian.
 
II. If it be inquired, “What more than this is implied in the being altogether a Christian?” I answer,
 
(I.) 1. First. The love of God. For thus saith his word, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” Such a love is this, as engrosses the whole heart, as rakes up all the affections, as fills the entire capacity of the soul and employs the utmost extent of all its faculties. he that thus loves the Lord his God, his spirit continually “rejoiceth in God his Saviour.” his delight is in the Lord, his Lord and his All, to whom “in everything he giveth thanks. All his desire is unto God, and to the remembrance of his name.” his heart is ever crying out, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.” Indeed, what can he desire beside God? Not the world, or the things of the world: for he is “crucified to the world, and the world crucified to him.” he is crucified to “the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, and the pride of life.” Yea, he is dead to pride of every kind: for “love is not puffed up” but “he that dwelling in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him,” is less than nothing in his own eyes.
 
(II.) 2. The Second thing implied in the being altogether a Christian is, the love of our neighbour. For thus said our Lord in the following words, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” If any man ask, “Who is my neighbour?” we reply, Every man in the world; every child of his who is the Father of the spirits of all flesh. Nor may we in any wise except our enemies or the enemies of God and their own souls. But every Christian loveth these also as himself, yea, “as Christ loved us.” he that would more fully understand what manner of love this is, may consider St. Paul’s description of it. It is “long-suffering and kind.” It “envieth not.” It is not rash or hasty in judging. It “is not puffed up;” but maketh him that loves, the least, the servant of all. Love “doth not behave itself unseemly,” but becometh “all things to all men.” She “seeketh not her own;” but only the good of others, that they may be saved. “Love is not provoked.” It casteth out wrath, which he who hath is wanting in love. “It thinketh no evil. It rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. It covereth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”
 
(III.) 3. There is yet one thing more that may be separately considered, though it cannot actually be separate from the preceding, which is implied in the being altogether a Christian; and that is the ground of all, even faith. Very excellent things are spoken of this throughout the oracles of God. “Every one,” saith the beloved disciple, “that believeth is born of God.” “To as many as received him, gave he power to become the sons of God. even to them that believe on his name.” And “this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” Yea, our Lord himself declares, “He that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life; and cometh not into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.”
 
4. But here let no man deceive his own soul. “It is diligently to be noted, the faith which bringeth not forth repentance, and love, and all good works, is not that right living faith, but a dead and devilish one. For, even the devils believe that Christ was born of a virgin: that he wrought all kinds of miracles, declaring himself very God: that, for our sakes, he suffered a most painful death, to redeem us from death everlasting; that he rose again the third day: that he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father and at the end of the world shall come again to judge both the quick and dead. These articles of our faith the devils believe, and so they believe all that is written in the Old and New Testament. And yet for all this faith, they be but devils. They remain still in their damnable estate lacking the very true Christian faith.” [Homily on the Salvation of Man.]
 
5. “The right and true Christian faith is” (to go on the words of our own Church), “not only to believe that Holy Scripture and the Articles of our Faith are true, but also to have a sure trust and confidence to be saved from everlasting damnation by Christ. It is a sure trust and confidence which a man hath in God, that, by the merits of Christ, his sins are forgiven, and he reconciled to the favour of God; whereof doth follow a loving heart, to obey his commandments.”
 
6. Now, whosoever has this faith, which “purifies the heart” (by the power of God, who dwelleth therein) from “pride, anger, desire, from all unrighteousness” from “all filthiness of flesh and spirit;” which fills it with love stronger than death, both to God and to all mankind; love that doeth the works of God, glorying to spend and to be spent for all men, and that endureth with joy, not only the reproach of Christ, the being mocked, despised, and hated of all men, but whatsoever the wisdom of God permits the malice of men or devils to inflict,—whosoever has this faith thus working by love is not almost only, but altogether, a Christian.
 
7. But who are the living witnesses of these things? I beseech you, brethren, as in the presence of that God before whom “hell and destruction are without a covering—how much more the hearts of the children of men?”—that each of you would ask his own heart, “Am I of that number? Do I so far practise justice, mercy, and truth, as even the rules of heathen honesty require? If so, have I the very outside of a Christian? the form of godliness? Do I abstain from evil,—from whatsoever is forbidden in the written Word of God? Do I, whatever good my hand findeth to do, do it with my might? Do I seriously use all the ordinances of God at all opportunities? And is all this done with a sincere design and desire to please God in all things?”
 
