Inherent to every Christian is the obligation to keep the gospel. We are to pattern the model of those before us and model the pattern for those behind us. In this way, God hands the gospel down from generation to generation. We are individual links in a chain responsible for keeping the line strong.
Being a gospel keeper is matter of maintaining a deep understanding and a strong conviction. It is to watch, observe, copy, and model gospel mentors. It is to learn what they learn and live how they live—basic duplication.
Our model is first found in Scripture. We find it in men like Paul, who said “be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Then, we find it in men and women of the church who show godly patterns (Tit. 2:1-8). With the Lord’s help, others will find it us (2 Tim. 2:1). We are, in other words, to “continue in what [we] have learned and have firmly believed” (2 Tim. 3:14).
We are to pattern our model and model our pattern.
Paul described nine qualities of a gospel keeper in 2 Timothy 3:10-11. Each one stems from a conviction rooted in the gospel:
“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.”
Appropriately beginning his list is gospel teaching, or biblical doctrine. It is the necessary first step in all of Christian life. Without gospel teaching, there is no gospel living. Biblical doctrine produces gospel living. Without it, there is no power. The gospel keeper possesses gospel teaching.
What else follows gospel teaching, but gospel conduct. This is a reference to behavior informed by the gospel and conformed to the gospel. It is a disposition to holy living marked by obedience to Christ. The gospel keeper exhibits gospel conduct.
The gospel keeper has gospel purpose, or “aim in life” toward obedience to Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:10). It is a not a life in pursuit of popularity or wealth or even worldly happiness. Rather, it is a life in pursuit of making the gospel most important, even when it means suffering (2 Tim. 1:8-12). The gospel keeper pursues gospel purpose.
From gospel teaching, conduct, and purpose flows gospel faith. Not a set of truths, but a faithfulness of heart. It is the quality of trusting God in all things—knowing His Word and leaning on His wisdom to the end. It is the manifestation of trust and devotion to God. The gospel keeper desires gospel faith.
A fruit of the forerunning qualities is gospel patience. It is the ability to be longsuffering with people by showing restraint when angered, calmness when confronted, forgiveness when wounded, persistence when disappointed, and love when despised. The gospel keeper displays gospel patience.
The godly response to difficult people, even enemies, is love that flows from the gospel. It is the act of putting others before ourselves, thinking of their needs above our own. The gospel keeper demonstrates gospel love.
Not only is the gospel keeper patient with difficult people, he is also patient in difficult circumstances. This is the idea of enduring for the sake of the gospel. It is being steadfast in faith, regardless of what is happening around us. The gospel keeper exhibits gospel endurance.
Persecutions for the sake of the gospel are in mind here. It is the mistreatment that occurs when we keep the gospel most important. It can come in many ways: physical pain, mental harm, or sociological wrong. The gospel keeper encounters gospel persecutions.
The final quality is the result of gospel keeping. According to 2 Timothy 1:8, Christians are to not be ashamed of the gospel which manifests itself through being shamed for the gospel. The gospel keeper experiences gospel suffering.
Keeping the gospel is key. It assures that the gospel spreads and the church grows. When a professing Christian fails to pattern the model before him, he then sets the wrong model for those who pattern themselves after him. We are like the links in a chain, individually holding others together on either side. To break the link is to break the line.
Don’t break the line. Keep the gospel.