Preaching the Gospel: Profit to the Assembly - David Oliver

Preaching the Gospel: Profit to the Assembly
David Oliver

Listening to the Same Old Story

The New Testament envisions that both believers and unbelievers will have continual reminders of the gospel's message. The Lord often preached the gospel to sinners around Capernaum. They were exalted to heaven by the privilege of seeing His miracles and hearing His message (Matthew 11:23). Paul continued "a good while" (Acts 18:18) at Corinth and three years at Ephesus (Acts 20:31). Likewise, unbelievers today need to hear the continued preaching of the gospel. No other message can meet their deepest need: knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. But the evangelist is one of those given by the risen Lord "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12). Evidently the evangelist accomplishes more than reaching sinners.

The Gospel Promotes Evangelism

One obvious effect of the evangelist's work is "for the work of the ministry." As believers listen to the preaching of the gospel, it becomes "seed for the sower" giving them gospel truths to pass on to others personally and publicly. The demands of everyday living could easily dim our vision of eternal realities. The gospel reminds us that those around us are perishing souls. Can we listen to the gospel and not want to see others saved? Thus we are stirred to witness personally to others and to pray for the salvation of sinners. Gospel preaching fosters a burden for souls. It is delightful to hear believers with such a burden engage in prayer. Laboring in prayer for the salvation of the lost is a healthy, spiritual exercise. As the Spirit of God works in guiding the preaching and in saving souls, Christians learn God's ways of bringing sinners to "repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21). This, in turn, enables more enlightened prayer and witnessing. Weekly gospel meetings and gospel series develop the gospel zeal of the assembly. They motivate and equip us in gospel testimony so necessary for the continuation of assemblies.

The Gospel Preserves Doctrine

Paul's writings to the Corinthians demonstrate the value of the gospel to the saints. In both the first and last sections of First Corinthians, he draws the believers back to the "preaching of the cross" (1:18) and 'the gospel which I preached unto you" (15:1).

Resurrection, one of the foundation truths of Christianity, was under attack in Corinth. Beginning his defense of this great truth, Paul wrote, "Brethren, I declare unto you the gospel..." The Jewish mind may have refused the possibility of resurrection (Matthew 22:23), and the Greek's philosophy may have questioned the means of the resurrection (15:35). In his preaching at the start, "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (15:3,4), Paul had testified to immutable truth. The content of Paul's gospel established the standard of doctrine which exposed this errant teaching.

In combating the teaching that affected the Colossians, Paul encouraged them to continue as they had begun. "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him: rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving" (Colossians 2:6, 7). The teachers around Colosse apparently taught that, in order to be complete, believers must be initiated into knowledge that surpassed their knowledge at conversion. Paul insisted that Christian completeness results from continued progress in what they had received at conversion. That truth was the sufficient basis of all their doctrine.

Our teaching of divine truth can never be contrary to the truths declared in the gospel. While our gospel preaching ought not to be doctrinaire, it must be doctrinal. A faithful presentation of God's character, the nature of man, and the glories of the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ provide a marvelous anchor for the development of doctrine. Knowing God through his Word will lead us into truths beyond our capacity to understand naturally. The Gospel of John, for example, is a marvelous balance of the simplicity of the gospel and the profundity of the revelation of God. All doctrine, no matter how profound, contributes to and is consistent with the glory of the Lord Jesus Whom we first came to know through the gospel If our doctrine denies or complicates the truths of the gospel we preach, it has gone astray. Teaching that leads believers to lower their esteem of the gospel could scarcely receive the sanction of the New Testament. Is it mere coincidence that, for the most part, those in assembly testimony who have given fresh, pertinent and helpful teaching from the Word of God have been men who loved to preach the gospel?

When God graciously blesses the gospel and souls are saved, another benefit comes to the assembly. A breath of Spring air fills the assembly as new lambs receive needed care and are brought into the fellowship. The restatement of basic truths that builds up the lambs also strengthens older believers and preserves the truth. Teaching truth preserves truth.

The Gospel Perpetuates Christian Behavior

When we hear a simple, clear, and warm presentation of the gospel, we often return in our memory to the time when God saved us. This is usually accompanied by appreciation for the Savior, joy in our salvation and a renewed wonder that divine grace has saved us. Normal Christianity surely includes a love to hear the gospel, for the gospel contributes to a healthy heart condition. Underlying the emotions these truths touch is a deeper value of hearing the gospel.

Paul's first concern in dealing with the difficulties at Corinth was their unity. Various leaders appealed to the natural tendencies of the Jews or the Greeks. The believers became "puffed up for one against another" (4:6). Instead of building into the assembly the character of Christ ("gold, silver, precious stones," 3:12), men taught in such a way as to promote envy, strife, and divisions (3:3). The Corinthians gloried in men (3:21). Whatever natural advantage any had, whatever catered to their cultural pride, all ended at the "preaching of the Cross." The message that united them in conversion had left them nothing in which to glory. The cross ran counter to their entire cultural bias. The truth of the gospel they heard was to set the tenor for their entire Christian life. Hearing the gospel brings Christians back to their "roots." Unity ought to result both because of a common interest to see unbelievers saved, but also because the cross and the Savior have once again become our central occupation. Apparently the Lord expects that listening to the gospel will have a beneficial effect on our relationships with other believers.

When Paul wrote to the Galatians, he yearned over their spiritual development (4:19). He exhorted them to "walk in the Spirit" (5:16) with the resulting fruit of Christ-likeness in their personal living (5:22,23). In 5:25, He exhorts them to "walk together in the Spirit" (a literal rendering), with the resulting fruitfulness in the assembly (6:1, 8). How impressive then, that he takes them back to the moment of conversion and says, "having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" (3:3)! What was true at conversion's moment was to characterize their Christian living. No wonder the apostle was so concerned that the "truth of the gospel might continue" with them (2:5). If the content of the gospel message were altered, the entire character of Christian living would be affected to some degree. We should therefore expect that listening to the gospel will remind us of our dependence on the Lord, our need to yield to the same Spirit Who first revealed Christ to us, and the fact that all we are and have is ours because of Christ and His work of redemption.

Seeing souls saved also affects our Christian living. Trying to guide new believers has a very wholesome effect on us. As we care for them, we fear setting a poor example for them. Once again we examine our lives lest our footsteps lead the lambs astray.

What our experience ought to have taught us is in accord with the teaching of the New Testament. The gospel that glorifies God and honors Christ likewise affects all aspects of assembly testimony. Gospel work, whether weekly or special series of gospel meetings, is essential for the glory of God and for the upbuilding of assembly testimony.