Newbigin on the Challenge of Preaching Christ Today

In the 18th Joseph Smith Memorial Lecture delivered at Overdale College in Birmingham, England in 1979, published as a pamphlet under the title “Preaching Christ Today”, Lesslie Newbigin suggested that the crucial issue facing preachers today is discerning the proper relationship between Law and Gospel.  (Interestingly, this was also a pressing concern for Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his seminarians in the mid-30s.)  Newbigin declares:

“To preach Christ means to preach him both as Saviour and as Lord, both as the one who delivers me totally from guilt, from fear, from anxiety, from all the terror of the future; and as the one who calls me into total obedience, calls me to take up the cross and follow him through the world, calls me to be a partaker in his body broken and his blood shed for the world. Perhaps nothing is more crucial for the faithfulness of our preaching than that we should learn how these two are rightly related to each other.”

For a sermon to exemplify the proper relationship between Law and Gospel it must proclaim Christ as Saviour and Lord.  To neglect the former is to promote moralism or legalism, to fail to declare the latter is to fall into anti-nomianism.  Christ must be preached as both Saviour and Lord; Law and Gospel must be rightly related.  Newbigin continues a few paragraphs later:

“To preach Christ as Saviour and Lord means that people go out from the church not merely comforted with the assurance that they are saved, that all is well; and not merely crushed by the unbearable burden of their own and the world’s wrong, but rather re-enlisted in the company of those who follow Christ as witnesses and signs and agents of the rule of God in the life of the world. It means that they are liberated from concern about their own salvation in order to be totally at Christ’s service for his work of salvation for the world. It means that they go out as bearers of an active and patient hope, bearing already in their own hearts the secret of God’s kingdom which is for the whole world.”

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