The Power of the Articulated Gospel #T4G12

My notes on Albert Mohler’s message on Romans 10 (all notes are paraphrased):

I don’t know what it would be like to do this ministry without friends. I know there are some men who are called to preach and teach alone, I don’t know how you do it, but God bless you. But in ministry we desperately need friends who are with us for the long haul.

The theme of our meeting is the Underestimated Gospel. We want to be together for the gospel, but we do not want to underestimate it—or to use a term coined by our George W. Bush—we don’t to misunderestimate it. We need to stand together for the gospel. Compromise on the gospel has led to false teaching, the corruption of movements… And this means at times that we need to be painfully candid about what the gospel is not. We’re surrounded by false gospels, misunderstandings of the gospel and understandings of the gospel that just fall short.

The gospel has enemies, but it is sometimes underestimated even by its friends. In Romans, Paul writes that “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God to salvation…” We want to be gospel people in a gospel movement, we want to live gospel lives and bear gospel fruit and send gospel people out on gospel mission, but we might still underestimate it.

Carl Henry wrote a book called A Plea for Evangelical Demonstration. This is good and right and necessary. But first it must be articulated. It must be heard.

Paul’s great apostolic concern in Romans 10 is about the need to hear the gospel in order to be saved. All throughout the book of Romans, Paul shows us our need and the centrality of the gospel. And what we find here in chapter 10 is the whole machinery of salvation. Several things we should see:

The word is brought near.

The Word of God came near to us in Christ and now in the preaching of the gospel, the Word is brought near to us. The Word has to be brought near to us. It was brought near to Israel, a reference to the closing words in the book of  Deuteronomy, where God reminds them that they did not seek God, but he drew near to them. He’s writing to Gentiles, who are saved because the Word was brought near to them. That’s one of the great privileges of ministry—that as we are brought near, we preach so that the Word might be brought near to those who are perishing. If the one who knows the gospel is close to one who does not know Christ but does not proclaim the gospel, there is no salvation. Articulation is necessary so that the one who hears may believe and may confess and in doing so may be saved.

The apostle Paul in his ministry was all about bringing the Word near—the saving Word of the gospel.

The power of the gospel to save.

This is where we rightly refer to the well-meant offer of the gospel. We are to preach the gospel to all people everywhere in the firm, unshakeable belief that if they hear and respond, they will be saved. Romans 10:13 there is no asterisk, there is no footnote—if sinners believe and confess, they will be saved. We don’t present the gospel with one hand behind our backs; we don’t hide behind the sovereignty of God to say, “well they might believe, they might not.” We live this, we teach this, that if we preach the Word, sinners will be saved. We are to be indiscriminate in our preaching of the gospel. We are to be like the sower who indiscriminately sows the seed of the Word and the Lord brings the harvest.

In verse 12, Paul makes it clear that there is no distinction in terms of our need for a Savior and the provision. “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe, first to the Jew and then to the gentile.” And so there is no distinction.

The necessity of articulating the gospel.

It is not brought near without words. Our ministry is multi-phasic, but it is most essentially verbal. The gospel requires words in order to be heard, in order to be received. It even requires words in order to be rejected!

These days it’s increasingly popular to quote Francis of Assisi, as saying “Preach the gospel always if necessary use words.” While this didn’t emerge until 200 years after him and this sounds like Francis, it sounds like those who think that we can bring the gospel near just by being there, or by being kind or nice or loving. And while we are called to do those things, we must articulate the gospel. We much use words. We must speak.

We certainly don’t want to expect that Christians should preach the gospel but not live without evidence to back it up. We really can’t do much of importance without words. Most of what we do requires words. Just imagine any formative experience in your life and think about how you can communicate this without words? We are made in the image of God and we have a speaking God. And because God speaks, we must speak also.

Even the formation of language begins with words. Even before the written word exists, we begin with spoken words. Linguists speak about how humans are the only creatures that make gestures, but they’re also aware of the limits of gestures. Even the gestures for “yes” and “no” may not be as clear as they need to be.

Here is the indictment: We are dead in our trespasses and sin so [gestures] we are lost without words. We are lost without words. We have in our midst who are hearing this message by means of American sign language. It is not mere gesture. It is the communication of words. We use the only words that we have available to us, human words, but when those words are used to articulate the gospel, they are more than words—they convey the power to save those who are perishing.

Without preaching, there is no believing. Faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God. We’re not just talking about the auditory experience, but we’re talking about the internal calling, the effectual calling, but we know that the effectual call is part of our call to preach.

God has chosen in his sovereignty that the whole machinery of salvation requires the articulation of the gospel—God has not been frustrated by the fact that the gospel is communicated by words, he has chosen this means.

We are, then, to preach and teach, to contend, but also to persuade.  How will they believe if they never hear? As evangelicals, we believe in the power of the gospel, we believe in the articulation of the gospel—it’s only in recent years that we’re hearing “stop talking and show me the gospel.” We need to show people the fruit of the gospel, but we must articulate the gospel.

Before you can demonstrate the power of the gospel, you must first articulate the power of the gospel. We cannot articulate the gospel without words. The only means of reaching those who are perishing is by articulating the gospel through words.

We cannot preach or teach or tell the gospel without words. A pattern of right words reminds us of our responsibility to get the gospel right. We are here because we want to live the gospel and we do not want to underestimate its power. We never want to underestimate the power of the articulated gospel.

Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere, go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is Lord.

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  • Carol Noren Johnson

    Thanks for sharing your excellent notes. Hope to follow them from this conference.