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Why Preach Christ to the Converted?

28 July, 2008

Why should we preach and hear preached in church the gospel of free grace and justification by faith Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day? Are we trying to convert the converted? Won’t this turn into the endless repitition of so many ‘altar calls’ to the same people in the pews week after week? Is this just preaching to the choir?

NO–and here’s just a small taste of the reason why, from a lecture by Lutheran professor and White Horse Inn co-host, Rod Rosenbladt:

“…I used to have to go up against my Westmont students on this–they’d say ‘Why in the world are you talking about preaching Christ to a congregation of the saved?’  They’d had that experience as evangelicals–that’s Edna over on the organ, playing the 97th verse of Just as I Am, waiting for somebody…. They knew that evangelizing people who were saved made them totally neurotic, and they were correct about that: if you’re totally assured of your salvation at 11:15, then by 12:20 with the 96th verse you’re sure you’re not.

But that isn’t what I meant, and that isn’t what it means to proclaim Christ to a congregation. What it means is to bring him to bear again in the greatness of his cross and his shed blood, and the freedom of it all, to Christians who just about come in to the back of the sanctuary wondering if they’re believers. Why? ‘Because the hurrier I go, the behinder I get’. Why don’t I get better faster?….

Assure me again, that even though I’ve done what’s even worse — I mean I was bad enough when I first heard the gospel, but now having tasted of all the treasures, I’m doing even worse, not better — I’m leading the unvictorious Christian life: Is Christ enough?? And the answer always is, Yes–Christ is enough; Yes, Christ is enough.

If you’re like me, that’s what I need; the entertainment can fall by the wayside, but give me that–give me that….”

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8 Comments
  1. 28 July, 2008 9:03 am

    RR rocks.
    It’s not the anxious bench that we need, or techniques, or hip happening preachers that the culture will accept as their own, but that Holy Spirit powered testimony that Jesus, the carpenter, the son of Mary and Joseph, that the guy hanging on the Roman cross with rabble on either side of him is actually the Christ foretold in the Law and the Prophets, the Son of God, who destroyed the works of the devil, who cast him out, whose blood makes peace between God and man, who is highly exalted and sitting at the right hand of the Father, who has been given the name above all names, authority over all powers and principalities. And after finishing all that his Father had given him to accomplish he now sends his Holy Spirit to breath life into the dead and strength into the weary through this very gospel preached Lord’s day after Lord’s day. He is all of our righteousness before God. Apart from him we have nothing to offer…except for a very bad record beginning with Adam.

    Day after day, stumble after stumble, failure after failure, we always need to hear from the Holy Spirit that Jesus accomplished all of our salvation. He left nothing undone. It is finished.

    I’ve heard a theonomist stand up and shake her fist during a mid-week bible study a few years ago, “OK, OK lets move on already! We get it. Accept Jesus into your heart and go to heaven. Now let’s take back America for Jesus!Remember Braveheart? Freedom! Freedom!”

    I thought I was gonna die.

    I heard another theonomist argue during a debate that because eschatology precedes soteriology the church should first be about the business of bringing pagan countries under the Lordship of Christ, under the Mosaic Law…and then we can preach the gospel (how’s that for raping Van Til?)

    I’m not moving one inch away from that cross. My daughter’s favorite song ends with the chorus: “In the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever, til’ my raptured soul shall find rest beyond the river.”

  2. 28 July, 2008 10:44 am

    Regarding a weekly invitation, in my Arminian days (no need for comment about that) in 1992 while attending a Baptist Church, I wrote the following “Letter to Harry” which I would later combine with other letters into my “book” titled: “GOLD MINING – 52 Scriptural Devotions on the Work of God” which is in the Contents section of my website above.

