The Purpose and Potency of our Preaching
Not Your Personality, but His Person
Published April 26th, 2020
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Not Personality, but a Person
Not Personality, but a Person
Let's play a game: Who said it? Starbucks or Church Sermon? "Create a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome." "Smile at someone, shake someone's hand, ask someone how they're doing, show them you care." "Be present, connect with transparency, dignity, and respect." The only one that was said in a recent church sermon I listened to was the second one, but I think you get my point. When we preach, the grounds for our obedience is never merely personality, but a Person. Paul makes this clear in Romans 2 when he talks about where righteousness comes from. In Romans 2:13 he writes that it is "not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. What you hear doesn't make you holy. Mere moral commands are not going to change your hardened heart. It is righteous deeds that make a person holy. However, in Romans 3:20 Paul goes on to say that "by the works of the law no human being will be justified in hi sight." If that's true, then there's no hope. I can't hear and become holy, and I certainly can't do anything and become holy. Even those who seem to "do" great things are included, and Paul lists them in Romans 2:17-20, including Jews who trust in the law, boast in God, know His will, approve what is excellent, are guides to the blind, lights to those in darkness, instructors of the foolish, and teachers of children. Paul makes it clear in verse 23 that if these are the source of our faith then we "who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law." The person we appear to be on the surface matters very little, for, on the last day it is "the secrets of men" that will be judged by Christ Jesus (Romans 2:16). Our publicity is not what will be scrutinized, it is the thoughts and intents of our heart. And be sure that "every intention of the thoughts of his [man's] heart was only evil continuously" (Genesis 6:5). That was true in Noah's time, and it is true today. If this were the end of the story (and God would have been justified in ending it there), it would certainly be a depressing one. But the same God who has the highest standard of holiness was willing to meet that standard Himself and offer it to us freely. And that offering comes only through Jesus. The only true good news has very little to do with the type of person that we are, and everything to do with the type of Person Jesus is. God's Word tells us that "now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law...the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe" (Romans 3:21-22). Jesus, God in the flesh, died on a cross to make you holy. "And you, who once were alienated an hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach to him" (Colossians 1:21-22). And that Jesus is what we preach. Jesus Christ our righteousness. For, Christ died to make us holy, and "Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we my present everyone mature in Christ" (Colossians 1:28). The purpose of Christ on the cross is the same purpose of the preacher at the pulpit: holiness . Let us never make our preaching merely about moral commands to be obeyed, but about the only perfect Person to be trusted. Let us not be content if our congregation acts like 5 star Starbucks workers. Let us not be content in smiles, waves, and flattery. We can never attempt to make someone more Godly by getting them to conform to a culture. On the contrary, let us preach Christ crucified, the only good news to be heard. For, God does not desire to make us into "respectable people." He desires to make us like His Son Jesus, that we might be holy, and enjoy our Father forever in heaven. Our hope, our charge, our preaching, is never a personality-- but a Person . Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Romans 2:12-29
who have sinned
without the law
For all ... will also perish
without the law,
who have sinned under the law
and all ... will be judged
by the law.
of the law
For it is not the hearers ... who are righteous
before God,
of the law
but the doers ... who will be justified.
For when Gentiles, ... ... do what the law requires,
who do not have the law,
by nature
they are a law to themselves,
even though they do not have the law.
They show that the work ... is written
of the law
on their hearts,
while their conscience also bears witness,
and their conflicting thoughts accuse
or even excuse them
on that day
when, ... God judges the secrets
according to my gospel,
of men
by Christ Jesus.
But if you call yourself a Jew
and rely on the law
and boast in God
and know his will
and approve what is excellent,
because you are instructed
from the law;
and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide
to the blind,
a light
to those who are in darkness,
an instructor
of the foolish,
a teacher
of children,
having ... the embodiment
Manner (of the condition)
in the law
of knowledge
and truth—
you then ... do you not teach yourself?
who teach others,
While you preach against stealing,
do you steal?
