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Christ Crucified: the Center of Gravity in Preaching

In his sermon "The Gracious Provision," Geerhardus Vos made some outstanding--and much needed--observations and instructions about keeping Christ crucified for sinners at the center of all our preaching. Note the way that Vos tied together the focus of preaching and the focus of the Lord's Supper when he wrote:

I sometimes feel as if what we need most is a sense of proportion in our presentation of the truth; a new sense of where the center of gravity in the gospel lies; a return to the ideal of Paul who determined not to know anything among the Corinthians save Jesus Christ and him crucified. This does not mean that every sermon which we preach must necessarily be what is technically called an evangelistic sermon. There may be frequent occasions when to do that would be out of place and when a discourse on some ethical or apologetic or social topic is distinctly called for. But whatever topic you preach on and whatever text you choose, there ought not to be in your whole repertoire a single sermon in which from beginning to end you do not convey to your hearers the impression that what you want to impart to them, you do not think it possible to impart to them in any other way than as a correlate and consequence of the eternal salvation of their souls through the blood of Christ, because in your own conviction that alone is the remedy which you can honestly offer to a sinful world.

And in order to assure yourselves whether or not you are doing this, whether your preaching meets this requirement or not, a good test to apply is the frequent comparison of the purport of your sermon with the purport of the sacrament. The word and the sacrament as means of grace belong together: they are but two sides of the same divinely instituted instrumentality. While addressing themselves to different organs of perception, they are intended to bear the one identical message of the grace of God—to interpret and mutually enforce one another. If in the individual spiritual life of a Christian, the Lord's Supper comes as something for which he is unprepared, something which requires a spiritual state of mind which he feels he cannot bring to it, something from which he shrinks because he realizes that it is so sadly unrelated to the usual tone and temper of his religious experience—then we would not hesitate to say that there is something wrong in the relation of that Christian to his God and his Savior. And yet I think we shall be all willing to confess that such has been frequently the case with ourselves. Is it not likely that a similar experience may be in store for us not as common believers but as preachers of the gospel? Let us therefore be careful to key our preaching to such a note that when we stand as ministrants behind the table of our Lord to distribute the bread of life, our congregation shall feel that what we are doing then is but the sum and culmination of what we have been doing every Sabbath from the pulpit.1

You can download the whole book in various electronic formats here. 1. Geerhardus Vos "The Gracious Provision," in Grace and Glory.

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