Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel (1 Cor 9:16b)
Woe (great troubles) to the preacher (or Christian) who does not preach or share the Gospel. Why? Because this is the essence or heart of Christianity. To not preach it is to miss the whole lot. To not preach it robs people of the opportunity to be saved. To not preach it means you are not a faithful preacher (and therefore under God’s judgement) and to not preach it makes one wonder whether the preacher himself has responded to its message. If we have, there is no better news (2 Cor 9:17), and as C.S. Lewis said good news is not good news until it is shared. The preacher ought to burn within until they release the good news that saved their soul, the good news that can save others, and all of its wondrous glories. It is too marvellous to contain.
But what does it mean to preach the Gospel? This can be challenging for the evaluation of sermons can be highly subjective. Even if two sermons by two different preachers were faithful and theologically correct, because of delivery (or preference of delivery), styles in personality (the preacher and hearer), circumstances, mood, etc, two people might have two different views of two Gospel sermons, each coming away and saying ‘what a good Gospel sermon’ or ‘I wish he’d preached more of the Gospel.’ Funny isn’t it? This alone reminds us we need to be “open to reason” (Jas 3:17), alert and attentive to what actually is being spoken, recognising that if God can speak through a donkey he could speak through a faithful yet different preacher. After all, we wouldn’t want to miss the Gospel! Do we have a will to hear the Gospel?
Not only are there different preachers there are also different styles or ways of delivering sermons (expository, thematic, creative, induction, deduction, narrative, analogy, etc, etc). The Gospel could be conveyed through any one of those. A sermon also need not be evangelistic (usually a style reserved for sermons where a large segment of the listeners will be non-Christian) to still faithfully present the Gospel. Instead of being very fun, lively, interactive, straightforward, it could nonetheless clearly state the Gospel, say in an exposition of a passage in Romans. Whilst more thorough and robust, both an exposition of Romans and an evangelistic sermon to a crowd of youth are both Gospel sermons, even if they’re different types of sermons (it is interesting to see how robust Paul’s [Gospel] sermons in Acts were, even to pagans who knew nothing of the Hebrew Scriptures).
But can a sermon not ‘be a Gospel sermon” (i.e. touch on other areas of the Bible) and still preach the Gospel? Absolutely!
In the Great Commission (Matthew 2818–20) Jesus said to “make disciples.” Initial disciples can only be made by preaching the Gospel. So we must preach the Gospel. Yet, He also commands “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (growing disciples). So whilst the preacher must preach the Gospel, he also has the calling to preach the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), that is all that God has spoke or revealed on any subject in the entirety of His word (this also often involves explaining contexts so the meaning can become clear and grasped). So the preacher has a calling to preach the Gospel but also to teach other related truths. Can these two commands be reconciled? Absolutely!
The Gospel is like an accordion. Compressed it is in its simplest form, “repent and believe.” In 1 of 3 we saw that some Christians have used the 3 R’s to share the Gospel. So you could preach a Gospel sermon, or even an evangelistic sermon, on simply the 3 R’s. Yet then if you stretch out the accordion and only preached on one portion of it, say the Exodus, you could still faithfully preach the Gospel by bringing the truths of the Exodus story, and indeed the foreshadowing’s of Christ, back to the Gospel. It is about Gospel-centric preaching so that even as you preach the whole counsel of God it is rooted, centred and grounded in the Gospel. This is how you balance these two things. So for example, I could preach a sermon with a moral emphasis on homosexuality and what the Bible says about it. And whilst we might learn about the subject, a faithful Gospel preacher would still bring the sermon back to the Gospel in that it is sinful (1st R), and sinners are called to repent (2nd R) and, bearing 1 Cor 6:9–11 in mind, all with the transformative hope of the work the Holy Spirit can do in a sinners life, liberating them, making them whole and giving them life generally. Therefore it is completely consistent to preach on any subject in Scripture and also to preach the Gospel (that is, for it still to be a Gospel sermon, as indeed every sermon should be). How? Because, the sacred writings,…are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15) , both in becoming a disciple and in growing as a disciple. Amen!
The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,