Preach the Word
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Preach the Word

2 Corinthians 4:1  (ID: 0116)

The apostle Paul wrote that those called to preach are both servants and stewards of the Gospel. Alistair Begg addresses the primary importance of true preaching, which is the divine means through which the Word of God reaches open hearts. In a world that is increasingly biblically illiterate, we are called upon to be brave enough—and gracious enough—to resist the temptation of mere popularity. Instead, we must remain faithful to the work God has asked us to do.

Series Containing This Sermon

The Pastor’s Study, Volume 4

Selected Scriptures Series ID: 23004

Sermon Transcript: Print

Let’s turn to 2 Corinthians chapter 4 this time, see if we can do any better there; 2 Corinthians 4. It’s really a cross-reference; I’ll still be back in 1 Corinthians 4, but hopefully we’ll get here. It’s nice to see you; it’s a privilege to come. And I don’t know how many of you are preaching on Sunday at your own place, but I am, so I’ll pray for you if you pray for me.

2 Corinthians 4:1:

“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

Father, we pray that you will make your Word alive to us, that you will show us yourself within it, that you will show us ourselves, and show us our Savior, and make the Book live to us, Lord,[1] we pray. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Well, we said yesterday morning that what we were going to do was just look at three pictures that are given in order to grant to us stability and clarity in the exercise of our ministry. And we looked at the first of these only, “servants of Christ.”[2]

Stewards of the Mystery

He then goes on to describe the responsibility that he exercises in terms of being “stewards”[3] of “the secret things of God.”[4] In the New King James Version, the word “steward” is actually used, and it’s a helpful translation, I think. It simply uses a verb here in verse 1 of the NIV: “as those entrusted with the secret things of God.”[5] “Stewards”—I’m going to use the picture “steward” because it is accurate, and also, it stabilizes our thinking a little better. Servants, and then stewards—stewards “of the secret things of God,” or, again, “of the mysteries of God.”[6]

The way to understand this is simply to cross-reference it; you can do that by looking at the letters that are there in the text, and also a good concordance will do it for us. I’m not going to be tedious with you and give you all these references, or even turn to them. But perhaps the best would be 1 Thessalonians 2:[4], where Paul describes his responsibility as having been “entrusted with the gospel”—“entrusted with the gospel.” So, rather than get ourselves tied up in knots about “the secret things of God,” the word which is used here for “secret” is, of course— or is used for “mystery”—is not to describe something which is unique and esoteric and can be discovered only by a small group of initiates, in the way that was true of Gnosticism; but rather, it is a word to describe what was previously undisclosed and which now has been disclosed. And, of course, what has been disclosed is the mystery of God’s purposes in putting together a people that are his own as a result of his amazing grace and by means of the preaching of the gospel.

The important thing for us, though, in terms of our task is to recognize that we are first the servants of Christ and then that we are stewards of these mysteries. A steward is put in charge of his master’s treasure; a steward looks after his master’s property. The steward did not create it, he certainly didn’t earn it, he doesn’t own it, but he is responsible to look after it.

A Bible-teaching pastorate will lead to a Bible-reading and a Bible-living congregation.

And while the apostles—and he’s referring to apostles here, primarily—while the apostles had a unique and foundational role in this respect, we as pastors are in the same vein and in the same line, in the exercise of apostolic ministry, to be those who are clearly the stewards of the gospel—those who have been entrusted with a task that is not to be diluted, is not to be fiddled with. Paul says to Timothy, “[I want you to] guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit.”[7] And so we have, granted by God, the immense privilege of conveying it and the supreme responsibility of guarding and keeping it.

And so it is that if we are going to do this, we are to be those who are teaching the Word of God to our people. We are to be the shepherds of the sheep. How do shepherds feed their sheep? Well, if you think about it, shepherds don’t feed sheep. My grandfather was a shepherd in the Highlands of Scotland. He didn’t feed sheep. Oh yes, every so often tiny lambs that are having a difficulty may be bottle-fed by one of the shepherd’s daughters or may be cared for in a peculiar way because of the challenges, but by and large, sheep are merely led to pastures, and they feed themselves. Therefore, it is the incumbent responsibility of those of us who are made stewards of the mystery to make sure that we are leading our people into the pastures that allow them to benefit from the teaching of the Bible. And we lead our sheep into pastures, and then, largely, they feed themselves. Our role, then, is not to spoon-feed them, not to give them slick little answers.