8. Are not many of you conscious, that you never came thus far; that you have not been even almost a Christian; that you have not come up to the standard of heathen honesty; at least, not to the form of Christian godliness?—much less hath God seen sincerity in you, a real design of pleasing him in all things. You never so much as intended to devote all your words and works. your business, studies, diversions, to his glory. You never even designed or desired, that whatsoever you did should be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus,” and as such should be “a spiritual sacrifice, acceptable to God through Christ.”
 
9. But, supposing you had, do good designs and good desires make a Christian? By no means, unless they are brought to good effect. “Hell is paved,” saith one, “with good intentions.” The great question of all, then, still remains. Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart? Can you cry out, “My God, and my All”? Do you desire nothing but him? Are you happy in God? Is he your glory, your delight, your crown of rejoicing? And is this commandment written in your heart, “That he who loveth God love his brother also”? Do you then love your neighbour as yourself? Do you love every man, even your enemies, even the enemies of God, as your own soul? as Christ loved you? Yea, dost thou believe that Christ loved thee, and gave himself for thee? Hast thou faith in his blood? Believest thou the Lamb of God hath taken away thy sins, and cast them as a stone into the depth of the sea? that he hath blotted out the handwriting that was against thee, taking it out of the way, nailing it to his cross? Hast thou indeed redemption through his blood, even the remission of thy sins? And doth his Spirit bear witness with thy spirit, that thou art a child of God?
 
10. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who now standeth in the midst of us, knoweth, that if any man die without this faith and this love, good it were for him that he had never been born. Awake, then, thou that sleepest, and call upon thy God: call in the day when he may be found. Let him not rest, till he make his “goodness to pass before thee;” till he proclaim unto thee the name of the Lord, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin.” Let no man persuade thee, by vain words, to rest short of this prize of thy high calling. But cry unto him day and night, who, “while we were without strength, died for the ungodly,” until thou knowest in whom thou hast believed, and canst say, “My Lord, and my God!” Remember, “always to pray, and not to faint,” till thou also canst lift up thy hand unto heaven, and declare to him that liveth for ever and ever, “Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee.”
 
11. May we all thus experience what it is to be, not almost only; but altogether Christians; being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus; knowing we have peace with God through Jesus Christ; rejoicing in hope of the glory of God; and having the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost given unto us!

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About Michael Fackerell

The Christian faith is about Jesus. He came to save the lost. About Jesus Christ, Bible teaching, Testimonies, Salvation, Prayer, Faith, Networking.

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  1. Leonardo de la Paor says:

    Greetings from the Emerald Isle!
    A son of Patrick, a disciple of Jesus Christ & a child of God.
    It Is Finished
    As I consider the state of the Church at the beginning of the twenty-first century, I observe a people who have swapped their faith for a bumper sticker and a church that has been caught up with the wrappings of religion. Many in the Church have grown tired of that old-time religion, and they have become enamoured with the affluence of get-holy-quick, pop-Christian programs. They have joined arms with the razzlers and the dazzlers of the world’s marketplace, and they have set out on a journey down a yellow-brick road that will lead only to the great and powerful Judge whom they do not recognize, for without even realizing it they have abandoned their first love. For all practical purposes, the person and work of Jesus Christ have become commonplace, and the finished work of Christ’s atonement is largely taken for granted.
    Nevertheless, the atoning death of the Lord of glory is never to be regarded merely as a pleasant fact of history. Redemption has been accomplished. God promised that the Seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent, and He promised that the Christ would be a Stone of stumbling and a Rock of offence. When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order to redeem those under the Law for the express purpose that we, His people, might be adopted as sons of God. God’s Word is filled with the story of God’s enduring love for His people. From Genesis to Revelation, God reveals the progress of the salvation of His people culminating in the death of death in the death of the Saviour who cried out “It is finished.”
    Although no one would ever admit it, many have attempted to displace the redemptive work of Jesus Christ — wrapping the entire doctrine of redemption in ornate packaging with colourful bows and ribbons in order to make Jesus look as attractive as possible so that He would not be an offence to anyone contemplating the option of religion. However, it does not matter if we dress up Jesus in the most colourful robes of our culture, and it does not matter how we decorate the cross of Christ; it will always be an offence to the unbelieving world. We cannot disguise the cross of Christ, nor can we hide its radiance. For it was upon the cross the Prince of glory died so that we might live, move, and have our being, before His face and for His glory alone.

