Skip to comments."Preaching Is God's Great Emancipation Proclamation" (Sermon for Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany)
Posted on 02/07/2009 5:28:35 PM PST by Charles Henrickson
Preaching Is Gods Great Emancipation Proclamation (Mark 1:29-39; 1 Corinthians 9:16-27)
In the Holy Gospel for today, Jesus says, Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out. And then it says, And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues. Likewise, in todays Epistle, St. Paul says, Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! Both of these readings emphasize the importance of preaching. It was a top priority for Jesus. It was a top priority for Paul. Why was it so important for them? And why is preaching still important today? Why is it important for you?
After all, preaching has gotten a pretty bad name in our day. Dont preach at me! people say. Or theyll say, That sounds too preachy. Like preaching is a bad thing. Some people stay away from church because they dont think they need preaching, they dont want to be preached to. So we should probably ask, Just what is preaching? What is it, really? Not, what is it according to the common stereotype, but rather, What is preaching according to the biblical point of view?
Lets start with what preaching is not. Preaching is not mere Bible-thumping or hitting people over the head with the Bible--although preaching must be thoroughly biblical. It is not just a matter of piling up Bible passages. You could have a sermon full of Bible verses, pulled out of context or applied improperly, and it would not be true Christian preaching. Every cult and heresy uses the Bible.
Preaching is not moralizing, just telling people what to do and how to live, without giving them the power to do it. Telling people they need to be driven with purpose, or giving them ten steps on how to live their best life--that is not Christian preaching. Giving speeches on social-political causes, whether from the right or from the left--even when the social-political cause is a just one, one that we as citizens ought to be concerned about--that by itself is not distinctively Christian preaching.
Preaching is not primarily educational, learning facts or information, acquiring knowledge to store in your head--although preaching invariably will involve learning and growing in knowledge. That comes in the process, but it is not the primary goal of preaching.
Preaching is not entertainment. It does not consist of stringing together a bunch of cute stories or funny jokes to keep the customers satisfied. That kind of preaching is whats called a skyscraper sermon--one story stacked on top of another. But that is not true biblical preaching. Preaching does not rely on gimmicks or flashiness or compelling personality for its power. Its not a TV show or a performance.
Its not entertainment. Its not information. Its not moralizing or advice-giving. And its not Bible-quoting without Bible-understanding. Those are examples of what preaching is not, even though you can find lots of preaching like that in every town, from many a Plexiglas podium, and on many a TV and radio station. And those cheap imitations of preaching can be extremely popular. A preacher can be very successful selling that kind of product. Its just not right, not in Gods sight.
What are you looking for in the preaching you listen to? The better question is, What is God looking for in preaching? What is his standard for success? Or the better word would be faithfulness, since God-pleasing preaching may not be very successful or popular according to the worlds standards. What is faithful, God-pleasing preaching? Simply this: Preaching is the authoritative, effective proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ for the salvation of the hearers. That is what you should be looking for and listening for in the preaching you hear.
Preaching is authoritative. It comes with the full authority of God behind it. Christ himself sends out his preachers to preach. He who hears you hears me, Jesus tells his preachers. The called preacher is Christs ambassador, speaking his words, preaching in his name. When you hear your pastor preach to you, you should know that it is as good as if Christ himself were here speaking to you. That is the authority of the pastoral office, and it is for your good, so that you can be absolutely sure and certain of what you are hearing. Preaching is authoritative.
Preaching is proclamation. It is not just information about Jesus or about forgiveness or about salvation. Rather, it is the proclamation of Jesus, of forgiveness, of salvation. It is proclamation; it is a herald proclaiming an official decree. The king sends out his heralds to announce, to declare, to proclaim an official message to the citizens: The war is over! Peace is declared! Peace has been made by the blood of Jesus Christ. You are forgiven. You have been set free.
You know, this week Thursday will mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, born on February 12, 1809. One of the things for which Lincoln is most famous is his Emancipation Proclamation. Issued in 1862, to take effect in 1863, it reads in part: Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief . . . do order and declare that all persons held as slaves . . . are, and henceforward shall be, free.
Now by itself that proclamation on a piece of paper did not free a single slave. To be effective, it had to be backed up by action. There were victories that would have to be won, and they came at great cost, the shedding of much blood. But as those costly victories were won, and more and more territory was gained, the Emancipation Proclamation was being backed up with action and filled with power, and slaves were indeed set free. President Lincolns proclamation, when read aloud by those authorized to speak in his name, had liberating effect.
The great educator and author Booker T. Washington, born into slavery, recalled the day from his childhood when he and his family heard the news and were set free: Some man who seemed to be a stranger (a United States officer, I presume) made a little speech and then read a rather long paper--the Emancipation Proclamation, I think. After the reading we were told that we were all free, and could go when and where we pleased. My mother, who was standing by my side, leaned over and kissed her children, while tears of joy ran down her cheeks. She explained to us what it all meant, that this was the day for which she had been so long praying, but fearing that she would never live to see.
Dear friends, this is a picture of what preaching does. It is not just empty words. Preaching does something; it sets people free. It is backed up with action and filled with power. It is authorized, effective, powerful proclamation.
