Presenting Everyone Mature in Christ — Part One
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Presenting Everyone Mature in Christ — Part One

Colossians 1:28–29  (ID: 3361)

God gives pastors a vital role to play in His transformation of mere followers into committed believers. But what does this role involve? What do pastors actually do? Writing to the Colossians, the apostle Paul provided a succinct, simple answer: “Him we proclaim.” Such a task may seem straightforward. As Alistair Begg notes, though, proclaiming Christ—not ourselves or our treasured doctrinal positions—means warning people about the dangers of sin and teaching and preaching to all with wisdom and attention to their varied needs.

Series Containing This Sermon

The Pastor’s Study, Volume 8

Selected Scriptures Series ID: 23013

Basics 2019

The Pastor as Disciple Maker Selected Scriptures Series ID: 23519

Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to turn with me to Colossians and to chapter 1. As you turn there, let me say what a joy it is always for us to have our folks here from Parkside leading us in our praise. And we’re delighted this year that Matt Boswell, my friend, has chosen to come and join us, and we’re absolutely thrilled about that, delighted about that. And of course, you are looking forward, in these breakout sessions, already to being with Andy Gemmill and with Rico and with Terry and John and so on.

Colossians chapter 1. I’m going to read the whole chapter, although we’re only going to be focusing on two verses. I’m not going to set the context very much; I’m going to assume it. And reading the chapter in its entirety helps just fasten these things in our minds.

So, Colossians 1:1:

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

“To the saints and faithful brothers”—or brothers and sisters—“in Christ at Colossae:

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

“And you, who once were alienated and 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 before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”


Well, just, again, a brief prayer. So,

Make the Book live to me, O Lord,
Show me Yourself within Your Word,
Show me myself and show me my Savior,
And make the Book live to me.[1]

For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Well, our text is simply verses 28 and 29: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”

I wonder, have you been part of a conference related to pastoral ministry which you attended with great anticipation, but when you left, you left feeling despondent. I hope your answer to that is no, and certainly not one of the Basics conferences to which you’ve already come. But it happened to me—it doesn’t happen to me a lot, but it did happen to me—about fourteen or fifteen months ago. So you know that it wasn’t Basics last year, which was twelve months ago.

The context was straightforward. I was part of a panel of ministers, and in the Q and A session of that particular evening, the questions turned very specifically to the issue of discipleship: “What is a disciple? What does it mean to make a disciple?” and so on. And the way in which the question was addressed—or rather the way in which it was responded to by my colleagues—left me with a really empty feeling. Left me with the feeling that if I were to go by the definitions that were given in the context of these answers, if I were to accept that, then I would have to conclude—sadly but, realistically, humbly—that I had been missing the point for the last thirty-six years. So I left despondent. I left thinking to myself, “I have to think this issue out.” If what was being said there was accurate… And it wasn’t that there was anything bad or, I’m suggesting, wrong at all. I’m just saying that it didn’t intersect with my own heart and mind and thinking.

The difficulty, as I reflected on it afterwards, lay in an inference which ran through the discussion. And the inference, I would suggest, was this: there was the idea that it was one thing to be a Christian and it was another thing to be a disciple. In other words, the inference was that discipleship was a kind of upper tier, a kind of stage-two dimension of Christian pilgrimage. And as I thought about it then, and as I’ve thought about it now in preparation for this conference, to which we’ve given loosely this notion of “The Pastor as a Disciple Maker,” a number of things occurred to me.

First of all, that in the Acts of the Apostles, we discover that the disciples became known as Christians and not the other way around. It was the disciples that became known as Christians, not the Christians that began to be called disciples. The disciple band began as disciples. They were the disciples of Jesus. They were the followers of Jesus.

In the New Testament, everyone converted to Jesus was a disciple. There can’t be an upper tier or second stage.

The other thing that struck me was that the noun discipleship never actually occurs in the Bible at all, and that the verb matheteuo, “to make a disciple,” occurs in the framework, essentially, of a process—a process that involves conversion, baptism, teaching, and development along the line of sanctification. So as I thought about it, I came to the conclusion that in the New Testament, everyone converted to Jesus was a disciple. So I decided that it can’t be an upper tier; it isn’t a second stage. And the danger is that when that becomes a prevalent kind of teaching, as with other kinds of second-stage, upper-tier teaching on the Christian life, it almost inevitably divides people from one another.