    Counterfeit Gospels

    The Gospel is not “You must be born again.”
    The Gospel is not “You must be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
    The Gospel is not “You must be baptized in the Holy Spirit.”
    The Gospel is not “You must speak in tongues.”
    The Gospel is not “You can perform miracles.”
    The Gospel is not “Let Jesus into your heart.”
    The Gospel is not “You must have a personal relationship (or experience or encounter) with Christ.”
    The Gospel is not “Repent.”
    The Gospel is not “Expect a miracle.”
    The Gospel is not “Put Jesus on the throne of your life.”
    The Gospel is not “Jesus set an example for us so that we may follow him to Heaven.”
    The Gospel is not “Trust Jesus.”
    The Gospel is not “Let go and let God.”
    The Gospel is not “Draw nigh unto God.”
    The Gospel is not “Christ died for all men and desires the salvation of all.”
    The Gospel is not “Decide for Christ.”
    The Gospel is not “Christians should take dominion over the Earth.”
    The Gospel is not “Make Jesus Lord of your life.”
    The Gospel is not “Jesus is coming again.”

    The Gospel is Good News.

    But the Gospel is Good News of a particular sort. It is not good news about what Christians will enjoy in Heaven. It is not good news about what God can do in changing your life. It is not good news about the success, prosperity, health, money, and powerful
    living that God wants you to enjoy. Many people confuse the Gospel with stories about what God has done or can do in their lives.
    One looks in vain through their books and newsletters for a presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What one finds instead are numerous accounts of miracles, speaking in tongues, and other amazing and exciting religious experiences. None of these things is the Gospel.
    They make the same mistake that seventy disciples did, as Luke reports in chapter 10.

    Let me repeat the story:

    After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before his face into every city and place where he himself was about to go….
    Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject
    to us in your name.”
    And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven. Behold, I give you
    authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in Heaven.

    Unlike many religious people who falsely claim they can perform divine miracles, here were seventy men who could truly perform divine miracles. God was doing wonderful things in their lives. They had dominion even over demons. But Jesus tells them explicitly, “Do not rejoice in this.” Christ gave them a direct and explicit command not to rejoice in their own experiences—experiences that some people today would promote as “power evangelism” and “power healing.” The disciples were focusing on their own experiences rather than what God had done from all eternity and what Christ was going to accomplish on the cross. They were rejoicing in their subjective experiences. But Christ told them to rejoice in something that they had never experienced, something that God had done wholly outside of them, even before they were born. He told them to rejoice in the doctrine of election—that their names are written in Heaven. That election is permanent:

    Their names are written. But many, if not all, of those who are promoting healing and miracles today actually deny the doctrine of election. They believe that man is free of God’s control. Therefore, they have nothing to rejoice in but their own experiences.

    Most of what are called “Evangelical” books, essays, television programs, and sermons consist of little more than stories about the wonderful things God is doing in this movie star’s life, or that football player’s life, or what he can do in your life. They do not contain even the least suggestion of the Gospel. It is impossible to over-emphasize this point. Virtually all of what is preached from the pulpits and television studios, in conservative as well as in liberal churches, is not the Gospel. It is a clever counterfeit, and millions of churchgoers and television viewers are being cheated.

    The Gospel of Jesus Christ

    In contrast to their subjective religious experience, the apostle Paul tells us what the Gospel is in 1 Corinthians 15:

    Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the Gospel which I preached to you, which
    also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold
    fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
    For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for
    our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again
    the third day according to the Scriptures.

    That is the Gospel, and that Gospel is preached in very few so-called Christian churches today:

    Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried, and he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.

    Because of contemporary religious confusion, there are several aspects of Paul’s Gospel that demand elucidation.

    First, the Gospel concerns history, not legend or myth. It is not, as Peter says, “cunningly devised fables.” When Paul mentions Jesus Christ, he means an actual historical character like George Washington or Julius Caesar. He is not speaking of an experiential “Christ” whom we imagine. There are many different “Christs” and “Gods” being talked about today. The words Jesus, Christ, and God have become almost meaningless in the 21st century, as we have seen, and unless one says exactly which “Christ” he means, no one, including himself, can know. Paul does that. His Christ is an historical figure, not a voice, nor a vision, nor a dream.

    Second, the Gospel concerns the past, neither the present nor the future. It is history. The Gospel does not describe any present or future action that God or man might take. The Gospel is news about actions God in Christ took almost 2,000 years ago to save his people, actions that are wholly outside of our experience. Just as all men are condemned by Adam’s sin, which was wholly outside of us, so are all of God’s chosen people saved by Christ’s obedience unto death, which is wholly outside of their experience. Just as the Gospel is history, not legend; and just as the Gospel concerns the past, not the present nor the future; so the Gospel is about something that God did, not something that we must do or can do. Christ is both the author and the finisher of our salvation. We do not complete what he began; Christ said, “It is finished.”