It is Gods acting that gives preaching its power. God acted when he sent his Son to set us free. There was a great victory that needed to be won--victory over sin and death and hell. For you and I were born into slavery, the slavery of sin, and we could not free ourselves. Only God could do that. But that freedom, that victory, would come at great cost, the greatest price that could ever be paid, the shedding of the blood of the holy Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
Christs costly victory is all-availing. It covers all of your sins, the sin of the whole world. It conquers death, defeats it, empties it of its power. Christs victory sets us free from bondage to Satan. We are free to serve God instead, with lives of righteousness, by the power of the Spirit. This is the freedom, the emancipation, that Christ has won for us by his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead.
This victory, this freedom, this emancipation, is then delivered to us, in an effective way, through preaching. Christs officer, his authorized representative, stands here and speaks it aloud in your hearing, in the name of Jesus. It is happening here again today. For you and I need this gospel-preaching constantly, for as long as we live by faith and not by sight. Every time your sins weigh you down, the preacher comes and declares, You are forgiven by the blood of Christ. Every time the devil whispers in you ear and tempts you to fall back into the old ways of selfishness and sin, Christs man comes and tells you, Baptized child of God, you are free, free indeed, to live as the new person you are now in Christ, to live for God and serve your neighbor. Every time the prospect of death sends a shivering chill down your spine, Christs messenger stands here and tells you, You have life, life everlasting, because of your Lord Jesus and his victory over the grave.
The preaching, you see--you hear--the preaching delivers the goods to you. Preaching is Gods great Emancipation Proclamation, officially declaring freedom, release from bondage, to the slaves of sin and death and the devil. Now therefore I, Christs preacher in this place, by virtue of the power vested in me as a called and ordained servant of the Word--I do declare that you are, and henceforward shall be, free!
Preaching is precisely that proclamation, the authorized, effective, powerful proclamation of the good news of Christ. It is so much more than those cheap imitations that pass for preaching, things like moralizing, education, and entertainment. No, God has something much better to give you than that. Therefore we preach Christ crucified, for through this message that seems so weak and foolish in the worlds eyes, God is doing something very wise and powerful indeed--he is saving sinners like you and me. Amazing as it sounds, preaching literally delivers to you exactly what it promises: freedom from the slavery of sin, guilt, and death, and in their place, righteousness, forgiveness, eternal life, new life. The very freedom the gospel proclaims is given to you, for you to take hold of by faith, through this humble means called preaching.
My friends, preaching--genuine Christ-centered, cross-focused preaching--preaching is Gods great Emancipation Proclamation, for you!
Immediately [Jesus] left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simons mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, Everyone is looking for you. And he said to them, Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out. And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
1 Corinthians 9:16-27 (ESV)
If I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
This is most certainly true!
May Christ, the Son of the living God, be manifest in you!
What exactly does this mean? You do know the "emancipation proclamation" didn't free anybody, right? If you are saying that preaching will free you (or somebody else) then you chose a poor analogy.
Note: "Now by itself that proclamation on a piece of paper did not free a single slave."
BTW, I see from your profile that you describe yourself as an "unreconstructed Southerner," which helps to explain your reaction. :-) Yes, I am aware of the complexities of the Emancipation Proclamation, but I only make the analogy as far as the few points of comparison I make in the sermon.
Actually, and check your history on this, the Emancipation Proclamation did formally set hundreds of thousands free.
Since it applied only to those states in rebellion, yes, it didn’t count for places like Maryland, or Delaware...or the District of Columbia, states and jurisdictions which were slave areas, but were not in rebellion.
However, the Union in 1863 controlled whole sections of Virginia, Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi, etc. and the proclamation did formally...apply to those states. And in jurisdiction (as claimed by the Union) applied, though unenforceable, to all the Southern states.
For most black Americans too—the symbolic power of the Emancipation was enormous too.
Just so you know, I am the great-grandson of a Confederate officer and slave owner, and though I respect his service—and believed he did right in his circumstance... I am happy for everyone’s sake, that in God’s good Providence, the Union won the war. There would be no United States without that, and WWI (just 50 years after) and further, would have been very different.
Like my old preacher used to say, "the gospel is oratory, not auditory". Preach the word brother.
Exactly. You just contradicted yourself. The so-called EP applied only to states in rebellion. The whole sections you mentioned would have not been in rebellion since, as you noted, were controlled by the yankees. The Union had no control over the Confederate States because it was another country. The EP freed no one.
Also why didn’t Lincoln free ALL slaves, even those held by the yankees, if he was so anti-slavery. Why did he only “free” people over who he had no jurisdiction? It is well documented that Lincoln was a racist and believe the African slaves to be inferior. That’s not my belief, but Lincoln’s comments on that subject abound. If he really wanted to “free the slaves” he should have freed the one up north as well. He never did.
My reaction doesn't change historical facts. Are you in the Missouri Synod? I left my childhood church because they are in the ECLS. VERY conservative bunch of folks that I grew up with, and they can't see how they are being herded.
You’ll never hear me say Lincoln was so anti-slavery (he did say, if it took slavery to preserve the Union he would keep it...)... or that he wasn’t a racist. Some of the most ardent abolitionists of the time were also serious racists (and several were extremely brutal toward American Indians too).
The discussion was if the Emancipation Proclamation freed any slaves—and yes, it did, even if it was primarily a symbolic, political, even cynical, not practical, move.
Don't be discouraged. I am sure many people read your sermon and "got it" . If you have a ping list I would like to be on it.