Books

Spurgeon on Christ-Centeredness

One of my heroes is Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the famous Baptist pastor of nineteenth century London. In reading Spurgeon, I am convinced that a secret behind his ministry's extraordinary fruitfulness and enduring legacy was his relentless focus on the person and work of Christ.

His Creed

Spurgeon's Christ-centered focus is evident in his first words spoken at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, which was built to accommodate the multitudes who came to hear him preach. Setting the tone of the thirty years of ministry which would follow, he said:

"I would propose that the subject of the ministry in this house, as long as this platform shall stand, shall be the Person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist. I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist. But if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, 'It is Jesus Christ.'"[1]

Spurgeon did occasionally err in his exegesis, seeing allegories to Christ where better hermeneutics would take the reader to Jesus by a different (and perhaps more lengthy) route. But his aim was certainly correct. He believed his preaching to be in sync with the Apostle Paul, who determined to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2), and who boasted in nothing except the cross of Christ (Gal. 6:14).

His Anointing

Furthermore, Spurgeon felt that his emphasis on Christ would be blessed by the Holy Spirit, who is given to the church to glorify Christ (John 16:14). In fact, he believed that lack of anointing in preaching was due to a lack of Christ-centeredness. As he once said,

"Where there is nothing of Christ, brethren, there is nothing of unction, nothing of savour. . . . Leave Christ out of your preaching, and you have taken milk from the children, you have taken the strong meat from the men. But if your object as a teacher or preacher is to glorify Christ and to lead men to love him and trust him, that is the very work on which the heart of God himself is set. The Lord and you are pulling together, and God the Holy Ghost can set his seal to a work like that."[2]

His Doctrine

It is a well known and indisputable fact that Spurgeon was Calvinistic in his theology, but this never lessened his passion for Christ or produced indolence in evangelism. He rather saw the doctrines of grace as important only in their relation to Christ:

"What is doctrine after all but the throne whereon Christ sitteth, and when the throne is vacant what is the throne to us? Doctrines are the shovel and tongs of the altar, while Christ is the sacrifice smoking thereon. Doctrines are Christ's garments; verily they smell of myrrh, and cassia, and aloes out of the ivory palaces, whereby they make us glad, but it is not the garments we care for as much as the person, the very person of our Lord Jesus Christ."[3]

This understanding, however, did not lead Spurgeon away from doctrinal teaching. It simply kept doctrine subservient to Christ:

"Must I not, if I preach Christ personally, preach his doctrines? I believe they are nothing but the natural outgrowth of that great root thought, or root substance rather, the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He who will preach Christ fully will never lax in doctrine."[4]

His Evangelism

Spurgeon's Christ-centeredness also impacted the way he evangelized:

"Remember, sinner, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee-it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee-it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that is the instrument-it is Christ's blood and merits; therefore, look not to thy hope, but to Christ, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Christ, the author and finisher of thy faith; and if thou doest that, ten thousand devils cannot throw thee down."[5]

His Life

Spurgeon's Christ-centeredness sprang from a deep, personal relationship with the Lord. He loved Christ passionately, and his sermons are filled with rapturous exaltations of Christ. Perhaps Spurgeon never put it more succinctly than when he said, "If you take Christ out of Christianity, Christianity is dead."[6]

Near the end of his ministry, Spurgeon said,

"If I had only one more sermon to preach before I died, it would be about my Lord Jesus Christ. And I think that when we get to the end of our ministry, one of our regrets will be that we did not preach more of him. I am sure no minister will ever repent of having preached him too much."[7]


Making It Personal

  • Do you love Christ? Is this evident in the way you talk about Him?
  • Is Christ at the center of your preaching ministry, theology, counseling, and evangelism?

Endnotes


[1] C. H. Spurgeon, in a sermon entitled "The First Sermon in the Tabernacle" in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 7 (Pasadena: Pilgrim Publications, 1977 reprint).

[2] C. H. Spurgeon, in a sermon entitled "A Great Sermon by the Greatest Preacher" in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 41 (Pasadena: Pilgrim Publications, 1977 reprint).

[3] C. H. Spurgeon, in a sermon entitled "The Love of Jesus, What It Is None but His Loved Ones Know" in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 8 (Pasadena: Pilgrim Publications, 1977 reprint). Quoted in Iain H. Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1995), p. 122.

[4] C. H. Spurgeon, in a sermon entitled "The First Sermon in the Tabernacle" in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 7 (Pasadena: Pilgrim Publications, 1977 reprint). Quoted in Lewis Drummond, Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1992) p. 291.

[5] C. H. Spurgeon, in a sermon entitled "The Comer's Conflict with Satan" in The New Park Street Pulpit, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1994 reprint).

[6] C. H. Spurgeon, in a sermon entitled "Our Manifesto" in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 37 (Pasadena: Pilgrim Publications, 1977 reprint).

[7] C. H. Spurgeon, in a sermon entitled "An Exciting Inquiry" in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 54 (Pasadena: Pilgrim Publications, 1977 reprint).

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