On Monday, March 25, 1861, Charles Spurgeon, only twenty-six years old, ascended the pulpit of the newly constructed Metropolitan Tabernacle for the first time. He was about to preach the inaugural sermon in what was then the largest Protestant house of worship in the world. For this historic occasion, Spurgeon had chosen for his subject the grand theme of his entire ministry. But this message would be more than a sermon––it would be a statement of what he believed to be the very heart of the gospel.
After mounting the pulpit, Spurgeon announced that his text would be Acts 5:42, "And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ." Perfectly suited for this occasion, this passage highlighted the central thrust of the Apostles' ministry and likewise served to define Spurgeon's life and ministry. "In one sense," Iain Murray writes, "the text he first preached on when the Metropolitan Tabernacle was opened in 1861 was always his text." Simply put, Spurgeon was always preaching the crucified Christ.
With Spurgeon's gospel ministry resting squarely on the written Word, it was only right that he proclaimed the excellencies of the Living Word. Appropriately, the centerpiece of the first sermon in the Tabernacle was the person and work of Jesus Christ. Spurgeon declared:
I would propose that the subject of the ministry of this house, as long as this platform shall stand, and as long as this house shall be frequented by worshippers, 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 to say what is my creed, I think I must reply––"It is Jesus Christ." . . . The body of divinity to which I would pin and bind myself for ever, God helping me, is . . . Christ Jesus, who is the sum and substance of the gospel; who is in Himself all theology, the incarnation of every precious truth, the all-glorious personal embodiment of the way, the truth, and the life.
These poignant words succinctly defined Spurgeon's understanding of the gospel. He believed that the heart of the gospel is Christ. Spurgeon asserted: "The less you make of Christ, the less gospel you have to trust in . . . The more gospel we would preach, the more of Christ we must proclaim." For Spurgeon, no subject was more captivating, no truth more satisfying, and no name more powerful that Jesus'. He declared: "Preach Christ, that is the magnet; He will draw His own to Himself. . . . If we want to see conversions there must be . . . more constant preaching of Christ; Christ must be in every sermon and He must be top and bottom of all theology that is preached." Elsewhere he said, "Make Christ the diamond setting of every . . . sermon." No matter what the preacher's text, Spurgeon believed, he must preach Christ.
This is an excerpt from Steven J. Lawson, The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon, (Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust, 2012), 87-89. To purchase, click here.