Will You Sit with Me under Pastor Spurgeon’s Lectures?

I am currently making my way through Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s (1834-1892) Lectures to my Students. This is a book comprised of lectures he delivered to the students at the college he founded, Pastor’s College.  Although the biblical truths contained in the lectures were meant for the men who were being trained as pastors and preachers in the nineteenth century, they are also timeless and relevant to every Christian even today.

I am certain that these biblical truths applied to our lives by the grace of God and by his power working in us will contribute immensely to our spiritual growth. Therefore, I would like to humbly request you to join and sit with me under these lectures. Even if you will never preach a single sermon in your life, these biblical truths will still be of great benefit and enable you to glorify God and enjoy Him forever which by the way is our chief end as Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 1 beautifully puts it.

Pastor Spurgeon begins by giving us a background to these lectures and says that he delivered them every Friday afternoon after the students were weary with sterner studies and were intended to ‘fire their hearts’ and sharpen their focus towards the goal of proclaiming the gospel faithfully. Spurgeon also states that the lectures are full of references to himself because his “own experience is the most original contribution he can offer.” He then makes this profound remark:

“The solemn work with which the Christian ministry concerns itself demands a man’s all, and that at its best. To engage in it half-heartedly is an insult to God and man. Slumber must forsake our eyelids sooner than men shall be allowed to perish. Yet we are all prone to sleep as do others, and students, among the rest, are apt to act the part of the foolish virgins; therefore, I have sought to speak out with my whole heart.”

What I intended to do on this blog is to share thoughts and rich lessons I am drawing from the book. I will strive by God’s grace to post as often as I can.  Please also take your time to give feedback or leave a comment if you can. All is set.  Here is my pen and notebook.  Will you join me to study under pastor Spurgeon? I hear somebody asking about tuition fee. No, there is no need for one.

Grace and peace to you.

The Bible is The Gospel.

Recently on Facebook, I was involved in a discussion with a friend who argued that the Gospel is different from the Bible. He defined the Bible as the books written by holy men under the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that what they wrote may be trusted and obeyed as God’s Word. On the other hand, the gospel is the news that God who created heavens and earth came into the world as human being in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to suffer full punishment and eternal death on behalf of sinners so that they can be forgiven and have eternal life and live in righteousness free from sin and its effects.

He then argued that the Church should focus more on the Gospel  because one can be saved without the Bible but not without the Gospel. I should say, here, that the debate involved lengthy writings which I am unable to include into this article but the above summary really sums up the main argument of my friend.

The Bible is the gospel and the gospel is the Bible. The terms “Gospel” and “Bible” are synonyms. At the center of the Bible or the gospel is Jesus or to borrow the words of Sinclair Ferguson, “Jesus is the heart of the entire Bible.” However, I have often noted that some easily see the gospel in the New Testament more than in the Old Testament.  In this article, therefore, I will endeavor to show the gospel in the Old Testament and by doing that  prove that the entire Bible is the gospel hence we cannot distinguish the gospel from the Bible.

 First, let’s turn to Christ himself who clearly taught that the Old Testament is the gospel.  In Luke 24, Jesus was speaking to his two unbelieving and fearful disciples, Cleopas and his friend, on the walk to Emmaus and the passage states that Christ used the Old Testament to explain the gospel to his disciples.  “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself,” (Luke 24:27). Please note very well that “Scriptures” in the verse refer to the Old Testament since by this time the New Testament Canon was not yet complete.

 Later Jesus appeared to the eleven Apostles and rebuked them for their lack of faith and said to them: “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled,” (Luke 24:44). Then please note carefully again what Christ says regarding the Old Testament Scriptures in Luke 24:46-47: “Thus it is written that, the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Pause for a moment! Is this not the gospel? And where is it found? Right there in the Old Testament. 

Jesus here is showing us that the “gospel” which my friend described as Christ’s  work of saving sinners and enabling them to live a life of righteousness is found from Genesis to Revelation (now that the New Testament Canon is complete). From the first book of the Bible to the sixty-sixth one, salvation from sin and eternal life of righteousness in Christ is the main teaching, especially, after the fall. 

