In the course of a conversation with a somewhat discouraged friend, I mentioned that at least he had the comfort of knowing that the United Church of God is still preaching the gospel.
It was as if I had touched a raw nerve. He became indignant, red-faced, almost angry. "Do you think you're the only ones preaching the gospel?" he asked. So I put my hand on my mouth in the time-honored tradition of one who has put his foot in it (Proverbs 30:32).
This experience caused me to take stock of my position with regard to the gospel. Did I have it right? Was what I said true? It caused me to think long and hard, reviewing my own understanding.
Understanding the Gospel
It struck me that I had come face-to-face with an approach and attitude toward the gospel that thousands of people find themselves in. Many are now on their own, staying at home rather than attending Sabbath services, and virtually abandoning what they previously considered to be their part in preaching the gospel.
Please join me in my deliberations resulting from that conversation with a good friend.
The gospel is "God's story." The first four books of the New Testament are referred to as the Gospels, but the meaning is far wider than that.
Jesus Christ came preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:15). It was preached to Abraham even before New Testament Christianity began (Galatians 3:8).
To preach the gospel is to announce or publish the good news of the Kingdom of God and teach the things that concern our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 28:31).
The gospel is unchanging and eternal (Revelation 14:6). The gospel does not and will not alter. It is absolutely unique (Galatians 1:7-12).
The gospel is also mysterious (Ephesians 6:19). What does this mean? Christ said that it would be preached as a witness. He said that many would not understand at the time, but that understanding would come later (Romans 11:25-26).
The Nature of the Gospel
Let's examine an important question about the gospel. What is it? What does the gospel represent in scope, power and principle?
Let us consider two foundational scriptures. First Matthew 24:14: "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come."
Matthew 28:18-20 is the second basic scripture:
"And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority [power, KJV] has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
From these two passages we see that this is a worldwide mission—it is not primarily a local or regional task.
(Our booklet The Gospel of the Kingdom examines the meaning of the true gospel in greater detail.)
Our Personal Responsibility
It is imperative that we all get on with doing God's work and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom. It should be done in all the world and with spiritual power.
What do you consider to be your personal responsibility? Some groups have a tape program. Other small groups may be effective in a localized manner, but because of their size they cannot reach out beyond their local area.
Some say Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986) has already fulfilled the Church's commission. But how could that be, considering that there are many millions more people on this earth since he died in January 1986?
Preaching the gospel is a worldwide mission. We are responsible before God to support and participate in that mission.
The Divine Commission
The preaching of the gospel is commanded. We have read Christ's instruction in Matthew chapters 24 and 28. It may not be one of the big Ten, but it's only one rung down the ladder. Not doing it actually contravenes the First and Third Commandments (1 Corinthians 9:16-18).
The apostle Paul said, "Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!" Preaching the gospel is nonnegotiable. It must be done. It is imperative, urgent, obligatory, commanded. We must rise to the challenge. Woe unto us if we don't preach the gospel!
Do we see preaching the gospel as a priority as the apostle Paul did? Paul wanted to join hands with others in getting the job done. We need to do whatever we can to ensure that this gospel is preached effectively.
The Fellowship of the Gospel
The Bible clearly indicates that the gospel creates a common bond, a real fellowship.
Notice what the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:3-5: "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now" (emphasis added).
Are we personally striving with the power that is within us toward unity in preaching the gospel?
The cross of Christ can be obscured by clever arguments and wrangling about details. The priority for Paul was to preach the gospel. Consider its overriding importance.
Some think that they can preach the gospel in isolation. But even if they are able to help convert many, with whom would those converts fellowship? Who would answer their questions? What literature would guide them to greater biblical understanding?
There needs to be an effective infrastructure in place, a fellowship of like-minded people who want to unite to get the gospel out to this world.
The United Church of God has developed an infrastructure that offers extensive resources for study and fellowship: magazines, booklets and brochures, Web sites, a Bible Study Course, the Bible Reading Program and fellowship opportunities at congregations, Bible studies and video groups in many countries.
Do you ask yourself what spirit is enabling this work to be done? Do you recognize it? Do you feel a close affinity with it?
Preaching the Gospel Today
Consider this modern age with all its communications technology. It wasn't there when the gospel was first preached. We are now responsible to use it to its full effect.
How important to you is publishing the gospel? Does it override, even nullify, differences we may have with others? Remember that the gospel itself creates a kind of fellowship that we should be a part of.
God is single-minded, unified in purpose. So His Church must be likewise. Our desire must be to work together to get the job done. UN