What Is It To Preach The Gospel?
“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:1-6)
Eternal election is the work of God the Father in salvation. The particular, effectual redemption of the elect is the work of God the Son in salvation. And effectual calling, or irresistible grace, is the work of God the Holy Spirit in salvation. Sinners cannot be saved without the Father’s sovereign election, the Son’s blood redemption, and the Spirit’s effectual call. Every chosen sinner was redeemed at Calvary. Every chosen, redeemed sinner shall be called by the Spirit. And every chosen, redeemed, called sinner comes to Christ in faith and has eternal life.
There is no possibility that any sinner can be chosen by God the Father, redeemed by God the Son, and called by God the Holy Spirit, and yet perish in hell at last! To teach such nonsense is blasphemy! Such blasphemy exalts Satan above God, the free-will of man above the omnipotence of God, and makes the triune God an utter failure in his purpose, work, and grace. It cannot be embraced or tolerated by anyone who knows God.
No one is saved apart from the effectual call of God the Holy Spirit. We rejoice to sing with the inspired psalmist, “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest and causest to approach unto thee!” As none are saved without the effectual call of the Spirit, none are saved in this gospel age apart from the preaching of the gospel. Let no one deceive you in this matter. The issue is not whether or not God can save his people without the use of means. The issue is whether or not he will. We know that he will not, because he has revealed it plainly in his Word. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. It pleased God to save his elect by the foolishness of gospel preaching. All who are begotten of God are begotten of him by the gospel. All who are born again are born again by the incorruptible seed of God’s Word, which is preached to them by the gospel.
These things are so plainly revealed in Holy Scripture that there is no excuse for error regarding them (Rom. 10:17; 1 Cor. 1:21; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23-25). Those who teach that God saves sinners apart from the preaching of the gospel fly in the face of Holy Scripture. It is therefore no surprise to see them favor emotionalism, experiences, dreams, custom, and religious tradition above the Word of God. The preaching of the gospel is God’s chosen, ordained means of grace, by which he calls chosen, redeemed sinners to life and faith in Christ by the irresistible power and grace of his Holy Spirit.
If the preaching of the gospel is vital to the salvation of God’s elect, as the New Testament universally declares that it is, then no questions can possibly be more important and pressing than the three I will answer in this study.
Who preaches the gospel?
We cannot do better, when we look for an example of a gospel preacher, than the Apostle Paul. In Romans 1:1 we see how this inspired man describes himself and thus describes all who truly preach the gospel.
“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ” -- That man who truly preaches the gospel, that man who always preaches the gospel, that man who preaches the whole gospel, and that exclusively is a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Gospel preachers are the willing, voluntary bond-slaves of the Son of God. Notice how Paul describes himself. It is not, Rev. Paul, Dr. Paul, Father Paul, or Pope Paul, but “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ.” This man counted it his highest honor to be a servant of Christ, not the servant, but a servant. He was just one servant among many; but he was a servant.
“Called to be and apostle (messenger)” -- Gospel preachers are called and gifted of God to be his messengers, men sent with his message. A gospel preacher is a man with a message, a message from God, a message burning in his soul, which he must deliver. He is a man with a messianic call, a messianic purpose, and a messianic mandate.
If you ever run across a man with a mandate from God, or a man who even thinks he has a mandate from God, you will not have to wonder about it. You will know it. He will fit no mold, bow to no pressure, surrender no ground, make no compromise. Why should he? He has a mandate from God! That makes him utterly uncontrollable by anyone, except God who sent him. Moses and John the Baptist are two eminent examples of men with a mandate from God.
“Separated unto the gospel” -- God’s servants, true gospel preachers, are men who are separated unto the gospel. God’s servants do not take this business of being God’s servants lightly. They are men, like Jeremiah and Paul, separated unto the gospel. They are separated unto the gospel by God’s decree, call, and gifts, by God’s providence and grace, and by their own, ever increasing devotion and determination (Rom. 1:9-17). That man who preaches the gospel of Christ is like Abraham’s servant, who was sent to get a bride for his son Isaac. He will not be distracted from his work by either pleasure or pressure.
Who preaches the gospel? - Those men who are servants of Jesus Christ and called messengers of God almighty, men who are separated unto the gospel of God.
What is the gospel?
There are many other texts of Scripture that could be used to show the answer to this question; but none are more emphatic and clear than the first six verses of the Book of Roman. In these six verses of Scripture the Holy Spirit has given us five distinct, identifying characteristics of the gospel. Mark them carefully. Learn what they mean. Any gospel that fails to measure up to this standard is a false gospel and those who preach it are false prophets.
