Most of my theological mentors are men who have been dead for hundreds of years. One of those men is Charles Spurgeon. If the Prince of Preachers were to sit in the pew of a typical modern evangelical Church, what would he see?
Different Age, Similar patterns
Many churches today are lacking in sound, Christ exalting theology and preaching. The same was true, in many ways, of Victorian England. While most modern evangelicals may believe that Spurgeon preached and lived in a time that was sympathetic to the gospel, a closer look reveals this is far from the truth. In his early years of pastoral ministry, Spurgeon was thrust in in the midst of a society that opposed any form of doctrinally motivated preaching that exalted Christ in his full glory. Spurgeon preached with a theological vigor and courage that was not often seen in his day. His devotion to proclaiming the doctrines of Grace and the theology of the reformers brought many to oppose his preaching.
At the heart of Spurgeon’s preaching was a desire to exalt Jesus Christ and to proclaim him crucified and resurrected. For Spurgeon, a sermon whose aim was not to bring the people of God to a deeper love of their savior, was a waste and a crime.
"A sermon without Christ as its beginning, middle, and end is a mistake in conception and a crime in execution."
According to Spurgeon, why do we need to hear more preaching that magnifies the Savior? Because it is the only way that those who are dead in their trespasses and sins can have their eyes opened to the marvelous light of the gospel.
"This being fully admitted, what else should be done if we hope to see conversions? Assuredly we should be careful to preach most prominently those truths which are likely to lead to this end. What truths are those? I answer, we should first and foremost preach Christ, and him crucified."
Spirit Fueled Preaching
According to Spurgeon, a true sermon that exalts Christ in all his glory is one that is fueled not only by the exercise of the intellect and study but also empowered by the work of the Spirit. It is only by the work and power of the Holy Spirit that we are given the eyes to see the glory of God revealed in Scripture.
"Student in the school of Christ, wouldst thou be wise? Ask not the theologian to expound to thee his system of divinity; but, sitting down meekly at the feet of Jesus, ask that his Spirit may instruct thee; for I tell thee, student, though thou shouldest read the Bible many a year, and turn over its pages continually, thou wouldst not learn anything of its hidden mysteries without the Spirit."
To Spurgeon, no preaching is worth preaching if not motivated by a true heart of joy, filled by the spirit. One of the greatest oppositions to christ centered preaching is lack of spirit empowered preaching that truly beholds the minister of the gospel not only in his mind but his heart as well.
"The worst is the temptation to ministerialism–the tendency to read our Bibles as ministers, to pray as ministers, to get into doing the whole of our religion as not ourselves personally, but only relatively, concerned in it. To lose the personality of repentance and faith is a loss indeed. 'No man', says John Owen, 'preaches his sermon well to others if he doth not first preach it to his own heart. '"
Encouragement for our Age
Spurgeon would not be surprised that many churches today are more concerned with popular trends and “seeker” sensitive methods than preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in all its glory. It is not uncommon to hear entertainment-driven sermons with little to no exposition of the Word.
We live in dark times. We must be vigilant and bold in proclaiming Christ in his full glory, exactly what the world needs to hear the most. These are days when people amass for themselves teachers according to their own desires and passions (2 Tim 4:3-5). Those who sit under sound preaching, cherish this grace and pray for your pastor. Spurgeon’s life reveals that this is much needed. Instead of being critical, be prayerful and relish in the teaching of faithful servants.
By the grace of God, Spurgeon stood firm in the truth against the dissenters who opposed his preaching of the word and his desire to always make much of Christ, no matter the text. To those who preach, press on and be sober minded, fulfill your ministry of an evangelist. Look back through the halls of history to our forefathers for encouragement, for we truly have a great cloud of witnesses that have run the race before us.
Mauricio Do Carmo is a husband, father, a member of Bethlehem Baptist church, and an incoming M.Div student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He resides in Hopkins, MN with his wife, Elizabeth and son, Lucas.