Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 28, 1967
NUMBER 42, PAGE 1,11c

Preaching: A Critical Study (I)

Roy E. Cogdill, Lufkin, Texas

Editor's note: Several months ago a brother in Houston, Texas, wrote a paper under the caption "Words and Attitudes" in which he advanced the plea that it is impossible to "preach the gospel" in this modem age, but that such "preaching" was confined to the original proclamation. His position was similar to, but in a few vital features radically different from the teaching advocated by Brother Leroy Garrett.

Because of deep personal interest in this brother and family, and because of the truth of the gospel involved, brother Cogdill made a careful and searching study of the question, and has written an exhaustive and convincing review. We feel that the material he has prepared ought to be given wide circulation and permanent form, hence are printing it in full in the Gospel Guardian. The entire series will extend over seven issues.)

An analysis of the subject matter in the paper under review, "Words and Attitudes," shows that the following points are involved in it, and they will be treated in the order in which they are named:

I — What is the Gospel?

II — What responsibility does the church have for the truth?

III — What does it mean to "preach the gospel"?

IV — What does the New Testament scripture set forth as the work of an evangelist?

V — An analysis of some texts of scripture used.

VI — What is the work of the church?

VII — The basis or reason for the erroneous conclusions drawn in the position which this paper advocates, Each of these points shall first be treated objectively or positively, and then subjectively or critically as they relate to the positions taken in the paper referred to. In this way an honest appraisal may be made of the evidence on the issues involved in the points enumerated above. It is hoped that all the evidence may be honestly fairly examined with unprejudiced minds and prayer-attitudes, remembering that "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."

Proposition No. I — What Is The Gospel?

Our English word "gospel" comes from the Anglo word "Godspell" which literally meant originally "God story." It is a translation of the New Testament Greek term "Euaggelion." It proclaims tidings of deliverance.

Thayer defines the word:

"2. good tidings:

a. The glad tidings of the Kingdom of God soon to be set up, and subsequently also of Jesus, the Messiah the founder of this kingdom: Mark 1:16; 8:36; 10:29; 13:10; 14:9; 16:16; Matt. 26:13; with a genitive of the object. added: tas Basileias, Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Mk. 1:14 R. L br. After the death of Christ the term to euaggelion comprises also the preaching of (concerning) Jesus Christ as having suffered death on the cross to procure eternal salvation for men in the kingdom of God, but as restored to life and exalted to the right hand of God in heaven, thence to return in majesty to consummate the kingdom of God; so that it may be more briefly defined as the glad tidings of salvation through Christ; the proclamation of the grace of God manifested and pledged in Christ:

The use of the term in the scriptures is one of the best ways by which to determine its actual meaning and hence we suggest, this analysis of passages wherein the word occurs:

1. Sometimes used in connection with its origin or authority. The Gospel of God. Rom. 1:1; I Thess. 2:2,9; I Tim. 1:11. The Gospel of Christ. Rom. 1:16; 16:19; I Cor. 9:12, 18; Gal. 1:7; II Thess. 1:8.

2. Sometimes in connection with the subject matter contained therein or as descriptive of the nature of its revelation. I Thess. 3:2 (concerning Christ) II Cor. 9:13. Truth of the Gospel. Gal. 2:6,14. Hidden — Glorious — II Cor. 4:3-4. Able to make men free — Jno. 8:32. Facts of the Gospel — its foundation — I Cor. 16:1-4. The power of God because it is the revelation of His righteousness or will — Rom. 1:16-17. The faith of the gospel Phil. 1:27. (the one faith of Eph. 4; and the faith once (for all) delivered to the saints. (Jude 3.)

3. Sometimes in connection with its object or purpose.

Walk uprightly according to it. Gal. 2:14.

Serve God in it. Rom. 1:9.

Judged by it. Rom. 2:16. (Jno. 12:48).

To be obeyed. Rom. 10:16. II Thess. 1:8. (Rom. 6:17-18).

4. Sometimes in connection with the blessings offered therein.

Gospel of the grace of God-Acts 20:24. (Grace teaches. Titus 2:11-13.

Grace and truth through Jesus Christ. John 1:17.)

The gospel of peace. Eph. 6:15.

The gospel of salvation. Eph. 1:13.

Hope in the word of truth of the gospel. Col. 1:5.

Fellowship in the gospel. Phil. 1:27.

Partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel. Eph. 3:6.

5. Sometimes when used with genitive it is connected with those to whom it is announced. Gal. 2:7.

6. Sometimes in connection with the messenger and of the particular mode in which the subject matter of the gospel is presented to others.

Contrasted with false teachers. II Cor. 4:3; Gal. 1:6-11.

