“We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” 2 Corinthians 4:5
Andrew Fuller believed that a preacher’s greatest responsibility is to preach Christ and Him crucified. Fuller warned, however, that preachers find themselves in particularly great danger of failing to preach Christ because they are so familiar with divine things, and their souls can so easily become dull. Too many men preach things other than Christ because they do not mix their study with faith and sincere devotion. Fuller preached a sermon on 2 Corinthians 4:5 in which he exhorted preachers to preach Christ.
1. What the Apostles did Not Preach. Paul said, “We preach not ourselves.” Most preachers never explicitly preach themselves, but they do so by implication, even while they recommend Christ with their tongues.
“If worldly advantage be our object, we preach ourselves.” Many men preach in order to make a lot of money. Men who preach from covetousness already have their reward in this world.
“If we make the ministry subservient to a life of ease and indolence, we preach ourselves rather than Christ.” Some preachers are content with little pay for their work, but they are “fond of a life of sloth.” They spend their time on unprofitable things, including gossip and idle talk.
“If the applause of our hearers be the governing principle of our discourses, we preach ourselves and not Christ.” While it’s true that preachers must be accepted by their congregations in order to be useful, some men give undue attention to popularity among their hearers. They “deal in flattering doctrine” and dwell on “what are known to be favorite topics” and avoid difficult truths.
“If our aim be to make proselytes to ourselves, or to our party, rather than converts to Christ, we shall be found to have preached ourselves and not Him.” Some preachers want to draw men after themselves and their own views. They study the Scriptures diligently, but “the tenor of their labors has been to make proselytes to themselves, or to their party, rather than to Christ.”
2. What the Apostles Did Preach. Paul said, “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord.” Many “sermons have scarcely anything to do with Christ. They are moral harangues.” You might think that those who preach such sermons are promoting good works, but in reality, they have no idea what truly good works are. Christ’s person and work alone are rich in fulness and promote truly good works. “Every divine attribute is seen in Him. All the types prefigure Him. The prophecies point to Him. Every truth bears relation to Him. The law itself must be so explained and enforced as to lead us to Him.” Here is what the true preacher must do:
“Exhibit His Divinity and glorious character.” Christ’s divinity is the efficacy of His blood, the humility of His obedience, and the power of His priesthood. Christ’s divine nature is the reason rejecting Him is such a great sin. Preach His divinity.
“Hold up His atonement and mediation as the only ground of a sinner’s hope.” True preachers will “beat off self-righteous hope, which is natural to depraved man” and direct their hearers to Jesus Christ who alone saves men from their sins. Never tire of calling men to repent of sin and embrace Christ.
“Preach Him as ‘the Lord,’ or Lawgiver, of His church, no less than as Savior.” Fuller explained, “Christ’s offices must not be divided. Taking His yoke, and learning His Spirit, are connected with coming to Him. Believers are ‘not without law unto God, but are under the law to Christ.’” Fuller went on to say,
“The preaching of Christ will answer every end of preaching. This is the doctrine which God owns to conversion, to the leading of awakened sinners to peace, and to the comfort of true Christians. If the doctrine of the cross be no comfort to us, it is a sign we have no right to comfort. This doctrine is calculated to quicken the indolent, to draw forth every Christian grace, and to recover the backslider. This is the universal remedy for all the moral diseases of all mankind.”
3. In what Light the Apostles Considered Themselves. Paul said that we are “your servants for Jesus’ sake.” Preachers are not “servants” of the congregation in the sense that the congregation has authority over them as their superiors. The congregation has no right to tell preachers what to preach or how to do the work of the ministry. But preachers are to serve their congregations by devoting their whole time and all their powers to the spiritual advantage of their hearers. Ministers must know their congregation well in order to “caution, counsel, reprove, instruct, exhort, admonish, encourage, stimulate, pray and preach.” And all of this is for Jesus’ sake.
Fuller closed with these words:
“Let Christ be not only the theme of my remaining ministry, but the exaltation of Him and the enlargement of His kingdom the great end of my life! If I forget You, O my Savior, let my right hand forget; if I do not remember You, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.”
Andrew Fuller, “Preaching Christ,” The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, vol. 1 (reprint, Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle, 1988), 501-504.