In the New Testament, everyone converted to Jesus was a disciple, setting out on “a long obedience in the same direction.”[2] And that long obedience in following Jesus is not a hundred-meter dash, but it is actually, as we discover in our lives and in reading the Bible, a cross-country run that lasts for a lifetime. And so it is within that framework that I want to set the scene, as it were, and I hope in a way that will not be countermanded by my colleagues afterwards. Otherwise I shall leave despondent all over again, and it will be from this conference.

I recognize, in light of what I’m about to say, that the New Testament describes a number of ways in which this process takes place: between fathers and their children, between older women and younger women, between the “one another” dimensions of the Christian life. For example, even here in Colossians 3: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you admonish and as you teach one another.”[3] So we recognize that the congregation is involved—we’re all involved, if you like—in this process.

But our focus is not there. Our focus is on the role of the pastor. And so it’s for that reason that I chose, rather than wandering around, to try and anchor our thinking here in these well-known verses—but, I suggest to you, important verses—in trying to understand this. Years ago, we took as a sort of theme for our congregation, rightly or wrongly, that our purpose as a church would be to see unbelieving people becoming the committed followers of Jesus. In other words, to see people converted—becoming disciples of Jesus. And in setting that out, we concluded that we dare not miss the place of the pulpit in achieving that goal. And essentially what I want to say to us today, I want to encourage you today immediately to realize that in Christ, under Christ, in pastoral ministry, we have been given the strategic place in seeing men and women, under the ministry of the Word of God, growing to maturity. Iain Murray, when he writes concerning Lloyd-Jones and concerning some of the fundamental convictions of Lloyd-Jones, he reminds us all of how Lloyd-Jones used to say with great forcefulness, “The health of the church depends on the health of the pulpit.”[4] Now, if you believe that, then it will channel your thinking in this way.

Now, we’re not apostles; we all know that. We’re not apostles like Paul. We have not been set apart in the way that he was set apart to apostleship. But we do exercise an apostolic ministry, in the sense that we obey apostolic precepts and we follow apostolic patterns. And so, the deep-seated conviction whereby Paul is able to say, “I was made a minister of this, I was entrusted with this responsibility,” while not to be entrusted with apostleship, nevertheless we’re entrusted with pastoral responsibilities.

“Him We Proclaim”

In light of all of that, I want to address three straightforward questions. Asking, then, first of all, What do we do? What do we do? And the answer is right in front of us, in the opening part of the verse: “Him we proclaim.” “Him we proclaim.” We proclaim Jesus.

Now, clearly what Paul is doing here is distinguishing between what he and Epaphras and Timothy were doing in comparison to some of these pseudoteachers who were mulling around in this Colossian context. They had all kinds of ideas. They were purveyors of a hollow and a deceptive philosophy. They were full of concepts and various constructs that they offered to the people, suggesting to them the way of fullness and so on. And of course, Paul has very carefully explained that in Jesus “all the fullness” of God has dwelled “in bodily form,”[5] and you are then “complete in him,”[6] and your identity in Christ is secure. And so, unlike these characters, he and his colleagues are proclaiming Jesus. For if your Bible is open and you look on to verse 3, it is in Jesus that there is “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and [of] knowledge.”

So what do we do? We proclaim Christ. You say, “Well, we came all this way here just to be reminded of that?” Yes! There’s a reason why it’s called Basics.

It sounds so commonplace, doesn’t it? It’s just so straightforward. In fact, it is so straightforward that we may fail to take proper notice of it: “We proclaim Christ. Let’s move on.” No, hold on a minute. Check with your wife if you’ve been proclaiming Christ. Check with your notes if you have been proclaiming Christ.

I was playing golf the other day—trying to, I should say. Playing at golf. And as we got ready to tee off, I heard a fellow say to the starter, “Are there four tees or five tees on each hole?” To which the starter replied, “Well, let me put it like this…” As soon as he said that, I said, “I don’t want to hear from this character.” What do you mean, “Let me put it like this”? It was a straightforward question: Are there four tees or are there five tees? How else are you planning on putting it? You gotta be careful with the person who says, “We proclaim Christ. Well, let me put it like this…” This is how we put it: plainly.