You ... do you commit adultery?
who say that one must not commit adultery,
You ... do you rob temples?
who abhor idols,
You ... dishonor God
who boast in the law
by breaking the law.
For, as it is written,
“The name ... is blasphemed
of God
among the Gentiles
because of you.”
For circumcision indeed is of value
if you obey the law,
but if you break the law,
your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.
So, if a man ... keeps the precepts
of the law,
who is uncircumcised
will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?
Then he ... will condemn you
who is physically uncircumcised
but keeps the law
who have the written code
and circumcision
but break the law.
For no one is a Jew
who is merely one outwardly,
nor is circumcision outward and physical.
[For] But a Jew is one inwardly,
and circumcision is a matter
of the heart,
by the Spirit,
not by the letter.
His praise is not from man
but from God.
Only the doers will be justified... and no one "does the law."
Single acts of obedience only carry eternal value if the whole law is obeyed along with that single act. In other words, no single act of obedience saves a person. It must be the whole law. I.e., circumcision only mattered for one person: Christ.
mark of receiving a promise
Not personality, but a person. The Gospel reminds us that progress is about holiness and purity, not morality and personality.
Your breaking of the law is enough to cut you off from the family of God.
General Notes: Verse 12 Two groups of people: 1. Those who have sinned without the law, & 2. Those who have sinned with the law. BOTH groups await judgement, regardless of revelation. Revelation doesn't determine salvation. Verse 13 The REASON that all will perish (regardless of revelation) is that DOERS are justified. What you hear doesn't make you holy . Righteousness is in deed. What about faith by hearing ? Well, faith cometh THROUGH hearing. Hearing does not create faith, but it is the tunnel through which faith will come. Verse 14 And THAT is BECAUSE all people are accountable to a natural moral law. We do not necessarily "need" that revelation to be judged, because all have "heard" in one sense. We do need the law to be holy, but we cannot do the law. Verse 15-16 Furthermore, DOING (in part) what is required by the law, shows that the law has been (at least in one sense ) "heard." It is the internal battle of a man which ultimately reveals this. It is secrets that God will judge, not publicity. Verse 17-20 "So check this out..." or "Look here..." You: Are a Jew Trust the law Boast in God Know His will Approve what is excellent (only because you have the law) Are a guide to the blind Are a light to those in darkness Are an instructor of the foolish Are a teacher of children Have the "embodiment of knowledge and truth Verse 21-22 You, who are all that stuff above... do you apply all the stuff that you apply to others... to yourself? You who just read chapter 1.... did you have others in mind or you? Because.... Verse 23-24 No, you don't do that stuff, you are sinful, and therefore you dishonor God. You boast in the law (and not in God), because you trust in the very thing you break. You break your ladder before you climb it (Everest reference) And we know this because God said it was and would be so. Verse 25 And God's name is blasphemed because your circumcision becomes circumcision. Your breaking of the law dishonors God and cuts you off from His family. You cannot trust in any single act of obedience for yourself to pay the price for your whole obedience. Verse 26-27 Circumcision is about obedience . The mark of being in the family of God is about internal obedience overflowing into external acts-- NOT external acts overflowing into internal obedience. Therefore , it is possible for those who are not in Israel to condemn those who are within, for it is not about external acts but internal affections. Breaking the law is breaking the written code. It is breaking circumcision and ceasing to identify yourself with the family of God. Verse 28-29 And we know this because God's family has little to do with what is outside, and everything to do with what is inside. Circumcision is about the heart, and about the Spirit. Romans 7:6 The way of God is a transformation from within , not from without . Therefore We can never attempt to make someone more Godly by getting them to conform to a culture. The Gospel is not a personality , but a Person . Challenge Would we be content with our congregation if they acted like 5 star Starbucks workers? Would we be content with our congregation if they smiled, waved, encouraged others, shook hands, volunteered, and attended church events? Is this what Jesus died for? Could the average person spot significant differences between your preaching and a Chic-fil-a seminar on customer service?
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.