Monday, March 3, 2008

Martin Luther, The Gospel, Conflict, and Cowardice

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes . . .
-- Romans 1:16
The preacher cannot improve upon the purity of the Gospel, nor should he attempt to coerce responses to the Gospel as though the Holy Spirit lacked power through the Gospel to bring about conversion. "Moreover, to be ashamed of the Gospel is a fault of cowardice in pastors," rang out Martin Luther. "But to contradict it and not to listen to it is a fault of stupidity in church members."

The preacher must never let the audience's desires dictate the message. The common, seeker-friendly approach is to survey a community to discover what they want in a church, then shape the church and message to fit its desires. Yet Paul warned Timothy, "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." (2 Tim. 4:3-4) . . . In those enduring words he rather instructed Timothy, "Preach the Word" (v.2). A pragmatic minister might insist that such preaching would drive people away, that the goal is to get people into church. I do not deny that the pragmatic approach will bring in numbers. But since it contradicts the clear biblical mandate for Christian ministry, I am concerned that what it produces will be less than Christian.

-- Phil A. Newton, "The Pastor and Church Growth," in John Armstrong ed., Reforming Pastoral Ministry

Toward the end of his life, Martin Luther warned the church that in every generation the gospel will have to be reaffirmed because when the doctrine of justification by faith alone is boldly and accurately preached, it will produce conflict. Some of us must admit that we are among those who, when faced with the option of fight or flight, prefer to flee. We run away even though we are not threatened by burning at the stake; but many are, however, burned at the payroll of our local church if we insist on fidelity to the gospel.

-- R.C. Sproul, "The Center of Christian Preaching," in Dever/Duncan/Mahaney/Mohler eds., Preaching the Cross

So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.
-- 2 Timothy 1:8

. . .For I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
-- 1 Corinthians 9:16b

1 comment:

must_decrease said...


Thank you for this... As a young church planter on the cusp of our start, it is a welcome reminder of what our true task really is. This really speaks the same way the Keller piece does you posted earlier on how exactly it is we go about the business of reaching the lost and dying world we are thrust into