Acts 10:42 “And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.”
   Let’s consider what we can learn from this description of preaching in the early church. First, we see that it is a divine command. “He ordered us to preach to the people.” Christ, to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given (Matthew 28:18), commands us to preach. It is not an optional activity. It is not, “Well, if it is convenient, we will invest a little effort.” It is a command of Christ to His church. Preach. It is an imperative.
   In this context preaching “to the people” had a particular meaning; those doing the preaching knew there would be resistance and a cost (John 9:22). This was due to the content of the message. To proclaim the One crucified by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem as the “One appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead” was to take a stand that admitted no compromise. Anyone who would knowingly confess Christ in this manner was taking a definitive step with lasting results. But given that this is a command, obviously, those fulfilling the command could not choose to edit, alter, or soften, the message itself. It was an all-or-nothing message. They were not testifying that Jesus might be the Judge of the living and the dead. They were not testifying that Jesus was the Judge of some of the living and some of the dead, either. This was a message that was directed at each and every person in whatever audience they addressed (since, we would assume, everyone fits into the two rather all-encompassing categories of the “living” and the “dead”).
   Note as well that proclaiming Jesus as the Judge of the living and the dead is not quite the same thing as saying Jesus will be your best buddy. It is not the same as saying believing in Jesus will fix your financial woes and straighten your teeth and improve your marriage. In fact, accurately identifying Jesus as each person’s judge is anything but attractive. In fact, outside of the work of the Spirit of God in a person’s heart, this message will repel. Think of it: “Hello Mr. Criminal. You know you are guilty. And here comes the judge.”
   This message was delivered in the form of a testimony. We testify to these things. “I swear that this is true. I’ve experienced it myself. I have acknowledge Jesus to be the judge of the living and the dead, and I have put my faith in Him so as to receive forgiveness of sins.” By testifying we are putting ourselves on the line as a matter of integrity, but we are also joining our audience as fellow sinners in need of grace and forgiveness. It is only as the redeemed that we point others to the Redeemer, as those forgiven testifying of the source of forgiveness.
   And finally, there is a key term used here that has truly been lost in the large portion of preaching and proclamation today. Solemnly. This is actually part of the term “to testify.” Our testimony is to be solemn, serious, fitting of the subject of proclamation. There is something unnatural about speaking of eternal judgment, redemption, forgiveness, lordship, and life, in the context of light-hearted entertainment and Hawaiian shirt informality. I’m sorry, but it is hard for me to take a man seriously who rides a Harley into the service, for example, or who is going out of his way to be viewed not as a herald of a majestic person with a weighty message but as my buddy, my pal, my next door neighbor. This kind of seriousness, fervency, gravity, is not inconsistent with the joy that marks one’s own testimony of redemption and forgiveness. Nor does it mean one’s proclamation has to be boring, stiff, or lacking in interest or even appropriate humor. Sadly, we live in a day when many who come into the fellowship lack basic listening skills or the discipline to listen for almost any length of time at all. An appropriate, topic-sensitive use of humor can “refocus” an audience so that you can press home an important statement. But humor can never become the vehicle of real Christian preaching. When we testify that Jesus is the judge of the living and the dead, that is not a joking matter. One cannot but speak of such weighty matters with a solemnity fitting the subject.

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