FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 17, number 42, October 25, 2018
“. . . this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” -Acts 2:23
The Preacher Is to Wear Two Hats
Much of what passes for preaching today is not preaching at all. At best it is a polished, well structured, theologically sound, faithful, and Biblical exposition, a dissemination of important information. Perhaps due to our western mindset, because we are so deeply affected by modernity, our tendency is to think that merely presenting information to our congregations is all that is necessary. Knowledge, however, as important as it obviously is, will not transform anyone. Something more is needed. What is it?
The preacher is to wear two hats. On the one hand, he is a Covenant Prosecutor, like the prophets of old, who pronounced God’s judgment on Israel and the pagan nations, if they refused to repent and return to Yahweh. What does a prosecutor do? His job is to get a conviction.
If you have been indicted by a Grand Jury for embezzling funds from your employer, a publicly traded corporation, and I am a District Attorney assigned to your case, then my job is to put you away for twenty years. How do I attempt to do that? How do I do my job? Well, I garner all the evidence I can to prove you guilty. I show how you have violated various laws. I find and summon all the witnesses I can who will support my case. My job is to convince the jury that you are “guilty as charged.” I am working for a conviction. After examining my witnesses and cross examining the defense attorney’s witnesses, I will summarize my case with my closing argument. I will speak from the heart, without any notes (I want to look the jury in the eyes, I want them to know that I know this case backwards and forwards and that I feel very strongly about what I am presenting), seeking a guilty verdict.
In the same way the preacher is to preach for a conviction. This is true, not only for the unbelievers hearing him, but also for the blood bought saints who know, love, and follow Jesus. And how does the preacher preach for a conviction? It should go without saying, that only the Holy Spirit can bring true conviction of sin (John 16:8-11). So the preacher must be filled with the Spirit, asking the Spirit to do this great and necessary work. The preacher does not dare manipulate his audience. He does not preach legalism or licentiousness. He preaches the Law of God. He wields the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, which is sharper than any two-edged sword and which judges the thoughts and intentions of the human heart (Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 4:12). He uses the Law of God as a tutor which drives the unbeliever to see his sin and guilt (Galatians 3:24). He uses the Law of God to warn those in public office of God’s judgment on them if they refuse to heed God’s word (John 8:14-24). And he also uses the Law of God to show the believer where he is falling short of Biblical holiness, urging him to repent (Galatians 5:13-15).
Preacher, in the early part of your sermon you can certainly use “they” to set the historical context of the passage from which you are preaching, referring to the major players in the Biblical text. And in your exposition you can certainly use “we”, noting that we all are in the same boat, as it were. But when it comes to application, when you are pressing home to your congregation their violation of God’s Law, you must use “you.” “What about you? Have you fallen short of this command? What are you to do?” Peter does this in his sermon at Pentecost, “. . . you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men,” (Acts 2:23). Jesus did the same, “I go away, and you will seek Me, and die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come,” (John 8:21). So did Paul, “At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you. Behold, now is the acceptable time,” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
But after faithfully wearing his Covenant Prosecutor hat and gaining a conviction of his hearers, he then puts on his Defense Attorney hat. He becomes the spokesmen for the Advocate, Jesus Christ the Righteous, who is the propitiation for our sins and not for our’s only, but also for those of the whole world (1 John 2:2). For the unbeliever, whom the Holy Spirit has leveled, who has enabled the unbeliever to peek inside his own heart and see its utter corruption, and to see the righteous judgment of God which is pending, the Defense Attorney then lifts up Jesus Christ. He speaks of Christ’s propitiating, expiating, reconciling, redeeming, justifying, sanctifying, and glorifying work at Calvary. He proclaims that while he is still presently helpless, Christ Jesus died for the ungodly. He tells him that though he was formerly alienated, hostile in mind, and engaged in evil deeds, the Father has reconciled us to Himself through Christ’s death on the cross. Thus the justified, reconciled, saved sinner is now positionally holy, blameless, and beyond reproach. The Defense Attorney also proclaims the same message to the leaders of his nation. They must also repent and run to Jesus for refuge. He is the only Savior of sinners.
And the saint knows that he fails miserably every day. He finds himself locked into the reality of a Romans 7:14-25 life—“For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very thing that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” The Defense Attorney reminds the saved, justified sinner, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” The Defense Attorney constantly offers Jesus to the believer. He repeatedly tells the “Wretched Saint” that he must go humbly to Jesus and wash afresh and anew in His cleansing blood. He reminds him that we have One who sticks closer than a brother, that we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of His grace, that we have a faithful High Priest who saves us to the uttermost, because He always lives to make intercession for us. He declares repeatedly, without hesitation or equivocation, the free grace of the gospel message—that nothing will separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. He speaks glowingly of the fact that God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to become sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ. He never grows weary of declaring that though we were far off, strangers to the covenants of promise having no hope and without God in this world, He drew us near by the blood of Christ.
Pray for your preacher to wear both hats. Both are vital in true Biblical preaching. The Covenant Prosecutor hat, worn properly, makes the Defense Attorney hat even more glorious. It enables the preacher to proclaim Jesus as altogether lovely. The preacher will be animated, energized, and his people will note the difference. Their love for Jesus will grow and their desire to walk humbly before Him will escalate with gospel holiness in thought, word, and deed following.
Preacher, are you wearing both hats?