Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Gospel: Reality's Foundation Part 7

On due consideration, let us postpone a more in depth search into the topics of legalism and license at a later time, God willing. The focus here should rather be the gospel of God and our need as human beings separated from God's presence and life to be restored both to this relationship and the image we were initially created in.

Bearing that in mind, let us focus now on the gospel itself. I asked earlier in my series exactly what is the gospel. The gospel is in fact summarized by Paul the Apostle when he is inspired to write: "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures," 1st Corinthians 15:3-4. We can pause here to survey a number of points. The gospel is not "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household," Acts 16:31. Prior to the jailor's conversion at this point he had been privy to listening to Paul and Silas praying and singing hymns to God, presumably Christ being elevated many times, Acts 16:25. Paul and Silas also reasoned from Scripture further with him and his household, verse 32. The jailor was also aware that these men were Christians, and likely knew something of the sect, since Christians were often persecuted by this time. Some of this is mere speculation of course, but it is speculation grounded on reasonable assumptions. My point is this: Paula and Silas did not preach the gospel with that aforementioned verse. Rather, the gospel apparently had already been preached with enough clarity that the time for the jailor to make a decision was nigh; and he made the right one. He brought them into his house, washed their injuries and submitted to baptism, along with his entire house, for they had believed in God, Acts 16:33-34.

A similar incident occurred to Philip earlier in Acts when he encountered an Ethiopian Eunuch along the road, Acts 8:27. Philip found the man reading Isaiah, being a Jewish proselyte who had come to Jerusalem to worship God. Philip asked the man an honest question: "Do you understand what you are reading?" Acts 8:30. The eunuch's answer gave the evangelist an opportunity to preach Christ to him, expounding from the Old Testament the many proofs of Christ's sacrifice for our sins and His rising from the dead, Acts 8:35. The eunuch believed his message and wanted to fulfill the first mandate a Christian is given: the act of immersion in water, or baptism, Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16. Philip's answer should give everyone who places inordinate importance on baptism for salvation pause for reflection. "If you believe with all your heart, you may," Acts 8:37. Where do we get the feel for what Philip was referring to just then? We read the next verse. The eunuch answers and says: "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God," verse 37. Herein is the Scripture fulfilled that says: "for the with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation," Romans 10:10. Paul was inspired to solidify this point by stating "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved," Romans 10:9. On the issue of water baptism Paul clarifies that salvation has nothing to do with baptism but with preaching the gospel: "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God," 1st Corinthians 1:17-18.

The gospel is all about one man and what He has done, and for whom He has done it. "[Jesus] was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification," Romans 4:25. Christ died; He was buried; He was raised from the dead. The Scriptures provide a thorough witness as to the reality of Christ's life, death, burial and resurrection. Twice in the gospel we are reminded that these things happened "according to the Scriptures." The message is about a man and it is something that must be believed; salvation is the result, James 1:21. Those who assent to it mentally are forgetful hearers, deceiving only oneself, James 1:22-25. Such vapid faith is contrasted to the kind demons possess; they are aware God exists but the knowledge does not conform their character or transform them inwardly to produce works befitting salvation, James 2:19. If you have not received Christ as your Lord consider now the message of the gospel and believe this message, for the gospel saves; it alone has the power to do so, Romans 1:16-17.

2 comments:

  1. Amen, Ian.

    Until people understand what the Gospel is, that Jesus came to die for our sins as the scriptures promised , that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures, the confession with the mouth and belief are only superficial actions that do not result in salvation. Like the Jailer, or the Ethiopian eunuch, when people understand the gospel, they want to be saved. They will be ready and willing to act.

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  2. I believe we have too much of a truncated gospel lately, and a sore lack of discipleship that leaves genuine saints sinking for lack of deeper maturity. This is why my wife and I are trying to get our hands dirtier, so to speak, to labor in the gospel.

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