Don’t Lose the Gospel

Don't Lose the Gospel

I am preaching through the pastoral letters and when I recently began 2 Timothy I was reminded of the concern that Paul expresses about how the gospel will be handled after his death. He not only emphasizes the importance and centrality of the gospel—which he does in all his letters, but he also issues warnings that indicate he is concerned that the gospel might be lost—not in the world, primarily—but in the church.

This is evident in the specific instructions Paul give to Timothy, beginning in the first chapter. Consider his admonitions in 2 Timothy 1:8-14:

  1. Do not be ashamed of the gospel, 8a,—Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner,
  1. Be willing to suffer for the gospel, 8b—but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God
  1. Keep the gospel, 13—Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus
  1. Guard the gospel, 14—By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

Then in 2 Timothy 2:8, Paul tells Timothy to remember the gospel: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel.”

Why does Paul say these things? He has preached the gospel faithfully throughout his ministry. He has taught Timothy the gospel faithfully. Timothy has preached the gospel faithfully and proven himself a trustworthy minister of it (Philippians 2:19-24). Is Paul really concerned that Timothy will forget the gospel or that the gospel is in any real danger?

Paul writes the way that he does about these things because he recognizes that there are always threats to the gospel. He has lived through some (in Galatia, in Antioch with Peter, Galatians 2:11-14, and at the Jerusalem Council, Acts 15) and he sees some on the horizon as he writes his final letter.

We are never beyond the danger of the gospel being undermined, neglected or lost altogether. We need to be alert to this—more alert than we tend to be. We should never think that this cannot happen on our watch. It happened on Paul’s and it could easily happen on ours.

In the 18th century, JC Ryle understood the ever-present dangers that face the gospel. In Knots Untied, he wrote:

“You may spoil the gospel by substitution. You have only to withdraw from the eyes of the sinner the grand object which the Bible proposes to faith–Jesus Christ–and to substitute another object in His place… and the mischief is done.

“You may spoil the gospel by addition. You have only to add to Christ, the grand object of faith, some other objects as equally worthy of honor, and the mischief is done.

“You may spoil the gospel by disproportion. You have only to attach an exaggerated importance to the secondary things of Christianity, and a diminished importance to the first things, and the mischief is done.”

We are facing each of these dangers today, but perhaps the third one more so than the others. Advocates of various good causes within the evangelical world can sometimes present their arguments as if the gospel is incidental or even altogether insignificant. When that happens, Paul’s admonitions need to be heeded all-the-more.

We are always in danger of losing the gospel. Facing that danger is the first step to avoiding it.

Follow Tom Ascol:

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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