I just say a word here that’ll get me in trouble with many of you, but I’m often in trouble, so I’m not unduly concerned by it. But if you use the fill-in-the-blank kind of teaching, whereby you provide a bulletin in the morning, and it has the missing word or the missing phrase, be very, very careful that in doing that you are not breeding in your congregation an approach to the gospel and the grasp of biblical truth which is simply the filling in of the blanks. They need to understand the big picture; they need to understand the eternal counsels of God, if you like. They need to understand the whole panorama of biblical revelation. Because, once left on their own, if all we’ve enabled them to do is fill in the blanks, then if nobody has any blanks for them or if the people on the high street ask a “reason for the hope”[8] they have, then unless they have been nurtured in the things of God, in the counsels of the mystery of God, then, frankly, they’re going to be at sea. A Bible-teaching pastorate will lead to a Bible-reading and a Bible-living congregation.

In the second of two talks that I was going to give—which is this morning—I had said that I would address the issue of preaching the Bible. And because I feel so passionately about it, I’m going to try and incorporate a little of it, at least, under this second heading: “stewards of the gospel,” “stewards of the mystery”—primarily, teachers of the Bible.

I want to suggest to you that our primary pastoral duty is to teach the Bible—to teach the Bible, in a way that is lively, relevant, compelling, impactful, and is not the work of simply a knowledgeable fellow speaking with emphasis, speaking with all the passion of somebody who is reading from the Yellow Pages; that our primary task, which is not entrusted to everyone—not even entrusted to our fellow elders and leaders in the church—that we “are worthy of double honor”[9] because we’ve been entrusted with the responsibility of giving the Scriptures to our people.

Now, I say that recognizing that preaching is in the shadows. At the turn of the century in Britain, Sangster said, “Preaching is in the shadows. The world does not believe in it.”[10] Here, at this point in the twenty-first century, I think he would say, “Preaching is in the shadows; the church does not believe in it.” The church does not believe in it.

And so, let me speak to this just for a moment. One of the things that we’re up against in seeking to address this is the fact that there are two prevailing notions which are swirling around in the upper atmosphere. And every so often, they come down, and they land, and they do great damage. And the two notions are these: Number one, we’re not really going to give ourselves to preaching, because we’ve decided that it really doesn’t do much good. Number two, we’re not going to give ourselves to preaching, because people don’t listen to preaching anymore.

Now, maybe I am wrong, and these are not things that are being said in your sphere of influence, but they’re certainly being said in mine. Let me just tackle them with you for a moment.

First of all, this idea that we’re not going to give ourselves to preaching because preaching doesn’t do any good. Where does this come from? Well, it comes largely from the realm of psychology, and the psychology of communication. And the thesis goes something like this: monodirectional communication is capable of reinforcing attitudes and beliefs that are already held, but they can only very rarely effect change in people’s opinions. All right? Monodirectional communication is able to reinforce already held attitudes and convictions, but they can only very rarely make change in the opinions of people. Now, this is a facet, as I say, of human psychology. And so they say, “If you want to change people, then you need to give up on the monologue and you need to commit yourself to the dialogue.”

True preaching is a dialogue which takes place between the Spirit of God and the listener.

Incidentally and in passing, true preaching is a dialogue. True preaching is a dialogue which takes place between the Spirit of God and the listener. What the individual is doing is delivering monodirectional communication—is speaking, apparently, a monologue. But what is happening in the divine purposes is that God, for some mysterious reason, has determined, through the lips of the strangest of individuals, starting with myself and with yourself, to communicate, to initiate a divine dialogue with the souls of men and women.

So people come to us and say, “How did you know all that about me?”

“I know nothing about you; I’ve never met you in my life.”

“How did you know that that was the very thing that I had been wrestling with before I walked into this building this morning?”

Who is clever enough to think of the great panorama of human need? None of us. We cannot apply the Scriptures effectively to the diversity of our own congregations—even the people we know. So what do we rely upon? We rely upon the fact that through this strange mechanism God establishes a dialogue with the souls of men and women, in a way that is unique, because he has purposed to do so—and in a way that he does not do in drama and in art and in music.

Now, for those of you who are shaky on these things, stay with me. If we accept the proposition that we need to give up on the monologue and go for the dialogue, then we have to conclude that Jesus made a real faux pas, didn’t he? Because he was a kerux, he was a herald. He said, “I need move from here and go somewhere else, that I may be a herald”[11] of the gospel he was preaching.

