Let us assume that you can preach a passage of the Bible without preaching the gospel. After all, the Jewish leaders knew the Scriptures, but didn’t know Jesus (John 5:39) and I think we can safely assume they were teaching the same. Hence they were preaching the Bible without preaching the gospel. For the sake of time I am going to leave the question as to whether you can preach the gospel without Scripture for another post.
But how do you know if someone (say, you) is preaching the gospel when you are teaching the passage? The answer, correctly comes down the doctrine. But the question is, for want of a better term, how do you measure that? Do you have to mention Jesus? How about the cross? Do you have to include atonement? What about the resurrection? You can see how difficult this becomes to answer.
Perhaps there is a better way to measure it. For some time I have included the phrase “If you are not a Christian here today…”. If I could not complete the sentence then I had missed the gospel message. And yes, that had happened in some early drafts of talks. This is a good safety technique, but is there a better way of measuring things?
I have been wondering, instead of measuring the doctrine by the words we say (i.e. do we use the words “Jesus”, “cross”, etc.?) we should be measuring it by implication or application. For example, I have heard some Biblically faithful sermons, by which I mean that were faithful to that subsection of the text, that were essentially moralism in their essence. The message was “We are God’s people, so we should live God’s way”. There was no mention of how we become God’s people and the implication was that “God’s people were God’s people because they lived this way”.
On the other hand, I have heard some great talks in terms of informative lectures that helped me know a lot about the historical background of the passage being explained. Here the implication was “the Bible has some great history in it”. My reaction, as with others I imagine, was “Well, that’s interesting. I wonder what’s for lunch?”
So the question I want to leave you with, what is your sermon saying about the gospel?