Whether we hide behind the top one, or crawl up into the bottom one, preachers have a funny tendency when they open their mouths in the pulpit to preach what they call “the Gospel”. Try this experiment with me in the next few weeks as you listen, (if you do) to preaching. Tell me, if you dare, does not the preacher that you are listening to try in ways subtle or crass to smooth over or take away the absolute scandalous nature of the Gospel? What is the Gospel? The good news of how God in Christ “justifies” the sinner; makes right the ungodly; forgives the unforgivable. Listen carefully how we preachers, if left to our own devices will try and turn the sinner into a seeker; the ungodly into the misunderstood; the unforgiveable into a decider for Jesus. Listen carefully and the preacher, left to his own devices, we will make the sinner the chief actor in the sermon and the sinners heart or mind or sadness the reason for Jesus interest.
Luther understood our issue as preachers. He said of the preaching office, “It seems so frail over against the fury of the world, since the persons administering the office are fugitives,that is, feeble and insignificant people.” We are sinners too, and we spend our lives trying to justify ourselves before God and our neighbor. We desperately need to hear the promise too. It needs to come to our ears and into our hearts and then out of our mouths. Christ came to save sinners, to seek and to save the lost. No conditions, no if’s and’s or but’s. It is the speaking of God’s act that accomplishes the deed. The preachers task is to convey words that God uses to kill and make alive. The old man dies and a new person arise in Christ. The first death should be the preacher.