“Proclaimed Among the Nations”

No other message like it!

This message is called the gospel, which means “good news.”

Not only is it good news, it is the best news—that the One who took the punishment we deserve because of our sin now offers us forgiveness instead of condemnation, reconciliation to God where there had been alienation, and hope for those without hope.

In this series of posts we’re examining six great truths about Jesus in First Timothy 3:16, “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: / He who was revealed in the flesh, / Was vindicated in the Spirit, / Seen by angels, / Proclaimed among the nations, / Believed on in the world, / Taken up to glory.”

Truth #4: “Proclaimed among the nations.”

The apostles were the first to proclaim the message of grace through Christ. Jesus commissioned Paul to take the good news to the Gentiles: “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:18).

The word “Gentiles” means “nations”—how the Jews referred to all those other than themselves.

After centuries of preparing Israel for the arrival of the Messiah through their lineage, God then took it to the next level—all the rest of the world (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8).

“It must never be forgotten,” said Donald Guthrie, “that a Hebrew Christ had become a Christ for the nations” (The Pastoral Epistles, Eerdmans, p. 90).

“He was being proclaimed without respect to national distinction, without respect to social condition, without respect to culture, with respect simply to the fact that all were sinners and in need of salvation” (James Hastings, The Great Texts of the Bible, Vol. 18, Eerdmans, p. 113).

Good news indeed!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Check It Out!

Time and again the spell-check on my computer has alerted me to a misspelled word.

Imagine, though, a computer for religious writers and for preachers preparing their sermons, equipped with a doctrine-check and a heresy-detector. If the writer commits a theological error, the computer beeps a warning.

Sounds unbelievable? You’re right. There’s no such thing—as far as I know.

But what if there were? Can you imagine trying to program a doctrine-check applicable to everyone? Would there have to be a different program for each denomination? And since many churches have liberal and conservative factions, would there have to be a doctrine-check designed for each?

Is there a standard?

Who has the authority to say what is true doctrinally and what is false? Is there a right and wrong? Or is it all relative? Does each of us have the freedom to decide what to believe? Is there no standard?

Paul writes, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13).

Also Paul warns, “. . . there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:7-8).

If there is no doctrinal standard, then what Paul says here makes absolutely no sense.

How do we determine the truth?

Even Paul was subject to a doctrine-check. When he preached at the Berean synagogue, the Jews there “were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Note the measuring stick the Bereans used to determine if what Paul taught was the truth.

Whenever we hear sermons from the pulpit or on TV or radio, and whenever we read articles such as this one, let’s do a doctrine-check, as the Bereans did: “to see whether these things were so.”

If what is taught matches up with God’s word, let’s believe it.

But if it doesn’t . . . .

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Good News?

His character

The Bible calls him “a righteous and holy man” (Mark 6:20). Jesus said of him, “He was the lamp that was burning and was shining . . .” (John 5:35).

The task of John the Baptist was preparing Israel for the coming Messiah. John’s message consisted of two main themes: 1) repentance, and 2) the Coming One.

Concerning repentance, he preached the necessity of showing proof of a true change of heart by not mistreating others and by sharing with those in need (Luke 3:7-14).

He was bold enough to rebuke King Herod for his sins—and consequently was imprisoned and beheaded (Matthew 14:3-12).

Concerning Christ, John said of Him, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! . . . . this is the Son of God” (John 1:29, 34).

His message

William Barclay says of John’s preaching, “. . . whatever the message of John was it was not a gospel. It was not good news . . .” (The Gospel of Luke, Westminster Press, p. 28).

I beg to differ. The New Testament specifically says John preached the gospel (Luke 3:18). The word gospel means good news.

It’s true, John preached fire and damnation (Luke 3:7, 9). He had to announce the bad news before the good news could be fully appreciated. The doctor must tell us we have cancer before we would consent to surgery or other treatment.

The good news John preached was that in spite of God’s wrath against sin, He has sent us a Savior who will rescue us from a fate far worse than death.

As William Hendriksen has written, “The Baptist’s warning, dire and dreadful though it may seem, is filled with mercy, for its purpose is that men may be converted” (New Testament Commentary: Luke, Baker Book House, p. 212).

That was the message God sent John to preach, and he faithfully preached it.

And it really was good news.
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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Is There a Place for Preaching?

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Why some won’t listen

Have you ever heard someone say, “Don’t preach to me!” or “I don’t mean to sound like I’m preaching, but . . . .”?

Preaching is not always appreciated. Sometimes this is due to those who fail to practice what they preach. And at times preaching may come across as self-righteous, egotistic.

But perhaps the major reason preaching is not always welcome is that there is within many of us the attitude, “Nobody’s gonna tell ME what to do!”

This rebellious inner self, the Bible says, must be put aside. In its place there must be childlike humility. God calls us to yield control of our lives to Him and make Christ our Lord in every area of our life.

If our beliefs are false or we’re not living right, and the preacher tells us we’re wrong, isn’t he really doing us a tremendous favor, even if it hurts at the time? “Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the truth?” Paul asks (Galatians 4:16).

Paul himself, at one time the violent persecutor of the church, had to learn the shocking truth that he had been working against God when he sincerely thought he was doing God’s will. He had to learn how wrong he was before he could get right. And so must we.

Why it makes sense to listen

If the preacher is true to the message God has revealed in His word, then resisting the message is resisting God Himself (Luke 10:16). The preacher is simply the messenger.

Balanced preaching contains both positive and negative and is geared to the needs of the hearers. It has often been said that preaching should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Sometimes we need to be afflicted.

Paul urged Timothy to “preach the word . . . reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” Paul then warns that people will reject unpalatable truth and turn instead to those who will tell them what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:2-4). Doesn’t this happen in our day—a lot?

So what do we want? Pleasant words that make us feel good and never bad, or the truth that we so desperately need?

To receive the marvelous blessings of salvation we must be willing to repent by changing our minds and renouncing our sins, then humbly submitting to God’s gracious will (Acts 2:36-38; 22:16).

If it’s really the truth, can we afford to accept anything else?

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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A Comment Worth Remembering

Something Jeff Hogan said years ago has stuck with me. The sermon that day was on some specific sin. Jeff commented that if we don’t preach on things like that, the members will think it’s OK to do them. He was right!

Reminded

From time to time we need to be reminded of what we already know (Philippians 3:1; 2 Peter 1:12). Perhaps since the last time we heard a sermon on the sin of greed, for example, we have become enmeshed in material pursuits (Matthew 13:22; 1 John 2:15-17). A pointed sermon can serve as a needed wake-up call.

Informed

Or perhaps we might not have even realized that a certain activity is sinful. If so, what we need is not a reminder—since we never knew it was wrong in the first place. Instead we need to be informed.

Convicted

Even more, we need to be deeply convicted so we can repent and do better. For example, if we have never been taught it is wrong to use pornography or have sex before marriage or have an abortion or use illicit drugs or cheat on tests or use profanity, etc., then a timely lesson on the subject can educate us in a hurry! That is, if we want the truth.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Just two verses later Paul says, “. . . preach the word…reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction . . .” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Jeff’s comment was right on target. If we are to learn how God’s wants us to live, and if we are to receive the periodic reminders we need, then true-to-the-Bible preaching must always be a vital part of our lives.

That’s how God designed it.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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