The gospel is enough.
It has always been enough. It will always be enough.
If we remove anything from it, it's not the gospel any more. If we add anything to it, we don't enhance it, we dilute it.
That’s why almost every young minister has been implored by an older pastor to, “just preach the gospel.” Usually after the younger minister has suggested or attempted a new way of presenting it.
"Just preach the gospel" sounds like great advice. And I appreciate the heart behind it. But it’s actually naïve, incomplete, even unbiblical advice.
Before you grab your pitchforks, hear me out.
My desire for "just the gospel" is the greatest passion of my life. I am on a relentless quest to strip away anything but Christ and him crucified from my life and ministry.
(My, that’s such a big three-letter word, isn’t it?)
As much as I want it to be true, it’s impossible for any human being to “just preach the gospel.” For two reasons:
1. If It's Just Preaching, It's Not the Gospel
Jesus didn’t just preach the gospel. Neither did Paul, Peter or the early church. And they told us not to just preach the gospel, either.
Why? Because it’s not the gospel if it’s just preached. It has to be lived.
Jesus didn’t just go around just preaching the gospel. He also “…went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” (Acts 10:38)
Paul reminded us that “…my message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power.” (1 Cor 2:4)
And John implored us “…let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)
Sometimes, when we say “just preach the gospel”, we unintentionally send a message that saying the right words is all we need to do.
Talk is never enough.
2. We All Bring Baggage into Our Understanding and Preaching of It
Every other part of our life impacts the way we hear, live and filter the gospel message.
No matter how pure we think we are, when the gospel message flows through us – as it must – it is affected by our lives. Everything from the clothes we wear to the building we preach in, to the history of the speaker and the hearers affects how the gospel is lived, preached and received.