My gospel. Rom. 2:16; 16:25; II Tim. 2:8.

From all of these descriptive phrases that accompany the use of the term as it is used in New Testament scriptures it is evident that the "good news" being intended by the use of the word must further be identified by further means or that it be understood and implied by the use made of the term.

Another interesting array of evidence concerning what is meant in the New Testament by the "Gospel" is seen in the various records of the preaching given to us in the scriptures themselves. The book of Acts is a history of the preaching done in the New Testament day. A careful analysis of the record setting that preaching forth reveals the following:

1. "Continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine." Acts 2:42.

2. "Spoke the word of God," "preached the word," "The word of the Lord." 4:31; 13:44; 18:11; 14:25; 15:35-36; 16:32.

3. "teach and preach Jesus Christ." 5:42; 8:5; 8:35; 9:20; 11:20.

4. "preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ." 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23; 28:31.

5. "preached the gospel." 14:7, 21; 16:10.

6. "the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. 16:4.

7. "The way of salvation," "the way of God more accurately." 16:17; 18:26.

8. "Reasoned with them from the scriptures." 17:2.

9. "Shrank not from declaring unto you anything that was profitable." 20:20.

10. "The gospel of the grace of God." 20:24.

11. "The whole counsel of God." 20:27.

12. "Concerning the faith in Jesus Christ . . . righteousness, temperance and judgment to come." 24:24-25.

From this list of records concerning the preaching of the New Testament day it will be easily apparent to the unprejudiced mind that these are all different ways of stating the same thing. There is no difference in "preaching the gospel" and "preaching Christ." There is no difference in "the apostle's doctrine" and the "word of the Lord." There is no difference in "the way of salvation," the "gospel of the grace of God," and "the whole counsel of God." When Philip preached "Christ" (Acts 8:5), he preached "the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ." When Paul said to the Corinthians that he "determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified" (I Cor. 1:2) he had exactly the same thing in mind that he calls, "preaching the gospel" (I Cor. 1:17) and "preaching the cross" (I Cor. 1:18). Neither did he mean that he did not preach baptism when he preached the gospel of the cross. It was he that made baptism known to the Corinthians and while he preached in Corinth. "Many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized." The same is true of Philip "preaching Christ" to the Samaritans (Acts 8:5) for when they believed his preaching they were baptized (Acts 8:12). The gospel then can correctly be defined as "The terms and conditions upon which the offer of remission of sins and eternal salvation made possible through the Lord Jesus Christ is made by the grace and mercy of God to the human race."

It is this offer of redemption that constitutes the good news of the gospel. It is not good news that Christ died. The fact that the sins of men resulted in the death of Christ should not bring happiness to any heart. But we are made happy to learn that through his love and by his death in our stead deliverance from sin is possible when we believe in him and obey his will.

In the New Testament the gospel never means simply a book, but rather the message which Christ and his apostles announced. Gathered together and bound up in this word "gospel" is the provision of God's love, the extension of God's grace, to all mankind in the offering of Jesus Christ, his Son. as the savior of men. It includes the coming of Christ in human form, his life, his teaching, his works, his resurrection for our justification, his precious promises and every truth concerning our redemption as he has provided it and as the Holy Spirit has revealed it in the scriptures.

The paper under review admits that "fundamentally, the gospel is God's plan for the salvation of men's souls" but goes ahead to reach some conclusions that are entirely unwarranted and untrue. Let us look at some of these conclusions:

"The gospel is not merely the content of the message, but the message as conveyed to man. That is, 'the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.' The words of the Lord as recorded by the gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and those which came by the Holy Spirit through his selected 'earthen vessels' are the gospel. (John 16:12-14.) Though all the statements of Christ and his apostles are not recorded, to us the gospel is exclusively, the New Testament — nothing more and nothing less."