Now, in seeking to do this, we have to ensure that all of our teaching of the Bible presents the person of Christ. Presents the person of Christ. Not an imagined Christ but the Christ of Scripture. The Christ here of verses 15–20: the preeminent Christ, the Lord of glory. The Christ of 1 Corinthians 15: the Christ who has been crucified and buried and who is risen, who is the ascended Lord of glory. The Christ that Peter preaches in Acts chapter 4, the one in whom is salvation, and as a result, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name.”[7] There is only one qualified to save—namely, Jesus. We proclaim this Jesus. It’s not always easy, is it?

As it turned out—this is not a story about golf, but it’s here, still in my mind—but I got paired up with another couple of fellows. They were both called Chris, which was good, because I have difficulty with people’s names. So I had both of their names immediately; it was terrific. And there was Big Chris and Little Chris; that’s how I remembered them. Well, at one point Big Chris said to me, you know, “So what do you do?”

I said, “Well, I am a minister.”

He said, “What kind of a minister?”

I said, “Not a very good one.” I said, “My wife told me that.”

“Oh,” he said, “are you a Protestant?”

I said, “Yes, I’m a Protestant.”

He says, “Well, I’m a Catholic.”

I said, “Okay, that’s fine.”

He said, “You know, I was a good Catholic for a while, and then I went off to university, and I decided that I was troubled by things. I was troubled by the thought that we might be right and other people might be wrong.” And he said, “But I went to a Dominican priest, and the Dominican priest told me, he said, ‘No, you’re not right and everybody’s wrong; everybody’s right.’” And Chris Number One said to me, and he said, “And I felt so much better about that. It just felt so good.”

And then there’s a pregnant pause, and I have to decide, “Am I going in now, or am I staying out? Am I going to proclaim him? Or am I going to say, ‘Let’s keep going, the people behind us are catching us’?” So I went in. And I suggested to him that we do not have that option open to us, and so on. And our conversation tailed off pretty quickly. If I had simply said, “Yes, isn’t it a wonderful thing? And we can all identify with those aspirations, and so on…” But no, we can’t.

It isn’t possible for us to see the people of God becoming fully mature without us making the Word of God fully known.

No, because, you see, to proclaim him, to proclaim Jesus—to back up into verse 25—is to make the Word of God fully known: “Of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you,” to do what? “To make the word of God fully known.” It isn’t possible for us to see the people of God becoming fully mature without us making the Word of God fully known. And it’s important for us to reinforce these things, especially in an opening session like this—that right teaching of the Bible always leads us to Jesus. A correct teaching of the Bible will cause us always to show the other truths of the Bible in relationship to the saving truth in Jesus. And part of our skill in counseling with our friends and our loved ones is to be able to take them from where they are and show them through the Scriptures what it means to be in Christ, united to him, and how all the dimensions of their Christian pilgrimage are ultimately tied to his saving work.

Our people will not know Christ better without knowing the Scriptures better. And it is for that reason that many of us have committed for a long time to make expository preaching of the Bible the staple diet of our congregation—to say that we will try by the enabling of the Spirit of God to allow the Word of God to be set forward; that we will try and do it systematically, within limits; we will do it consecutively; we will try and allow the text to order our sermon and guide our application; and we will do it, hopefully, with a humble heart.

Now, just to stick with this phrase for a moment, “Him we proclaim.” “Him we proclaim.” When that is actually our focus, it will serve as a safeguard against at least a couple of things. One, it will serve as a safeguard against preaching ourselves. Preaching ourselves. For many of us, there’s far too much of the first person in our talks. I wonder, do you have those old commentaries by Albert Barnes? Where he has a purple passage—I won’t read it all; it’s too long—but he waxes eloquent on the whole idea of preaching ourselves: “Ministers may be said to preach themselves in the following ways: When their preaching has a primary reference to the advancement of their own reputation.” So when we preach and the thought in our mind is, “Do they like me?” or, “Do they realize how erudite I am?” or whatever it might be. “When we aim at exalting any notion of our own authority, or of our own influence. Or when we proclaim our own opinions rather than Christ. Or when we put ourselves forward and speak too much of ourselves. In one word, really, we preach ourselves when self is primary, and the gospel is secondary.”[8]