    Third, the Gospel concerns what Christ did for his people:

    Christ died for our sins, not for the sins of everyone in the world, but for the sins of his people only. He did not die for the sins of Judas, for example, for Judas went to Hell. If Christ had died for Judas’s sins, why was Judas sent to Hell? Was it for his unbelief, his failure to “let Jesus into his heart”? But unbelief and failure to “accept” Christ admittedly are sins, and Christ, according to this false but popular gospel, died for all of Judas’s sins.

    So the question remains unanswered:

    If Christ died for all men, why are some men punished in Hell?

    The Scriptures teach that Christ did not die for all men. He came to Earth to save some men, whom the Bible calls “his people,” “the sheep,” “friends,” and “the church,” among other names, and he actually earned salvation for them. He did not come merely to offer salvation to all men and hope that some men would accept his offer. He came to save his people, and he did so.

    The Gospel is an objective and historical message.

    It does not concern our experiences at all. It does not concern our works, but God’s works. It does not concern our alleged miracles, but Christ’s death and Resurrection. Regeneration—sometimes called the new birth—sanctification, faith, and the Second
    Coming—are all consequences of what Christ accomplished 2,000 years ago in Judea. They must not be confused with the Gospel, for effects should not be confused with causes.

    The Whole Counsel of God

    But there is more in Paul’s account of the Gospel than might appear in a superficial reading. What we have discovered so far is totally different from what passes for the Gospel in this decadent age. But there is a great deal more. Paul uses the phrase
    “according to the Scriptures” twice in this concise account of the Gospel. His whole summary of the Gospel takes only twenty-seven words in the New King James translation (and fewer in the Greek), and eight of those words are “according to the
    Scriptures … according to the Scriptures.”

    The phrase is obviously very important. Why does Paul repeat it? What does it mean?

    The Gospel, according to Paul, is embedded in some thing much larger:

    It is embedded in all the Scriptures. Not only are the Scriptures the only reliable source of information we have about the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, but the Scriptures alone explain those events. The Gospel is not merely that Christ died; so did Paul. The Gospel is not merely that he was buried; so was Abraham.

    The Gospel is not merely that Christ rose again, so did Lazarus. The Gospel is that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. And that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. The Gospel is in accord with and explained by the Scriptures.

    When Christ explained his resurrection to the disciples, he did so by explaining the Scriptures:

    And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the
    Scriptures the things concerning himself….
    Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him: and He vanished from their sight. And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us? … And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.

    By emphasizing the phrase “according to the Scriptures,” Paul is emphasizing the fact that the Gospel is part of a system of truth given to us in the Bible. All of the parts of this system fit together. All the statements in the Bible are logically consistent with one another. To give but one example of this, Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection fulfilled specific prophecies given centuries earlier. The exact town where he would be born was predicted hundreds of years before his birth; the fact that his birth would be unusual, for his mother would be a virgin, was predicted centuries before his birth; his death among the wicked and his burial among the rich were predicted; and Christ himself predicted his resurrection. The specific propositions that Paul calls the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 do not stand alone. They imply and are implied by many others.

    The choosing by God the Father of those that should be saved, the suffering of the punishment due them for their sins by Jesus Christ at Calvary, and the gift of faith to the elect people by God the Holy Spirit are all part of the system of truth taught in the Bible. They are the three great aspects of redemption: election, atonement, and faith. And the
    Gospel, the doctrine of the atonement, is the central theme. It is impossible to defend the Gospel, or even to preach the Gospel, without defending and explaining the system of truth of which it is a part.

    Paul’s emphatic phrases in 1 Corinthians 15 indicate that those who wish to separate the Gospel from the system of truth found in the Bible cannot do so. The Gospel, while a distinct part of the Biblical system, is nevertheless a part of the system.

    This system is fully expressed in the Scriptures. The propositions that Paul calls the Gospel are some of the propositions of Scripture. Because the Gospel is part of the Scriptural system of truth, it is impossible to defend the Gospel without defending the whole system. An exclusive emphasis on the “fundamentals” of the faith, rather than the “whole counsel of God,” which is the phrase the Bible uses, is futile. Six or eight unconnected truths, even if they be major doctrines of Christianity, are not the whole of Christianity, and cannot be defended effectively.

    Fundamentalism poses no serious threat to secular philosophies because it is logically unsystematic and disjointed, a mere shadow of the robust Christianity we find in the Bible.