Now, you see, the flaw in this doesn’t lie in the psychology; the flaw lies in the theology. Because people who argue in this way are arguing that Christian preaching is analogous to a marketing exercise—that what the preacher is doing is engaging in a sort of elaborate spiritual form of marketing. It goes like this: You have a product; it’s the gospel. You have consumers; they’re the congregation. You have a salesman; he’s the preacher. And the job of the salesman is to overcome consumer resistance and get them to accept the product.

Now, the problem with that—and the great, overwhelming problem with that, as Paul points out, and that’s why I read from 2 Corinthians 4—the one overwhelming reason why the analogy is not a good one is because the preacher doesn’t overcome consumer resistance, because the preacher cannot overcome consumer resistance. If the gospel is “veiled to those who are perishing,” do any of us think for a nanosecond that as a result of our study, as a result of our abilities, as a result of our gifts, that somehow or another this is going to effect the great life-changing transaction in our listeners? If we do, we’re prideful, and we need our wives to take us for a long walk and insert a large needle into our heads so that we can be deflated enough to get back through our bedroom door and our heads will fit on our pillow at night.

You see, a communication expert telling the story of the sower… “The sower went forth to sow, and when he sowed, some seed fell here, there, and there.”[12] You have one sower, right? And you have four soils. Okay? The issue is about the soil; it’s not about the sower. Modern communication experts would have four sowers and one soil: “And the first sower tried it this way, and he wasn’t very good. The second sower tried it this way, and he wasn’t very good. The third one goes a little better. But the fourth sower, he managed to get it right.” Which is the complete antithesis of the story Jesus told! He said the issue is the human heart,[13] and the human heart is “desperately wicked,”[14] and that Christian conversion is not the result of human persuasion; it is actually a manifestation of divine grace. That’s why Paul says, “Let light shine out of darkness.”

The preacher is merely the instrument whereby people who are being saved become aware of the fact, because it is God who saves people.

For this reason, my fellow pastors, the monologue is actually the ideal communication technique. Because the function of the Word of God is to make the person in whom God has already been secretly at work by his Spirit self-conscious of the fact. And the preacher is merely the instrument whereby people who are being saved become aware of the fact, because it is God who saves people. Sermons don’t save people; God saves people. Pastors don’t save people. We cannot! We might as well every Thursday morning go to the local cemetery and preach there to the tombstones and issue an appeal and wait for them to come to salvation as expect that dead people are going to respond to our pathetic attempts at communicating with them.

Much of the trouble with contemporary evangelism is built, then, on the fallacious assumption that anybody can and will respond to the gospel if it is only presented to them in the proper form. That is an absolute fallacy, and it’s at the foundation of evangelicalism in America. Let me tell you what the fallacy is: that anybody can and will respond to the gospel if it is presented to them in the proper form. No, they won’t. Because they’re blind; they’re spiritually blind. They’re dead in their trespasses and in their sins.[15] They’re held captive to a power that they cannot break.

That’s why, in the preaching event, it is the quality of the soil and not the quality of the preacher that’s being displayed. That’s not to say that we don’t do our best. We use logic, we use appeal, we use argument, but we do so in the awareness of the fact that none of this will change the responsibility on our part to be subservient to the Word of God. And if, incidentally, a person responds, it’s not a triumph of the preacher’s power, of his ability as a communicator; it’s a triumph of the Spirit of God, who has secretly transformed the person’s heart. You see, preaching reveals the transformation; it doesn’t produce it. And so preaching will be effective not because on all accounts it’s the best means of communication—clearly it isn’t—but because it is God’s chosen method of communication by which he opens people’s eyes and brings them to an awareness of his grace. That’s why it’s such a solemn thing; that’s why it’s such a fabulous privilege.

“It doesn’t do any good, we’re not going to do it.” Well, I know it doesn’t do any good at all just to stand up and dribble down your chin. And there’s a reason why many people despise preaching, there’s a reason why people don’t like preaching: because so much of our preaching stinks. So much of our preaching is horrible preaching. A shopping list run through a bunch of verses: “And now we’re at verse 7. Look at verse 7 with me, will you?” No, I’m not, this is… no, no, no, see, you’re going to it because you’re so used to it. This is the preacher speaking: “And now look at verse 7; do you see what verse 7 says?” “Yes, I do.” “Okay, well now look at verse 8; let me show you something here. And now let’s go to verse 9; isn’t this good?” And the kids are going ….

