A. The Mission of the Church
1. Its Eschatological Impulse
Acts 1:17: “Last days”
Matt 24:14; Mark 13:10: “And the gospel must first be published among all nations; and then shall the end be.” Preaching a sign of the end times.
Rev 6:2: Among signs of the end time: “A white hose: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering and to conquer.” (cf. Rev, 19:11-16: “The Word of God.” Matt 10:34: “to bring the sword” (Isa 11:4; 49:2; Hos 6:5; Rev 1:16)
Acts 1:8 and Matt 28:19-20: Preaching until the end of the world.
2. Its Pauline Apex
Acts 9:15: “he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and Israel.”
Rom 1:1: “separated unto the gospel.”
1 Cor 1:17: not to baptize but to preach
1 Cor 9:16: “for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel”
3. Its Eschatological Character
Main deposits of early Christian preaching are in Acts (2:14-36; 3:12-26; 13:16-41; 17:22-31), letters of Paul, including Hebrews. References: “in the last days” (2:17); “until the times of restitution” (3:19); “I work a work in your days” (13:41); “because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained” (17:30). Cf. also to Felix: “judgment to come” (24:25); Festus and Agrippa: “I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God” (26:6); Heb 1:2: “hath in these last days”
Summarized by C. H. Dodd (1937): prophecies are fulfilled and the new age is dawned by the coming of Christ; he was born of the seed of David, died according to the Scriptures to deliver from sin, death and the devil, that is the present evil age, was buried, and rose on the third day according to the Scriptures; Christ is exalted at the right hand of God and Lord of all; Christ will come against as Judge and Savior. The appeal of the sermons is to repentance and faith, conversion, reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit; the promise, remission of sins, righteousness, and everlasting life.
B. The Fruit of the Effusion of the Spirit
The Word is called the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph 6:17). The Word is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb 4:12).
The Word is the “power of God unto salvation” (Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18), while receiving the Spirit is receiving power from God (Acts 1:8).
No one can see the kingdom of heaven unless they are born again of water and the Spirit (John 3:5), while the seed of regeneration is called the Word of God, incorruptible, living, and abiding forever (1 Pet 2:23).
Believers are called “children of the promise” (Gal 4:28), while it is also said that they have been born after the Spirit (Gal 4:28, 29).
C. The Fruit of the Ascension of Christ
The conclusion of each letter to the seven churches is: “He who has hears to hear, let him let what the Spirit says to the church” (Rev 2,3); while it is the exalted Christ who is speaking in the midst of the seven candlesticks.
The testimony of Jesus is called the “spirit of prophecy” (Rev 19:10). The Lamb on the throne has seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent forth in all the earth (Rev. 5:6).
The Spirit will not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak … He shall receive of mine, and shew it unto you (John 16:13-14). It is remarkable that Christ says: “I will come to you” (John 14:3,18,28). This is not a direct reference to the return of Christ on the clouds at the last day. It is a reference to His Spirit, in which and through which he will come to the church. He will not leave his people comfortless: He will come to them (14:18). The Holy Spirit is that comforter, who advocates. While Christ is the advocate before the Father, the Spirit is the advocate of Christ with believers. He pleads the cause of God to the heart, when the believer threatens to stumble. The Spirit is called the Spirit of truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). In the first instance, this has an application to the apostles.
The Spirit, who testifies in and through the apostolic word, brings to their remembrances the words of Christ, and teaches them their meaning (John 14:26-27). Thus it can even be said that they who hear the apostles, hear Christ (Luke 10:16). In this light we should view Pentecost: The Spirit rests upon Peter and the others to speak of Christ (Acts 2:14ff.). This is Christ exalting himself, through the Spirit bringing to the remembrance the things of Christ, bound by the Word (Joel 2; Ps 16; 110). Cf. Philip in Acts 8:26ff.
Conclusion: Since Pentecost, Christ, riding upon His Word, goes through the world in demonstration of Spirit and power.
1. It shows preaching to be momentous.
This was true for Luther. “For Luther, preaching never was simply describing what happens when the Spirit does his work. No, here the voice of God is sounding to the congregation” (K. Exalto). Calvin says that in preaching God moves heaven and earth.
2. This puts unbelief in perspective.
M. Henry: “The same word which to some is an occasion of life unto life is to others an occasion of death unto death. The same sun that makes the garden of flowers more fragrant makes the dunghill more noisome; the same heat that softens wax hardens clay; and the same Child was set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel. The way to prevent this mischief is to bow our souls to the commanding authority of the word and law of God, not striving against, but submitting to it.”
3. This gives importance to the Word as the means of grace.
Luther: “The Word, the Word, the Word. Do you hear it, also you lying spirit: The Word does it. For even if Christ was given to us and crucified for us a thousand fold, it would all be in vain, if the Word of God were not to come and distribute it, and give it to me and say: “That will be yours, take it and have it.”
4. This gives a balance to preaching.
Luther preached law and gospel. Kohlbrugge: “The flesh loves either the law without the gospel, in order to feed sin by self-injury and penance; or he loves the gospel without the law, in order to flatter himself with grace in all sorts of hypocrisy of unrighteousness and unrepentance.”
5. This gives a sweetness to preaching.
Comrie: “I have found in the course of my life and my ministry that the preaching of free grace, of the glory of the Person of the Mediator, of the offer of salvation, of the willingness of Christ to save, and the privileges of them who are in Him, is most effective to bring hearts under affections of love; and conversely, and that the thunderings of the law do not produce anything more than a Cain or a Judas repentance … Sinai desiccates the fountain of heartfelt tears; Zion causes them to drip uncontrollably”.
6. This gives a focus to preaching.
The preaching should be as a piece of watermarked paper. If it is held to the light of the Spirit, the seal of Christ becomes transparent.
7. This gives focus to the preacher.
The first listener of the sermon is the preacher. The true servant of the Lord is like the person who holds a large seashell to his ear and hears in the distance the rushing of the sea. He should hear with the ear of faith the rushing of eternity, the ocean of God’s wrath over sin and God’s eternal mercy for sinners (I. Kievit). Then he holds the shell out, as one who has heard it himself, to the congregation and says, do you hear it as well? Without this, the sermon misses the experiential glow, which makes it a pillar of cloud and fire in the midst of the congregation.
The preacher must be as Rembrandt, who always painted in such a way that the eyes of the figure in the middle of the painting are fixed upon the viewer, no matter where he stands in front of the painting (de Zwaan). So too in the sermon, the eyes of Christ must be fixed upon all persons, no matter what their state or station, penetratingly and graciously. Calvin says of Paul that the truth of God sank to his bowels.