No, to keep in mind that notion, “I am here to proclaim you, Lord Jesus,” it’s a safeguard against ourselves. It’s also a safeguard against us getting involved in emphases that make us unhelpfully distinctive because it appears we have particular axes to grind. Now, this comes up all the time. Even I meet people at this conference, they come to tell me, “I am a so-and-so, you know, I am a… with a large C,” you know—or “a very large C,” or whatever it might be. You don’t know what C means, I know, so we’ll leave that alone, but never mind. When we stick with Christ, it provides a necessary safeguard against this. Iain Murray, wonderfully helpful when he writes, “The preaching of Christ crucified to the unconverted requires the presentation of his Person, the cost of his substitution for sinners, and the immensity of the divine love for sinners; it does not require explanations [on] the extent of the atonement.”[9]

On a lighter level—and I saw a large van here with “Friendship Baptist Church.” I thought, “What a nice name for a Baptist church!” And then I thought, “That’s almost an oxymoron in some places!” And then I confessed that within the next ten yards. I did, yeah. ’Cause, I mean, I jokingly say here that, you know, we’ve long given up that song, “I’m so glad you’re part of the family of God.”[10] We just sing now, “I’m surprised that you’re part of the family of God.”

But I was about to mention a Baptist thing, so that’s what came to mind. So, at a lighter level, you remember the story of G. Campbell Morgan from Westminster Chapel? He used to tell the story of a Baptist preacher who had a fixation with baptism, and he referred to it constantly. And so one morning, he announced his text: Genesis 3:9, “Adam, where are you?” And then he said, “We shall follow three lines. Number one, where Adam was; number two, how he was to be saved from where he was; and thirdly and finally, a few words about baptism.”

It’s so commonplace. It’s so straightforward we might miss it. “Him we proclaim.” Let me suggest to us that the best reputation we can have is a faithfulness to Scripture rather than even to a doctrinal position. The best reputation we can have is faithfulness to Scripture rather than even to a doctrinal position. You remember Spurgeon’s opening sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, when he had followed the immense ministry of Gill, who was known for his theological erudition. And as Spurgeon stood to address his congregation for the first time, remember, the essence of his quote was this: “If I am asked what is my creed, I reply, ‘It is Jesus Christ.’”[11] It is Jesus Christ.

“Warning Everyone”

Now, “him we proclaim,” and the proclaiming of Christ is accompanied or unfolds with both a negative and a positive dimension. You see that. “Him we proclaim, warning,” or admonishing, “everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom.”

Now, this is something that Paul references frequently in his letters—for example, classically, in 1 Thessalonians. He writes to the Thessalonians, remember, and he says to them, “We ask you … to respect those who [labor] among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you,”[12] or “who warn you.” Paul didn’t shrink, as some of us are tempted to do, from the uncongenial work of rebuking error and evil.

Why is it that we’re forced to try desperately to pick up so many of the pieces of scattered marriages and broken lives? Surely part of it—I’m not suggesting this is the answer to it—but surely part of it has to do with how slow we are on the preventative end in our preaching to warn our people about these things—to point out the error of such activity, the evil of such activity, instead of waiting till all the dozen eggs are smashed on the kitchen floor, and then we’re all running around trying to find a way to reconcile and put the pieces back together again, and somebody might come to us justifiably and say, “Pastor, why did you never warn me? Why did you never put up a big sign? Why was your preaching so absent that admonishing element?” Of course, some of us on the other side have become such experts at the warning and the admonishing that it would be a happy thing if we were to tone it down just a little bit.

The pathway of discipleship, the track onto maturity, is strewn with dangers and with temptations. It’s seldom a straight line.

But the fact is, the pathway of discipleship, the track onto maturity, is strewn with dangers and with temptations. It’s seldom a straight line, is it? It’s certainly not in my life. You’re charting your course, you’re going along, and all of a sudden, you trip up, you fall over, you’re in a hole, somebody has to pull you out, and so on. Peter is classic in that regard, isn’t he? He doesn’t even get out of the chapter in Matthew chapter 16. He starts with an attaboy, and then it goes down from there.

“Who do men say…? Who do you say that I am?”

“You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

“Excellent work, Peter. Go to the top of the class. Now, let me explain to you that I’m going up to suffer and to die.”

“Far be it from you, Lord!”

“Get behind me, Satan. You’re a hindrance to me.”[13]

How’s your discipleship going, Peter? “Fantastic. Nine o’clock in the morning, full steam ahead. Twenty past eleven, down in the dumps.” Welcome to being a disciple of Jesus!

