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!