If I Could Preach Only One Sermon: The Glory of Christ

Considering what I would preach if I could only preach one sermon is an interesting and probing question, and yet, I think it would be fair to say that many pastors often do preach just one sermon. You know who they are, the pastor whose particular hobby horse always and inevitably arises in any given sermon. I know of one local pastor who, no matter what passage of Scripture he’s working through, seems to always draw out in his sermon his own brand of complementarianism. Or perhaps you know that one pastor where every sermon ends with some thoughts concerning the eschaton. Most pastors tend to have their idée fixe.

Indeed, if we’re being honest, I think every preacher of God’s word has at least some propensity to veer back into his own beloved issue, some theological point that he is passionate about. The more responsible preachers will of course always make sure that their preaching is constrained by the text of God’s word. But let’s consider still: if there is that always present soapbox, that perpetual pet subject, if there is that “one sermon” you will always preach, what would it be?

For me, I am more and more convinced that it ought the be the beauty and glory of the person of Jesus Christ. That is, in any given sermon, if I were to fall back and begin preaching on that one theological preoccupation, that “one sermon”, I would hope that it would be fixated upon the person of Jesus Christ.

I was struck a few years back when reading through Sinclair Ferguson’s The Whole Christ where he made the remark that many pastors have within their libraries lots of books on preaching, and even books about preaching Christ, but surmises that there are probably far fewer on Christ himself.[1] This point is underlined by another comment of Sinclair Ferguson’s I’ve heard him ask in a sermon: if you were forced to sit in an empty room with nothing to do but think about the Lord Jesus Christ, would you have enough material stored within your heart and mind to last 15 minutes? 30 minutes? An hour? It is a condemnation upon us that so few today within the church can just sit and meditate upon our Savior. We do not know Jesus, his beauty and glory and majesty, and so our worship and our lives our woefully malnourished.

Therefore does it not behoove the pastor to continually preach Christ, to proclaim the person of Jesus Christ in every sermon? Is this not what Christ himself suggests when, in his high-priestly prayer, he expresses that his greatest desire was that his people might be with him to behold his glory (John 17:24)?

John Owen, reflecting on this verse, writes that “one of the greatest privileges the believer has, both in this world and for eternity, is to behold the glory of Christ... Indeed, it is by beholding the glory of Christ that believers are first gradually transformed into his image, and then brought into the eternal enjoyment of it, because they shall be ‘forever like him’, for they ‘shall see him as he is’ (2 Cor. 3:18; 1 John 3:1-2).” Owen then makes the startling but obvious point that “no man shall ever behold the glory of Christ by sight in heaven who does not, in some measure, behold it by faith in this world.”[2]

Consider how God, through the apostle Peter, commands Christians to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). Knowing Christ cannot be just a one-time ascent of the mind, knowing in a bare sense that he is the Son of God and our Savior. No, we must continually grow in our knowledge of him, giving ourselves to serious meditation upon what the Scriptures reveal about his person and work. And so pastors ought to continually preach Christ. Jesus Christ ought to be preached and held out before the congregation Sunday after Sunday so that every believer falls more and more in love with their Savior.

And if you’re afraid that your preaching about Christ will become monotonous, that your descriptions of who He is and what he’s done will become rote and repetitive, than I’m afraid, dear pastor, that you too are in need of growing in your knowledge of Christ. He is the eternal God whose person cannot be fully comprehended. There is no end to the complexities of his beauty, the limitless depths of his glory, and the infinite grandeur of his majesty. Do not all the Scriptures point to him (Luke 24:26-27)? Is not the entire scope of God’s word Christotelic (John 5:39-40)? Indeed, it is in knowing Jesus Christ where we can at all know God, and that knowledge is eternal life (John 17:3).

My hope is that as I continue to preach the Gospel and expound upon the fullness of God’s word, that I too can exclaim with the apostle Paul that I’ve really only ever preached one sermon, “desiring to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

Stephen Unthank (MDiv, Capital Bible Seminary) serves at Greenbelt Baptist Church in Greenbelt, MD, just outside of Washington, DC.  He lives in Maryland with his wife, Maricel and their two children, Ambrose and Lilou.

 



[1] Sinclair Ferguson, The Whole Christ, 50.

[2] John Owen, The Glory of Christ (Banner of Truth, Puritan Paperback edition), 4.