    Paul emphasized the Scriptures, but this emphasis upon the writings is not unique to Paul. When explaining and defending Christianity, Christ always appealed to Scripture and never to his own experience. During his temptation in the wilderness, Christ quoted Scripture in reply to each of the Devil’s temptations:

    “It is written,” “It is written,” “It is written.”

    What makes this appeal more significant is the context in which it occurred.
    Christ had just been baptized in the River Jordan by John the Baptist. He had heard a voice from Heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well-pleased.” The Holy Spirit had descended on him in the form of a dove. Talk about religious experiences! No one else, before or since, has ever had such an astonishing experience. Yet Christ did not tell the Devil what had happened to him, the voice from Heaven and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Why not? Why did Christ ignore all this and quote what many today call the dead letter of the Bible? Why does Christ answer the Devil by quoting Scripture rather than recounting his recent and unique spiritual experiences? Because, the Scriptures are the objective written word of God.

    The Bible, not our experience, is authoritative. If Christ did not appeal to his experience, and it was a far greater experience than any mere man could ever hope to have, there is absolutely no justification for our appealing to our miserable and possibly deceptive experiences.

    It was, in fact, the Devil who wanted Christ to appeal to his personal experiences:

    He wanted Christ to perform a miracle; Christ refused.

    He wanted Christ to take a leap of faith off the pinnacle of the temple, presuming God the Father would perform a miracle; Christ refused.

    He wanted Christ to worship him, avoid the hellish suffering of the cross, and thereby gain dominion over all the kingdoms of the world; again Christ refused.

    The Devil used the same appeal to experience in the Garden when he tempted Eve:

    He promised Eve that she would become godlike when she ate the forbidden fruit. And Eve “saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise.” Relying upon her experience, and seeking a still more wonderful experience, Eve abandoned the Word of God. The secret of Christ’s intransigent resistance to diabolical temptation was precisely the fact that he did not prefer his own experiences to the Word of God.

    The apostle Peter also emphasizes the written Word of God. He climaxes his account of the testimony concerning the truth of the Christian faith by mentioning Scripture. In his second letter, Peter says,

    For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to him from the Excellent Glory:
    “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well-pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from Heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.
    We also have the prophetic word made more sure, which you do well to heed as a
    light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in
    your hearts.

    A few verses earlier Peter had written that God’s “divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us.”
    Please notice the phrase “all things.”

    Later in the same chapter Peter again says that Scripture is the only way we have of getting this knowledge:
    Scripture, the prophetic word made more sure, is the light that shines in a dark place—not a brightly lit place, nor even a dimly lit place, but a dark place. There is no other source for this knowledge, including knowledge of the Gospel, than the Scriptures. The Bible claims to have a monopoly on truth.

    The Evangelical Pentecostal/Charismatic crowd, like all other cults and false religions, deny that monopoly. They denigrate the Bible and base their religion on their personal experiences.

    The Gospel is the Good News of what Christ did for his people 2,000 years ago. It is not about the new birth, nor the Second Coming, nor the activities of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. The Gospel is propositions about historical events that happened wholly outside of us. It has consequences and implications for us today, to be sure, but these consequences are effects of the Gospel, and must not be confused with the Gospel itself.

    The fatal error of the Dark Ages was to confuse God’s work for us with God’s work in us, and so pervert the Gospel. The same error is widespread among so-called Evangelicals today who do not distinguish between what Christ has done for us and what the Holy Spirit can do in us. We are rapidly re-entering the Dark Ages because the light and clarity of the Gospel has been lost.

    What is it to Preach the Gospel?

    “For though I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel!”

    1 Corinthians 9:16

    What is it to preach the Gospel? Is everybody preaching the Gospel? No!
    Is everybody who claims to preach the Gospel preaching the Gospel? No!
    What is it to preach the Gospel? To Preach the Gospel is:

    To Tell The Truth About God

    First, to preach the Gospel is to preach the truth about God.

