The Purpose of Gospel Preaching
S. Leonard Tyler
The purpose of gospel preaching is to save the soul of man (Mk. 16:16). The commission demands this purpose. Preaching the gospel for any other reason is outside its design. The gospel will produce results socially, morally, and politically advantageous for peace on earth. It will unite families and bring happy situations out of otherwise distasteful ones; but that is not why Jesus said, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them . . . " (Matt. 28:19) or (Luke 24:47) "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations." The purpose is unmistakenly plain: to make disciples, receive remission of sins, or be saved. This purpose must characterize gospel preaching to be true to the Lord who established, commissioned and sustains it-for that is its very innate and eternal purpose: to save the lost from eternal ruin.
What Is the Gospel?
The answer to "What is the gospel?" is vital to our study. The very nature of the gospel gives purpose to preaching. There are those who believe the gospel ("the good news," "glad tidings") is for the alien sinner, and the doctrine, teaching, is for the child of God. The gospel of Christ is for the alien, no one can successfully deny, but does it stop there? Does not the gospel of Christ embody the whole of the inspired teaching of Christ? Can such a classification be scripturally made? God, Christ, or the inspired writers make no such distinction.
The gospel is "good news," "glad tidings," and Mr. Barnes adds this interesting note: "Glad intelligence . . . It is so called because it contains the glad annunciation that sin may be pardoned, and the soul saved" (Notes On The New Testament Romans, p. 33). The gospel of Christ, to me, is the good news or divine teaching which contains the whole scheme of man's redemption provided by God's grace through Jesus Christ and offers to all "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pet. 1:4-5 ).
Mr. W. E. Vine makes this observation concerning the gospel: "In the New Testament it denotes the good tidings of the kingdom of God and of salvation through Christ, to be received by faith, on the basis of His expiatory death, His burial, resurrection, and ascension, e.g., Acts 15:7; 20:24; 1 Pet. 4:17 . . . The Apostle (Paul-SLT) uses it of two associated yet distinct things, (a) of the basic facts of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, e.g., 1 Cor. 15:1-3; and (b) of the interpretation of these facts, e.g., Rom. 2:16; Gal. 1:7, 11; 2:2; in (a) the gospel is viewed historically; in (b) doctrinally, with reference to the interpretation of the facts, as is sometimes indicated by the context" (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vine, p. 167).
Mr. Thayer writes of the gospel, "In the New Testament used especially of the glad tidings of the coming kingdom of God, and of the salvation to be obtained in it through Christ, and what relates to this salvation" (Greek-English Lexicon, Thayer, Fourth Edition, p. 256).
Mr. Marvin R. Vincent comments on Col. 1:5, "Whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel" thusly: "The truth is the contents of the word. and the Gospel defines the character of the truth" (Word Studies in the New Testament. Vincent, Vol. 3, p. 464). Does not Peter use "gospel" in the same way? "And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you" (1 Pet. 1:25). Peter wrote this in the context of their having obeyed the truth, born of incorruptible .seed, the word of God.
Paul does the same thing when he describes the treasure that is put in earthen vessels in 2 Cor. 4:1-7. He shows in 2 Cor. 3:6 that the New Testament is included. But in chapter 4:1-7 he uses other terms to identify the treasure such as: "this ministry, the word of God, manifestation of the truth, our gospel, light of the glorious gospel of Christ, we preach . . . Christ Jesus the Lord, the knowledge of the glory of God," and concludes: "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." Mr. Vine comments, "It is used of `the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ', descriptive of the Gospel, as deposited in the earthen vessels of the persons who proclaim it" (Ibid., 152). It is the Will of Almighty God, authored by Jesus Christ, revealed by the Spirit through the inspired men, the earthen vessels; and the New Testament contains it. What term can describe or characterize the whole better than "the truth of the gospel."The Gospel: God's Power To Save
Paul wrote, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed . . . For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men . . . " (Rom. 1:16-18). Paul delighted in being a preacher of the. gospel. He believed it to be exactly what the Spirit declared and wanted to share it with others. It is a great and exalted honor to be "approved of God to be entrusted with the gospel," and he was not ashamed of it. He preached it to please God and save man (1 Thess. 2:4).
The Gospel is God's power unto salvation. This is a very vital statement. It is simple, plain, and certainly understandable. But it seems to be awfully hard for some to accept. God has chosen to give His Word as the means of conveying salvation to man (Heb. 1:1; 2 Cor. 5:18-19). Jesus communicates to us through His written word (Jn. 20:30-31; Matt. 7:24-29). Do you believe God's power will work? Or are you seeking another power or way by which to be saved?
"To Every One That Believeth"
By the grace of God, the gospel of Christ, God's power unto salvation, is offered to all-but not unconditionally. It is not universalism. It is salvation "by grace through faith." Therefore, it is given "to every one that believeth." Believeth what? The gospel message. It is not just historical faith, God is, or Christ is, but faith produced by the word (Rom. 10:17), a living active and obedient faith (Gal. 5:6; James 2:19-20, 24). Christians must live by the truth of the gospel (Gal. 2:14) to be saved (2 Cor. 5:7).
Therein God's Righteousness Is Revealed
The righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel or inspired scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Man can not be saved by his own righteousness (Thus 3:5). Men seeking their own righteousness has resulted in division, denominations, creeds, dogmas, catechism and false doctrines of every sort and fashion. Paul prayed that Israel might be saved. They had "a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God" (Rom. 10:2-3). Submission to God's righteousness will bring unity and salvation (1 Jn. 3:7, 10).
