Let’s Preach the Pure Gospel

Last night, I listened to a brother recount a recent event. He had visited a nearby church (nearby to him–he lives in a different state than I), and they excitedly showed him their new tracts they were beginning to use in teaching the gospel. Interested, he began reading through it. The first section, he noticed, concerned hermeneutics, or rules and principles on how to interpret the Bible–important, no doubt, but not the gospel. The next section concerned ecclesiology, or the study of how God designed the church to be and to function. Again, he did not find the gospel there. The last, brief section informed the reader how to respond to the gospel.

I fear many Christians today are in the same state as the Galatian brethren to whom Paul wrote, “I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from Him who called you to a different gospel!” (Gal. 1.6). Some had perverted the gospel to where it looked kind of like the real thing, but it lost all its power because it ended up depending on man’s work and not God’s.

The gospel is God’s power unto salvation for all who believe (Rom. 1.16). If it truly is God’s power to save us, we should know it, shouldn’t we?! If we are to preach the gospel to unbelievers, we have to know what to preach! That’s a fairly simple concept.

But many don’t seem to know what to tell their neighbors because other teachings have obscured and even usurped the pure gospel. Must a man know how the local church is supposed to function before he obeys the gospel? Is it necessary he understand all the rules of how to interpret the various genres of Scripture? Folks, we don’t convert people to the church and we don’t convert people to a system of hermeneutics. We convert them to Christ!

“If you would be perfect,” Jesus said the rich young ruler, “go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matt. 19.21). Following Jesus is that action which trumps all others, the one necessary thing, as Jesus chided Martha and praised Mary, “Only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10.42). Mary had chosen to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from Him, and that was the one necessary thing. HE is the one necessary thing! Paul outlines his only goal in Philippians 3.8: “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.”

We can’t teach the gospel without teaching about our sin, guilt, shame, and hopelessness. We can’t teach the gospel without showing the power of God, the glory of Christ, and His work on the cross! The good news is that Christ has already born the penalty for our sins and God saves us by grace through faith–salvation is HIS work and not ours–it is freely offered to everyone who will believe in Jesus Christ.

If we don’t preach that, we haven’t preached the gospel. All the other stuff is good to know, and, Lord willing, we will come to know it as we continue to walk in relation to our Lord and His word. But let’s not get the cart in front of the horse. Let’s preach the pure gospel!

The Pattern of Sound Words

I just listened to a sermon which the preacher began by reading 2 Timothy 1.13:

Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.

He then proceeded to tell the congregation they should hold fast to the Bible patterns of…

  1. The Name of the Church
  2. The Organization of the Church
  3. The Activities of the Church, including…
    • Lord’s Supper every Sunday, and only on Sundays
    • Singing without instrumental music
    • No Church-sponsored Orphans’ Homes
    • No Church-sponsored Widow’s Homes
  4. The Five-Steps to Salvation

I’m sure I missed a few things, but those I remember.

What troubles me is that his beginning verse contextually has nothing to do with any of those issues. He committed a classic blunder by reading a passage and then going wherever he pleased with it, completely disregarding the context. This sort of slipshod treatment of Scripture leads to a watering down of the word and really tends to obscure the truth God has set forth.

We should demand preachers and teachers keep verses in context. That is not to say everyone should read the entire chapter every time, but certainly teachers must do their homework and understand the meaning and purpose of the text before presenting it as God’s word!

If we read 2 Timothy 1.13 in it’s immediate context, we find the “pattern of sound words” has to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (1.10). It has to do with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. It has to do with the grace of God and sharing in the sufferings on behalf of Christ (2.1-3). It has to do with dying with Christ (2.11) and enduring (2.12). It has to do with unity (2.14ff) and holiness (2.22ff).

I recommend preachers actually preach the word itself instead of “choosing a passage and then going everywhere preaching the gospel” (as one sarcastically remarked). If you don’t understand the context of the passage, you may end up harming your hearers. At the very least, your lessons will lack meat. At worst, you’ll end up preaching entirely your own thoughts and not the thoughts of the Lord. Those who study God’s word will stop listening to you.

It there a place for preaching on all those topics above? Certainly! If the Bible talks about it, we should teach about it. But allow the Scripture to lead!

This preacher missed many deep truths to be found in 2 Timothy because he wanted to preach on certain pet subjects. I hope he one day gets around to preaching on what 2 Timothy 1.13 is really about! It’s ironic that he so abused a passage on sound words.

A Christian’s Acts of Worship

Pagan TempleHistorically, men have worshiped gods of all shapes, colors, and sizes. With a wide variety of activities, they have attempted to prove their reverence, devotion, and fear. From burning incense to hurling a human victim into the fire, from bowing the knee to cutting the body, from performing holy washings to performing holy sexual acts, people have worshiped their gods.

Disciples of Jesus Christ stand upon the shoulders of the Jews when it comes to religious acts of worship. However, we do not perform all the acts of worship the Jews did because we recognize God has changed some requirements. In fact, we might say He has relaxed the requirements. The Jews had many specific forms of worship which were commanded of them–such things as the Levitical priesthood system with all their duties of washings, keeping the tabernacle, playing specific musical instruments, burning incense on specially-crafted lavers, sacrificing animals each morning and evening, etc. Thank God He does not require these of us today! (Although, if He had, we would be compelled to obey Him in all these things, just as were the Jews.)

Praying KenyaToday, God has commanded an astonishingly few acts of worship, and He has not so much commanded them as He has granted them to us for our own good and growth. What ritual does the Christian have except to meet together in a regular assembly to eat the Supper of the Lord? Should we meet in the evening, in the morning, or at lunchtime? God has not specified. Should we meet all day or only for a few hours? God has not specified.

God has told us of what the Lord’s Supper consists (bread and fruit of the vine–see Matt. 26.26-29 and 1 Cor. 11.23-26). How much of it should we eat; how much should we drink; how should we distribute it among the disciples? Again, God has left much of these things for us to decide.

CommunionAs we read through the New Testament, we find the disciples regularly met together (Acts 2.42-47; Heb. 10.25-26); sang together (Matt. 26.30; Acts 16.25; Eph. 5.19); prayed together (Acts 1.24; 2.42; 4.24-31; 12.5); taught one another from Scripture (1 Tim. 3.16-4.4); read publicly from Scripture (1 Tim. 4.13); devoted themselves to one another (Acts 2.42, 46-47); and ate the Lord’s Supper together (1 Cor. 11.17ff; 10.14-22; Acts 20.7). Although the word “worship” is not directly associated with any of those activities, other words such as “praise” and “thankfulness” and “joy” and “gladness” and “glorify” are used–words which give us the sense of a worshipful attitude behind the activities.

When we come together as a church, our main goal is to encourage one another and provoke one another to love and good works (Heb. 10.25-26; Eph. 4.11-16; 1 Cor. 14.3, 12, 15-19, 24-25, 31). In a word, we are to edify (build up) one another. This building up of one another serves to glorify God, and is, therefore, a beautiful form of worship and includes many acts of specific worship. When we act properly as the church of God, as we continue in holiness, as we provoke one another to love and good works, we build up the temple of the Lord, and God is magnified.

But there is much more to an individual’s worship which he does apart from his brethren. We will consider more in the near future.