Secondly, we have a first presentation of the gospel in Genesis 3:15.  God speaks to the Satan in the form of serpent that led our first parents into sin and says: “And I will put enmity between thee (serpent) and the woman (Eve), and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and though shall bruise his heel.” Theologians and Bible Scholars have called this passage “protovangelion” a Greek word for “the first proclamation of the gospel.” From this passage up to Revelation 22:21, the message of the Bible is the gospel that Christ will and has crushed the head of Satan and overcome death and  sin that once conquered our first parents in the Garden of Eden and the fallen man can now live abundant life  in Christ. Jonathan Edwards puts it better when he writes:  

Christ and his redemption are also the great subject of the history of the Old Testament from the beginning all along; and even the history of creation is brought in as an introduction to the history of redemption that immediately follows it. The whole book, both the Old Testament and New, is filled up with the gospel; only with this difference that the Old Testament contains the gospel under a veil, but the New contains it unveiled, so that we may see the glory of the Lord with open face. (The History of Redemption (Grand Rapids: Associated Publishers and Authors Inc.) 164-165).

Thirdly, the fact that the gospel runs throughout the Bible is further confirmed in the fact that the Old Testaments saints were saved through faith in Christ just as we are.  For instance, Abraham, way back in Genesis, was justified by faith in Christ (Romans 4) and in Galatians 3:15, Apostle Paul tells us that Abraham believed because the Gospel was preached to him. Where was the gospel preached to him? Right there in the Old Testament. John Calvin has expounded this truth better and said:

“The old covenant fathers, who were formerly regenerated, obtained this favor through Christ, so that we may say, that it was as it were transferred to them from another source. The power, then, to penetrate into the heart was not inherent in the law, but it was a benefit transferred to the law from the gospel. (John Calvin, Commentaries on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah and the Lamentations (Grand Rapids, 1950), 4:131).

When you and I open our Bibles, all we ought to see is Jesus because he is the center of the Bible. Jesus is the center of gospel. There is no way one can read the Bible or the Word of God without seeing Jesus on every page because Jesus is the Word (John 1:1-5). Therefore, the gospel and the Bible are not two different things but one. These two words are synonyms and it is impossible to distinguish them. The Old Testament is the Gospel pointing us towards Christ while the New Testament is the Gospel pointing us back to Christ. Both the Old and the New Testaments are the gospel.

Postscript: Heidelberg Catechism  Answer to  Question 19 also clarify that the gospel and the Bible are one thing:

God began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise (Gen. 3:15); later God proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs (Gen. 22:18; 49:10) and prophets (Isa. 53; Jer. 23:5-6; Mic. 7:18-20; Acts 10:43; Heb. 1:1-2)  and foreshadowed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; (Lev. 1-7; John 5:46; Heb. 10:1-10and finally God fulfilled it through his own beloved Son (Rom. 10:4; Gal. 4:4-5; Col. 2:17).



Onward Christian Servants

 TEXT:                       Luke 10:1-4

I have a friend whose emails always end with a signature: “saved to serve.” Every time I receive an email from him, I am reminded of this truth that as a Christian I am not only God’s child but also his servant. This truth applies to all believers. There are no spectator ions in the kingdom of God. There are no bench warmers in the Church but all are children as well as  servants of Christ.

And in the passage we have read, we see three important things that Christ has to say to us regarding our role as servants in this world. As we go out to serve, we  need to reflect and keep in mind these three truths that Jesus gives in the passage:

The first truth that Christ tells us is that the service is vast. The vastness of the service (v. 2)

Jesus says, “I am sending  you out to serve but the service is vast. It is huge, therefore, pray that God should send out more servants into the field.”

Friends, the work of the Lord out there is very huge and the laborers are a few. But sometimes we don’t act like the laborers are a few, do we?

I remember meeting an old Christian friend of mine after so many years since we last saw each other. He asked me what I am doing nowadays. I told him I am in the ministry and asked him what he was doing. He told me that he is in business and he went further to say that there are a lot of people involved in ministry and thought that his services are not need.

I said, you are wrong my brother. The laborers are a few, God desires you to serve him as well. I don’t mean that you should stop being a businessman, not at all.  But you can do business and still serve Christ.

I know many who think like that. Many who believe that service for God is only for pastors. But this is not right. “The laborers are a few.” For us who are already in the ministry Christ is also reminding us to “pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

I don’t know how many of us in ministry do remember to pray earnestly that God should send out more laborers. I often fail in this area but Christ desires us to pray for more laborers to come into the field.

