What is the gospel message which Jesus, Paul, Peter, John and the other NT apostles preached? Is it the same gospel message which is being preached by most churches today? Here, in America?
I believe, at least here in America, that the gospel which Jesus and his NT apostles taught is not the same gospel as what most churches seem to be teaching today. And, this is important that we make this distinction, because, otherwise, some people who call themselves Christians may have the idea that they are standing on the true gospel, and that they are saved from their sins, and that they have the hope of eternal life with God, but it may all be a lie.
A Reminder of Truth
1 Corinthians 15:1-2 ESV
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
I believe most evangelical Christian churches teach at least half the truth of the gospel which Paul taught, and that they probably agree on the first half, though all may not. Usually they will agree on this part:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:3-7 ESV).
But, where many of them differ with Jesus and with the apostles is in what they teach regarding how we are saved, by what faith, and regarding what that faith should look like.
Many of them today, for instance, are not only not including repentance, submission and obedience in the gospel message, but they are verbally expressing to their listeners that God does not require anything of them other than some nondescript “belief,” which they fail to explain, or which they greatly minimize to something man-made, and which appeals to human flesh, but does not submit to the Spirit of God.
What many of them are teaching is that this “faith” to believe in Jesus is a mere acknowledgment of who he is and in what he did for them on that cross, and a mere acceptance of his forgiveness of their sins. Then, they are congratulated for their “belief” and are told that they now have heaven guaranteed them from this point forward, no matter what. And, then they teach them that God is pleased with them, no matter what they do.
So, what is the truth? What is the gospel message Paul preached?
Paul preached a faith in Jesus Christ which results in death to sin and living to righteousness; turning away from our former lives of living for sin and self, being transformed of the Spirit of God to new life in Christ, and walking according to the Spirit, and no longer according to our sinful flesh. He made it quite clear that if we make sin our practice or if we walk (live our lives) according to our sinful flesh, that we will die in our sins, not go to heaven. He taught that faith in Jesus means Jesus is Lord of our lives, and he is now our master, and that sin no longer has mastery over us.
The salvation which he taught was not a one-time deal, then we live how we want, and one day we get to be with Jesus in heaven. He taught progressive salvation, i.e. that we are saved (past), we are being saved (present), and that we will be saved one day when our Lord returns (future). He taught that we must continue in the faith which we professed, and that we must endure to the end, and walk in the Spirit and not according to the flesh if we want to have eternal life with God and the hope of heaven when we die.
He said we are being saved IF we hold fast to the Word which he preached. This is not talking about holding on to it intellectually, though, so that we can argue its points with other believers. If we hold fast to the gospel Jesus and Paul and others taught, it means we apply it to our lives, we take it to heart, we don’t just mouth the words, but we walk the talk.
It doesn’t mean we are perfect, or that we will never sin, but it means we no longer make sin our practice, it does not control us, and we don’t live in it and walk in it, but we walk in the grace, strength, power and wisdom of God, and we live to please the Lord and not the flesh.
If we don’t hold fast to this teaching, in all practical application to our lives, in submission to God, yielded to Jesus, and empowered by the Spirit of God, then we have believed in vain, Paul said. We must remember here that even the demons believe, and they shudder, but they are not saved.
So, what is true faith, the kind which saves us?
True faith, the kind which saves, thus, does not originate with man, but with God. It is divine persuasion as to God’s will for our lives. When persuaded, we thus submit to our Lord, repent of our sins, and we turn to follow him in obedience, because the Spirit of God has convinced us to do so, and has empowered us to do so. If we were not crucified with Christ in death to sin and raised with him to newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness, then we are not born again of the Spirit of God. It is that simple.
Basically, true faith in Jesus Christ does not look for a loophole to get out of having to follow the Lord in obedience and in surrender to his will. If you took a job with any employer, and the first thing you did was try to figure out how you could get out of work, but still collect your paycheck each week, you would not be much of an employee, would you? And, you’d probably get fired, for it wouldn’t take long for your employer to realize that you were not serious about the job, but you were just looking for a free ride.
And, yet, I hear so many people who call themselves Christians do just that. They look for all kinds of ways in which they can prove to themselves that they can be saved from their sins, and have eternal life with God, without ever truly being saved from their sins, because they are still living in them, and even feel they are entitled to continue living in them, in fact.
But, God’s grace to us is not carte blanche to continue living in sin without guilt or without remorse. His grace frees us, not only from the punishment of sin, but from our slavery to sin, and it sets us free to walk in the Lord’s righteousness and holiness, and that is the GOOD NEWS of the gospel!
We read in Titus 2:11-14 that God’s grace, in fact, instructs us to say “NO!” to ungodliness and worldly passions (lusts) and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await Christ’s return. It also teaches us that Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Jesus saved us to change us, to transform us, to purify us, to make us holy, and that we might walk in his holiness and righteousness.
His sheep know his voice, they listen to him, and they follow (obey) him.
My Sheep / An Original Work
June 24, 2012 / Based off John 10:1-18 NIV
My sheep hear me. They know me.
They listen to my voice and obey.
I call them and lead them.
They know my voice, so they follow me.
They will never follow strangers.
They will run away from them.
The voice of a stranger they know not;
They do not follow him.
So, I tell you the truth that
I am the gate, so you enter in.
Whoever does enter
Will find forgiveness and will be saved.
Nonetheless whoever enters
Not by the gate; other way,
He is the thief and a robber.
Listen not, the sheep to him.
Oh, I am the Good Shepherd,
Who laid his own life down for the sheep.
I know them. They know me.
They will live with me eternally.
The thief only comes to steal and
Kill and to destroy the church.
I have come to give you life that
You may have it to the full…
They know my voice, so they follow me.
Saturday, April 14, 2018, 9:30 a.m. – Thank you, Jesus, for this teaching from Your Word. Make the truth of this real to our hearts, I pray. Amen!