Don Carson Pre-Conference: Preserving the Gospel

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Speaking from 2 Timothy 1:1-2:7

Preserving the Gospel

We are tempted to think defensively, and start ministry to attack those who, we think, are drifting away.

What is the Gospel that we are defending?

Paul speaks of this preservation of the Gospel in these verses.

“Preach the Gospel, if necessary, use words.” Yes, but when you have an announcement, you speak it.

Yes, our lives must be in conformity with the Gospel, but when you have news, you must proclaim it. There’s a huge emphasis of this in the Bible.

What is the content of the Gospel? 

What God did for us in and through his Son. He bore our sins in his own body as he hung on the tree. God the Father sees us righteous. When God looks on the Son, He sees my sin.

The last enemy is death, and he will battle until that enemy is defeated on the last day.

On the last day, we will see Christ as He is and we will be like him, bearing the likeness of Christ as much as

The Gospel is not what we should do, but news of what God has done.

We cannot separate marriage and happiness and living life in general from the Gospel.

Six Steps for Preserving the Gospel

  1. Fan into flame what you received (vv. 3-7). 
    1. Timothy came from a mixed faith family. His grandmother and mother had to reach back to pre-Christian religious systems. And Timothy was heir, not through his father, but through his godly mother. He received the Word from those who were using the Old Testament and things beyond.
    2. He saw the value of their belief structures in his parents. His father was a storyteller and him mom was analytical.
    3. Faith that is worked out in observable ways is seen in subsequent lives. The Gospel is not merely a corpus of beliefs, abstracts of belief. They are lived out and seen in families, and in, above all, the context of the church.
    4. “For this reason…” fan into flame the gift of God. The fact that he is a Christian, reared in a believing home, called into service. Don’t just assume, act.
    5. How do we fan this into flame?
      1. The Gospel must be more than something that is merely assumed.
      2. People do not learn what we are teaching, they learn what we are excited about.
      3. If we want the Gospel to be fanned into flame, we must live out our excitement about the Gospel.
      4. If we are excited about corporate worship styles, about sociological analysis and not about the Gospel, others pick up that the Gospel is really not that important. We must be excited about what is at the center so that it is passed on to others.
      5. The Gospel can be denied not by denying it but by overlooking it.
      6. Think constantly about the Gospel, keep it at the center of all that you think and do.
      7. “For…” verse 7. When we have fanned into flame, we are motivated to courage and love and self-control
  2. Maintain a clear grasp of the Value of the Gospel (vv 8-11). 
    1. We know these things but we must be constantly be reminded of these things.
    2. How will your life look fifty billion years from now? It will still be seen. “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”
    3. There is a context in which we love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves. And all of this is secured by someone else.
      1. Why do we have to be encouraged to keep that in view?
      2. “Anchored in eternity and grounded in history.”
      3. I don’t know when I was saved… “When did you save me?” “Before the foundation of the world.”

3. Maintain a willingness to suffer for the Gospel (1:6, 2:8). 

    1. “It has been graciously been given to you to believe in his name, and also to suffer for his sake.” Suffering is a gracious gift. “May I know… the fellowship of his suffering.”
    2. With Pentecost, there came such a power that 3,000 people were converted in one sermon. People lined the streets, hoping the Apostles’ shadows would fall on them. Did the Apostles think, “Where’s the suffering?” Were they worried they were doing something wrong at first?
    3. In the Gospel, suffering for Christ is considered normal in the Scriptures.
    4. In the West we think of general suffering: cancer, loss, physical pain. But the Bible overwhelming talks of suffering for the sake of Christ.
    5. Instead of being outraged for not being treated equitibly in a free society, we are to enjoy in the sufferings of Christ. We should be encouraged and strengthened in our eternal state when being opposed or shut down, even by legal means, and know we have shared in the sufferings of Christ.
    6. Don’t be ashamed of Christ or the Gospel. Don’t be ashamed of those who suffer for the sake of the Gospel. Rather, join in the suffering for the sake of Gospel. Genuine boldness, faithfulness and willingness, should it please God, to suffer for Jesus’s sake.

4. Uphold the mandate to guard the Gospel. 

a. More than making practical, personal application to our lives, but faithfulness to the pattern of sound teaching.

b. We must know how the patterns of the teaching come together and stay on right trajectory.

c. There are more than simple moral lessons.

5. Distinguish the between the betrayers and supporters of the Gospel. 

  1. Paul has been abandoned by the church in Asia Minor. They are no longer supporting him since he is in prison.
  2. But he also brings attention to those who bring him food and clothing and writing supplies. They met his needs despite the treatment they received.
  3. We are tempted to be soft on those who are our friends. But Paul ties it to how people respond to the Gospel.
    1. We love the Gospel Coalition. It has become a place in the council to learn about and to love one another through the shared Gospel that links us and joins. This is the same as should be found in the context of the local church.
    2. Within this framework we learn who is for the Gospel and who is quietly undermining it.
    3. Alliances must be made with those who are Gospel driven, not those who are of the same gender or race or denomination or training…

6. Work hard at passing along the Gospel. 

a. We preserve the Gospel by passing it along.

b. Moreso than defending it.

c. You guarding the Gospel by giving it away.

d. We lose the Gospel when we hold on to it and defend it. The next generation doesn’t see it or hear it and they lose it.

e. We must look for those who are particularly reliable for passing it along, like to Timothy and Apollos from Paul and Priscilla and Aquilla.

Preserve the Gospel by articulating it, defending it, preserving it, and passing it along.