The Gospel we believe and preach, the gospel of Holy Scripture, the only true Gospel is here described as “the gospel of God.” There are not many gospels, but one, and that one gospel is “the gospel’ which is “of God”. It came from God. It reveals God. It is made known by God. It brings sinners to God. It glorifies and exalts God.
That gospel which is of God is that “which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures.” The gospel revealed in the New Testament is the gospel promised, portrayed, and typified in the Old Testament. As stated above, there is only one gospel, not two. God did not save sinners by works in the Old Testament. He saved them by grace, just like he does today. Noah was saved by grace, not by works. The Scriptures do not say that God found grace in the eyes of Noah, but that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Enoch walked with God just like we do, by faith in Christ. Abraham was saved the same way we are. He believed God, he believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.
That Gospel which is of God and according to the Scriptures, promised in the prophets of the Old Testament, is “concerning his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” The gospel is good news about a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not a set of doctrines, a proposition, or an offer. It is the blessed good news of the Person, work, and accomplishments of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Carefully study this description of Christ given by God the Holy Spirit. He is the Son of God, God the Son, the second Person of the Holy Trinity (1 John 5:7). He is Jesus, our Savior, Deliverer, and Redeemer (Matt. 1:21). He is the Christ, Jehovah’s Servant, his Elect, the Messiah, that One of whom it is written, “He shall not fail!” He who is God our Savior is our Lord, the sovereign Monarch of the universe (John 17:2; Rom. 14:9). He of whom the Gospel speaks is God the eternal Son who was “made of the seed of David, according to the flesh”. He was “made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law”. Being made a man, he was made a man according to the direct, royal line of King David, to sit upon his throne forever. Then, after he had satisfied the law and justice of God for the sins of his people, which were imputed to him, by his death upon the cursed tree, our great Substitute was manifestly and indisputably “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” It is this great God and Savior revealed in the gospel by whom we have received grace, faith, and obedience.
This gospel, everything about this gospel, is “for his name,” for the glory, honor, praise, exaltation, and worship of his holy name. Here is a litmus test by which we must judge all religion, all doctrine, and all preaching. If it exalts the Lord Jesus Christ and the free grace of God in him, it is according to the gospel of God. If it exalts man, his will, his works, or his religious deeds, it is of the devil, the father of lies, the flatterer and deceiver of men’s souls.
And it is by this gospel, the glorious gospel of the all glorious Christ, that we who believe are “the called of Jesus Christ.” "We are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:13-14).
What is it to preach the gospel?
I had the privilege of hearing Pastor Henry Mahan, when I was just a young man, raise and answer this question. I know of no better answer to this very important question than these five answers he gave to the congregation that night.
1. What is it to preach the gospel? It is to simply declare it. God never called a preacher to defend the gospel, apologize for the gospel, explain the gospel, or adorn the gospel. It is the preacher’s job simply to declare the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
2. To preach the gospel is to simply declare it, and to declare it as God’s message. Our gospel is the gospel of God, not the gospel of the Reformers, the gospel of the Puritans, the gospel of the Calvinists, or even the gospel of the Baptists. The gospel we preach is God’s message. If the message I preach is just my message, it may be heard or not without consequence. But if the message I preach to the souls of men is God’s message, those who hear it must obey it, or suffer the consequences of ignoring and disobeying God.
3. To preach the gospel is to declare it as God’s message for everyone. We do not have one message for the lost and another for the saved. We do not have one message for children and another for adults. We do not have one message for one group and another for another group. Our message, the gospel of God, is a message for everyone. Our message is always the same. We preach the gospel for the salvation and sanctification of God’s elect, for both evangelism and for edification, for conversion and for correction, for conviction and for comfort, to meet the needs of both dead sinners and of dying saints.
4. If any man would preach the gospel of the grace of God, he must preach it as his own message (Rom. 2:16; 16:25; 2 Tim. 2:8). Let me be clear. Gospel preaching is not talking to men about abstract religious, theological principles learned from a book. That man who preaches the gospel preaches the message of God which has been inscribed upon his heart by the finger of God with fire and burned into his soul as with a branding iron by the Word of God in the hands of God the Holy Spirit.
5. To preach the gospel is to declare it with a genuine desire that all who hear it may believe. Those who preach the gospel indifferently do not preach the gospel. They only go through the motions of preaching. God’s servants do not preach with indifference, but with passion, as dying men to dying men. The gospel ought to be preached, as Luther said, “as if I had just learned it today, as if you had never heard it before, as if you were sure never to hear it again, and as if I were certain that I would never preach it again.” Every gospel preacher can honestly say with Paul, “My prayer and heart’s desire to God for you is that you may be saved.” That is what it is to preach the gospel.
 The minute we start to specialize we compromise. If you try to make the gospel special for one group of people, you have to make it palatable to that group; and you cannot make the gospel palatable to sinners without compromising it.