    Dear Harry:

    “My son, John, who had been baptized last Sunday at Azalea Baptist Church, wanted to respond to the altar call at the end of the service and asked me to go up to the altar with him. At first, I hesitated because I knew he had already accepted the Lord and had just been baptized last week. I also did not want others to misinterpret my going to the altar, thinking I needed help, rather than John. But then, I remembered that when I was his age I went up for altar calls repeatedly, maybe five or more times. (Harry, I also vaguely remember when we went up together for an altar call at Maranatha Bible Conference in Muskegon, Michigan.) With that memory and a feeling of a little shame at my pride, I proudly went to the altar with John with thanks in my heart to God.”

    So, to answer the question, “Why preach Christ to the converted?”, I answer: “Whether such a sermon is the occasion when the person recognizes conversion for the first time, or whether they want to confirm it in their own mind by taking some confirmation action such as walking up to the altar, just provide for that opportunity and be glad for the opportunity either way. And by the way, if that person wants you to walk up with them, JUST DO IT!

    Bill

  3. creedorchaos permalink*
    30 July, 2008 2:31 am

    The White Horse Inn (whitehorseinn.org) did a great show recently on the legacy of Charles Finney and the ‘anxious bench’ that was really enlightening on the history and assumptions of what we now call the altar call, its problems and the biblically Reformed way of proclaiming the law and the gospel that it so often replaces in our churches.

    Amen, Phil.

    ~B

  4. James L permalink
    30 July, 2008 8:48 am

    Thanks to something I read on this blog I’m reading Horton’s “In the Face of God.” Great stuff with the same message.

  5. creedorchaos permalink*
    30 July, 2008 6:40 pm

    Anything by Horton is great! My wife is fairly new to Ref’d thinking and she really gets Horton.

  6. 31 July, 2008 5:07 am

    In light of the subsequent comments, I think that I need to follow-up to my prior comment. I was not commenting on the problem with Arminian or Charles Finney type of altar calls and its man-centered focus on the “decision for Christ”. Much has rightfully been written about these problems and the Reformed way to preach Christ.

    I just saw value in this article titled “Why preach Christ to the converted”. The author writes: “What it means is to bring him to bear again in the greatness of his cross and his shed blood, and the freedom of it all, to Christians who just about come in to the back of the sanctuary wondering if they’re believers”.

    I also saw value in those who heard such message responding in faith. Regardless of whether or not they were in fact previously converted, I see nothing wrong, but rather much value, in responding whether it be by prayer or by later acknowledgement or by even walking up to the altar.

    I think that sometimes we (mostly myself) are so critical of Arminianism that we tend to criticize any practice that has been associated with Arminianism.

    Simply put, it is good to preach Christ to the converted to either make sure that everyone is indeed converted in the congregation. We should not make the assumption that everyone in the congregation is in fact converted. We should at least pretend that we are reaching the lost. (Yikes! That is either funny or indicting.) It is also good to preach Christ to the converted, like in my prior comment, to give those persons weak in faith a chance to confirm and build up their faith and to testify publicly about God’s work in them.

  7. habasar permalink
    19 January, 2010 10:00 pm

    How far have we fallen to even need to ask the question. We do not even know what is to preach the Mashiach and Him crucified. This is no different than preaching the gospel, and the one true gospel is the Mashiach, Yeshua of Nazareth, died for our sins accoring to the Old Testament, He was buried and He rose again the third day according to the Old Testament. This is the gospel Yeshua preached (Luke 24) and the gospel Paul preached (1 Cor 15:1-6) and the gospel the apostolos gave the right hand of fellowship (agreement)(Gal 2) How will the saints know about the Mashiach if we do not preach Christ and Him crucified to them. If we do not understand Christ, what do we understand. If we do not preach Christ to all, how will they ever know Christ. To the unbeliever God give grace to whom He chooses by His will to accept the one true gospel. And after grace is given, the grace is exercised as the scriptures are declared in light of the Mashiach’s death for our sin, His burial and His resurrection the third day.

    Daniel

    • 20 January, 2010 11:23 am

      Daniel,

      Amen. When does faith *stop* coming by hearing the proclamation of the good news of Jesus? (Rom 10). The answer is NEVER. Faith comes and grows through the ministry of the gospel, in word and sacrament, no matter how long we’ve been followers of Christ.

      ~B

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