“Preaching the Lord Jesus”

In last week’s article we noted the emphasis in Christians preaching “the Lord Jesus” in Antioch (Acts 11:20). Those who responded in faith to the message about the Lord “turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21) to become members of the church of the Lord (Acts 2:47). Then, Barnabas exhorted these new converts to remain “faithful to the Lord” (Acts 11:23). We don’t know the details of his teaching but Luke’s summary in the book of Acts clearly emphasizes the centrality of “the Lord” Himself.


If we want people to be “faithful to the Lord” then we must “preach the Lord.” Jesus must be front and center in our teaching. When anything else becomes central to our teaching we cease to “preach the Lord Jesus.”


However, some have gone to an extreme by ignoring some very important issues connected with the Lord. They say, “Preach the Man, not the plan” or “Preach the Man, not the church.” This may sound pious on the surface but ignoring the Lord’s teaching on how to become part of His kingdom or the Lord’s teaching on the kingdom itself is actually preaching something OTHER than Jesus and will result in something other than salvation.


Preaching “The Man” includes preaching “The Plan”


How can one preach Jesus while ignoring what Jesus said about entering His kingdom? To ignore Jesus’ teaching on faith and repentance is to preach something other than “the Lord.” Remember when Jesus commissioned His apostles to go out into the world and “make disciples of all nations” they were to also baptize them and teach them His doctrine (Mt. 28:19-20; cf. Mk. 16:16). In other words, preaching Jesus must include instruction on how one ought to respond to Him in faith.


In preaching “The Man” one will inevitably be teaching “The Plan.” One must surely explain that His public ministry began with baptism when He was anointed with the Holy Spirit and declared to be the Son of God (Mt. 3:15-17). Beginning with a symbolic death, burial and resurrection and ending with a literal death, burial and resurrection Jesus “fulfilled all righteousness” (Mt. 3:15). Neglecting the command to be baptized (Acts 10:47-48) turns “preaching Jesus” into telling a nice story: “Wow, Jesus sounds like an amazing guy!” We will learn some great morals but in the end we are still left dead in our sins and transgressions (Eph. 2:1-2).


The clearest example of this is found in Acts 8:26-40. Philip came upon a man reading a prophecy about Jesus in the scroll of Isaiah. Confused, the man asked for some help understanding this mysterious text. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35). We are not given any detail about their study together but we do know Philip preached the gospel from Isaiah 53 and that his teaching included instruction on how to respond to the gospel in faith. They came across some water and the man said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:37)


Evidently, in “preaching Jesus,” Philip taught the man the necessity of having his sins washed away in baptism. Clearly, we are not “preaching Jesus” if we leave out how to respond to Him in faith. The Christians from Cyprus and Cyrene, along with Barnabas, were doing the same thing in Antioch. In “preaching the Lord Jesus,” they were teaching their audience the plan of salvation to which they responded in faith having “turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:20-23).


Preaching “The Man” includes preaching “The Church”


In preaching Jesus there must also be by necessity some teaching about His church, especially in the confused religious climate in which we live today. In preaching the Lord Jesus, how can one ignore teaching what He purchased with His blood that was shed on the cross? (Acts 20:28) His beloved bride He died to sanctify? (Eph. 5:22-33) His body of which He is the head? (Eph. 1:22-23) His kingdom of which He is King? (Col. 1:13-14)


The list could go on but suffice it to say, to “preach the Lord Jesus” requires teaching about the kingdom family of His redeemed people. To leave out the church in our instruction in making disciples is to leave out a great deal of Christ’s teaching. He came to build His church (Mt. 16:18), a distinct group of people called out from the world to live lives of holiness. This was His mission! In coming to seek and save the lost He was building a holy habitation for God to dwell (Eph. 2:19-22).


One cannot preach the King by leaving out how to enter His kingdom or what being part of His kingdom is all about. Some are baptized into Christ without understanding the responsibilities of discipleship. They want to have their sins forgiven but have no interest in working in the kingdom. Well, it doesn’t work that way. One cannot have citizenship without discipleship. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).


When we “turn to the Lord” we receive all of the attendant blessings (Eph. 1:3) but we also agree to take on the weighty responsibility of discipleship (Lk. 14:25-33). We are told to “renounce all that [we have]” to take up our cross and follow Jesus wherever He goes, even unto death (Rev. 2:10).


If you want to be baptized to receive the forgiveness of sins but are not willing to work for the Master then you haven’t really “turned to the Lord” at all. Remember, the Lord Himself said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt. 7:21) And it is said of Jesus that He is “the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb. 5:9). Let us be sure to preach the Man, the plan and the church (cf. Acts 20:27).