Now, there’s no excuse for that. Why not just bring a commentary in and read straight out of your commentary? You’ve got to do better than that. We have to do better than that! There’s a reason why people don’t like preaching: because most of our preaching’s no good. Therefore, we have to get on our knees and ask God to help us, not throw in the towel.

And the second thing that’s said, of course, is that people don’t like to listen to preaching these days. Well, I understand! I just said a reason why. But the answer to it is not to go immediately to drama. And I love these people, they’re my friends; we work together at Family Life. This is no comment on what has just been done. But it is a comment on people saying, “Well, preaching is so hard, it’s so demanding, so few people like it, and it appears to be doing very little at all. Therefore, let me opt out of this as quickly as I can, and bring on the dancing girls and the music and the films and the celebration.” In other words, instead of giving yourself to the hard task of saying,

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart,
[And] wean it from earth, [and] through all its pulses move.
[And] speak to my weakness, mighty as thou art,
And make me love thee as I ought to love,[16]

and then coming out of the fullness of that experience to the communication of our people—instead of doing that, we give ourselves to the attempt to package it all so nicely, you know; to make sure that it’s going to be in a way that appeals to everybody, and they’ll like it and they’ll love it, you know.

Oh, I suppose it’s just the same thing that Paul did when Felix and Drusilla invited him up, as Luke records it in Acts 24, remember. And they said, “Why don’t you come up and give us a sermon, Paul? Come up out of your dungeon area there, your house arrest.” And so he came up, and they were in an adulterous relationship. And he made them feel distinctly comfortable by preaching a three-point sermon on righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment.[17] No, he clearly hadn’t been to most of the church growth schools, had he? He really did not have a clue. So I’m told, “Look at the world of entertainment, see how they do it, see what people like, look at advertising techniques, and then mold your presentation accordingly.”

Let me tell you, as useful in certain settings as these things are and can be, they cannot be regarded as a substitute for preaching. Because we’re told that we are given the responsibility of “setting forth the truth.” Our task is to press the truth on people’s minds, on people’s conscience, in the plainest way. And the test of our evangelistic methodology is not, How much did the non-Christian enjoy that? That is irrelevant. The test is, How much did they learn from it? The question is not, How electric was the atmosphere? The question is, How clear was the gospel?

And I can sympathize with those who are afraid to bring their friends to cliché-ridden services. This is no argument for those dreadful cliché-ridden services: “Y’all comin’ out and seein’ us now, and we’re glad to be here, and blessed, and hallelujah, and the great blessed hallelujah,” you know? And you can’t bring your friends into that. Shut up, man! What is that about? Why’re you even doing that? So don’t get me pegged over in that corner; I’m not arguing for that at all. No, no, I’m not interested in that.

But it’s simply not true to say that people will not listen to preaching. And it isn’t true—and this is a sideline, but I’m not going down this track—it isn’t true to say that teenagers won’t listen to preaching, either. And we’re giving our teenagers a bum rap right now by succumbing to the notion foisted on us by youth pastors with empty heads and closed Bibles that they are going to be more effective by learning essentially five verses of the Bible and playing basketball for the rest of their lives than if they sit under the systemic, consecutive teaching of the Bible. We are presently ushering a generation into society that is virtually totally biblically illiterate. And the responsibility lies with us in pastoral ministry to be brave enough, gracious enough, kind enough, creative enough, stimulating enough, to buck the trend and to say, “Guys, I can speak to teenagers. I was one! I’m jealous for the chance to speak into your life.” And children too! I love it when they’re there. There’s some here this morning maybe, and I always say to them, “Don’t worry, I’ll finish soon. Don’t screw your mother’s wrist off with turning the watch around on her arm. Don’t think for a moment that you’re going to understand everything, honey, but you are going to understand something. I’m a product of that. I didn’t die from it!”

If people are being awakened spiritually to their need of God, they will listen to preaching. If people are not being awakened spiritually to their need of God, then no amount of gospel entertainment or evangelistic gimmickry will make them listen.

If people are being awakened spiritually to their need of God, they will listen to preaching. If people are not being awakened spiritually to their need of God, then no amount of gospel entertainment or evangelistic gimmickry will make them listen. Isn’t that the truth? If people are being awakened to their need of God, they will be hungry to hear what the Bible has to say. If they’re not being awakened to their need of God, then they may come in and applaud; they may say, “Hey, fine.” They may say, “Well, it was very interesting,” or “it wasn’t what I expected.” But they go out completely untouched.

