When our son Paul was about three years old, he was given a t-shirt that had a picture of a dinosaur on the front.  When we used to ask Paul what was on his shirt, he would grin and say, “Triceratops. Can you say that?” We would answer, “Well yeah, Paul, that is a great dinosaur.  What is the name of it?”  He’d respond again: “Triceratops.  Can you say that?”

It finally dawned on us that he thought “can you say that?” was part of the dinosaur’s name.

Gospel: Can you say that?

Sometimes we make that mistake with the word gospel.  It is one of those words that we allow to flow off our lips–and yet I sometimes wonder if we actually appreciate what this very basic word means.

The gospel is a message, not a rhetorical style.

Sometimes we use the word to refer to a preacher’s manner of speaking: “he is a gospel preacher” may well mean something like, “he thumps the pulpit.”  Or, “he has a loud voice.”  Or, “he’s extremely conservative.”

The word gospel has nothing to do with volume or with style.  In fact, in 2 Corinthians the Apostle Paul himself admitted in one place that he might not be a great preacher in terms of style.

The word gospel refers to a message.  In early Christianity, it was a technical term for the message of the crucified and risen Jesus.  That is the heart of what we as Christians believe. We have many externals to our faith, we have many things that we appreciate and enjoy about Christian experience, but when all is said and done, our core message refers to Christ who died for our sins and was raised from the grave.

If we do not believe that message, we do not have authentic faith.

Ministers of the gospel are held to a high standard.

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 contains a guide for how ministers of the gospel are to behave. Paul’s words in this passage are incredibly relevant to our own modern culture.

I’ll paraphrase this passage here:

For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Phillipi–as you know–we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition.

Despite what our enemies have said, our exhortation does not come from error, or impurity, or by way of deceit.  Just as we have been called, approved, and tested by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, who examines our hearts.

I don’t care what they say about me. We never came with flattering speech, as you yourselves well know, nor with the pretext for greed—God is my witness—nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though I will admit that, as apostles of Christ, we might have asserted our authority.

On the other hand, we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.  Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel but also our own lives because you had become very dear to us.

For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.  You are our witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you might walk in a manner worthy of the God who called you into His own kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:1-12, paraphrase)

In these verses, when Paul reminds the Thessalonians of his behavior in Thessalonica, he gives us an appropriate description of what a modern day minister of the gospel ought to be like.

Paul uses this word gospel four times in this passage.  It flowed from his pen because the gospel message was the heart of his preaching.

To be a part of the people of God, you must have heard the message of the crucified and risen Lord, and bowed your knee before him.  The message itself is the message of the crucified and risen Jesus.

Related blogs about the Gospel:

The preceding was adapted by Rachel Motte from sermon Dr. Sloan delivered at Tallowood Baptist Church on February 11, 1990.

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