Our people are living their lives there, and we are entrusted in part with the responsibility of helping them to run that race. Isn’t it amazing now that we’re gonna have cars that you don’t have to drive? But the driver assist thing is supposed to keep you in the lane, right? And it’s a jolly nuisance of a thing. I borrowed a car with it; it scared me half to death. Every time I was just going a little off, then it goes [rumbling], and then it shoves you back over again. I’m like, “What’s that about?” “We’re trying to keep you alive, Begg. That’s what it’s about.”

This is part of the ministry of the Word of God. [Rumbling.] “What are you doing to me, Pastor?” Trying to keep you on the line. Trying to keep you there. Just because you started from the right position doesn’t mean that you’re still on track. That’s what they always say to us. That’s what we will say as well, isn’t it? “I never once imagined I would find myself in this position. How did I get here? I never thought this would happen to me.” You see, ’cause the process whereby we have the privilege of doing what we do is the same process in part that God has entrusted so as to keep us on the track. We are actually in part responsible for ourselves. And we all need to be warned—I need to be warned—against manifold dangers: the peril of pride, of greed, of laziness.

Now, part of our responsibility is to put up the big signs. Why would we ever be concerned when a sign says Danger? In April, just around Easter time, a young couple in England, Milly and Toby Savill, both of them twenty-five and schoolteachers, were having a holiday on the island of Santorini in Greece. And they had only been there, I think, a day, and they took a buggy to go and explore. And the buggy fell two hundred feet into a ravine, and they were killed instantaneously, both of them. The report in The Times, amongst other things, pointed out, “With no fence or wall on the edge of the cliff to prevent them falling, the couple plunged to their deaths.” The sidebar to it, interestingly, is that in The Times of London, the comments from siblings and parents were quite incredible, because they said to the journalist, “The depth of our sadness is mitigated by the fact that on this Easter weekend, we know that Jesus Christ is a resurrected Lord, and so did Milly and Toby.” Amazing.

“Pastor, why didn’t you put up the fence?” Think about our young people. Think about our teenagers. How we need fences for them! Walls, hedges. Not hard-hearted admonishment. No, the kind of thing that is along the lines of Paul to the Ephesian elders, and he says to them, he says, “You know, you’ll remember that for three years I never stopped warning you day and night.” But there’s not a period after “night,” ’cause there’s two more words: “with tears.”[14] “With tears.” You see, that is the nature of the admonishing. Not judgmentalism. Not a pulpit that is six feet above contradiction. But the awareness of the fact that we are in danger ourselves, and we’re kept by God’s grace.

“Teaching Everyone”

Now, the negative is set beside the positive: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone.” We don’t need to say a great deal on this. It seems fairly straightforward, doesn’t it? We’re saying, “This is not the way. There’s danger here.” We used to sing at Crusaders in Scotland,

I met Jesus at the crossroads
Where the two ways meet.
And Satan, too, was standing there.
And he said, “Come this way,
Lots and lots of pleasures
I will give to you today!”

But I said, “No!
There’s Jesus here.
Just see what he offers me.
Down here, my sins forgiven.
Up there, a home in heaven.
No, this is the way for me.”

Now, that’s what we want to be saying to our folks—pointing them in that direction, teaching them in that way.

Now, one of the inevitable questions that comes to us—and let’s just address it, since it almost inevitably does, and we don’t always have a good answer up our sleeves. Well, people say, “Well, what about teaching and what about preaching?” It’s almost a chestnut, isn’t it? You say, “Well, the distinction is arbitrary.” No, it’s not. When you read the Acts of the Apostles, you will discover that the distinction is made not all the time, but the distinction is made. So, for example, in Acts 5: the apostles “did not cease teaching and proclaiming Jesus as the Christ.”[15] They were teaching and proclaiming Jesus as the Christ. In Acts chapter 15, they “taught and preached the word of the Lord.”[16]

So, what are we to do with this? Well, quite simply, in teaching, as we unfold the Scriptures, we’re aiming to give people an understanding of God’s truth—perhaps unfolding the first principle of some theological notion, of justification, or whatever it might be. That is in our teaching. Then in preaching we are making an appeal to their hearts, if you like, to their minds, to their wills, to respond to the Word of God that they have now understood as a result of our teaching. And I think what people are often suggesting is that there is a form of preaching which is just exhorting, exhorting, exhorting, and there is apparently no foundation to it at all, because there’s no didactic element to it, and so people are being asked to respond in a vacuum.

