John Kennedy lists five great facts:
1. That the author of the gospel is God – that the grace and the message are “of God.” 2. That it is “concerning his Son Jesus Christ.” 3. That the death of Christ appears prominently in the light of the gospel. 4. That it is about salvation that God deals with men by the gospel. And 5. That it is preached to sinners as such.
“It would be well if preachers of the gospel were more impressed with these great facts. If they preached as men who realised that they carried a message from Jehovah; that the Saviour was the Christ and the Son of God; that his death was the only atonement for sin; that the salvation which is by Jesus Christ is full, free, and everlasting; and that their hearers are sinners ready to perish: how impossible would they then find it to hesitate about requiring faith from all who hear the gospel! No difficulty arising from the sovereignty of God’s love, and from the restricted reference of Christ’s atonement, could hamper their minds or straiten their feelings in preaching Christ to sinners. All the more free and urgent would they be, as they realised a love whose purposes must take effect, and a death that shall not be in vain. And how the light of these great facts would clear men’s views of faith, if only they would admit it into their minds! It can be nought else than the reception of the gospel, as true, because divine, and trust in the Christ of God, whom it reveals as a gracious Saviour from sin.”
Dr Kennedy – a calvinist but not a hypercalvinist, and someone who was committed to the free offer of the gospel, contrary to what some people say – was minister in the Free Church in Dingwall in the nineteenth century. This excerpt comes from his short work, Man’s Relations to God, first published 1869 (and chapter 3, ‘Man, as evangelised, in relation to God’).
If the responsibility of preachers is to proclaim Christ as the Saviour for sinners, the responsibility of their hearers is to be obedient to the gospel call – to acknowledge that as sinners they must have this Saviour as their very own, and believe in him. But how shall they believe in someone they’ve never heard of? and how shall they hear without a preacher? People are responsible for their own souls, but preachers are sadly failing in their duty if their message, week in and week out, is not the gospel, plainly stated, freely offered.