    1. We preach the God of eternal existence. The Scripture says, “in the beginning God.” When Moses came to the burning bush, God said, “Go down and deliver my people out of Egypt.” Moses said, “whom shall I say hath sent me?” and God replied, “I AM.” Not, I was; not I shall be, but I AM, the eternal I AM, the everlasting I Am. I Am that I Am!
    2. . We preach the God of creation. “All things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made.” In him we move, we live and we have our being. God created all things.
    3. . We preach the God of sovereign mercy. The Scripture says “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” The Bible says, “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy; I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious.” We preach the God of mercy, yes, but sovereign mercy, the God of grace, yes, but sovereign grace. God will be gracious to whom he will be gracious. He owes no man anything; if he bestows grace, his mercy, it is sovereignly bestowed. He is an immutable sovereign, and unchanging sovereign.
    4. . We preach the God of righteousness. Our Lord said, “I will in no wise clear the guilty. The soul that sinneth it shall die. Sin when it is finished bringeth forth death.” God Almighty is a righteous God. He is a holy God, therefore, Christ Jesus came into the world that God might be just and justify the ungodly. We preach a God that cannot show his love at the expense of his holiness. We preach a God that cannot show mercy at the expense of his truth and only at Calvary can mercy and truth meet together, and righteousness and peace kiss one another. The God we preach is the God of righteousness.
    5. . He’s the God of unchanging grace. “I am the Lord,” he said, “I do not change; therefore, you sons of Jacob are not consumed “Why is there no fear of God before the eyes of this generation? They’ve heard preached a false god; they’ve heard preached a weak god; they’ve heard preached a failing god; they’ve heard preached a disappointed god; they’ve heard preached a god whose hands are tied; they’ve heard preached a god who says I have no eyes but your eyes; I have no feet but your feet; I have no hands but your hands. That’s a lie! The God of the Bible is totally and completely independent of his creatures as far as his strength, his wisdom, his power, his beauty and his glory are concerned. We do not add to his glory! We receive and share in his glory. The God we preach is the God of eternal existence, the God of creation, the God of sovereign mercy, the God of righteousness, and the God of unchanging grace. He is the God upon whom we depend; the God to whom we look; and the God without whom we can’t exist! All things that we have we receive of him. We return nothing but that which he gives us. What is it to preach the Gospel? It is to preach the truth about God.

    To Tell The Truth About Man

    Secondly, what is it to preach the Gospel? It’s to preach the truth about man. Men do not want to hear the truth about God; and they do not want to hear the truth about themselves. But Gospel preachers preach the truth, not only about God, but the truth about the sinner, and they leave that sinner empty, broken and destroyed with all his foundations of flesh swept from under him, and all his self-righteous rags stripped from off him, leaving him naked and unclothed before the searchlight of God’s holiness. What does the Bible say about man? It says in Romans 3:10, “there is none righteous, no not one, there is none that understandeth; there is none that seek after God.” What are men seeking? Seeking their own pleasure; seeking their own comfort; seeking their own glory; seeking their own wills; seeking their own satisfaction, everybody seeks his own, they do not seek God. “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable, for there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Christ said, “you have not the love of God in you.” Somebody says, “Well, I love people.” No you don’t. You just consider whom you love. You love yourself. You try and think this minute “is there anybody in this world you really love? Well, you say, “I love my wife,” that’s yourself. That’s your wife. Well, “I love my mother and father.” That’s still loving yourself! You love them because they are your mother and father. Well, “I love my son or daughter.” Your son and daughter! Do you love anybody else’s son or daughter? “I love my brothers and sisters” That’s yourself. Well, “I love my Saviour; my own personal Saviour.” That’s loving yourself. If He weren’t your Saviour, you would not love Him. Everything you love is connected with your own sinful, selfish self. Your whole world revolves around yourself, your own pleasures, your own delights, your own passions, your own seeking.

    “There is none good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre, with their tongues they have used deceit the poison of snakes is under their lips; their mouths are full of cursing, bitterness, murmuring, complaining, fault-finding, gossip, back-biting, their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their ways, the way of peace, they know nothing about it.”

    There’s no genuine, honest, sincere fear of God before their eyes, they don’t fear God; they do not tremble at the presence of God; they don’t fall at His feet as dead men, even religious worshippers today don’t fear God. If they feared God, they would be silent in the presence of God; they would choose their words carefully; their worship would be marked, not by shouting, but by awesome reverence and fear. Job said:

    “When I saw the Lord, I said I have spoken once, yea, twice, but I’ll never speak again.”

    John said:

    “When I saw the Lord, I fell at his feet as a dead man. My eyes have seen the Lord.”

    Isaiah said:

    “When I saw the Lord, I cried, woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips. When I saw the Lord I saw my guilt.”

    The average person goes to church and he comes away feeling good. If the preacher had preached the truth about man, they would have come away from that place crying:

    “O, God, be merciful to me a sinner!”