“With All Wisdom”

Paul is saying here that if we’re going to disciple our people, if we’re going to see them go on to maturity, then it’s going to involve both warning and teaching. And that is the warning and teaching of everyone, which calls for considerable wisdom. “With all wisdom.” Wisdom runs through this book. I think what Paul probably has simply in mind is that this wisdom is not as a result of training or on account of our expertise but rather the wisdom that comes from the fear of the Lord. Respect for the Word of the Lord. Sensitivity to the Spirit of God. So that we might then realize that this is something that we’re to do for everyone: “teaching everyone.”

I thought about that in relationship to a quote that I have in my notes from Luther that I’ve used in one way, and now I want to use it in another way. I’ve usually used it in a positive way, but now I thought today, “No, I’m not so sure now.” Do you remember this quote? Where Luther tells his colleagues, he says, “When I preach, I regard neither doctors nor magistrates, of whom I have about forty in my congregation. I have all my eyes on the servants and the children. And if the learned men are not well pleased with what they hear, well, the door is open.”[17]

Wow. How much godly wisdom is there in that, Martin Luther? It sounds very good, doesn’t it? “I don’t care about the doctors and the magistrates. I only care about the servants and the children.” Well, you can’t get away with that, Luther. Because it says “everyone.” That includes the doctors and the magistrates. And that’s where the real skill in preaching comes in, isn’t it? In viewing a congregation as I view you now and picking out those who are already on the third stages of anesthesia, and deciding whether you’re gonna reach for them and bring them back or just allow them a pleasant afternoon. When you see the child that is winding the watch around his mother’s wrist, are you going to say something like, “And I remember when I was a nine-year-old boy, I used to sit out there,” and all of a sudden the boy is with you? What are you going to do? It’s for everyone. For everyone!

I like Archbishop Coggan, the late archbishop of Canterbury, on his “three Ps in the pew.” He was a master of this kind of thing. He was a very kindly man. And he used to say to us, “This is what I like to think of. I like to think that I can, by my teaching of the Bible, give constant advice to the puzzled, warm encouragement to the promising, and express compassion to the perplexed.” For God brings into our care men and women, young and old, and all of them at different stages of spiritual experience. Feeding them, proclaiming the whole counsel of God, are not ends in themselves. They serve a greater end.

Which brings us to our second question. But it also brings us to four minutes to four. So this talk has now become a miniseries. To be continued at a later date…

Let us pray:

Just a moment of silence, as we even think about that: that God, from all of eternity, would have called us into the ministry of his Word, so that we might at least aspire to being able to say, “[This is] all my business here below to cry, ‘Behold the Lamb!’”[18] Forgive us, Lord, when we preach ourselves, or out of fear of people’s faces fail to warn them and place them in danger, or fail because we like some more than others or can’t be bothered with another group. We try and sidestep the “everyone” that runs three times through these two verses. Bless us now as we go on through the afternoon. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

[1] R. Hudson Pope, “Make the Book Live to Me” (1943). Lyrics lightly altered.

[2] Friedrich Nietzsche, quoted in Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000), 13.

[3] Colossians 3:16 (paraphrased).

[4] Iain H. Murray, “Dr. Lloyd-Jones and Authority in Preaching,” Banner of Truth, January 1, 2010, Paraphrased.

[5] Colossians 2:9 (NIV).

[6] Colossians 2:10 (KJV).

[7] Acts 4:12 (ESV).

[8] Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, ed. Ingram Cobbin (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1962), 836–37. Paraphrased.

[9] Iain H. Murray, The Cross: The Pulpit of God’s Love (2008; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2009), 29.

[10] Bill Gaither and Gloria Gaither, “The Family of God” (1970). Lyrics lightly altered.

[11] C. H. Spurgeon, “The First Sermon in the Tabernacle,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit 7, no. 369, 169. Paraphrased.

[12] 1 Thessalonians 5:12 (NIV 1984).

[13] Matthew 16:13–17, 21–23 (paraphrased).

[14] Acts 20:31 (paraphrased).

[15] Acts 5:42 (paraphrased).

[16]Acts 15:35 (NIV).

[17] Martin Luther, Table Talk 424. Paraphrased.

[18] Charles Wesley, “Jesus! the Name High over All” (1749).

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.