“Leave Christ out? O my brethren, better leave the pulpit out altogether. If a man can preach one sermon without mentioning Christ’s name in it, it ought to be his last, certainly the last that any Christian ought to go to hear him preach” (Charles Spurgeon. Sermon: ‘A Prayer for the Church, 1904).
Those are the words of the great nineteenth century preacher, Charles Spurgeon. I’m sure we’ve all been there… we’re sitting in the pews, waiting with anticipation to hear about Jesus, our loving Bridegroom… but what we actually hear is something a long way from that. Is it just me or can we sometimes go an entire sermon without hearing about Jesus? Although there is perhaps nothing malicious behind it, there is a danger in starting to speak more generically about ‘God’ rather than preaching Jesus. Sometimes we might go a whole sermon hearing about ‘God,’ and sometimes we may even go the whole sermon only hearing about ourselves. So… should we ever hear a sermon that doesn’t have Christ at the centre? I’ll set my stall out now and say, I’m with Spurgeon, I don’t think we should ever hear a Christless sermon.
Jesus is Essential
But why is it essential that a preacher tells us of Jesus and not just of ‘God.’ Well, it is abundantly clear throughout Scripture that Jesus is our only way to know God. In perhaps one of the most well-known passages in the whole of Scripture, Jesus says:
6“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6-7)
Faith in a God is plainly not enough. What is required is trust in Christ. And we can see exactly that when we look at a passage such as Acts 4:12:
12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
So Jesus is the only name under heaven given to man by which we must be saved. And his name even tells us that, Jesus means ‘the LORD saves.’ But how are we to trust Christ if he is not held out to us in a sermon? This is probably why Paul is so intent on holding out Christ and ‘preach Christ crucified’ (1Cor 1:22).
The result of speaking more generically about ‘God’ means when we come away from a sermon we may not have heard anything of Christ, our loving Bridegroom. I’m willing to put my neck on the line and say those are the sermons we are probably bored rigid in and come away cold. I know I certainly do anyway!
But how much more do we come alive in the pews when we hear about Jesus. He is the one who engages and melts our heart, of course he is! He is our loving Bridegroom! He is the one we long for! He is the one who has rescued us! If we take Christ out of a sermon, what do we have left? Well, Charles Spurgeon doesn’t seem to think there is anything left worth listening to:
The motto of all true servants of God must be, “We preach Christ; and him crucified.” A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching. (Exposition of Acts 13:13-49 published in 1904)
So… are we longing for our Christ? Do we notice the difference between a sermon that makes no reference to Jesus, and a sermon that holds him out in all his glory!?