The Power Of The Gospel In The Church Today -- By: Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 18:1 (Spring 1997)
Article: The Power Of The Gospel In The Church Today
Author: Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.

The Power Of The Gospel In The Church Today1

Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.*

I. Introduction

I take the following three premises as axiomatic for all Christian ministers. First, we would all doubtless agree that Christ is the great need of our world. Who else will save our great urban centers, the black family, the white family, the single parents, the neglected children, the students without vision or motivation, the forgotten elderly people, the masses of people presently beyond the reach of the gospel?

Second, we would all doubtless agree that the church is to be instrumental in this great work of salvation. We yearn to see our churches thrive, drawing an ever larger and more earnest following.

Third, we would all doubtless agree that preaching-although its finer points would be debated-is vital to the power of the church. We ministers work hard to preach well, and we are right to do so. It matters to God. It makes a difference in the church and in the world.

So if Christ is our need, if the church is the agent of Christ, and if preaching stokes the fires of the church, then where is the breakdown? Where is the impediment to his redemptive love flowing through us, out from our churches, into our communities? I believe that, although one must allow for complexities at work, the primary breakdown is to be found in our preaching. And our problem is not that we are ineffective preachers. Our problem is that we can be so very successful. Let me explain as I proceed.

II. Exposition

We might get the wrong impression from Paul, when he writes in 1 Cor 9:22 that he has become “all things to all men,” that he might by all means save some. Paul was not unbending in meeting

*Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

people as they were, where they were. He was widely adaptable. But we might get the wrong impression from this passage, if we read it in isolation from Paul’s other statements about ministry, as if 1 Corinthians 9 were the whole of his mind. The fact is that Paul was not infinitely flexible in his outreach strategies. He had limits, and in 1 Cor 2:1–5 he explains one of his boundaries:

When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in much fear an...

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