I have a friend who argues that there should not be an element in the Lord’s Day worship gathering called “preaching.” He says that in the New Testament, the concept of preaching is almost exclusively bound up with evangelism — preaching the gospel — and thus what happens during the sermon time should be simply called teaching and conducted more along the lines of instruction than proclamation. Preaching, then, is what takes place outside the four walls of the church in our sharing of the good news with the lost.
I agree with his premise but not his conclusion. Yes, the concept of preaching in the New Testament is almost exclusively bound up with the proclamation of the gospel. But I believe my friend’s error is in believing that the gospel is only for the lost.
Christians need the gospel as much as lost people do. Not in the same way, of course. But just as much.
The New Testament tells us that our present status and ongoing sanctification is empowered by the gospel of grace (1 Cor. 15:1-2), that our training in godliness is conducted by the gospel of grace (Titus 2:11-12), that our transformation into Christlikeness is enabled by the beholding of the gospel of grace (2 Cor. 3:18). Therefore, we cannot and must not reserve the gospel only for the lost.
The sinner’s need for the gospel doesn’t end when he is converted. While the fullness of eternal life is bestowed upon the vilest sinner at that point, he still needs the good news to grow him, mature him, sanctify him. And when we stand before Christ our Judge at the last day, we will be standing on nothing more than the gospel for our acceptance even then.
What we do in our church services, then, ought to be seen as orchestrating another needed encounter with the glory of Jesus in his gospel. We sing gospely songs, pray gospely prayers, and — yes — preach gospely sermons, not just that anyone in the room who doesn’t know Jesus may have the opportunity to be saved, but so that all the saints gathered have the best opportunity to be built up in Christ.
The Lord’s Day gathering exists primarily, in fact, for the regular re-evangelization of the people of God.