Preach the Gospel to Yourself Everyday
“Preach the Gospel.”
It’s a phrase we hear all the time in Christian circles. We find it in church mission statements, Bible studies, Christian t-shirts. But how often do we put a lot of thought into what that phrase means?
In a collaborative effort, all the bloggers here on Misfits are to write a reflection on this quote: “Preach the Gospel to yourself every day.” The idea is that we’ll end up with a beautiful mosaic about what the Gospel is and what it means to preach it. What you’re about to read is my own view. I do not claim it to be the correct view, and I’m not trying to convince you that it should be your view. No, all I’m doing is adding my own little tile to the mosaic. My own small piece to the much larger puzzle. [Insert your own cheesy metaphor here.] In the end, my prayer is that you won’t see my view over against the other views on this blog. Only that you see the Good News of God’s Kingdom.
This is final part of my three-part response. If you haven’t already, click here to read part one and Click here to read part two.
Sending the Letter
For the past two posts, I’ve used the metaphor of a letter. In part one we talked about the envelope and asked the question, “What does the word Gospel mean?” In part two we talked about the actual letter. “What are the contents of the Gospel?” Today we’re going to stamp our envelope and drop it in the mailbox. What does it mean to preach the Gospel?
This is definitely the most straightforward of the three parts. I also hope that it’s the most applicable. Let’s jump into this topic and wrap up this response.
A Thought Exercise
Imagine that you are a citizen of Narnia.
The White Witch has ruled over Narnia for a century, causing all of her subjects to live in a brutal, endless, and Christmasless winter. Many have tried to oppose her and free Narnia, but all have failed.
One night, you’re walking around Cair Paravel when you see four children and a lion walk up to you. They declare victory, that they have successfully defeated the White Witch, and that the children are now the rulers of Narnia. Then they send you to make known this great news to all.
How exactly do you go about doing it?
- First, you believe it. You have to trust the words yourself before you proclaim them. If you think the children are liars, then you’re not going to tell anyone that the White Witch isn’t the true queen of Narnia, because she’ll likely have your head.
- Second, you live out this new reality. The White Witch isn’t your queen anymore. She has no authority over you. If you proclaim this news of victory to everyone but you haven’t transferred your allegiance from the White Witch to the four children and their lion, then your proclamations won’t get very far.
- Finally, you proclaim it. To anyone and everyone. If you see someone still living their lives as if the White Witch is their queen, it’s your duty as a citizen of Narnia to make known the good news to that person. To tell them that there is another way to live. That there is another kingdom worthy of their allegiance.
I think these same concepts apply to preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom. Preaching the Good News is a process that includes far more than a word-of-mouth proclamation. We must believe it, live it, and then proclaim it.
The Faithful Obedience of the Romans
Paul begins his letter to the Romans by introducing himself as a servant of Christ who has been “set apart for the Gospel of God.” He then launches into a short explanation of the Gospel, of Jesus Christ, and of his duty as a Gospel preacher: to bring about faithful obedience among the nations.
Right off the bat, we can say a few things about Paul.
- Paul’s identity is a servant of Christ (1:1)
- Paul’s mission is to lead the nations to believe and obey Christ for the sake of his name (1:5)
- The medium through which Paul accomplishes this mission is preaching the Gospel (1:1)
Paul’s purpose in preaching the Gospel is for people to believe it and obey it.
After Paul introduces his audience, he thanks God for them because their faith “is proclaimed in all the world” (1:8). Moreover, he desperately wants to visit the Roman church to impart some spiritual gift, so that they may be “mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:12). It’s clear that faith plays an important role in this relationship.
Paul then declares his intentions to preach the Gospel to the believers in Rome (1:15). This is a strange statement, especially after he had just said that their faith is known throughout the world. But recall Paul’s self-proclaimed mission. His Gospel preaching is intended to bring about belief and obedience to all the nations. It’s great that the belief of the Romans is proclaimed throughout the world. But what about their obedience? Perhaps they believe in the good news of Jesus, but are they living in this new reality?
The rest of the letter tells us that the answer is a pretty big no. There are quite a few dividing issues among the Roman Christians, particularly between the Jews and Gentiles, preventing them from living out God’s community. Perhaps they believe the good news of Jesus, but they haven’t completely given allegiance to his Kingdom.
