How Would You Answer This Question: What is the Gospel?
If you were walking down the street and someone stopped and asked you that question, how would you answer?
There is much confusion and misinformation in our world about what the Gospel is. Some people think the Gospel is doing good things, living “right” (whatever that means), or going to church once in a while. Many Americans believe that being born in America or in a particular part of the country is enough “Gospel” to save someone. And other, well meaning “church people” would say that the Gospel is doing good deeds as a form of “servant evangelism.”
Still, there’s those pesky mega-preachers that claim to know Jesus and say that the Gospel is loving people. All you gotta do is flash a perfectly white smile, say some fluffy, inspiring cliché’s and, voila, Jesus.
None of this is the Gospel. So the question remains, what is the Gospel?
It is clear that our culture is very confused about what the Gospel is. Many Christians can’t articulate what the Gospel is and can’t explain it to someone else. Recognizing the confusion in our culture and our churches over what the Gospel is, I am reminded of something my pastor said recently in a Bible study:
“If you assume people know the Gospel it will be lost. If the Gospel is not faithfully proclaimed in our church on a regular basis, within a single generation people will not know what the Gospel is.”
Well, that is certainly true of our churches today.
A generation ago it was assumed that everyone knew what the Gospel was. We live in America, where churches are on every corner and people go at least twice a year (Easter and Christmas). Of course that means that everyone knows what the Gospel is, right? But that assumption kept churches from teaching the Gospel regularly. And that assumption kept people from sharing the Gospel with others. That assumption has caused an epidemic only a generation later in which many people simply have no idea of what the Gospel is.
Part of the problem is that there is a fundamental misunderstanding about what the purpose and role of the pastor is. So let’s start with that and see if we can bring some clarity to the issue.
The purpose and primary role of the pastor is to faithfully preach and teach the Gospel. Yes, it’s really that simple. The pastor is not there to visit every person that’s sick. He’s not the guy responsible for counseling every church member or performing all the weddings and funerals. There’s nothing wrong with these things and at times it’s necessary and appropriate for him to perform these functions. But that is not his primary role and function.
In Acts chapter 6 we have a clear example that the primary function of the pastor (elder) is to “preach the word.” While the pastor is to have a servant’s heart and to be willing to serve when needed, he is not to be called upon to serve in other areas to the detriment of his praying, studying and preaching the Word. If the church expects the pastor to do all the visiting, all the counseling, all the evangelism, and all the other serving in the body; not only is the congregation lacking in a biblical understanding of the function of the pastor and the body, but, they will quickly find their pastor burned out and frustrated.
This brings us to an important point: the pastor’s primary function is to preach the Gospel before the congregation on a regular basis.
What I mean by that is simply that the pastor is not to be a comedian, a talk-show host, or an advocate for personal causes. The pastor is not on stage to entertain and make people feel good. He’s not there to inspire you, tell you how good you are, or make sure you know “yes, you can.” He is there to proclaim the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I recall visiting a church one time where the pastor spent the first 15 minutes of the sermon telling a story about a bag of potatoes that had nothing to do with the message. He was simply telling a funny story to make everyone laugh. After 15 minutes of jokes he said, “Well, I guess we better open our Bibles.” This is someone that clearly does not understand the role of the pastor, and a church that is suffering for it.
Some people want a really “cool” pastor that looks and acts like their buddy. They want to make sure he doesn’t wear suits and that he has cool glasses and a cool beard, and that he drinks cool coffee and does his devotions with a cool guitar. The pastor, to some, is a trendy guy that can really “relate to people.” His ability to expound the Scriptures is inconsequential because he is really there to inspire, motivate, and inflate the ego, I mean, “self-image” of his hearers. His passion for holiness, emphasis on his own sanctification, and faithful discipleship of others are not even considerations.
Others, however, want a pastor that is a “jack of all trades.” I’ve even seen that in church job descriptions. They want a man that can maintain the church building, visit every person that is sick or in the hospital, and fill in for the song leader when he’s out. They don’t care about his preaching as long as he preaches “biblical sermons” each week. Biblical sermons are defined as a sermon from a verse or two of Scripture that includes stories and jokes. This group wants a man that wears a suit on Sunday morning because “the pastor is supposed to wear a tie.” Discipleship is another name for Sunday School so there is no expectation for the pastor to disciple anyone.
Both groups possess a serious lack of understanding of what the pastor is and what his primary function and role in the church is to be.
The pastor is not a fad or a tie. He’s not a janitor or a trendsetter. He’s not a motivator or a storyteller. The pastor is the faithful witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that diligently teaches the Scriptures in an effort to help his congregation grow in Christian maturity and sanctification. A better understanding of the role of the pastor would go a long way in alleviating many of the issues churches face.
But, what is the Gospel? That’s the question we started with and we still need to answer it.
The Gospel is nothing less than the reality that man is born into sinful rebellion against God. He is hopelessly lost in his sin and is unable to change his position before God. For that reason, man is condemned in his sin and under the wrath of God. Jesus Christ lived a perfectly sinless life, died upon the cross as the perfect sacrifice for man’s sins and took upon Himself the wrath of God that is rightfully ours. Jesus shed His blood and died in our place, taking in His body the punishment that is rightfully ours and bearing the condemnation our sins bought. The resurrection of Jesus secured eternal life in Heaven for those who have the faith to believe in the finished work of Jesus upon the cross.
This gloriously good news is life to those that are growing in grace and being sanctified each day. For those that are being saved this is the greatest news and they never tire of hearing about the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. This is the message that should flow from every pulpit of every church every week. If the Gospel is preached faithfully, regularly at our churches it could be the start of a new Great Awakening. But, seeing many people come to saving faith in Jesus is only possible through the faithful exposition of Scripture that centers on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.