“Setting forth the truth plainly, we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience.”[18] Spurgeon, when he was lecturing his students on this—when he was reminding them of how, as preachers, they were entirely dependent on God’s Spirit—he said, “I shall not attempt to teach a tiger the virtues of vegetarianism; but I shall as hopefully attempt that task as I would try to convince an unregenerate man of the [truth] revealed by God concerning sin, and righteousness, and the judgment to come.”[19] He said, “I might as well teach a tiger to become a vegetarian as I might depend upon my own ability to convince my listeners of sin and righteousness and the coming judgment.”

I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith in him.[20]

But I know he does, and so do you. Therefore, let us be disciplined in our study, let us be devoted to our people, because it is required of those who have been given a trust—1 Corinthians 4:2—that they prove faithful.

Successful? Who knows about successful? What is successful? Successful numbers? What is successful in Christian ministry? Let’s forget about successful; let’s just ask God to help us with faithful, huh? That would be enough, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t that be a great epitaph? Just said your name and the dates, just said, “Faithful to the end. Faithful to his calling. Faithful to Christ. Faithful to the Word. Faithful to his wife. Faithful to his kids. Faithful.”

That’s why in Pilgrim’s Progress Faithful gets such a starring role. If Pilgrim’s Progress was written by one of us today, the guy who was the big hero would probably be called Mr. Successful, you know. Because the one thing we can’t tolerate is the possibility that the God who gives the calling and who gives the growth should give us something other than what we desperately long for.

The Scum of the Earth

Well, let me finish on a high note with the third and final picture. The third and final picture: we are regarded as “servants of Christ,” we are regarded as “stewards of the mystery,” and actually, we need just to run down a little further to verse 13: “Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth.”[21]

It’s always nice to leave your congregation with a with a note of encouragement, isn’t it? Huh? This is Paul speaking; he says, “This is how you should regard us,” he says. “Regard us now as servants of Christ, as stewards of the mystery.” We’re just guys that go in the kitchen, we get the food, we bring it out. We don’t need to come out on roller skates; we don’t need to do opera singing when it comes out. We just need to make sure that it’s on the plate properly and it can be digested. We’re not throwing big slabs of food at people and having them attempt to break it up. We’re not asking them to do the work of creating a sermon; we’re supposed to be doing that behind. We’re not bringing out big bolts of fabric and throwing them over their heads and say, “Go ahead and make yourself a suit, make yourself a dress.” No, we’re supposed to be back tailoring the measurements in order that they will fit, at least in some sense.

And when we’re tempted to think that we’ll know we’ve made it when everybody says, “There he goes!”—when everybody in the community commends us for our stature and our significance—then we’ll be helped by remembering that that was the very reverse of what was the experience of Paul and his colleagues. Instead he said, “No,” to quote the paraphrase of Peterson, “we’re something everyone stands around and stares at, like an accident in the street. We’re … Messiah’s misfits. … We’re treated like garbage, potato peelings from the culture’s kitchen.”[22]

“Potato peelings from the culture’s kitchen.” It’s a graphic picture, isn’t it? And yet, what is our quest? Fed by wrong ideas, fed by an overarching ego, fed by an evangelicalism that constantly believes, in America, that the way to deal with this is to be the champion, is to be the victorious, is to be the triumphant—which is, of course, the very reverse of what Jesus was. Starts with twelve guys, finishes with eleven, and ends up hanging on a cross. Since when was that a success story? And then for people to pick that up and say, “And we want to tell you today that… we want to proclaim to you the message of the cross, that the death of a Galilean carpenter is the pivotal event of human history.” Nobody wants that! They didn’t want it when Paul preached it. Some wanted dramatic signs, some wanted human eloquence, and the one thing that nobody wanted was what he gave them. No wonder he was regarded as the scum of the earth! “Oh, here he comes again with that silly story about Jesus dying on a cross!”

The only way we can preach to people is if we preach the message to ourselves.

Loved ones, let me finish with this, before that thing comes on again, wherever it is: beware the temptation of becoming a popular preacher. I hope you understand I preach first to myself. Do you understand this? The only way we can preach to people is if we preach the message to ourselves. Beware the temptation of becoming a popular preacher. How will you become a popular preacher? Stop preaching the cross. Stop preaching the cross. Because the cross, you see, challenges self-righteousness. The cross challenges self-indulgence. And the human heart is incorrigibly self-righteous. The human heart is unwilling to be confronted by the story of redeeming love made available to those who recognize themselves to be among the least and the last and the left out. And that is the message we’re given to proclaim.

