We live in a day where words, propositions, and proclamation is met with suspicion and skepticism. But living in postmodern times should not prevent Christ-followers from faithfully proclaiming the Word of God. Paul the apostle instructs the believers in Colossae:
“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28, ESV)
The ministry that Paul demands here involves strong proclamation. The Greek verb, καταγγέλλω [kataggello] means “to declare plainly, openly, and aloud; to announce, to celebrate, to preach.” In Acts 17:2-3, we find Paul engaged in the ministry that he demands from the Colossian believers: “And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ”” (Acts 17:2–3, ESV). J.I. Packer refers to the gospel as “a proclamation of Divine sovereignty in mercy and judgment, a summons to bow down and worship the mighty Lord on whom man depends for all good … Its center of reference was unambiguously God.”
Notice several features of strong proclamation:
1. Strong proclamation must be Christ-centered
Christ-centered preaching does not water-down the hard edges of the gospel. This kind of preaching refuses to proclaim a health and wealth gospel. It refuses to elevate man’s free will. And it refuses to minimize God’s sovereignty. Christ-centered preaching must be gospel preaching; preaching that proclaims that Jesus died for sinners who was raised for our justification (Rom. 4:25); preaching that proclaims sinners may be forgiven (Acts 13:48); preaching that proclaims the way of salvation (Acts 16:17). Packer adds, “The preacher’s task … is to display Christ: to explain man’s need of him, his sufficiency to save, and his offer of himself in the promises as Savior to all who truly turn to him; and to show as fully and plainly as he can how these truths apply to the congregation before him.” Strong proclamation must be Christ-centered.
2. Strong proclamation must be unabashedly bold
Paul modeled this bold proclamation in his preaching ministry: “This I proclaim to you …” (Acts 17:23ff). We must commit ourselves to boldness when we proclaim the Word of God. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes …” (Rom. 1:16). Timid proclamation is tantamount to cowardice.
3. Strong proclamation must be fearless
Of course we live in a cowardly culture, where many preachers back-peddle and compromise the precious doctrinal realities of Scripture. We can scarcely recall the days of the Puritans when the doctrines of hell, unconditional election, the sovereignty of God, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the lordship of Christ were powerfully proclaimed from their pulpits. Paul the apostle “did not shrink” from declaring the truth of God’s Word (Acts 20:20). We should do no less!
4. Strong proclamation must be comprehensive
Strong proclamation must include the whole of Scripture. We must resist the urge to present bits and pieces: “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). The only way of proclaiming the Scripture in a comprehensive way is expository preaching.
5. Strong proclamation must lay the foundation for the Christian worldview
Strong proclamation must drive home the reality that Christ is at the center of all things. The Scripture tells us that Christ is the creator of all things (Col. 1:16), Christ is the sustainer of all things (Col. 1:17), Christ is the Redeemer of sinful men (Col. 1:13-14), and Christ will make all things new (Rev. 21:5). So faithful Christ-f0llowers have a responsibility to present the Christian worldview which will strengthen believers and challenge the pagan presuppositions of the unbelieving world.
6. Strong proclamation must carry the full weight of biblical authority
Strong proclamation must reprove, rebuke, exhort, and include solid teaching in keeping with 2 Timothy 4:-4. It must confront worldly ideology (Col. 2:8). Lloyd-Jones referred to preaching as “logic on fire.” Therefore, faithful Christians are faced with the challenge of presenting the weighty truths of Scripture with passion and God-centered logic.
7. Strong proclamation must have a sense of urgency
Strong proclamation must be blood-earnest and have a sense of gravitas: “Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears” (Acts 20:31, ESV). Boring preaching should be considered a capital crime. Woe to the preacher who puts his people asleep.
8. Strong proclamation must be intensely theological
Al Mohler rightly says, “As a theologian, the pastor must be known for what he teaches as well as what he knows, affirms, and believes. The health of the church depends upon pastors who infuse their congregations with deep biblical and theological conviction, and the primary means of this transfer of conviction is the preaching of the Word of God.” Therefore, theological categories should be taught relentlessly for the building up of the body of Christ.
9. Strong proclamation must make a lasting difference in the hearts and minds of people
Lloyd-Jones writes, “Preaching should make such a difference to a man who is listening that he is never the same again.” The photo above marks the location in Wartburg where Luther translated the Greek New Testament into the German language. His tireless work and faithful proclamation made a difference in the lives of the German people, not to mention the continent of Europe. His strong proclamation made a lasting difference in the hearts and minds of people.
So words, propositions, and proclamation matter. May the courage and conviction of the “wild boar in the vineyard” captures the hearts and minds of pastors all around the world. And they proclaim the message of the gospel so the nations might rest and rely on the all-sufficient Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ!