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The Mark of Real Gospel Preaching

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, at the beginning of his commentary on Romans 6, made the most profound and important statement about the true preaching of the Gospel. The grace of God is so free, and so abundant, that it brings salvation to the ungodly apart from anything we do. It is not our "works of righteousness that we have done" that brings about this salvation.  It is the grace of God in the Savior, Jesus Christ. It is all of Him and all of grace. Minister, Is this the message that you proclaim. Lloyd-Jones noted:

The true preaching of the Gospel of salvation by grace alone always leads to the possibility of this charge being brought against it (i.e. the charge of  it being antinomianism). There is no better test of whether a man is preaching the New Testament Gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do. You can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. That is a very good test of Gospel preaching. If my preaching and presentation of the Gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding then it is not the Gospel. Let me show you what I mean.

If a man preaches justification by works, no one would ever raise this question. If a man's preaching is, 'If you want to be Christians, and if you want to go to heaven, you must stop committing sins,' 'You must take up good works, and if you do so regularly and consistently, and do not fail to keep on at it, you will make yourselves Christians, you will reconcile yourselves to God, and you will go to Heaven.' Obviously a man who preaches in that strain would never be liable to this misunderstanding. No body would say to such a man, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" Because the man's whole emphasis is just this, that if you go on sinning, you are certain to be damned, and only if you stop sinning can you save yourselves. So that misunderstanding could never arise. And you can apply the same test to any other type or kind of preaching. If a man preaches that you are saved by the church, or by sacraments, and so on, this kind of argument does not arise. This particular misunderstanding can only arise when the doctrine of justification by faith only is presented.

Let me put it in another way. You remember what the apostle says in chapter 4 in the fifth verse: 'But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.' It is when a man says a thing like that--that God justifies the ungodly--that the misunderstanding is liable to arise. Or when a man says what we found in chapter 5 verses 9 and 10: 'Much more then being justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled we shall be saved by His life.' It is when we preach things like that, that this misunderstanding tends to occur. So this is a very good test of one's preaching.

There is a sense in which the doctrine of justification by faith only is a very dangerous doctrine; dangerous, I mean, in the sense that it can be misunderstood. It exposes a man to this particular charge. People listening to it may say, 'Ah, there is a man who does not encourage us to live a good life, he seems to say that there is no value in our works, he says that "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." Therefore, what he is saying is, that it does not matter what you do, sin as much as you like.' There is thus clearly a sense in which the message of 'justification by faith only' can be dangerous, and likewise with the message that salvation is entirely of grace. I say therefore that if our preaching does not expose us to that charge and to that misunderstanding, it is because we are not really preaching the Gospel. Nobody has ever brought this charge against the Church of Rome, but it was brought frequently against Martin Luther; indeed it was precisely what the Church of Rome said about the preaching of Martin Luther. They said, 'This man who is a priest has changed the doctrine in order to justify his own marriage and he own lust,' and so on. 'This man,' they said, 'is an antinomian; and that is heresy.' That is the very charge they brought against him. It was also brought against George Whitefield two hundred years ago. It is the charge that formal, dead Christianity--if there is such a thing--has always brought against this startling, staggering message, that God 'justifies the ungodly,' and that we are saved, not by anything that we do, but in spite of it, entirely and only by the grace of God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This is my comment; and it is a very important comment for preachers. I would say to all preachers: If your preaching of salvation has not been misunderstood in that way, then you had better examined your sermons again, and you had better make sure that you really are preaching the salvation that is offered in the New Testament to the ungodly, to the sinner, to those who are dead in trespasses and sins, to those who are enemies of God. There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation.1

1. Martyn Lloyd-Jones Romans: Exposition of Chapter 6, The New Man (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth, 1972) pp. 8-10

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