    To Tell The Truth About Christ

    Thirdly: What is it to preach the Gospel? It is to tell the truth about God and man, and it is to tell the truth about Jesus Christ. My friends, Jesus of Nazareth is not a weak, frustrated reformer; Jesus Christ of Nazareth is very God of very God. He is the Messiah. He did not die as a martyr; he did not die as an example, he came down here and died on the cross as the victorious, conquering, successful Redeemer of his people. He died as the covenant Redeemer. He died for the covenant people; he died to accomplish a task given him by the Father before the world’s creation. When he completed his suffering on Calvary, he said, “It is finished.” He cannot fail! Christ is not a frustrated Redeemer; he is not a disappointed Saviour; he is not a defeated Saviour; he is not a poor, weak, reformer up there in heaven, crying his eyes out because people won’t let him have his way. He is the conquering, victorious Messiah who is seated at the right hand of the Father, waiting until his enemies become his footstool! He is the Lord of the living and the dead. A preacher said to a congregation one time, “won’t you make Jesus your Lord?” I emphatically declare that you cannot make Jesus Christ your Lord! The Father has already beaten you to it! He is your Lord! He is your Lord if you are saved; he is your Lord if you are damned! He is your Lord if you are on the right hand with his sheep; he is your Lord if you are on the left hand with the goats! He is your Lord! Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess in heaven, earth and hell that he is Lord. You don’t make him Lord, you recognize him as Lord. God made him Lord. The Father has delivered all things to the Son; the Scripture says he is the Lord. He purchased that right through his death on Calvary. Jesus Christ is not a fire escape from hell, he is the Lord; he is not a doormat named Jesus, he is Lord. If any man shall confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in his heart that God has raised him from the dead, he shall be saved. His life is a perfect righteousness; his death a perfect sacrifice. We’d better start telling the truth about this man called Jesus. To preach the Gospel is to tell the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ.

    To Tell The Truth About Salvation

    Fourthly: I am come to preach the Gospel and tell the truth about God, about men, about Christ and to tell the truth about salvation. Now let me tell you something about this thing of salvation. We use that word rather loosely in this day. Salvation from sin is not by the deeds of the law. Even those who are supposed to know something about salvation by grace have to remind themselves again and again that salvation is not by the works of the flesh, not in any way! Salvation is not by reformation; salvation does not come by decision; salvation does not come through church ordinances; salvation is not ours by church membership; salvation is in Christ the Lord. That’s where salvation is, not in man’s purpose, not in man’s plan; it’s in a Person. It’s not in a proposition, it’s not in walking an aisle, it’s not in a church ordinance, it’s in Christ! It’s not in a law; it’s not in the deeds of the flesh; salvation is in Christ. A man does not have salvation until he comes by the power of God’s Spirit through faith to a living, personal, vital, intimate union with Christ as the Lord. A man is not a Christian until he has a vital union with Christ. A man is not a Christian until he is inseparably joined, personally joined to Jesus Christ. A man is not a Christian until Christ becomes his life. A man is not a Christian unless you can cut into his heart and find love for Christ; cut into his mind and find thoughts of Christ; and cut into his soul and find a panting after Christ. Christ in you, that’s the hope of glory. The Holy Spirit convicts a man of sin; the Holy Spirit empties a sinner; the Holy Spirit brings a man to faith in the Son of God, faith in the living Lord. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.” Most people’s so-called Christianity can be taken off with their Sunday clothes; but a man who is genuinely saved has Christ living in him as an everlasting fountain springing up into everlasting life, he’s been born-again, he’s been resurrected from the grave, he has the very image of the Son of God stamped on his heart and it cannot be moved. What is it to preach the Gospel? There are not many folks preaching the Gospel because there are not many people telling the truth about God. Everybody has a god. But eternal life is to know the living God. What is it to preach the Gospel? It’s to tell the truth about man, and we are not going to like what we hear. It’s to tell the truth about, Christ, and it’s to tell the truth about salvation.

    Nothing To Glory Of In Preaching

    The next thing that Paul deals with here is “though I preach the Gospel I have nothing to glory of. Why is it that we who preach the Gospel have nothing to glory of? Well, firstly, we are conscious of our guilt. Any man who is not conscious of his own guilt can’t preach the Gospel because he doesn’t know the Gospel. And you can’t tell what you don’t know any more than you can come back from where you haven’t been. A man who preaches the Gospel is conscious of his own guilt. The man who was led of the Spirit to write this Scripture said, “I am not worthy to be an apostle, I see no worthiness in myself.” Later on he said, “I am less than the least of all the saints.” Pick out the least saint in God’s house and I am less than the least saint. Then later on he said, “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” When somebody asked, “Paul, who is the chief of sinners?” He replied, “I am.”
    A man who really knows God never graduates above that statement right there, “I’m only a sinner saved by grace.” He may grow in grace, grow in talent, grow in gifts and grow in knowledge, but he’s still only a sinner saved by grace. We have nothing to glory of, we’re just using borrowed gifts. 1 Corinthians 4:7, states:

