I lived through a point in my life where I was sick of the phrase “the pure Gospel”. It was used so flippantly and seemed that it had to be a part of every sermon, every paper, every conference discussion, that wanted to scream, “would someone please explain what an impure Gospel might be?” Then I remembered that the definition of a church in the Lutheran Confessions is a place where the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments properly administered. The pure Gospel is the one that is rightly taught and preached and it is a radical thing that the old human nature cannot accept. It is the death of the old man and the resurrection of a new one without our reason or strength. It is the stark statement that Jesus Christ has done it all. It is all about the Law’s killing power being destroyed by Christ and our new life authored and perfected by Him. The pure Gospel is as Gerhard Forde writes, Radical. It is a bald statement that Christ is the way and the truth and the life and what is not Christ therefore, cannot be the way, cannot be true and cannot be life.
We desperately need to be reminded of the gospel. We so quickly forget that life is not all about us. We forget the grace of Christ, and instead mull over to our thoughts , our feelings, and our efforts as our justification and life. We water down the killing power of the Law and want to make the Gospel affirming and uplifting. We want therapeutic niceties and steps for holy living. We want to believe that God saw something in us that was worth saving and so we need preachers. A frightening thing happens when preachers forget the distinction between Law and Gospel. When the Gospel is proclamation of affirmation rather than a pronouncement of a death and resurrection because of Christ, hearers and proclaimers become either anti Law or anti Christ. When we appeal to some kind of casuistry in the killing power of the Law (how can God condemn someone when they were born this way?) we make the Law a waxen nose. When we preach the power of the individual to do better, or at least do something, we appeal to the idea that there is something apart from Christ that saves and we become antichrist. This kind of preaching reinforces an inherited idolatry.
This is the conundrum that the preacher faces and it can be deadly. Faith comes by hearing and hearing comes from the word about Christ. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? Romans 10