Ask yourself how much of the preaching of the cross, the message of the cross, is in a year’s worth of your sermons. Have you done a series on the nature of what happened at that great transaction where Christ bears all of our ungodliness and all of our sin and credits us with the robes of righteousness which we don’t deserve? It’s a high calling, it’s a great privilege, and I wouldn’t want to do anything else—even on the days when, like my brother-in-law, I think I would like to be a postman. The fact of the matter is, I don’t understand just why—especially since I know myself—that he would make us a servant and a steward and the potato peelings of the culture.

See, here’s the deal: contrary to what everybody tells us, since dependence is the objective, weakness is an advantage. Since God’s purpose for us is that we might depend upon him, strength is an inhibitor, and weakness is an advantage. That’s why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12, “And therefore I will glory more gladly in my infirmities, for then Christ’s power rests upon me. For when I am weak then I am strong.”[23]

Colleagues, in our hearts we need to acknowledge our total impoverishment before God so that Christ’s power may rest upon us—so that our colleagues and our friends come in and they say, “Well, he’s a kind of wee guy, he’s got a pale face, he doesn’t have a very good voice. He’s got a kind of high-pitched squeaky voice. In fact, I don’t even know why I listen to the guy.” That’s fine. As opposed to, “He’s striking, debonair, pulpit voice, worthy of respect, commanding everyone in his wake, you know: ‘And now shall we now ….’”

Now, a couple of kids’ll knock that out of you: “Hey… hey, dad? Don’t ever do that again.” And they have been given to us largely to knock it out of us. ’Cause many of us are less useful than we might be because we’re trying too hard to prove to everybody that we really are useful, by suggesting that we are now being successful, when in point of fact, all the Father looks for is faithful.

Let’s pray together:

Father, we recognize that self-forgetfulness is actually an unattainable goal, except when we are preoccupied with your presence and with your message and with your power and with your glory. So then,

When telling [Your] salvation free
Let all-absorbing thoughts of Thee
My heart and soul engross;
And when all hearts are bowed and stirred
Beneath the influence of [Your] word,
Hide me behind [Your] cross.[24]

Father, help us to be an encouragement to one another—a help, not a hindrance. Banish from our recollection everything that is unhelpful, unclear, or untrue, and help us to hang on to that which is of yourself and will nurture us and equip us as we go forward into the challenge and opportunity of these days. We bless you for the immense privilege. There’s never been a time when the need has been greater, when the darkness has been more obvious, so let us run to the darkest point and hold up the light of the glorious gospel. For we pray in Jesus’ name and for his sake. Amen. Amen.

Thank you very much; it’s a privilege to address you.


[1] R. Hudson Pope, “Make the Book Live to Me.”

[2] 1 Corinthians 4:1 (NIV 1984).

[3] 1 Corinthians 4:1 (NKJV).

[4] 1 Corinthians 4:1 (NIV 1984).

[5] 1 Corinthians 4:1 (NIV 1984).

[6] 1 Corinthians 4:1 (NKJV).

[7] 2 Timothy 1:14 (NIV 1984).

[8] 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV 1984).

[9] 1 Timothy 5:17 (NIV 1984).

[10] W. E. Sangster, The Craft of Sermon Construction: A Source Book for Ministers (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1951), 11.

[11] Mark 1:38 (paraphrased).

[12] See Matthew 13:3–23; Mark 4:2–20; Luke 8:4–15.

[13] See, for example, Luke 6:45.

[14] Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV).

[15] See Ephesians 2:1.

[16] George Croly, “Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart” (1854).

[17] See Acts 24:22–26.

[18] 2 Corinthians 4:2 (paraphrased).

[19] C. H. Spurgeon, “The Preacher’s Power, and the Conditions of Obtaining It,” in An All-Round Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students (1900; repr., London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1965), 322.

[20] Daniel Webster Whittle, “I Know Not Why God’s Wondrous Grace” (1883).

[21] 1 Corinthians 4:13 (NIV 1984).

[22] 1 Corinthians 4:9–13 (MSG).

[23] 2 Corinthians 12:9–10 (paraphrased).

[24] Poem found in the vestries of St. Mary-at-Quay Ipswich and Hatherleigh Parish Church, attributed by John R. W. Stott, The Preacher’s Portrait: Some New Testament Word Studies (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961), 124.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.