If the gospel is not the content or subject matter of the message but "the message as conveyed to man" as the writer of his own opinion and without the slightest evidence offered concludes, then the gospel in its fulness was not preached for more than sixty years after Pentecost. The New Testament scriptures were not completed until about 96-98 A.D. So if "to us the gospel is exclusively, the New Testament — nothing more and nothing less" as the writer concludes, then the world didn't have the gospel in its saving power for more than sixty years after it began to be preached. In fact it could correctly be said that the world did not have the gospel until the manuscripts (as originally written which constitute our New Testament today) were written in their entirety and gathered up to constitute the New Testament scriptures. This conclusion would also require the acceptance of the fact that in reality the world does not have the gospel today at all for the reason that we do not have "the message as conveyed to man." We have only translations of the copies of the original manuscripts. The very oldest manuscript from which our translations are made dates back only to the fourth century. Hence we do not have access to the "message as conveyed." Such is not in existence as far as men know. Those original manuscripts of the New Testament scriptures as they were written by the inspired writers could alone constitute the gospel if the contention of the author of "Words and Attitudes" is worth anything. It reduces itself to a ridiculous absurdity, wholly unreasonable, and therefore untrue. If "the message as conveyed to man" (and he underlines in his paper the word as it appears above, emphasizing the idea himself that it must be as conveyed if it is the gospel) were available today, very few men on the earth would be able to read and understand it and the writer of this paper which is being reviewed is not one of them. He is at the very best an amateur in Greek, if he has given it any study at all, and is not familiar enough with the Greek vernacular (Koine) in which the scriptures of the New Testament were originally written to learn how to become a Christian much less how to be one. The hope of man's salvation would be mighty slim if we must have the "message as conveyed to man" in order to have the gospel. This conclusion is based in part on a passage of scripture which is cited but is misused, misapplied, and does not warrant any such conclusion in any sense. The passage is I Peter 1:25, and reads:

"And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

That is the quotation as given by our brother with the underscoring and emphasis his. But even this part of the verse doesn't read as it needs to read to suit his usage. It should read according to his conclusion, "And this is the gospel which by the word is preached unto you." For his idea is that you cannot have the gospel except in the "message as conveyed" and that only the New Testament can be the gospel. The fact is that the context of the passage is ignored and an application made of it that does not remotely resemble what the writer had in mind. Peter in this passage is affirming the enduring and living vitality of the truth of God's message. He quotes a prophecy concerning it from Isaiah 40:8 — :

"For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away; but the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." I Peter 1:24-25

That is the entire quotation. What is "the word" which by the gospel is preached unto you? He is simply affirming that the gospel which they had heard and which they obeyed when they obeyed the truth and their souls were purified (verse 22) is the fulfillment of the promise of God through Isaiah. That is the significance of the passage which the author quotes, and which he failed to see or which he disregarded.

But let us examine some other statements made in the paper:

"The recorded word is 'God's power unto salvation to everyone that believeth.' Everything else is excluded. A commentary on the scriptures is not the gospel, be it ever so true. Neither is a creed written by man or a council of men the gospel, even if it correctly expresses New Testament teaching. Neither is a sermon or an exegesis of the scripture the gospel, though no error be found in it. These things can not be The Gospel, for they are not the 'power of God unto salvation.' Men can be and have been saved without them.

"Thus we see that the scriptures are the only essential to the salvation of souls — "

Here again an erroneous conclusion is reached because of a scripture being misused. Paul declares in Romans 1:16-17 — :

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith."

The Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to be sure, but why? Paul tells why — "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith." It is the truth revealed in the Gospel that makes it possible for men to know God's will, accept and do it, and become what God wants men to be; that is God's power unto salvation. When this truth revealed in the Gospel is planted in the heart of a man, by teaching done by another, or by reading the word of God by himself and understanding it, when it is accepted by faith because it is the truth of God, and when its demands are met by that faith obeying God's will — the power of God has wrought in the saving of the soul. For this reason the truth has been revealed in the scriptures — in order for men to know the will of the Lord, believe it and do it and become what God would have them to be.

To be sure "These things are written that ye might believe" — they were also done in the presence of men that they might be believed. They have been recorded for us and preserved in the divine record that we also might believe. It is the testimony that they bear of the truth of the claims of Jesus being the Son of God and the fact that what he taught came from God and is his truth that makes them able to produce faith in the hearts of men. In the day when Jesus was here upon the earth, men could see, and, seeing and hearing, could believe.

What they saw and heard has been preserved for us in the word of God that we might also believe. But whether seen or heard or received from the record of inspired men who wrote it down that it might be preserved for us, the object was that the truth of it might be believed. It is the truth that makes men free. (John 8:32.) That truth is revealed in the gospel. But we do not have that truth today in the words in which it was preached in the New Testament day. That sort of a claim would be nonsensical.

We have the same truth, safeguarded and preserved by God's good providence and available to us through the study or teaching of the word of God. No translation is inspired. There are perhaps some faults in all of them, but the truth by careful and prayerful study can be learned and God's will can be ascertained from them. That same truth can be taught to us from childhood on by our mothers and fathers and in Bible classes and from the public declaration (call it what you will) of it in the worship services of the church. It can be propagated by printed page, by mouth to ear, publicly or privately through the medium of teaching, call it whatever you wish,' if it is the same truth declared in the Word of God it has saving power when believed as God's word and obeyed because it is the will of God.

(To be continued next week)