Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.
2 Timothy 2:14
One of Paul’s last commands to Timothy was to “remind” the church in Ephesus of the gospel. False teachers had infiltrated the congregation. They had a tendency to lead believers into petty, unproductive conversations—“how many angels can dance on the head of a pin”—that kind of thing. But Paul would have none of that. To be a Christian, and especially to be a Christian leader, is to remind others of truth. There is a God, and he has “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ before the ages began” (2 Tim 1:9).
Why is it so important for Christians to be devoted to reminding others of the gospel of Jesus Christ? In other words, don’t we ever graduate out of basic gospel truth? No! Christian maturity is not moving away from the gospel, but understanding the gospel more deeply.
Let me offer up five reasons why your teaching and even your own study of the Bible should constantly be revisiting basic, gospel truth:
1) Because as believers we are called to focus on the Bible (2 Tim 3:16-17), and the heart of the Bible is the gospel. When Jesus ministered to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he opened up the Old Testament scriptures and pointed out how they all pointed to him, his person and work. “Was it not necessary,” Jesus told them, “that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26). Jesus opened up the Hebrew Bible and pointed out the cross. Furthermore, when the author of Hebrews sought to ground new believers in their faith, he also reminded them that all of Scripture points to the cross. To pay attention to the Bible is to pay attention to the gospel.
2) Because we don’t understand the gospel nearly as well as we think we do. Let’s face it, there are parts of the gospel that make perfect sense and parts that defy human understanding. How, for example, could Jesus’ righteousness become our righteousness? How can God be both the subject (Holy Father) and the object (Divine Son) of wrath? How does grace motivate the believer to greater acts of obedience instead of perpetual spiritual laziness? These are gospel categories and gospel questions that are of paramount importance—and the list goes on. We should approach the gospel with great humility, recognizing that its majestic truth requires a lifetime of study. Yes, we should be thankful the gospel is easy enough for a child to understand. But let’s also admit that it contains more wisdom than all the libraries of the world.
3) Because Satan is strongest where our understanding of the gospel is weakest. Believers can give Satan the opportunity to work (Eph 4:27). He sets snares (1 Tim 3:7; 2 Tim 2:26). We must resist him (James 4:7). He is an enemy seeking to devour us (1 Pet 5:8). And how does Satan work? He looks to jump through holes in our understanding of the gospel. For example, those with weak and attackable faith may be tempted to think that God’s approval of them is based upon their performance. Such believers will always feel like they fall short. Though they pursue holiness, they are riddled with guilt, always struggling to enjoy the peace and comfort that only the gospel can bring. Satan will enjoy holding a magnifying glass above their failures so that their sin looms large while the cross fades into the background. Likewise, other immature believers will assume that since their sins have been atoned for on the cross, they don’t really need to try all that hard to live a godly life. In this case, Satan will actually maximize the size of the cross in their eyes and minimize their sin. Thus, when temptation comes their way, these folks will be more likely to give in. Satan works most effectively where our understanding of the gospel is most deficient.
4) Because our minds are not what they should be. There is a reason God ordained the church to gather once a week for teaching (Heb 10:24-25). Our minds are in constant need of gospel truth. It’s not just that we need to learn new things, but we need to be reminded of old things. A failing memory is part of the Fall. It is a horrible thing when an Alzheimer’s patient begins to forget his family. And it’s awful when the Christian forgets how to explain the cross-work of Christ. Because our memories are weak and failing, we need constant reminders of the gospel.
5) Because there are numerous ways to apply the gospel. Even if the mechanics of the gospel are understood (and I would argue that a complete understanding of even the mechanics must wait for heaven), the implications of the gospel are too numerous to be exhausted in even a hundred thousand sermons. How does the gospel affect how I treat my child when he’s gotten out of bed for the fifth time in one night? What does the gospel say about how I should handle my depleted savings account? What does the gospel say about what church I should join, or what my involvement should look like at the church I have joined? What are the gospel implications of my floundering relationship with my dad? People are faced with a 1,001 different scenarios, each one of them needing the careful application of the gospel. But it is only when we revisit the gospel that these questions arise.
Oh my friend, “remind them of these things.” Let your heart and the hearts of those around you be saturated with gospel truth. The gospel is what we need for life and for hope and for rest.