William Perkins in The Art of Prophesying, writes, “The heart of the matter is this: Preach one Christ, by Christ, to the praise of Christ,” (p. 79). In 1 Corinthians 1:23, Paul confessed, “…we preach Christ…” Why do we preach Christ?
To put it another way, why did Paul, in Romans 1:15, did Paul declare that he was eager to preach the gospel? “So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” Why was Paul eager to preach the gospel?
The Gospel, Faith and Obedience
First, Paul was eager to preach the gospel because he understood that the gospel alone produces true faith and the fruits of faith (i.e., obedience; Rom. 1:5, cf., Parts 2–3). The gospel is the source of true faith and true, evangelical obedience to God.
There are no substitutes for preaching the gospel. Believers do not need inspiration they need absolution! The gospel alone is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). The gospel alone brings about the obedience of faith (Rom. 1:5; 16:25-27). This is the reason why Paul was eager to preach the Gospel to the believers in Rome.
And yet, as important as faith and obedience are, these were not the only reasons Paul was eager to preach the Gospel to believers.
Note carefully Paul’s words at the end of Romans 1:5, “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations…”
The Gospel, the Nations and the Glory of God
Paul was eager to preach the gospel so that Christ might be magnified and have a glorious Name in the world. The declaration of the gospel is for the purpose of bringing about the obedience of faith for the sake of His Name among all the nations! God desires for men in all nations to share in His favor and thus show forth His glory.
In Psalm 96, the Psalmist calls out,
“3 Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples! 4 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods,” (vv. 3-4).
In Romans 15:8-12, Paul writes,
8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.”
10 And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”
11 And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.”
12 And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.”
In Galatians 3:8, Paul states,
“the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’”
What is this blessing of the nations? The blessing of the nations is the blessing of the gospel, namely to be reckoned righteous before God not on account of the works of the law but through faith alone (Rom. 4:1-12).
This gospel is to be preached abroad that all nations might hear of the blessing that God freely justifies sinners on account of Christ, which results in great glory unto God.
Martin Luther expounds,
Wherefore the blessing is nothing else but the blessing of the Gospel. And that all nations shall hear the blessing; that is the promise of God shall be preached and published by the Gospel among all nations…Ps. 2:8..Ps. 19:4…To say that the nations are blessed is nothing else but that righteousness is freely given unto them; or that they are counted righteous before God, not by the law, but by the hearing of faith…Hereby we see that to bless signifieth to preach and teach the Gospel, to confess Christ, and to spread abroad the knowledge of Him among all the Gentiles….this blessing is a great glory, not before the world, but before God. For we have heard that our sins are forgiven us, and that we are accepted of God: that God is our Father, and we are His children: with whom He will not be angry, but will deliver us from sin, from death, and all evils, and will give unto us righteousness, life, and eternal salvation, (Commentary on Galatians, p. 140).
To be a blessing then is to preach and teach the Gospel, to confess Christ, and to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere (2 Cor. 2:14).
However, it is true that to some the gospel proves to be an occasion of ruin rather than blessing. To some the heralds of the gospel are a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life,” (2 Cor. 2:15). The proper office of the gospel is to bring life whereas the accidental office of the gospel, namely to kill, must be assigned to the depravity of man.
In either case, the gospel brings glory unto God by bringing life to life to those who believe and just condemnation to those who refuse to believe.
The spiritual benefits of the gospel (faith and obedience) were only Paul’s penultimate aim. Paul’s ultimate aim is contained in the phrase, “for the sake of His Name.” In this phrase, Paul reveals his fundamental reason for his eagerness to preach the Gospel.
Yes, Paul says, I am eager to preach the Gospel to bring about the obedience of faith. But, this raises another question, Why? Why does Paul want to bring about the obedience of faith? He desires to preach the Gospel because the gospel most fully magnifies the glory of God.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another,” (2 Cor. 3:18).
“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” (2 Cor. 4:6).
