The Apostle Paul wrote that “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1Cor. 1:18). Today, however, it is not only the content of our gospel that is considered foolish, but also the very method of preaching itself that is often called into question. We need upbeat worship services and dynamic youth programs for the kids, particularly in a day such as ours in which people have shorter attention spans. But the question is whether these new approaches actually help us to proclaim the message of Christ crucified, or whether they simply make us more effective at entertaining the sheep.
“We’re so like the Greeks, aren’t we? Religion is about power, and the one thing left for religion in people’s lives is it empowers me, people say. It gives me empowerment for life. But the gospel comes along and says you’re powerless. The law comes and says, there’s nothing that you can actually do to be a better you. You can do all sorts of things to improve your habits and your diet, and exercise, but you can’t make yourself new. And here, we’re presenting a message to you where all of the power in the universe is concentrated upon casting yourself on the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, trusting in his violent death and glorious resurrection as your only hope.”Michael Horton
TERM TO LEARN
“The Keys of the Kingdom”
83 Q. What are the keys of the kingdom?
A. The preaching of the holy gospel and Christian discipline toward repentance. Both preaching and discipline open the kingdom of heaven to believers and close it to unbelievers.
84 Q. How does preaching the gospel open and close the kingdom of heaven?
A. According to the command of Christ: The kingdom of heaven is opened by proclaiming and publicly declaring to each and every believer that, as often as he accepts the gospel promise in true faith, God, because of what Christ has done, truly forgives all his sins. The kingdom of heaven is closed, however, by proclaiming and publicly declaring to unbelievers and hypocrites that, as long as they do not repent, the anger of God and eternal condemnation rest on them. God’s judgment, both in this life and in the life to come, is based on this gospel testimony.
85 Q. How is the kingdom of heaven closed and opened by Christian discipline?
A. According to the command of Christ: If anyone, though called a Christian, professes unchristian teachings or lives an unchristian life, if after repeated brotherly counsel, he refuses to abandon his errors and wickedness, and, if after being reported to the church, that is, to its officers, he fails to respond also to their admonition—such a one the officers exclude from the Christian fellowship by withholding the sacraments from him, and God himself excludes him from the kingdom of Christ. Such a person, when he promises and demonstrates genuine reform, is received again as a member of Christ and of his church.
(The Heidelberg Catechism, Questions 83–85)