Each week we are invited to participate in corporate worship in our local churches. There are various elements of worship including singing, praying, sharing confessions, giving, and most importantly there is the element of public preaching of God’s word. What is it exactly that motivates preachers to share from God’s word each week? When we look into Paul’s ministry we can see at least two motivations for a Gospel-centered ministry according to Colossians 1:24-29.
A Gospel-Centered vision of ministry is always seeks to proclaim God’s word. (v.25)
Paul writes that he became a minister to fulfill the word of God. You may recall that Paul received his call to ministry while on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9) When the Lord Jesus spoke to Saul he specifically instructed him to proclaim the mystery of the Gospel, to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles. Paul did not viewed his ministry as fulfilling the word of God. This is why his message can be trusted against the message of the false teachers in Colossae. You see, false teachers are always self-appointed, but Gospel teachers are commissioned by a calling from the Lord as well as support from the local church. False teachers concern themselves with self-promotion, but true Bible teachers concern themselves with Savior-promotion.
The message of the Gospel is simple, yet profound. Jesus came to reconcile image bearing sinners back to the Father. His message is our only message. He has commanded us to share the Gospel with all people groups and nations. We fulfill the word of God when we preach the text of the Bible.
It’s appropriate for us to argue for expository preaching. Expository preaching is preaching the text in such a manner that the intended meaning is conveyed. Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, contends that there are three marks of genuine expository preaching:
1.) It is authoritative.
2.) It is reverent.
3.) It is the center of Christian worship.
I would like to thank Welch College for teaching me expository preaching. Thank you for teaching me that the pastor has no authority apart from God’s word. Thank you for teaching me that only the Word of God has the power to change lives, not silly gimmicks. Thank you Welch College for showing me that the Word is to be at the center of Christian worship, following the pattern of the Reformers. Thank you for showing me that God’s word should be central in preaching, but also in singing and praying. I do not claim to have mastered the art of expository preaching, however, I want to make it my aim to better articulate God’s word to His church.
I hope you see my point. As preachers we have one message and it is the Good News of Jesus. Our sermons should flow from the text of Scripture itself, not merely from cultural cues. Culture changes but the Message never changes.
There is another motivation for a Gospel-centered ministry.
A Gospel-Centered ministry always seeks to present believers mature in Christ. (v.28)
Paul wanted desperately to see the church at Colossae grow in their faith. There is an eschatological focus here. Paul looks toward the day when believers will be presented as perfect or complete in the returning Messiah. We can be certain of one thing: if we are not striving to live as a greater reflection of Christ now, we will not be presented before his throne as faultless. Salvation includes both a now and later aspect. We are saved and we are being saved. We should strive on to maturity in Christ. This is not an option. It is the only road available to true believers. Do we believe that sinless perfection is attainable on this side of life? Absolutely not. We do believe that sanctification is a progressive progress. We will only be complete when Christ returns or calls us home.
I’m calling you to consider your maturity as a believer. Maybe you are a genuine believer and I trust that most of you are. I have to ask you this question: where is your relationship with Christ? Could you look at your life and see significant growth from five years ago? Ten? Fifteen? There is no standing still in the Christian journey. Yes, we will fall and make mistakes which is why we must rely constantly on God’s strength. (1:11) You are either progressing or declining in your walk. There is no standing still.
What is it that kept Paul awake at night? He wanted to give his best service to his master Jesus. He wanted to plant seeds of truth so that the church at Colossae would be presented as perfect in Christ. What Paul is getting at here is that spiritual maturity isn’t reserved only for the spiritual elite. In Christianity, all teaching is relevant to all. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others in the church. We need to stop being jealous because someone has gifts you don’t have. We need to thank God for the gifts he has given us and serve Him faithfully all our days. The problem in Colossae was that false teachers were saying only the spiritual elite could know the wisdom of God.
Today we have churches that teach a form of higher spirituality. They teach that if you can just be holy enough you will have greater spiritual gifts, including the so called gift of tongues. Friend, we are all called to pursue excellence through Christ. (Some of my favorite passages include 2 Cor.10:5 and Philippians 4:4-9) There is no level of authentic spirituality that is unattainable to you.
Maybe you struggle with your Bible reading and prayer time. Do not believe the lie from Satan that you are not smart enough to understand God’s word or prayer. God’s word can be understood by a child, yet it causes the most brilliant mind to stop and think. The Gospel is understandable, yet complex. If you are struggling in these areas, maybe the problem is your method, not you. (Donald Whitney, Simplifying Your Spiritual Life.)
I hope you have seen my point and Paul’s point from the end of Colossians one. Paul labored diligently to present the church as mature in Christ. Even though Paul did not found the church in Colossae he considered it is personal responsibility to oversee their spiritual well-being. He prayed and worked to render the believers mature in Christ. That’s what I want for you. I want to see you grow into the fruitful plant God created you to be.
Authentic believers will want to grow spiritually. Maturity will be pursued and attained only through the grace of God. The goal of a Gospel-centered ministry is to help Christians grow in their faith. As pastors and leaders in the church we need to labor diligently like Paul did to present our congregations mature in Christ. Spiritual maturity happens as a result of hearing God’s word, which must first be proclaimed.
A Gospel-centered vision rests on the inerrant, immutable, and transforming word of God. Maturity happens when we submit ourselves to the teaching of God’s word. Pastors, center your vision on the Word. Congregational members, encourage your preacher. Challenge him to feed you from God’s word. Most of all, realize that it is God himself who enables us to grow. Thankfully he has given us all we need to be godly and holy. (2 Peter 1:3-4)