The gospel is not only a message for ourselves. It is the message we’re called to share with those who do not know Christ. Our church was privileged to hear three pastors speak at my installation service. One of them gave me a two-point charge:
- Preach the Bible
- Preach the gospel of the Bible
His first point cautioned me from preaching my own opinions, but the second warned of missing the point of the Scriptures. No one in the first century knew their Old Testament better than the Pharisees. Or so it seemed. In their study of the Hebrew Scriptures, they missed the Messiah. We must not make the same mistake.
The gospel then is the center of our proclamation to the world, to the city, to our neighborhood. Our responsibility is not merely to share that God is loving and will accept anyone who comes to him. The basis on which God lovingly accepts people is the cross. We cannot proclaim one without the other.
On the other hand our responsibility is not merely to affirm God is just and will condemn humanity to hell. Eternal punishment is a frightening, biblical doctrine, one that we are called to proclaim (not only to the irreligious, but to the religious, as Jesus himself did). But to preach hell without the gospel is to condemn people to despair without offering good news. And that news is unspeakably good: God gave Jesus hell so that he could give us heaven.
The gospel is the center of what we proclaim to the world. This explains why you might see the words of 1Corinthians 1.18 (in full or paraphrased) more regularly. It summarizes three important features of our church:
- We are unashamedly people of the cross
- We understand that the world considers the cross to be foolishness
- Nevertheless we believe that the cross is the power of God
And so we continue to proclaim it—to ourselves and to our city.