“…warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we present everyone mature in Christ.” Colossians 1:28
The reason we preach is because men and women might be made holy through the gospel. The gospel carries with it a way of life, ethics, conformity to the will of God, repentance of sin, and an embrace of the truth.
As we preach, we warn.
In the midst of gospel preaching, there are warnings of judgment and discipline and hell. The preacher’s task includes proclamation of the bad news to make way for the good news.
We must proclaim to people that their sin has separated them from God; their sin has offended a holy and good God, a God of wrath. We must warn them with the law and comfort them with the gospel. Many are afraid to preach hell and judgment for fear of man, but when Jesus speaks to a group of his gathered disciples he tells them, “Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more than can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear Him who after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell” (Luke 12:4, 5). We must fear God and not men. God has commanded that we warn men about judgment. One of our goals in the act of preaching is to constantly caution people that the wages of sin is death.
We are also called to teach people how to walk in the wisdom of God. Proverbs tells us, “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than the gain from silver and her profit is better than gold…she is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed (Proverbs 3:13, 14, 18). Because we love those to whom we preach and we fear the God above, we must teach our congregation what it means to live in the gospel. We must preach, as an extension of the gospel, ethical texts like Romans 12:9-21; exhorting them to have genuine love, to hate evil and love good, to be passionate in service to the Lord, full of joy and hope, patient in suffering and persistent in prayer. We must call them to live peaceably with all and to not seek revenge because we are recipients of the gospel. This is wisdom, and this leads men to maturity in Christ as we teach them that all holiness is motivated by the grace of God. As Art Azurdia said to a class of preaching students I was in, “Ethical imperatives are always rooted in redemptive indicatives.”
The preacher’s goal is to present everyone mature in Christ. Paul tells Timothy, “The goal of our instruction is love” (1 Timothy 1:5). In preaching the gospel, giving gospel warnings, and teaching gospel wisdom, we lead our people to a place of maturity in Christ. The purpose of the pulpit is to transform the pew.