The gospel pioneers who came to North America with a burning passion to win lost souls called the buildings in which they preached gospel halls. They never taught that Christians belonged to the gospel hall; rather it belonged to Christians, and was used for the preaching of the gospel. We are saddened and even baffled that many places that once preached the gospel as a regular practice have ceased to do so. The two most-often-heard excuses for this failure are that there is no sense in preaching the gospel to Christians, and a personal presentation of the gospel to an individual is a better method.
The Gospel to Christians
The “gospel to Christians” is an excellent description of two of Paul’s epistles, Galatians and Romans. The epistle that most clearly teaches the order and functions of an assembly, 1 Corinthians, has three major themes: the Cross, the Church of God, and the Coming of the Lord. If gospel truth is not valuable to believers, much that is contained in these major epistles of the NT is not for us. A large part of this article is intended to show from Scripture the value of the gospel to believers.
Personal Witness and Public Declaration
Is a one-on-one testimony all that is needed to fulfill the commission of the Lord? “Go ye into all the world and preach (kerusso) the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Surely we would never discount the value of personal witness, and a life “that becometh the gospel” (Phil 1:27) is a vital necessity, but is it enough and does it fulfill the commission? The answer is no.
In January 1946, Mr. L. McBain asked me to join him for gospel meetings in Michigan. It was a great privilege to work with a veteran evangelist, and the lessons learned in many years with him are still of the greatest value to me. We visited a lady next door to the schoolhouse where we were preaching. As yet she had not attended a meeting, but she showed interest. On that first visit, Mr. McBain gave her a full explanation of our ruin in sin and God’s one remedy, the precious blood of Christ. When we left her home, he said, “That dear woman needs to hear preaching.” I was puzzled and asked what more she could hear than what she heard that day. Patiently he explained that God uses “the preached Word” to bring conviction and awakening to a soul. God’s method is an evangelist speaking as a herald. Years passed before I learned the full import of this lesson.
Four different words that are translated “to preach” are found in 1 Corinthians 1:17, 18, 21, and 23. Verse 17 uses the general word, to evangelize. It means to make the gospel known by every available means. “The preaching of the cross” (v 18) is Logos, the Word, and is the Person we preach (Col 1:28). “The foolishness of preaching” (v21) is kerugma and means the actual truths of the gospel: propitiation, redemption, substitution, reconciliation, and justification. “But we preach Christ crucified” (v23) is kerusso, and is found 61 times in the NT. It is the word “preach” in the great commission, and always means a public declaration by a herald, an evangelist who preaches the gospel. The Holy Spirit is so careful in the use of this word that when Philip, the evangelist, preached personally to the man in the desert, the word is “to evangelize,” not to preach as a herald (Acts 8:35). God is sovereign and can reach people by whatever means He chooses, but we need to understand that God’s method is, “How shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Rom 10:14-15). The words “preacher” and “preach” are from kerusso, the public declaration of a herald.
The Profit of Gospel Preaching to an Assembly
The Defence of the Gospel
From prison, Paul declared that “I am set for the defence of the gospel” (Phil 1:17). He links this defense with the fact that “Christ is preached and I therein do rejoice” (v18). An assembly is “a pillar and ground of the truth” (1Tim 3:15). The truths that we believe and preach comprise a body of teaching, “the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42), “the faith once for all delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). If we cease to preach truth, we may soon lose it.
The Glory of Christ
The names given to the gospel include, “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), and “the gospel of the glory of God” (1Tim 1:11 Newberry). In it, the grace of God is proclaimed, and the glory of God is the result. Paul’s statement that it is “the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2Cor 4:4 Newberry) means that, whenever it is preached, it brings glory to the Lord Jesus. This is a blessed fact, even if there never were a sinner who believed it. What a privilege to glorify Him!
The Effect upon Believing Hearts
Christians often express their appreciation of ministry and then add, “But there is nothing that so stirs my heart as the gospel preached in power.” It takes us back to the cross; back to our own conversion; impresses on us the realities of eternity in contrast to the empty things of time and the world, and gives us a fresh, personal conviction of the plight of lost souls, driving us to our knees to pray for them.
The Privilege of Inviting Others to Gospel Meetings
Without a regular gospel meeting, how can souls we contact hear the gospel preached? How privileged we have been to have heard the gospel preached from our earliest days! Our children, our families, our neighbors and fellow students or workers can be invited to come and hear the gospel, and “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom 10:17).
New Converts Added to an Assembly
The great majority of believers in assemblies were awakened and saved through series of gospel meetings. When there is a regular exercise to have such a series, there are times of plowing and sowing, but “in due season we shall reap if we faint not” (Gal 6:9). There are times of visitation (1Peter 2:12). Faithfulness in obeying the Word to “preach Christ” will have eternal results as well as giving us the joy of seeing souls saved and added to the assemblies.
Following a Pattern
There is great joy in following the pattern of the book of Acts and the example of the pioneers who brought the gospel to us. We cannot console ourselves that we are leaving the door open for people to come to hear the gospel. That is not the pattern. It means, “Go ye.” There is no substitute for door-to-door work. Sunday school and children’s work has often been not only the means of reaching children, but their parents as well.
Developing Gift in an Assembly
The gift of an evangelist is received at conversion, but gift must be developed (1Tim 4:14). Without regular opportunities to preach the gospel, there cannot be this development. Open-air meetings afforded many an opportunity to preach the gospel regularly. To this was then added the opportunity to preach in halls and rented buildings. Godly elders were able to judge if a gift had been given and encourage those who were gifted.
We have a great gospel heritage. Our minds are flooded with memories of times of great blessing when gifted evangelists preached the gospel with power, and God was pleased to work in the salvation of many souls.
After souls had been saved, the rest of the great commission followed, “teaching them to observe all things,” and believers were added to the testimony of an assembly.
Let us seek help from God to continue faithfully until He comes!