I used to get very nervous when I heard others talk about “incarnating the gospel” and spent many energy dollars arguing against using that language. It used to be a popular expression among a group that downplayed doctrine and emphasized service, usually to the people more easily identified as “needy.” Isn’t the gospel news? Isn’t it truth that we tell? How can it be something that we do?
The gospel is truth, objective reality with meaning that can’t be changed. Jesus died on the cross, was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the gospel. We are to articulate the gospel, but, according to the Bible, we are also to incarnate it, to carry it in the flesh. The apostle Paul told the Corinthians,
We are…always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. (2 Corinthians 4:10-12)
Paul is the one who puts his life, not just his speech patterns, in gospel categories: “always carrying…the death of Jesus,” “death is at work in us,” “that the life of Jesus may also be manifested,” “life [is at work] in you.” And these are physical, not just verbal, opportunities: “in the body,” “in our bodies,” in our mortal flesh.”
One of the reasons the name of our church is Trinity Evangel Church is because we must know and teach and believe and live the gospel. We ought not sing about our reconciliation and then be divided. We shouldn’t worship as the forgiven and then be unwilling to forgive. Our liturgy makes it so that we have to carry the bread and wine from the Table back to our spots, and we also have to carry the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our flesh.