There is a famous story that relates to the ministry of Charles Spurgeon, but it is really a story about the ministry of the Holy Spirt. As a young man, Spurgeon was invited to speak at the Crystal Palace in London. It was a massive venue that held over twenty thousand people. It would be the largest crowd Spurgeon would preach to in his lifetime. A few days before the event, Spurgeon went with a few others to determine the best place to put the pulpit. Because of the size of the venue, they needed to test the acoustics of the room and locate the pulpit in the most optimal place for people to hear him.
They chose a place for the pulpit and Spurgeon climbed up and called out, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” His voice thundered throughout the Crystal Palace. In one of the galleries, a workman, who knew nothing of what was happening there, heard these words proclaimed. He was instantly struck with deep conviction and put his tools down and returned home. After a season of spiritual conviction, he finally placed saving faith in Jesus, the Lamb who was slain.
Our first inclination is to say something like, “Man, wasn’t Charles Spurgeon’s ministry amazing?!” And the answer to that question is an emphatic “Yes!” However, rather than seeing this story as a testament to Spurgeon’s might, we should see it as a display of the Holy Spirit’s power. A simple sound check in the Crystal Palace brought a workman to saving faith in Jesus. The simple quoting of a verse—not an exegesis on it—but just the proclamation of the truth of Jesus and what He came to do, brought an awakening and eventually regeneration to a man who heard it.
How is this? What in the world can explain this phenomenon?
This is how the Holy Spirit delights to work in the world. Where Christ is proclaimed, the Spirit loves to fall. Where Jesus is showcased in his beauty and worth, the Spirit loves to bring spiritual awakening, new birth, filling, sanctification, insight, strength, conviction, and more.
We see this relationship in Acts 10:36-48. In vs. 36-43, Peter tells Cornelius about all that Jesus was and came to do. He is the bringer of good news and peace (v 36), Lord of all (v 36), anointed by God (the Father) with the Holy Spirit (v 38), did good and brought healing those oppressed by the devil (v 38), God was with him (v 38), was crucified (v 39), was raised from the dead on the third day (v 40), appeared to witnesses (vs 40-41), commanded witnesses to preach and testify that he is the one anointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead (v 42), and that all who believe in him receive forgiveness through his name (v 43). Peter proclaims Christ to Cornelius.
Then what happens?
As Peter is speaking, the Holy Spirit falls on all who hear the word, and they come to faith in Jesus and are baptized (vs. 44-48). This is how the Spirit loves to work. Where Christ is proclaimed, the Spirit is sure to be there. When Jesus is proclaimed through the gospel message, the Spirit gives eyes to see and ears to hear the truth. The Spirit brings conviction and faith. The Spirit does not randomly fall where there is no proclamation of Christ because the Spirit of God loves to magnify Christ (John 16:14). He makes the Christ being proclaimed become real to the hearer(s). He takes words, concepts, and ideas about Jesus and turns them into a living experience of communion with Jesus. That is how the Spirit works. We see this in Acts 10 as we saw it at the Crystal Palace.
So what should we as preachers and communicators of the gospel focus on? Proclaiming Jesus.
We must make the proclamation of Christ through the gospel our highest pursuit. We must show him as incomparably glorious to the world. We speak of his radiance, beauty, glory, worth, majesty, and splendor with as much clarity as we can. And as we do this consistently and passionately, we can anticipate the Holy Spirit falling on our hearers with regularity to bring new life and faith. This is not because of any power within us. This will not be because we are the smartest, funniest, or most dynamic communicators on the planet, but because the Spirit delights to fall as Christ is proclaimed.
Perhaps this is why Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).