    “Who maketh thee to differ?” Are you able to preach? Who gave you the power? Do you have a little more than somebody else? Who gave it to you? Do you have more talents than the next fellow? Who made you to differ? “What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if you received it, why dost thou glory?”
    Why do you glory in your beauty? God gave it to you. Why do you glory in your strength? Without God you would not have it. Why do you glory in your wealth? God gave it to you. Why do you glory in your talent, in your singing ability? Without God’s grace you’d be a simpleminded imbecile. Who made you to differ? What do you have that God didn’t give you? If you are walking around with something, something somebody gave you, why are you bragging as if you have it of your own natural ability? Why do you think that you are better than anybody else? Only God’s merciful grace; God’s gracious grace enables you to be anything.

    Necessity Laid Upon Me To Preach

    Read the next line of our text: “Necessity is laid upon me.” Why is it necessary for me to preach the Gospel? Preacher, why are you so compelled; why is it that every time you speak it’s always Christ and him crucified the Gospel? I’ll tell you why because of the truth and the beauty of the Gospel. I see in the Gospel of substitution a beauty beyond all things. I see in the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Good News of the Son of God, the truth of God. Only Christ can meet the perfect law. Only Christ can satisfy the justice of God. Only Christ can open the way for us into the holiest of all, into the presence of the Father. Only Christ can supply the need of the bankrupt sinner, and only Christ can keep me from falling.

    “Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling, and who is able to present you faultless before the throne and the presence of his glory with exceeding joy; to him be glory both now and forever.”

    That’s why it’s necessary for me to preach the Gospel: the beauty of it, the glory of it, and the truth of it. I could tell you that salvation is in the church, but it wouldn’t be true. I could tell you, let me baptize you, and by obeying the baptismal commandment you will go to heaven, but it wouldn’t be so. I could tell you that if you live a good life and pray and go to church on Sunday and give a little offering, God will take you to heaven when you die, but it wouldn’t be so. I could tell you to quit drinking, live a good, moral life and you will go to heaven when you die, but that would be a lie.
    But when I tell you that Christ died for our sins; that Christ is a sufficient Saviour; that Christ is an effectual substitute who came down here and gave us a righteousness which we didn’t have and couldn’t produce, went to the cross, bore our sins, paid our debt, satisfied the justice of God; that he is our living advocate at the right hand of the Father; and that if you come to a living, vital union with him, you’ll be saved, that’s the truth, and the only truth that will make you free.

    Woe Is Unto Me If I Preach Not

    Paul said it first, the Holy Spirit inspired him to say it, “Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel.” I’m in trouble, real trouble. I can’t think of a crime more terrible than to be entrusted with the immortal souls of eternity-bound boys and girls, young people, men and women, like every preacher is entrusted every Sunday, and then stand up in church and waste precious time talking about myself, about my problems or my so-called denomination or my church, or talk about my ideas of what is right and what is wrong. I can’t think of a more awful crime against society than to deceive people who are given to us to instruct in the things of the Lord. I’ve got to preach the Gospel! Woe is me if I don’t. God have mercy, and he won’t, if I don’t! Woe unto the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, woe unto the Christ-crucifiers of Jerusalem, but double woe upon the preachers and shepherds and pastors who for advantage, filthy lucre and praise of men deceive men’s souls. God help them, but he won’t. Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel, and there’s not another one, it’s the Gospel of Christ. If an angel from heaven preaches unto you any other gospel, Paul said, “Let him be accursed.” I’m preaching as a dying man to dying men; I’m preaching as one who may never preach again, and under God I’m going to tell you the truth. I say this, woe is me if I preach not the Gospel; but I have something to tell you: woe is you if I preach it and you do not believe it. You may not understand it; and it may not fit in with your tradition; and it may not fit into your denominational pattern, and I’m sure if it’s the Gospel it won’t because Christ didn’t fit the denominational pattern when he came down here either. He didn’t fit into their religious theology; he didn’t fit into their tradition; and he didn’t fit into their mould; and they crucified him!

    What is it to preach the Gospel? It is to preach the truth about God, the truth about man, the truth about Christ, and to preach the truth about salvation.

    I hope I have done that, and that you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.

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