The teaching of the great Puritan writer John Owen on this subject is summarised by J.I. Packer:-
Preaching the gospel, [Owen] tells us, is not a matter of telling the congregation that God has set his love on each of them and Christ has died to save each of them, for these assertions, biblically understood, would imply that they will all infallibly be saved, and this cannot be known to be true. The knowledge of being the object of God’s eternal love and Christ’s redeeming death belongs to the individual’s assurance, which in the nature of the case cannot precede faith’s saving exercise; it is to be inferred from the fact that one has believed, not proposed as a reason why one should believe. According to Scripture, preaching the gospel is entirely a matter of proclaiming to men, as truth from God which all are bound to believe and act on, the following four facts:
- that all men are sinners, and cannot do anything to save themselves;
- that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is a perfect Saviour for sinners, even the worst;
- that the Father and the Son have promised that all who know themselves to be sinners and put faith in Christ as Saviour shall be received into favour, and none cast out…;
- that God has made repentance and faith a duty…;
The preacher’s task, in other words, is to display Christ, to explain man’s need of him, his sufficiency to save, and his offer of himself in the promises as Saviour to all who truly turn to him; and to show as fully and plainly as he can how these truths apply to the congregation before him.
A Quest for Godliness, p181