To the question, why preach Christ? Why preach the gospel? We answer:
The gospel most fully reveals the glory of God because in it we have a lucid revelation of Christ who is the radiance of the glory of God (cf., Heb. 1:3).
The Scriptures demonstrate that our Lord’s great deliverance is for the glory of God. “3…the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen,” (Gal. 1:3-4; cf., Eph. 1:6, 12, 14).
The ultimate end of the believer’s obedience is not, as Ralph Erskine shows, “to satisfy conscience, or to satisfy justice, to purchase heaven, or the like; but to glorify God, to edify our neighbor, and to testify our gratitude to God, and Christ, that hath delivered us from the law, as a covenant,” (Law-Death, Gospel-Life, pp. 54-55).
The glory of God is the great end and aim of Paul for preaching the Gospel. Looking back upon all that he has written in Romans concerning the gospel, Paul is filled with amazement at the fact that God has chosen to freely save undeserving sinners. He thus fittingly concludes his great gospel treatise with a doxology, “To the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen,” (Rom. 16:27).
Faith and Glorifying God are Inseparable
Faith in the gospel and glorifying God are inseparable. The chief requirement of God toward man is for man to glorify Him (WLC, Q. 1). Faith gives glory unto God.
To glorify God is to believe in Him as freely offered in the gospel. To glorify God is to receive and rest on Him and His righteousness by faith in His promises. This faith is not of man but it is the gift of God (Acts 10:44; 13:38-39; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:7-8; Philip. 3:9)
“To glorify God is to believe in Him as freely offered in the gospel.”
Hence, to glorify God is to believe Him to be true, wise, righteous, forgiving, gracious, merciful, in short to believe God in Christ to be the author and giver all goodness. Faith in God, Martin Luther reminds us, is the principal act of worship, the highest duty, obedience and sacrifice because faith in the gospel gives glory unto God.
And so with Luther we declare, “To be able therefore to give that glory unto God, is the wisdom of wisdoms, the righteousness of righteousness, the religion of religions, and the sacrifice of sacrifices.”
All Self-boasting Excluded
A gospel-driven life is God-centered. It is Christ exalting and man effacing. Faith is a self-emptying, Christ-exalting grace! The gospel glorifies Christ and humbles man! Walter Marshall writes, “This is the doctrine (i.e., justification by grace through faith alone- J.F.) which glorifies God, and abases the creature; which is a mark of its truth,” (The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, p. 136). The preacing of the gospel drives sinners outside of themselves and focuses them on Christ. As the Belgic Confession reminds us,
…we are justified “freely” or “by grace”
through redmeption in Jesus Christ.
And therefore we cling to this foundation,
which is firm forever,
giving all glory to God,
and recognizing ourselves as we are;
not claiming a thing for ourselves or our merits
and leaning and resting
on the sole obedience of Christ crucified,
which is ours when we believe in Him (Article 23: The Justification of Sinners)
The preaching of the gospel guards and exalts the glory of God. The glory of God is the chief end of all who live unto God through and by the gospel.
A gospel-driven life is God-centered and man effacing.
The gospel manifests the glory of God in that He freely gives salvation to undeserving sinners. The Gospel yields all glory to God alone and condemns the glory, wisdom and righteousness of all men. Thus, as Martin Luther reminds us, no man can attribute too much glory, goodness, grace, mercy and kindness unto God in Christ.
In Romans 3:27, Paul reveals why God freely justifies sinners. God justifies sinners freely so that all boasting is excluded. Man cannot earn salvation by his own works or merit. “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law,” (Rom. 3:28). God owes salvation to no one as their just due. “4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness…,” (Matt. 20:1-16; Rom. 4:4-5, cf., Romans 9:6; Eph. 2:8-9; 2 Tim. 2:9-10; Titus 3:4-7).
“God justifies sinners freely so that all boasting is excluded.”
There is nothing in man that moved God to save him. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Rom. 5:8, cf., v. 10). There is nothing in man that makes him deserving of grace. “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…,” (Rom. 3:23). “…we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind,” (Eph. 2:3).
