Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, Part 3

Our final case study can be found in Acts chapter 16. The Philippian jailor had been charged with keeping Paul and Silas prisoners, and to that end he bound them in fetters in the inner prison, Acts 16:24. That night there was an earthquake that freed all of the prisoners and roused the jailor from his sleep; he found to his relief that none of the prisoners had escaped. Fearing greatly, the jailor came to Paul and Silas and asked a telling question: “What must I do to be saved?” verse 30. Here the jailor revealed his understanding about why these men were in jail. He might have heard them preach, or listened to some of their hymns praising the God of Israel. Their testimony concerning this God was validated by the earthquake releasing the prisoners in a miraculous way. Here we see God the Holy Spirit at work on this man, convicting him of sin and drawing him to Christ, John 16:7-11.

Paul replies that faith in Jesus Christ saves, Acts 16:31. Wanting to hear this word, the Philippian jailor brought Paul and Silas to his house where his family could hear the gospel, verse 32. We find that the jailor and his family rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household; in other words, he and his house were saved, just as Paul said they would be should they place their faith in Jesus, verses 31, 34. Once more we find these new disciples heeding the first command of their Lord and being baptized in water as a public confession of Christ, Acts 16:33; Romans 6:4-5. We find that Paul began by telling the jailor that if he believed in Jesus he would be saved; the jailor’s question clearly demonstrated that he was ready to hear this truth expounded, and to his eternal joy Paul did not hesitate to do so. The gospel is a set of facts that have occurred and must be received by faith. It is an open demonstration of what God in His love has done for us, and it was done before the eyes of many credible witnesses so that we may believe in the Son of God, Luke 1:1-4.

Many choose to disbelieve the gospel; but that does not make its account any less historically, factually accurate. There is enough evidence for an honest skeptic; there will however never be sufficient evidence for a skeptic nursing a bias.

If the gospel does not accord with reality but Christianity is found to be a false witness regarding Jesus Christ and His life then our faith, no matter how strong, is futile because we have believed in either a dead Savior or a figment of first century imagination, 1st Corinthians 15:17. This is our gospel. It is not about meeting felt needs, increasing church attendance, pleading for money in God’s name or making the listeners “happy.” Many who turn from the pure message of the gospel to an alternative (Emerging Church movement, health and wealth preaching/positive confession, Roman Catholicism) are attempting to avoid the persecution that comes with preaching the cross, Galatians 4:11. But this is the very thing Paul told the Corinthian church was all that he was interested in knowing and bringing to them, 1st Corinthians 1:17-25; 2:2. He likewise wrote the Philippians, telling them that all of his worldly loss did not begin to compare to the joy of knowing Christ as his Savior and being a participant in the forthcoming resurrection, Philippians 3:7-11. This is the message Christians must recover and preach with power; Christ crucified is the center of the Christian faith. Without the Savior there is no Christianity; without the risen and glorified Savior there is no hope, no point and no power in Christianity. Those who avoid preaching the cross (aka the gospel) remove from the hearers hope, purpose and spiritual power.

I say these things to inspire, encourage and exhort. I long for Christians to have a greater zeal for God’s word, and the God whose word it is. I want all of us to elevate Jesus Christ to the preeminent position He deserves, casting down all adversarial notions to grant Him the whole of our hearts, 2nd Corinthians 10:5. I pray that we have a faith built on a confident trust in the Bible’s accuracy not only in faith and morals, but in history, science and every other issue that it speaks about. Such a Christian can preach the gospel with authority; such a Christian can be used of God to speak His word to those God directs into his life. The priority of the gospel as the heart of Christian life has a lot to do with the importance one grants God and the Bible in the whole of their life. Sunday Christians who largely forget God six days a week are impotent and incapable of service; you are telling the world that the gospel you claim to confess and believe really has no impact in your life. Why should such people invite this weak and pointless gospel into their own?

Let us stand on the Rock of truth, the gospel of our salvation: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith,” Romans 1:16-17. We must believe, but we must also know what we believe and why we believe it. Who Christ is, what He has done for us, and why He did it are vital to bring someone to a right understanding of the gospel. Christ is a Savior mighty to save; He asks that we only be mighty enough to point the way to Him unflinchingly with as little distraction as possible on our ends. We are ambassadors of Christ; our chief purpose as Christians is to plead with the lost to be reconciled to God, 2nd Corinthians 5:20. Again our life in Christ returns to the gospel. God bring us a Christ-like love for Him that reveals itself in a love for our fellow man.

2 comments:

  1. Great post, Ian. You are correct there is plenty of evidence for those who honestly question, but no amount of evidence will convince a person who has decided not to believe.

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  2. I just wanted to leave off with this series with this quote from Ecclesiastes that sums up God's person and work: "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it (added to it), nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him," Ecclesiastes 3:14. God bless.

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