The Wrath of God
"The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." The gospel is good news, but it makes known to man God's wrath (His purpose in judgment). This enables man to identify sin and its consequence. Sin is a transgression of God's law, or lawlessness (I Jn. 3:4). "The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). The judgment of God is sure for all (2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:11-15). If one is to know God's disposition toward any thing or act, he must go to "the word of the truth of the gospel" for the answer (Gal. 2:5; 2 Thess. 1:7-9). Is not this reason enough to preach the gospel?
Paul's Charge to Timothy
Paul's charge is given in 2 Tim. 4:1-5; and it seems we should now better understand and appreciate the strong, moving and unequivocal charge, "Preach the word." Why, did Paul by the Spirit give such an awesome charge to Timothy? Did he doubt his faith? understanding? or courage? There must have been a very important reason.
Paul and Timothy became acquainted on Paul's first missionary tour at Lystra. Timothy had been well taught by his grandmother Lois, and his mother, Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5); and it seems this is the time Paul baptized Timothy. On the second missionary journey, he desired Timothy to go with them. Their association spanned about seventeen or eighteen years with some trying experiences and most difficult situations; notwithstanding whether they were together or apart, they stood as one.
Paul's situation is astounding as he writes this his last letter to his beloved son in the faith. He was in prison, facing the death penalty; his fellow-disciples had forsaken him, save Luke. He asked Timothy to come to him because of his love for and confidence in him. Paul showed this when he told the Philippians, "I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state" (Phil. 2:20). He did not question his understanding nor courage. Timothy had proved himself through the years.
"I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ." Paul reaches, as it were, into the eternal world even up to the throne of the Almighty God with His Son on His right hand and said, "Timothy, these are the ones to whom you are accountable." God has by His grace provided the way of salvation through Jesus, His Son. The gospel is the "good news"; and it tells the story, gives the instructions, proclaims every command, and gives every promise just as they are and God wants them.
"Preach the Word"
This charge is given because of the importance of the word of God. It is unique-it is God's word. It reveals God's thinking. It tells of God's love. And most important to man, it reveals the only way of salvation. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (Jn. 14:6).
Paul had just said, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). No one who believes this text can question why Paul charged, "Preach the word." It is sound doctrine, the truth, the gospel, and will adequately equip God's man for every good work. It is the Spirit's message to convict the world of sin, righteousness and of judgment (Jn. 16:8). It gives all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3); every man must speak as the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11). "Preach the Word!"
The when and how to preach the word seems more important to most than what to preach. So many, especially Christians, will readily agree the word must be taught. When it is taught, they will agree it was preached; but could not it have been some other time or in some other way? When should one preach the word? "In season (when convenient), out of season" (when it is not convenient), which means preach it wherever and whenever the opportunity is yours. Too mafly of us are more concerned about what the people think of our preaching than we are of the designed purpose of gospel preaching. We must "be instant" (urgent), which calls for haste. Awake! Thou that sleepeth and cry out. Be like Paul at Athens. He could not hold his peace. He cried out, "There is a true and living God." Some heard him and were saved. You say, "There is no need; the people will not hear." Remember Jonah. He did not think God's word would affect Nineveh, but it did. The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. We must depend upon God's power to do the job-not our ability (Heb. 4:12). Paul planted, Apollos watered; but God save the increase (1 Cor. 3:6). Who was Paul? Apollos? Only servants.
"Reprove" or convict false teachers. "Rebuke," show disapproval, not just "kinds maybe," but sharp reprimand, and practice that disapproval. Show by your life that you are moved, care and are concerned for their soul. "Exhort," or encourage to greater activity, more faithful living, and prove your love and desire to help. Do it "with all longsuffering and doctrine." Be patient, kind, understanding, but firm and sound in the faith. The word shall stand forever (Matt. 24:35; 1 Pet. 1:23-25).
The Time Will Come
The time will come when people will not endure "sound doctrine" but will seek teachers to please themselves. These may be preachers, elders, deacons, women, girls, boys, sinners or saints; but remember-false doctrine is just as damnable when taught by a preacher or elder as it is when taught by a heathen or hypocrite. It is not who teaches it. It is what is taught. Do not allow such to overthrow your faith. Be unmoveable, and God will see you through.
Do the Work of an Evangelist-Fulfil the Ministry
To me, verse five is the clincher. It puts the responsibility squarely upon the shoulders of the individual. Each person must stand upon his own conviction, love, and dedication to Jesus and His word. He must believe it strongly enough to stand in and fight the spiritual battle if victory is to be enjoyed. That is why Paul said, "Watch in all things, endure affliction, do the work of an evangelist make full proof of thy ministry." Regardless of how hard the going gets, endure it; stand fast in the faith. But do not think that will win the victory. You must work in teaching the word. This is the work of the evangelist: to preach. Do your own work. Do not stop and give up. Victory is ahead, but it belongs to them that believe-for faith is the victory.
"Make full proof of thy ministry." Prove your own sincerity, honesty, and genuine faith in God's word by courageously, zealously and joyfully practicing and teaching the gospel of Christ. Be like Paul and say, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (2 Tim. 1:12). "Preach the word" and be faithful in your life and "thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee" (1 Tim. 4:16).
Truth Magazine XXI: 12, pp. 187-190