But God! (Praise the Lord!!!) “4 …being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved-…,” (Eph. 2:4-5).
We are saved by grace because God wants to remove all reasons for boasting on our part so that all the glory belongs to Him alone (cf., Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). Such is the great end and design of the gospel. Yet, all who are of a legal spirit are ignorant of this great end and design. Ralph Erskine writes,
They are ignorant of the great end of the gospel, which is, to humble and abase the creature to the lowest, and to raise and exalt grace to the highest: that no flesh shall glory in God’s presence, but he that glorieth, shall glory in the Lord; “In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.” That is the great end and design of the gospel: but the legal spirit is ignorant of that design, (Law-Death, Gospel-Life, p. 88).
The gospel proclaims that salvation (the whole package) is from God, through God and to God. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen,” (Rom. 11:36).
The Gospel and the Triune God
The glory of the entire Godhead is exalted in the gospel. Salvation is of the Triune God, by free, unmerited, sovereign grace! Peter in 1 Peter 1:2 writes, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1:2).
In Ephesians 1, Paul’s heart spontaneously overflows in praise for the gracious, redemptive work of the Triune God. The Father sent the Son to redeem a people whom He had chosen for His Name sake (cf., Eph. 1:3-6, 11-12). The Son carried out the Father’s plan willingly and completely, securing redemption for all whom the Father had given Him (cf., Ps. 40:8; Jn. 8:29; Eph. 1:7; Heb. 10:7, 9). The Holy Spirit comes to indwell all those for whom the Son was sent to redeem (Eph. 1:13-14).
“The glory of the entire Godhead is exalted in the gospel.”
Through Christ, every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3) flows down to us from the Father and is eternally secured by the indwelling work of the Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14) to the praise of His glory (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14).
Through the preaching of the Gospel, our blessed (Eph. 1:3), Triune God gets all of the glory and sinners are lavished (cf., Eph. 1:8 ) with all the blessings of the gospel. Why? “…so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
Is the glory of God your chief end?
How does one know if the glory of God is the chief end of one’s preaching and life? Consider carefully the perceptive, prudent and felicitous words of Ralph Erskine:
If the glory of God be the chief end of your life, then you will have a continual conflict with Self, and see how to get self-ends mortified. O! I see Self creeping in upon me, in all my preaching, praying, communicating; how shall I get this enemy killed? Here the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these two are contrary the one to the other.- The believer finds a war here against Self, as his greatest enemy; and it is his joy, and the triumph of his heart, when he gets Self dashed to the ground, and debased; when the loftiness thereof is brought down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in him.-
If the glory of God be the chief end of your life, then you will have a continual conflict with Self
The man that hath God’s glory in his chief end, he can sometimes trample even his own happiness under his feet, in a manner, when it comes in competition with the glory of God in Christ: the glory of God is of more worth than ten thousand heavens; and therefore the self-denied believer, before the divine glory should sink, would venture his all, though he had a thousand lives; “Blot me out of thy book,” says Moses; “Let me be accursed,” says Paul; and all was that God might be glorified, that Christ might be magnified, and have a glorious Name in the world.
“…the glory of God is of more worth than ten thousand heavens…”
There were some things indeed extraordinary in that measure that Moses and Paul attained to; but there may be something like it, I think, though in a smaller measure, that believers may know in their experience: O! whatever should become of me, let thy name be glorified; let Christ have a numerous train to praise Him to eternity; let me decrease, and let Him increase; let him be exalted, though I should be for ever abased; and, if it might contribute to his mounting of the throne, let me be even the footstool on which he may ascend.-
“…let me decrease, and let Him increase; let him be exalted, though I should be for ever abased…”
The man prefers Christ’s public interest before his own private interest; “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I do not prefer Jerusalem before my chief joy,” Psalm cxxxvii. 5, 6.
In a word, the man that lives to God as his chief end, he acts in duties, because God is thereby honoured and glorified; and he hates sin in himself and others, because God is thereby dishonoured, (Works of Ralph Erskine, Law-Death, Gospel-Life, pp. 73-74).
To be continued…