Guest Post by Tony Reinke

The very idea of a “Christless sermon” appalled Charles Spurgeon. It was a plague he confronted repeatedly (and vividly) in his own sermons. Although sometimes overstated to make his point, his words are a healthy challenge today over 100 years after his death. Here’s a small collection of colorful quips:

“The motto of all true servants of God must be, ‘We preach Christ; and him crucified.’ A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.” [7/9/1876; sermon #2899]

“Leave Christ out? O my brethren, better leave the pulpit out altogether. If a man can preach one sermon without mentioning Christ’s name in it, it ought to be his last, certainly the last that any Christian ought to go to hear him preach.” [undated; sermon #768]

“Leave Christ out of the preaching and you shall do nothing. Only advertise it all over London, Mr. Baker, that you are making bread without flour; put it in every paper, ‘Bread without flour’ and you may soon shut up your shop, for your customers will hurry off to other tradesmen. … A sermon without Christ as its beginning, middle, and end is a mistake in conception and a crime in execution. However grand the language it will be merely much-ado-about-nothing if Christ be not there. And I mean by Christ not merely his example and the ethical precepts of his teaching, but his atoning blood, his wondrous satisfaction made for human sin, and the grand doctrine of ‘believe and live.’” [10/23/1881; sermon #1625]

“I know one who said I was always on the old string, and he would come and hear me no more; but if I preached a sermon without Christ in it, he would come. Ah, he will never come while this tongue moves, for a sermon without Christ in it—a Christless sermon! A brook without water; a cloud without rain; a well which mocks the traveler; a tree twice dead, plucked up by the root; a sky without a sun; a night without a star. It were a realm of death—a place of mourning for angels and laughter for devils. O Christian, we must have Christ! Do see to it that every day when you wake you give a fresh savor of Christ upon you by contemplating his person. Live all the day, trying as much as lieth in you, to season your hearts with him, and then at night, lie down with him upon your tongue.” [3/6/1864; sermon #558]

“Sooner by far would I go to a bare table, and eat from a wooden porringer something that would appease my appetite, than I would go to a well-spread table on which there was nothing to eat. Yes, it is Christ, Christ, Christ whom we have to preach; and if we leave him out, we leave out the very soul of the gospel. Christless sermons make merriment for hell. Christless preachers, Christless Sunday school teachers, Christless class leaders, Christless tract distributors—what are all these doing? They are simply setting the mill to grind without putting any grist into the hopper. All their labor is in vain. If you leave Jesus Christ out, you are simply beating the air, or going to war without any weapon with which you can smite the foe.” [2/11/1866; sermon #3288]

“The Spirit of God bears no witness to Christless sermons. Leave Jesus out of your preaching, and the Holy Spirit will never come upon you. Why should he? Has he not come on purpose that he may testify of Christ? Did not Jesus say, ‘He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you’? Yes, the subject was Christ, and nothing but Christ, and such is the teaching which the Spirit of God will own. Be it ours never to wander from this central point: may we determine to know nothing among men but Christ and his cross.” [5/30/1880; sermon #1540]

“Where there is nothing of Christ, brethren, there is nothing of unction, nothing of savor, and a man is quite right not to attend such a ministry as that. Leave Christ out of your preaching, and you have taken the 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, why, that is the very work upon which the heart of God himself is set. The Lord and you are pulling together.” [4/17/1887; sermon #2409]

“Christ not only supplies the necessities of his people, but he gives them abundant and superabundant joy in the luxuries of his grace. You do not really preach the gospel if you leave Christ out; if he be omitted, it is not the gospel. You may invite men to listen to your message, but you are only inviting them to gaze upon an empty table unless Christ is the very center and substance of all that you set before them.” [6/16/1878; sermon #2787]

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14 thoughts on “Preach Christ or Go Home—And Other Spurgeon Quotes on Christless Preaching”

  1. donsands says:

    Wonderful love for his Savior. We should all love Christ, where we want to speak of Him in every sentence, but sometimes we don’t, do we.

    I would think if a pastor is preaching-teaching through the book of Deuteronomy, he may well stick to the context of the chapter he is in, and it may not speak of Christ. Of course within his sermon he can surely speak of Jesus Christ, and most probably will, since He is the risen Lord, and we worship on Sunday, the day He rose.

    Just a few thoughts I had.

    1. treinke says:

      Don, thanks for the comment. Here’s one quote that comes to mind from Geerhardus Vos in his classic book Biblical Theology (p 358): “[Jesus] regarded the whole Old Testament movement as a divinely directed and inspired movement, as having arrived at its goal in himself, so that he himself in his historic appearance and work being taken away, the Old Testament would lose its purpose and significance.” This is helpful when thinking about the purpose of OT preaching. Without Christ the OT is meaningless. OT texts find their ultimate meaning in Christ and that means OT sermons build up to Christ. I find this helpful.

  2. I am reading the biography “Spurgeon” by Arnold Dallimore and my thoughts from the chapters of the week are JUST your focus in this post. Spurgeon was so focused on Christ. Perhaps that’s why his words are still so powerful today.

  3. donsands says:

    “OT texts find their ultimate meaning in Christ and that means OT sermons build up to Christ. I find this helpful.” -treinke

    I agree with this.

    And yet I think we can study the texts in their own context, and this can be very helpful. If we are studying about David for instance. How did he become such a despicable person. What happened to this man. Am I like David.

    Or we can learn about all the politics in Israel, and how the kings did incredible things to get into power, and so on.

    The Bible is such a rich book of history and so much more. That was my point.

    And of course we look at the OT through the Cross. Amen.

  4. Indeed, we need to preach on David and his failings. But the very fact that David did fail so miserably ought not only remind us of our own sin, but also ought to create in us a longing for a leader, a king, a covenantal representative who doesn’t fail so miserably; one who honors God wholly and fights for us faithfully; one who of course we find ultimately in Christ.

  5. Stewart Burns says:

    Here’s a scripture i want to share. Jesus said in the Bible, John ch 5. “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.” Heres a thought.. doctrines or interpretations about the scriptures cant give eternal life either. Jesus is the life giving one. Because He’s really here now, present in our lives by the Holy Spirit, We can call on Him to make us the letters that the Holy Spirit is writing today so that his words of life can be clearly read by all sorts of people
    everywhere. WE are the Jesus letters of love for our communities and without the flow of that love we are dead letters no matter how much truth we think we are gaining. If you get to hung up on putting Jesus into every message it is possible to miss that he is already present. We dont have an absentee Lord. Is it more correct to speak about Jesus from our intelect or Know him with our spirt soul and body, and then partner with him to say whats on his heart. I believe it is preaching Jesus when we honor Him by obeying his leading in the details of our day after all Jesus is .. the way.. the truth .. the life, and that is our life to represent him gloriously to love him passionatly and to love people honestly.

    One question for you, why are you so hard on King David? He is awesome He is an encouragement to anyone in the body of Christ because he went beyond the convenant requirements and persued God as a friend even though he hadnt seen Christs atoning work he lived like the promise had been fulfilled. Remember that Jesus is seated on Davids throne and is his decendent in his human lineage

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