Word vs Gospel?

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Unknown-1Sitting in Seminary our Greek professor warned us of people trying to pit the Gospel against the Word. It was an interesting proposition I had never heard nor considered. At the time I placed it somewhere in the back files of my brain, archiving it as another absurd rant from a man, whom I respect, but also advocates aliens and government conspiracy theories (hey, “no matter how paranoid you are, you’re not paranoid enough” right?). [1]

Now for the sake of absurdities, here’s how the theory works (I could be wrong, so if I am, then please clarify). We don’t need to preach the Word, we need to preach the Gospel. Everything needs to be seen in light of the Gospel and every text needs to be understood in light of the Gospel. The Word is not central, the Gospel is central, focus on the Gospel. Don’t emphasize the Word. It’s almost as if the Gospel and the Word are pitted against each other.

After Seminary I met a pastor who said, “Preaching the Word wasn’t as important as preaching the Gospel. Jason, you need to focus on preaching the Gospel not the Word.” Instantly, memory man went running through the files in my brain, jumping over the junk, clutter, coffee knowledge, and dusted off this old file titled, “wacky theories come true.” Maybe Mulder was right? I couldn’t believe someone actually believed this. In good, Scully-like fashion, this is something to explore.

Mulder, is the Gospel important?

Yes. Scully, do I really need to pontificate concerning the importance of the Gospel? Probably not for this audience.

Mulder, what is the Gospel?

Scully, this seems like a weird question to ask, but I can only assume you have good reason to ask. The Gospel is . . .

Wait, whatever you are about to say, how do you know the answer?

‘The truth will save you, Scully, I think it’ll save both of us.’ We know the Gospel because the Bible testifies about God’s intervention on earth, Christ’s coming in the flesh, dying, and resurrection thus making atonement, providing forgiveness, and conquering death on our behalf. In fact, 1 Corinthians 15:3 says,

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

imagesIn the underlined sections, you’ll notice the Scriptures testify regarding Christ’s work. We know every aspect of the cross was predicted (Isaiah 52:12-53) and we know His death was on our behalf accomplishing forgiveness and salvation for believers (Hebrews 10:1-18). Every assertion about the Gospel requires the Scriptures in order to correctly communicate its content.

 

So Mulder, without the Bible’s testimony, we wouldn’t have the Gospel?

Right, we would certainly have tradition and historical testimony to Christ, but we wouldn’t have the facts and understand how to interpret it.

So, we need the Bible to correctly state the Gospel?

Yes.

But, Mulder for the sake of argument, is there some sense in which the Bible and Gospel are antithetical to each other? Should one trump the other?

‘Sometimes the only sane answer to an insane world is insanity.’ We have biblical testimony telling us these are friends, working together to glorify the Lord. Paul told Timothy,

“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14-15).

UnknownPaul reminds Timothy to continue in the things you learned. It is also the same thing providing the wisdom leading to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. That thing? “The sacred writings.” Interesting side note here, Paul probably referenced what we call the Old Testament. So which is more important? The Word or the Gospel? Paul sees the Gospel coming from the Scripture which are able to save and mature a believer.

Scully, Paul would look at us asking this question with a crazy, crooked eye. The Word testifies about the Gospel and the Gospel comes from the Word. They are partners, friends, and one-flesh.

But doesn’t Paul also say, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified?” How do you reconcile this?

Yes. The entire point of 1 Corinthians 1:17-2:16 is Christ and His work was emphasized to the Corinthians by Paul. But what Paul argues against is the idea that power and results come from rhetorical devices. “But to preach the Gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.” Paul’s opening point to the Corinthians is the power of God comes through the Gospel not persuasive human rhetoric. Paul emphasizes content over rhetoric. This does not undermine preaching the Word since the Word points us to the Gospel. If the Word is God’s revelation about Himself, then the Word is the Gospel because God is the Gospel.

We also have this statement, “Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). Now, which statement deserves more influence in our emphasis? 1 Corinthians 2:2 or 2 Timothy 4:2? The answer is both. To say one trumps the other is an exercise in asserting my personal theological preference. They are both Scripture, both authoritative, and both need to be followed.

We know the Gospel because the Word testifies regarding it. We need to preach the Gospel. We need to preach the Word. God’s Word will not return void and the Spirit will save people through the preaching of the Word and He will edify the saints equipping them for every good work (Isaiah 55:11; 2 Timothy 3:17).

Is there really any danger to getting this out of balance or making these antithetical? 

Yes Scully, the problem with thinking the Gospel trumps the Bible or has more authority than the Bible; or even the opposite, thinking the Bible doesn’t teach the Gospel, boils down to authority. If we think honoring the Lord is preaching the Gospel but don’t images-1see how the Bible fits into this call, we potentially adopt traditions, theological camps, and my preference as equivalent to the Gospel. In other words, we potentially advocate a Gospel that is not the Gospel because the source and content of the Gospel have to come from something. Imagination, tradition, church history, and logic can all be right, but never trump Scripture as God’s authority.

The Bible teaches the Gospel, it does not undermine it. God knew His Word would bring people to salvation and sanctify believers. It’s hard to imagine God pitting the Gospel against the Bible. It seems so strange, even Mulder and Scully would reject it.

‘The truth is out there, trust no one.’ Trust God’s revelation.

[1] This post is not made on behalf of, or with the approval of, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.