Why are our churches getting away from the beauty of the four Gospels? What are the Gospels for, if pastors neglect this section of the Scriptures?
I am sure that you are familiar with 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly finished unto all good works.”
I doubt that our fundamental, Bible-believing pastors believe certain passages of Scripture are more important than others. If they tend to neglect certain sections of the Bible, it might be through ignorance, personal preference, more study in some books of the Bible than others, and so forth. Many, of course, place great stress on the New Testament epistles simply because they were written to churches in the same dispensation as our own. And certainly these letters ought to have a prominent place in our lives. But the point of your question is well taken, and it should motivate us all to evaluate whether or not we are neglecting parts of the Bible while inordinately concentrating on others.
If we tend to pass over any large portions of Scripture, one of them might be the Old Testament in general (with the possible exception of the Psalms); the other might be the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Since you are concerned about the latter in your question, I will focus upon that area.
The Gospels are for believers today. We need to study diligently the life, death, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. We need to gain valuable truth from the many individuals found in these four books. We should know why God gave us four Gospel accounts instead of just one. We need to understand the parables and the fulfilled and unfulfilled prophecies connected with this section of Scripture.
But the matter of “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) is never more important in our Bible study than when we are dealing with the Gospels. There is much confusion in Christian circles because various passages have been, and are being, misinterpreted. Religious liberals, for example, have taken the Sermon on the Mount as a formula for everyone in today’s world. They think that today’s evil world will somehow get better and better as people in general adopt these principles.
Take Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Certain professing Christians have taken this passage to mean that our nation and other nations need to disarm militarily. But those who have a broad understanding of dispensational truth and who see the broader panorama and context of Scripture know that unilateral peace will never come until the Prince of Peace (Christ) returns to reign on earth. His coming will take place immediately following the Great Tribulation, which is still in the future.
It is important to understand that the gospel of the kingdom, which the Gospels reveal, has to do with the future millennial Kingdom, where Christ will reign and where these benefits can be a reality. The Sermon on the Mount, while having certain applications to our individual lives today, must also be seen primarily as an outline of the principles of righteous living by which people will live during the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth, the Millennium.
We also need to understand God’s program for the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people. Many people take the position that God’s dealings with Israel have ceased and that the Church instead took up where Israel left off, as far as God is concerned. But while God’s national program for Israel has been postponed during this dispensation of the Church, He is not finished with His chosen people. He will keep the as-yet-unfulfilled promises to them concerning the messianic Kingdom as mentioned over and over again in the prophetic books of the Old Testament.
The Jews rejected the kingdom and Jesus Christ as their Messiah when He came to earth the first time (John 1:11). In fact, they even crucified Him (Matt. 27:27‒37). But there will come a day when Israel will receive Her Messiah (Zech. 12:10) and Christ will reign with His Bride, the Church, over this regathered and restored people (Rev. 3:21; 20:4‒6).
What does all this have to do with the Gospels? Many passages in them that relate to the gospel and prophecies of the coming Kingdom are misused, misapplied, or misinterpreted. Chapters such as Matthew 24 and 25 need to be grasped carefully. Matthew 24:41, for example, reads, “Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” Some have used this verse in speaking of the rapture of believers, where believers will be taken up to be with Jesus and unbelievers will be left behind. This passage instead speaks of God’s program for Israel again, where one person at the end of the Tribulation will be taken into judgment and the other left behind for entrance into the millennial Kingdom. Another passage often misused is the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25:1‒13. Again it has been used to warn people to be ready for the Rapture. Actually the passage teaches that the Jews need to be ready for Christ’s Second Coming after the Tribulation, when He is going to come to set up his millennial Kingdom.
By the way, believers are to be ready for the Rapture, just the same: “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (I Thess. 5:6). Before writing this verse, the apostle Paul had just taught the Thessalonians concerning the doctrine of the rapture of believers before the Tribulation.
So to answer your question, yes, there is likely a great need to put more effort into preaching from and studying the Gospels. We must not neglect them. God is unchanging; therefore, the God of the Gospels is faithful to us personally. Furthermore, the principles of God’s Word, wherever they are found, apply to our personal lives within certain perimeters. But the Gospels, especially certain passages, also need study and care in how they are primarily interpreted, just as every part of God’s Word deserves our best attention in this crucial area. We need to consider the whole of Scripture and to see how God has ordered various stewardships upon mankind in various periods of time. Failure to see God’s Word in its dispensational overview can lead to erroneous conclusions concerning what certain key passages in the Gospels (as well as in other parts of Scripture) are saying.
I recommend these writings for further discussion of the topic: God’s Plan: Past, Present and Future by James T. Dyet (Regular Baptist Press); What’s Going to Happen? by Carl Johnson (Regular Baptist Press); Things to Come and Prophecy for Today by J. Dwight Pentecost (Zondervan); Dispensationalism Today by Charles C. Ryrie (Moody Press); and The Nations, Israel and the Church in Prophecy by John F. Walvoord (Zondervan).
Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.