Okay, on to verses 16 and 17, the meat of this discussion:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.'”
Many have speculated as to what “from faith for faith” means. I have my own opinion, but this isn’t the time or place for that. All we can say with certainty is that the repetition of this phrase sheds light on an emphatic theme. Faith is crucial to Paul’s understanding of the Gospel. God’s power is available to those who believe in, or have faith in, the good news. We cannot live in a reality that we don’t believe. If I believe I am enslaved to sin, I will continue to live a life of bondage, even if the chains are of my own making. If, on the other hand, I believe that God has destroyed the shackles of sin, I will go about life in a completely different manner, with a totally different power.
Then Paul launches into the body of his letter. An intricate argument laces itself through the book of Romans, and I haven’t studied the book to write about that at any great length. But I do want to connect these ideas from Paul’ introduction to what he writes in chapter ten.
Here we find Paul deep in the middle of an argument about the Israelites. He demonstrates how the Jews were still giving their allegiance to the law and not to Christ. They did not believe or live in the reality of the good news of God’s Kingdom. It’s in the midst of this conversation that Paul writes these words:
Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Do you see the connection? Once again, we see the Gospel is not something to be ashamed of, because everyone who believes in the Gospel and places their faith in Christ, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord, will be saved. But he’s not done.
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Once again we see the mission of preaching the Gospel is to bring about faithful obedience. But there’s also a clear sense that preaching the Gospel requires faithful obedience. We can also see that preaching the Gospel isn’t necessarily about our words, since faith comes from hearing the word of Christ.
Maybe it’s a bit muddy. But I think one thing is clear from all of this. Preaching the Gospel is not just a speech-act. It’s a way of life.
Preach the Gospel to Yourself Every Day
I think this quote is in many ways a paraphrase of Paul’s understanding of what it means to preach the Gospel. I don’t think this quote means to wake up in the morning, take a look in the mirror, and tell yourself the creation to Christ story. This quote isn’t about practicing your evangelism techniques, but about living a life defined by preaching the Gospel.
Many times throughout his epistles, Paul refers to himself as a servant of Christ. Twice, however, he calls himself a servant of the Gospel (Eph. 3:7, Col. 1:23). There is, however, a different nuance to these two verses. When Paul calls himself a servant of Christ, he typically uses the word doulos, which means “bondservant” or “slave.” On the other hand, when Paul refers to himself as a servant of the Gospel in these two verses, he uses the word diakonos, which carries a different sense. It means “administrator” or “minister.” It means to render service to something or to someone. This is where we get the word “deacon.”
Outside of the New Testament, this word was often used to describe someone who would wait on tables. While “servant” and “minister” are accurate words, I think a better English translation is “server.” This still carry the food service meaning (you don’t normally leave a tip for your minister or administrator at the restaurant), but it’s also broad enough that it could refer to a service rendered in pretty much any situation.
This picture of Paul as the Gospel’s server is so interesting to me. In today’s churches, we might use a similar word picture but in an opposite sense. I think we often consider ourselves servers of other people. The food we serve them, in this metaphor, would be the Gospel.
But for Paul, his service is rendered to the Gospel alone. His mission is to do whatever it takes to make sure the Gospel reaches the ends of the earth. Yes, his goal is to produce obedience faith in people, but it’s not necessarily for the sake of the people; it’s for the sake of the Gospel.
This all goes back to our thought experiment at the beginning. Paul has one allegiance, and it’s to God and his kingdom. Of course Paul wants as many people as possible to hear and believe in the good news of God’s Kingdom. Of course Paul wants everyone to experience the joyous riches of God’s salvation. But more than all of this, it’s Paul’s deep desire to see the reign of God extending over all the kingdoms of the earth. This is what preaching the Gospel is all about.
So preach the Gospel to yourself everyday! You are no longer in bondage to sin, but you have been set free. You are a child of God, a slave of Christ, and a server of the Gospel.
Thanks for reading part three of this three-part reflection on the Gospel. In my next post, I’ll start a new series about how to read the Bible faithfully and imaginatively. In the meantime, use the comment section below to reflect on the Gospel. What do you think it means to preach the Gospel to yourself every day?