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Geoffrey Thomas: What then is the Heart of Gospel Proclamation?

Geoffrey ThomasGeoffrey Thomas:

What then is the heart of gospel proclamation? What are we asking men when we preach to them faith in Jesus Christ? . . . It is, first, to show men their need of Jesus Christ. The preacher’s task is to make a person aware of the seriousness of sin. It is not to create false guilt feelings, but it is to show men that the Creator has given laws to those who inhabit His creation, who live and move and have their being in Him, and who must answer to Him for their conduct. There is great power in preaching that addresses the conscience because there is an immediate echo of approval for what is said from within the very being of the hearer. Since men are made in the image of the lawgiver, the things of His law are written in their hearts. Therefore, men’s consciences speak with the preacher to them. It was when Bunyan’s Pilgrim felt the weight of the burden he carried that he realized how great was his need of deliverance. The Lord Jesus Christ invited those who labor and are heavy-laden to come to Him for rest (Matt. 11:28), but to others He said, “You would not come to me that you might have life” (John 5:40). Why would they not entrust themselves to Jesus? Because they felt no need of Him, because they were not heavy-laden with their guilt, and thus, when Jesus spoke of the sinner being enslaved in his sins, they protested what freedom they enjoyed. They would not believe in the only one who could make them truly free because they thought they were already possessors of real liberty. No one comes to Christ unless he has been made consciously aware of this need of Him. It is the great task of the preacher to show to men their state as it is before God, to pursue them from every refuge in which they hide, to persuade them that a holy God takes their actions and thoughts so seriously that He knows their every deviation from His will and intends to hold them accountable. This is the bedrock of powerful preaching, that men are in need of Christ because of their sin. Where has there ever been powerful preaching that muted the divine diagnosis and the plight of every man? (“Powerful Preaching,” chapter 14 in The Preacher and Preaching, edited by Samuel T. Logan [Presbyterian and Reformed, 1986], p. 388-89)

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