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Preach the Gospel, Not the Garnish

The common blessings that all humans enjoy, regardless if they’re Christians or not, are often referred to as “common grace.” The rain falls on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45). God loves all His creation, as evidenced by His providential care for all of His creation. To think of our specific topic—preaching—one must be careful not to drown one’s hearers in common grace. If our hearers leave our sermons thinking on common grace due to our preaching, we might be drowning their souls in common grace. Common grace should send humans running to God who provides, but due to our sinful hearts, humans turn God’s common grace to use in our idolatry instead. We need God’s special revelation—the good news of Christ—in order to be saved from God’s wrath, our sinful hearts, the evil one and this evil world (Matt. 28:18-20). Common grace cannot save sinners. Common grace only provides sinners with enough information to condemn them (Rom. 1:18-32). If our hearers leave our sermons thinking only on the common grace in our message, then they’ve only received enough information to condemn them.

Thus, if our hearers leave our sermons thinking, “What a funny preacher,” “What a great storyteller,” “What a gifted speaker,” etc., then they’ve retained from our preaching the same grace they could have retained from any unbelieving comedian, storyteller or speaker. They’ve only received enough grace to leave them “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20) when they stand before God one day, but not enough to save them. The goal of preaching must be to have our hearers leaving our sermons thinking on special revelation—Scripture.

Now, it’s one thing if our hearers ignore the content of our messages and focus on the elements of common grace in our sermons. But, it’s another thing altogether if our goal as preachers is to entertain our hearers. It’s one thing to use common grace to magnify special revelation. It’s another thing to drown special revelation in common grace. As preachers of the word of God (special revelation), we must not be “ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘righteous shall live by faith’” (Rom. 1:16-17).

The arts we use in our preaching (homiletics) must serve Scripture instead of hiding it. Special revelation is indeed special. God has spoken, clearly revealing Himself to us through His inerrant word. Through His special revelation, we can know God, His creation, our fall and our redemption that came from the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit. Everything we do, say and display when we preach must serve the purpose of communicating the word of God. The “specialness” of the word of God should be evident to our hearers, not just in what we preach, but in how we preach. The main point of our sermons should be the gospel (special revelation), not the garnishes (common grace).

Therefore, preachers, let us labor to excellently magnify the inerrant truth of God when we preach. Let us not drown our hearers in common grace like other unbelieving orators. Let us instead use elements of common grace to excellently serve and magnify special revelation. Emphasize the gospel, not the garnishes, for in doing so, God may save the souls of our hearers (1 Cor. 15:1-4)!

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Jared has served in pastoral ministry since 2000. He is the pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, KY. He is the author of 10 Sacred Cows in Christianity That Need to Be Tipped. Jared is married to Amber and they have four children. He is a teaching assistant for Bruce Ware at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) and a PhD Student in Systematic Theology at SBTS. You can take Jared's Udemy Course, "How to Enjoy God Through Movies, TV, Music, Books, etc." with this link for 43% off. Engage popular culture with Scripture. Enjoy God through popular culture.