 Another truth we can draw from Jesus’ words in the passage is that Christians ought not to spend time opposing or fight against each other instead of serving together because the laborers are already a few. For the years that I have been in ministry, I have seen that Christians can shoot at their fellow Christians for various reasons instead of forming a strong front to serve Christ.  

 So, Christ is reminding us that the service is so vast. Please pray earnestly for more laborers. Probably, Jesus said these words after noting that when he earlier sent out the twelve on a similar mission as we read in Luke 9, the twelve apostles met someone who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name. And the Apostles stopped him because he was not one of them. But Jesus rebuked them and said, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.

 As Christians, we are not competitors or enemies but children of one Father seeking to glorify him through the power and grace of Christ. Therefore, Jesus commands us to pray for one another.

 The second truth that Christ is giving us in this passage is that as his servant I am vulnerable. The Vulnerability of the servant (v. 3)

Christ reminds his servants that they are very vulnerable when he says that I am sending you out as lambs among the wolves. Now, when you compare lambs to wolves you see a very huge difference. Lambs are weaker, wolves are stronger. Lambs are defenseless, wolves can defend themselves.

 I wish Christ had said that I am sending you out as a strong lion among the weak deer or impalas. But no, he compares his servants as lambs among the deadly wolves. Why? Christ wants us to know that as we serve him, we need not to depend on ourselves but to always depend on him.  We are lambs and he is our Good Shepherd. A good shepherd lays his life down for his lambs.  We should trust Christ to take care of us as we serve him. Don’t put your trust in your academic qualifications or your eloquence or your smartness. All these will fail. Only Christ will never fail you.

 God in Proverbs 3:6 and 7 says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

 Serving the Lord might be very challenging indeed because we are like lambs serving among the wolves. This calls us to trust Christ always. As we serve, we need to remember to trust in Christ always. He is our good shepherd and there is no way we can serve without his help and guidance.  If we try to serve God without Christ, we will surely fail.

 Martin Luther is one of the people that God has used  greatly and graciously. However, as great as the story of Martin Luther sounds, Luther knew very well that he could do nothing on his own. Without Christ, Luther’s work was in vain. That’s why he confessed in that famous hymn, “A mighty fortress is our God:”  

A mighty fortress is our God, a strong wall never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient enemy conspires to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

If we in our own strength confide, our striving will be losing;
Unless God’s Man is on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
You ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord of Hosts is His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

As we serve, we should remember that we are vulnerable and the battle is not ours. Only Christ can win this battle. We should trust him and him alone.

 The third truth that Christ is giving us as his servants in the passage is that the service is urgent.  The urgency of the service (v.4)

 As an African when I first read this verse, you know what my reaction was? I thought to myself: “How can this be. Greet no one?” Yes,  that’s what actually the verse says, “Greet no one on the road.”

 Why? Because the service is urgent.  The customary greeting of Jews was very similar to our customary greetings in Africa. The greetings are not short but long ones. We stop and inquire about family and other relations.  We have long greetings. Similarly, the Jewish greeting was very long. And Jesus says if you greet everybody you meet then you will not have enough time to  accomplish your mission; therefore, greet no one because the mission is urgent.

 Friends,  God has sent to us to serve him and the service is urgent. We should avoid all things that can delay and deter us in our service. It might not be a greeting as such but we should avoid all things that can distract and delay us in our service.

So many things we can think of that can distract us from serving Christ. Perhaps some elements of our culture. We might also think of the love for money. There are some people who are failing to serve Christ for the love of money. They know that they are called to serve but because they love money more they fail to go and serve their Master. This is not to say that money is bad. Money is good but the love of money is not.

God in 2 Timothy 6:10 tells us: “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wondered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

 Friends, God is calling us to go. We should avoid any other thing that might distract us from going out to serve.

 I remember reading somewhere that in some churches in China, a new believer is welcomed into the church by the pastor saying, “Jesus now has a new pair of eyes to see with, new ears to listen with, new hands to help with, a new heart to love others with.”

 As Christians we are the hands of Christ. May we be available to be used by him because as we have seen in the passage that  the service is vast; the service is also urgent and the servant is vulnerable. Therefore, lets us joyfully go and serve in Christ’s might alone. Onward Christian Servants!.

 Let’s pray: