INSURRECTION? During the early establishment of Christianity in the Roman Empire, there was conflict between two lords. Reference to this conflict to whom the Roman citizens should pay total homage first developed with Caesar Claudius, of the early Roman Empire, who was Caesar of Rome from A.D. 41 to 54. This conflict arose when there were few or no Christians living in the city of Rome, but a great number of Jews. Because the Jews would not accept Claudius as the final lord over their lives, he ran all the Jews out of Rome. Because they were also Jews, Aquila and Priscilla were victims of Claudius’ autocratic demand for total submission. They subsequently fled to the city of Corinth (See At 18:3).
Nero later became another autocratic Caesar of the Roman Empire. After Claudius, his autocratic behavior extended from A.D. 54 to 68. He had the same problem with people of faith in a Higher Power as Claudius. He, too, did not like any citizens claiming that there was a “lord” who was greater than his lordship over the people of the Empire. Therefore, he went beyond Claudius and claimed to be the only lord of the people. Because Christians could not accept this from a political dictator on earth, Nero turned his wrath against Christians in Rome who served only one Lord.
Because Christians would not confess that Nero was the only lord of their lives, they were subsequently condemned as insurrectionists of the Empire, and thus subject to the civil penalty of death by crucifixion, or entertainment for the people by being thrown to lions in the Roman Colosseum. And if a Christian were a Jew, then he was double guilty of not giving total loyalty to government, or government officials, and in particular, Nero himself.
It is believed that Nero started a fire in the city of Rome in July A.D. 64, and then blamed it on Christians – the fire eventually consumed about a third of the city of Rome. Nero subsequently launched a personal vendetta against Christians. He unleashed horrifying forms of execution on Christians. He ordered public crucifixions. Sometimes Christians were rolled up in pitch and then set on fire to light the imperial gardens. And then some Christians were wrapped in animal skins and thrown to starved dogs to be ravaged and torn apart. Nero will always go on record as the most evil autocrat of history. Eventually, as almost all autocrats who are basically cowards, he committed suicide.
[It is interesting that by the time of then end of the fourth century, the Roman Empire was composed of about fifty percent Christian. The Lord Jesus Christ was winning the battle over Roman paganism.]
[From the new book: JESUS: Revealing The Body Of Christ In A Modern World]
TRANSFORMATIONAL POWER! The good news is that when we restore ourselves from following after a legal identity of church that is opened and closed by prayers on Sunday morning, something wonderful begins to happen in our lives. We start focusing on who Jesus really is, and what impact we will allow Him to have on our hearts. His incarnational journey into and out of this world, with a cross as a center of reference, has a tendency to humble us to the point of transforming our lives in order to be identified with Him. At least this is what happened in the first century long before “church” was institutionalized into a corporate body of adherents with registered membership cards who localized their worship to temples, and then formalized the same through legalized ceremonies.
As the church, the early disciples lived Jesus to the point that they were the signal to the world that Jesus was alive. Their faith moved them to be different from the religions of the world. When we discover their true identity as the church, it is then that we begin to understand that “church” is not a set of rules and rituals that must be legally performed, which rules and rituals become a fake identity of the body of Christ. On the contrary, “church” is a family of people who have sought to the best of their ability to identify with the incarnate Son of God, and thus, be identified with Him as King of kings and Lord of lords. And as the members emulate their King in their hearts, something wonderful happens.
In order that we prepare ourselves for eternal dwelling, God knew that we needed an extreme example that would motivate us to turn our minds from the ways of this temporary world, to an existence beyond this world. So in order for us to make this mental transformation, God wanted us to be driven to transform our characters for eternal existence in a heavenly paradise.
The serendipity of this process of transformation would be an inner power that would enable us to endure this present world. For this reason, it was necessary that in the grand plan of eternal redemption that an example be revealed from heaven alone that would compel us to turn our minds to heavenly thinking and behavior.
A. The powerful example: In His eternal plan of redemption, God knew that there had to be a powerful example that would motivate us to make a very difficult life transformation. In order for this example to be convincing, only God could produce such an example. Any example that might have been provided by the most faithful person on earth could never have been sufficient to warrant our own transformation. Therefore, the example to motivate us to make life changes was the incarnational journey of the Son of God Himself from spirit to flesh. Not only into flesh was He incarnate, but also into a fleshly body that could be sacrificially nailed to a cross, which cross would allow us to crossover into an eternal paradise.
In order to justify us of our sins, the Son had to make an incredible sacrifice. He had to make a redemptive payment for all those who would sign up to be His disciples. Such an incarnational sacrifice is certainly beyond our finite minds to fully comprehend. Nevertheless, we do know enough about His sacrificial coming into this world to be stirred into an “incarnational” transformation in our own lives. If such an incarnation of Deity is true—and it certainly is—then its reality should penetrate to the very heart of our humanity.
B. The power to transform: Since the Son of God would make this incredible journey into this world on our behalf, then there is nothing we would hold back in our own personal transformation in order to be eternally with Him in the presence of so much love (Jn 3:16). We cannot but respond with eternal gratitude. The motivation that is reaped from His loving and sacrificial example is simply overwhelming. This is a reality about which tears are inspired. John, the apostle of love, said the same in the following statement:
“In this the love of God was manifested to us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 Jn 4:9,10).
It was love on the part of the Father that necessitated the sending of His Son into this world of flesh and pain. That which inspired such an extreme action on the part of God was God’s unending love for us (Jn 3:16). His love was accentuated in the fact that we were so unloving when the incarnational example was made. So just in case we might forget this, we need to read again the words of the Holy Spirit: “God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rm 5:8). His love reigned regardless of the fact that we were so unloving. Our unloving spirit, therefore, accentuated the extreme incarnation of God in spirit becoming as man in the flesh.
C. The church of the transformed: While still on this earth, Jesus promised His immediate disciples that they would eventually be established as His assembly of the transformed. They would be established on the foundation of their belief in the fact that He was the Christ, and thus the incarnate Son of God (See Mt 16:16-18).
While He was with His disciples in the flesh, Jesus wanted them to understand clearly that He was not establishing some sort of religious legal organization that would be identified by earthly bylaws. Neither would it be founded on a legal obedience to any laws, and certainly not on some system of assembly that the disciples might ceremonially orchestrate on Sunday morning. It would be established firmly on the fact of the Son’s fulfillment of all prophecy, and that He indeed was the incarnate Son of God. We must be very cautious, therefore, about defining the church of our Lord on any other foundation, especially on some meritorious legal performance of ceremonial ordinances.
The disciples would be established as the church of Christ because of their belief and behavior in reference to the example of the Son’s journey into and out of this world in order that they make the same journey. Jesus’ assembly of disciples, therefore, would be the “church of the incarnationally transformed” (See 1 Jn 4:1-8).
And since it was love that offered to us the Divine incarnational road map into eternal glory, then it can only be our love for one another that would identify us to be on that road. It was for this reason that Jesus stated,
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this will all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34,35).
D. The incarnational mind of Christ: Many years after the Son of God’s incarnational journey into and out of this world, the Holy Spirit had to remind some early disciples through Paul, that the prime motivation for their gospel journey was to emulate the mind of Christ Jesus in their lives:
“Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God. But He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in the appearance of man, He humbled Himself …” (Ph 2:5-8).
This is the revealed road map for our own transformation. For this reason, therefore, the Holy Spirit can make the following mandate in reference to us taking ownership of our own transformation, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rm 12:2). This is not an option, but an imperative.
Since the transformation of the mind of Christ into our thinking and behavior can be accomplished, then John was right: “In this the love of God was manifested to us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him” (1 Jn 4:9).
We are certain that John had in mind more than salvational matters when he said “that we might live through Him.” We would assert that his statement in 1 John 4:9 was a reflection on what Jesus promised: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10).
It is only through incarnationally living the mind of Christ that we can, in this world, enjoy the abundant life that Jesus promised. If one is not spiritually experiencing this abundant life, then it is time to check our souls with the mind that was in the Son of God when He came into this world. It is because of His thinking and behavior that He was willing to leave the environment of heaven and the form of God in Spirit, in order to transition into our earthly environment. He sacrificed to be as we are in order that we become as He now is—“We know that when He appears, we will be like Him” (1 Jn 3:2).
E. The road map to be like Him: In the gospel journey of the Son of God into this world, the Son established the only spiritual road map for us to live in order to transition out of this world and right on into heaven. As the Son of God gave up being on an equality with God in order to show the way, then all those who would claim to be His disciples must likewise go through a similar incarnational transformation in order to be assured that we are on the gospel road. As the Son could not have provided the road map without giving up something, then we also must give up something to get on this road to heaven.
We must never forget that this gospel journey could never have been revealed by words alone. It had to be demonstrated.
The behavior of the incarnate Son of God is our road map demonstration for incarnational transformation. Therefore, the true identity of the church of Jesus’ disciples is demonstrated by their love for one another as they were loved from heaven. This is why Peter encouraged some disciples in the early church to stay the course on the road map to heaven: “Grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pt 3:18). The more we understand the grace of God that was extended to us through the Son of God, the more we are encouraged to live in thanksgiving for that grace (See 2 Co 4:15).
F. Looking unto Jesus: We endure living on this incarnational road because of the destination to which it will eventually bring us. We thus, the Hebrew writer encouraged, “lay aside every weight [of sin] … and run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hb 12:1,2). Jesus would never have asked us to do something that He would not do Himself. He is thus the author of our faith because He paved the incarnational road for us into eternal glory. If we follow His introduction to the gospel way, then He will lead us down this road right on into the arms of God.
We are certainly not at the end of our incarnational journey. As the Son of God, the initial incarnation was only the beginning of His journey to the cross. So in baptism, our incarnational journey begins. Our incarnational transformation will end only when we, as Jesus, are faithful unto death (Rv 2:10).
During our earthly journey we know that at any one time along the way we are not yet incarnationally transformed as we know we should be. We must simply confess that we have not yet allowed the mind of Christ to control totally our every thought and action (See 1 Jn 1:7-9). It is for this reason that we walk by faith in the grace of God (See Ep 2:4-10)
G. The beginning of our journey: John reminded some disciples, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). It was because “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (Jn 3:16). Though we are not there in loving one another perfectly as He loved us, we are zealously striving to be so transformed.
This was the deeply spiritual meaning behind Paul’s supposedly contradictory statement—so say some—in 1 Corinthians 1:17: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” What Paul was emphasizing was the fact that the good news of the love of God that was poured out through the Son was his priority message. Baptism, on the other hand, was the natural response to this gospel. He, as we, know that the proclamation of the love of God that was revealed through the good news (gospel), is the primary motivation that will encourage people to respond to God’s love in being baptized into His Son.
Baptism can be marginalized by simply being baptized in obedience to a command. However, gospel is in reference to the powerful motivation of love that was poured out upon us through the gospel of the incarnation. It is the gospel that gives substance to baptism. Connect gospel and baptism and salvational magic happens.
Baptism, therefore, is not simply some legal act of obedience wherein one can proclaim his own salvation that is based on a meritorious act of obedience to law. On the contrary, those who would refuse to be baptized in response to the gospel are simply saying to God the Father, and His incarnate Son, “We do not love You enough.” Baptism, therefore, finds its full meaning in the gospel of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (See Rm 6:3-6).
John would add, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments [baptism]” (1 Jn 5:3). Therefore, “everyone who loves is born from God and knows God” (1 Jn 4:7). This is why Jesus stated to Nicodemus in reference to baptism, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:5).
In other words, if one does not respond to the gospel of God’s love in baptism, then he or she cannot get on the gospel road that will eventually bring one into eternal glory. It is only reasonable to make this conclusion. It is for this reason that we are so ardent in preaching the gospel. We want to give others a piece of this glorious conclusion. We can do so by giving them the opportunity to be touched by the incarnate blood of the Son of God that was poured out on the cross for the remission of sins (See Gl 3:26-28).
H. Staying focused: Baptism is a signal to Jesus and others that we have made a decision to respond to and follow the incarnational road map of Jesus. It is through baptism that we get started down the road that will eventually end in eternal glory. And thus, in being baptized into the incarnate and crucified Son of God, we are signaling to the Son that His journey was not fruitless. Because we seek to respond to His love, we are committing ourselves to follow all His signposts right to the destination for which He incarnationally sacrificed Himself. We will do this in order that we eventually enjoy being one with Him in eternity (See Rm 6:3-6).
This is why the journey of Jesus into and out of this world is good news. It is good news (gospel) because it was initiated by His personal incarnation into the flesh of man in order that a redemptive payment be made to get us to where He now is. It is this powerful example of love that motivates us to first get on the “gospel way” through baptism, and then stay on that way by continually transforming our minds and behavior into the character of the One we follow.
There are always a multitude of inquiries concerning the leadership of the church. In many situations, the members are perceiving that there is a difference between the behavior of some of their existing leaders and the leadership that they notice in the life of the incarnate Son of God. They are even perceiving that there is a difference between how the church is led today and how the church of the first century was led by incarnationally devoted servants of God. We know this because of many directives that came from the Holy Spirit to correct dysfunctional leadership in the first century, which directives we use as a textbook to correct our own leadership challenges.
This is not to say that the early church was perfect. The fact that they were dysfunctional in some areas of leadership is to our benefit because we have in our hands today the Spirit’s corrective manual of discipline in order to sort out any problems that we may have in reference to our own leadership.
Our leadership challenges are particularly true in a world wherein many members of the body sit in corporate board rooms, or are employees of some business from Monday through Friday. There seems to be a constant concern, therefore, that the leadership of the corporate/political/business world is finding its way in among the disciples, and thus taking hostage the sheep of God. This threat is simply a part of the world in which we live, and thus, we need to thoroughly understand the leadership principles that are revealed in the New Testament, which principles are disturbingly different from what is sometimes prevalent among many religious groups throughout the world today.
• Consulting the leadership manual: In contrast to the world, and in reference to the gospel, leadership among the disciples of Christ is inherently determined by the very nature of the gospel (good news) of the incarnate Son of God. When a group of disciples in today’s corporate/political/business environment consider leadership among the disciples, they are invariably faced with a daunting challenge that is presented by the example of the leadership behavior of the world. Leaders sometimes think that they can lead the church of disciples as they would lead in world affairs. But in all matters concerning church leadership, Jesus must be both our teacher and example. The Holy Spirit must be allowed to have already produced a manual on church leadership, which manual was completed over two thousand years ago. When it comes to incarnational leadership, the world can offer little in comparison to what the Spirit has already completed.
Unfortunately, it is almost inevitable that the behavior of leadership that permeates the corporate/political/business world today finds its way in among those who should be following the teaching and example of the incarnate Son of God. We must, therefore, when considering the behavior and function of church leaders, focus on the behavior of the incarnate Son of God, not on the leadership ways of the world in which we live. Only the incarnate Son of God can be the standard by which we would both live and behave as His disciples, and in particular, conduct our lives in leading incarnationally obedient disciples.
In our present world, we are faced with an almost insurmountable challenge concerning the behavior of church leaders. If we rely on the ways of the world in this matter, then we are certainly in trouble. Therefore, in order to begin our transformation into being incarnational leaders, our first concern is to understand the leadership that was revealed by the incarnate of the Son of God. Once we somewhat understand the incarnation, then we can more effectively apply the example of the Son of God to our own lives. So before we can lead among the disciples who have given themselves over to King Jesus in response to the gospel, we must first understand what the Son of God went through in His incarnational journey of giving up being in the form of God to allowing nails to be driven through His incarnate hands.
• From spirit to flesh: The organic function of the body of the Lord Jesus is not determined by democratic procedures by which the membership might exercise some authority at the end of a democratic process of voting to make laws they would bind on the body. On the contrary, King Jesus was given absolute authority over all things before the ascension (Mt 28:18). And thus, the democratic power struggles that are common in government and corporations must have no place among the gospel-obedient citizens of a kingdom that has only one Lord and King who reigns with supreme authority over all things (Ep 1:20-23). When it comes to decision-making amount the members, therefore, the authority of Jesus over all things must always be in the forefront of our thinking and planning.
Before we can come to any understanding of how our leaders are to behave themselves among gospel-obedient disciples, therefore, we must first understand the nature of the leadership that was revealed through the incarnate Son of God who now has all authority. In order to do this, we must first understand one very important point. Before His ascension and coronation, Jesus reminded His disciples, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” From this statement alone we understand that 100% of the authority over all things in the galaxy and on earth is within the control of King Jesus. Not one percentage point of authority has been left for any human being on earth, including all church leaders.
Church leaders are given responsibility to care for the flock of God (At 20:28). They are not given authority to be lords over the flock. The position of the authoritative head of the body has already been filled (Cl 1:18). If one would move into this realm of authority among the disciples, therefore, he has moved from assuming responsibility among the sheep to being in some position or office in order to lord over the sheep. There can be no lords of authority among or over the sheep of God. Jesus is our one Lord with all authority.
Therefore, when we consider leaders of all those who have submitted to the autocratic kingdom reign of King Jesus, then all things in reference to the order among gospel-obedient subjects has been fulfilled in the one Lord Jesus Christ (Ep 4:5). All this is drastically different from the order of authority in the corporate/political/business world in which we live. We must be very careful, therefore, not to import into the body of Christ the leadership that is characteristic of the world. There can be no chairmen, no presidents, and no lords among the disciples of Jesus. There can be no corporate boards with invested authority who would slip mandates under a board room door to the anxiously awaiting employees outside.
• Revelation of a leadership standard: In our challenge to transform our personal character into the nature of the gospel, we sometimes import into the body of Christ attitudes of corporate competitiveness or political pomp that is characteristic of the world in which we live. This is a particular problem in those nations wherein there has been vigorous debates among politicians for several decades. In such a social culture subsequently feel that we are in competition with one another, or threatened by the presence of one another as supposed politicians in the political world. We thus use the church of disciples as an opportunity to behave politically. Nevertheless, we must recognize and repent of this common behavior and thinking among the disciples that is totally contrary to the very nature of the gospel of the incarnate Son of God.
Remember when Paul wrote the following? “For if by one man’s offense [Adam introduced sin into the world], death reigned through the one [sin of Adam], much more they who receive abundance of grace [that’s us] and of the gift of righteousness [from God] will reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ” (Rm 5:17). Those who live according to the incarnate Savior, who reigned over and conquered spiritual death at the cross, and afterward ascended to become the King of kings and Lord of lords, have likewise become kings in this life as a disciple of the King. Jesus now reigns over all things. As subjects of His kingdom reign, we too reign with Him in life. But we must not forget that our present reign is over the unbelieving world through our obedience to the gospel, not the body of kingdom subjects. Our reign over the unbelieving world is contingent on His present continued reign from heaven. We must not forget this, lest we seek to reign on earth over one another as the church of His subjects.
In forgetting to transform competitive attitudes and behavioral patterns that are contrary to the behavior of the incarnate Son of God—which behavior was revealed in His journey from being on an equality with God in spirit to being God in the flesh of man that hung on a cross outside Jerusalem—we often manufacture autonomous church groups as an opportunity to compete with one another as if we were in a corporate board room, or in some political debate with other politically minded leaders. In fact, the concept of the autonomy of individual local groups of disciples rose out of a misunderstanding. Such power-hungry behavior sometimes found its way in among the disciples of the first century. However, such behavior was vigorously opposed then by the Holy Spirit through the pens of the early writers of inspired Scripture. He continues to oppose such today through the pages of the New Testament.
The vast majority of the members of the body in those early days sought to emulate in their lives the nature of the actions of the Son of God in His incarnation from heaven to earth. Though we cannot go through the transformation of an actual incarnation, there is still a behavioral life-style lesson in the incarnation of the Son of God that must become the foundation upon which our behavior as His disciples must be established. The Holy Spirit wanted to make this very clear as He guided the hands of disciples as Paul (More later.)
Self-exaltation is typical of the corporate/political/business world. But such behavior is totally contrary to incarnational behavior. Unfortunately, such self-exalting behavior sometimes finds its way into the leadership of the church. We may complain about one behaving as a lord among the leaders, but we must first look to our own behavior.
The reason the church body sometimes produces self-exalting lordship leaders is that the existing leaders have often behaved as such among the disciples as they would behave in the corporate/political/business world in which they weekly work and live. Young leaders, therefore, who arise among the body of members subsequently believe that they too must behave in the same manner as the existing leaders if they would be future leaders in the church.
Some young leaders often rise out of a competitive body of members in order to struggle “through the ranks” to be leaders “of the church.” These young leaders often conclude that if all the members must behave in a corporate/political/business manner Monday through Friday, then they too are tempted to believe and behave in the same manner. Instead of emulating on the incarnate behavior of the Son of God as the guiding principle for leading the people, they too often take a peek into a corporate board room, or clone their favorite politician or business owner. But this thinking is nowhere found in the New Testament.
• Misleading road maps for leadership: Lordship behavior is often perpetuated throughout the decades by those who have never fully understood the selfless nature that is inherent in the good news of the incarnational journey of the Son of God. This lordship behavior is a perpetual curse by which most of the religious world functions today. The common scenario is that young leaders who seek to rise among the disciples are stymied by the existing leaders who maintain their lordship over their local diocese of disciples. What consequently results is that the rising young leaders are encouraged to go out and start their “own churches” in order to likewise lord over a flock just as the leadership of the local church from which they were given birth to be lords.
The result is that a history of lordship leadership is perpetuated among religious groups. There is then a competition between local “pastors” in the community who compete for control and contributions in local independent churches. This all takes place in view of a statement from the Holy Spirit that leaders not lord over the flock of God (1 Pt 5:3). It is for this reason that many members are wondering what we are talking about when we speak of incarnational leadership. People of faith have moved so far away from the example of Jesus that they have a difficult time finding their way back to the true Lord Jesus Christ. It is as if people have invented in their minds a “Jesus” that is totally foreign to the Jesus we read about in the New Testament.
We must insert here something about the self-centered culture of the “me generation” that is so prevalent today throughout the Western world. When children are reared in families with the attitude that they can do nothing wrong—there are no losers—or that they are the constant center of attraction, then this me-culture of people arise in the body of disciples with prerequisite conditions as to how the church should behave. When the local the church places little emphasis on the gospel of the heart of God that was revealed through the incarnate Son of God, then young people grow up “in the church” with the thinking that they must continue to receive special attention. It is for this reason that it is difficult for those of the Western “me generation” to understand the selfless nature of the incarnational leadership of the Son of God. It is challenging for them to understand that the Jesus who is revealed in the New Testament was an incarnate God who allowed Himself to be crucified. And if the leaders of the existing church are not living incarnationally, then another generation of lordship leaders are produced for the future church.
This at least gives us one answer as to why “church” is declining in Western societies. Or better, church is simply becoming some form of religion that is defined after the nature of the members’ desires, not the nature of the incarnate Son of God. The younger “me generation” is largely turning away from those groups that have any scent of true incarnational behavior. When one of the me-generation encounters incarnational disciples, their first reaction is to change the assembly of the local church into something that pleases (entertains) themselves. “Worship” is thus changed from focusing on worship of God to focusing on emotionally exciting ourselves. The assembly of such “worshipers” thus turns into a narcissistic, self-centered music concert.
This is possibly one reason why “church attendance” in the West has drastically declined in the last two decades. Those older mature disciples have simply decided to focus their worship on God the Father in thanksgiving for the incarnational behavior of His Son who became flesh in order to bring incarnational people into the population of heaven. This was certainly in the mind of Paul when he allowed the Holy Spirit to guide his thoughts in the following statement:
“For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace that is reaching many people may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God” (2 Co 4:15).
People of virtue (integrity) always struggle with their behavior in their relationship with others, and especially in their relationship with God. This struggle is simply part of living in preparation for eternity. So in our struggles, we know that sin is defined as doing that which God said we should not do, lest we be separate from Him (Is 59:2; 1 Jn 3:4). This would be the sin of commission. We break God’s law, and thus we sin, sometimes knowingly, but sometimes unknowingly. We simply cannot live perfect lives (Rm 3:23). Add to this the fact that we more often do not do good to others we know we should do, and thus, we sin by omission (Js 4:17; Gl 6:10). Without a clear and appreciative understanding of the grace of God, therefore, we would certainly live a life a guilt, never know if we were saved.
In order to deal with our guilt, we often categorize sin, and thus check off those sins we do not do. In order to make a list of such sins, we quote Revelation 21:8. We then assume that we are good people of faith because we do not do the following listed sins about which John wrote: “But the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murders and immoral people and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, will have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.” And certainly, we are not bad people as that. So far, so good.
Since we are not bad people about which John wrote, and try to do the good about which James wrote, we assume that we are fine, and thus, good people in reference to our standing before God. But we must go beyond John’s list by which we would judge ourselves somewhat righteous before God. We must also consider the list that Paul presented in Galatians 5:19-21: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are: fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, outburst of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envyings, drunkenness, revelries, and the such like.”
It is Paul’s final phrase that gives us some grief. “And-the-such-like” certainly includes everyone beyond what John specifically wrote in Revelation 21 and Paul’s specific list of sins in Galatians 5. In both Galatians and Revelation, there seems to be under the umbrella phrase, “and the such like,” all those who are not forthright in confessing that they are often walking in some sin about which they might be unaware, or at least, unwilling to confess (See Js 5:16). In some way, we are all there.
When one encounters the gospel, beliefs and behavior must radically change. There must be a beginning of the transformation of our character, and thus, our behavior (See Rm 12:1,2). This is particularly true in reference to our relationship with people who have likewise obeyed the gospel. Drastic repentance is in store for all those who have truly responded to the gospel simply because the gospel is not of this world. Because we seek to respond to the One who gave Himself for us, this heavenly action on the part of the Son of God inspires us to think and live contrary to worldly thinking and behavior.
For example, upon one’s encounter with the gospel of the incarnate Son of God, it is often easy to repent of moral sins. We can check off those sins that were listed by both John and Paul. We subsequently stop doing bad stuff, and try to do the best we can in doing good for others as the incarnate Son did good for us. However, this is not enough in reference to our personal transformation.
There is often behavioral sin that is persistent within us in reference to our selfish ambitions, which self-centered behavior we are sometimes not willing to recognize or change. Since we often fail to recognize some of our behavioral sins, we leave some of our behavior unchecked by the gospel. In particular, we often justify our self-centered narcissistic behavior by saying that at least we do not commit the sins that are on the list of both John and Paul.
Nevertheless, when we do what we feel is wrong in some area, we often try to cleanse ourselves of our wrong with some self-sanctifying good deed. We thus satisfy ourselves by trying to do the best we can in doing good works to atone for our sins. Our good works make us feel good about sins that may persist in our lives.
But if we are honest with ourselves, we still know that we fall short in doing enough good works to feel that we are justified before God. When we presume to find atonement in our good needs, we often fail to gospel check our inner attitudes that caused us to sin, and thus, behave contrary to the gospel. So we continue on our way trying to do self-sanctifying good works, while continuing on in our wayward ways. Such is a frustrating lie to live.
It is for this reason that various statements by the Holy Spirit in Scripture become very precious. For example, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ep 2:8). It is thus very comforting to read what the Spirit concluded, “Sin will not have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but under grace” (Rm 6:14). “And if by grace, then it is no more by works [of law-keeping or meritorious good deeds], otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it is by [meritorious] works, it is no longer grace, otherwise work is no longer work” (Rm 11:6).
We have announced many news reports for many years concerning the outreach ministry of the Gospel Restoration Workshops. We have, however, been somewhat negligent in explaining to people the exact nature, purpose and function of the Workshops. It is this nature, purpose and function that defines the need for such Workshops throughout South Africa, and in particular, throughout the world. Therefore, we thought it would be good to present a brief statement concerning the GR Workshops we conduct in order that everyone have a better understanding of what we are trying to accomplish, and thus, inspire others to do the same in their own nations.
• Restoring our focus on the good news of God’s grace. When we conduct a GR Workshop, we are expressing our appreciation for the grace nature of the gospel. Therefore, when we use the word “gospel,” we are not referring to a canonized legal system of theology whereby one would seek to justify himself or herself before God through perfect law-keeping. We are not teaching a legal system of “church,” but church as the serendipity of the gospel. We are not, therefore, rejoicing over our law-keeping, but over grace (See Rm 6:14; 11:6). We are rejoicing over the grace of God that was revealed through the incarnate Son of God. We are thus seeking those who would rejoice with us in our efforts to restore the preaching and teaching of the grace of God (See Ep 2:4-10).
Everyone understands that the word “gospel” is an English word that is used to translate a Greek word that simply means “good news.” This good news is in view of the fact of our problem of both moral and legal sin. The gospel motivates us to repent of moral sin, and thus turn to the instructions of God. However, the gospel news is also in reference to repenting of our wayward self-righteous systems of religious laws through which we have also brought ourselves into bondage. We have brought ourselves into bondage by attempting to justify ourselves before God through perfect law-keeping. According to Galatians 5:1 and Colossians 2:6-23, the bondage of supposed perfect law-keeping, through which we have led ourselves into meritorious self-righteousness, also separates us from God (See Rm 10:1-3). From this sin of self-righteousness we must also repent and be converted to the grace that was revealed through the Lord Jesus at the cross (See At 3:19).
Some have freed themselves from the problem of moral sin by repentance and baptism for the remission of sins (At 2:38). But this is only part of our deliverance from the bondage of our past. For example, some today still remain in bondage as many self-righteous Jews of the first century who were also baptized into Christ. However, these Jewish “Christians” often remained in the bondage of their past legal theologies of perfect law-keeping that they practiced while in Judaism. They subsequently brought such thinking and behavior into the church when they were baptized.
Some of the baptized Jews in the first century, therefore, tried to turn the gospel into “another gospel,” thus make the gospel of God’s grace another religious system of meritorious law-keeping (See Mk 7:1-9). They did this by imposing legal rites and rituals of Judaism on their fellow baptized Gentile brethren—specifically, they tried to impose circumcision and other statutes of the Sinai law on the Gentiles. “Truth” in the word of God was thus presumed to be a self-righteous meritorious performance of supposed legal requirements, rather than a road map to freedom for those who seek God for guidance out of the bondage moral sin and self-righteous religiosity. There is a vast difference between a religion of self-righteous keeping law, and a faith that is in response to the incarnational offering of the gospel of God’s grace.
Systematic theologies of law in reference to the righteousness of sinners are simply bad news. They generate sin every time an adherent convinces himself or herself that he or she has successfully (meritoriously) kept all the laws of the system. Systematic theologies are doctrinal outlines to which adherents have convinced themselves that they can legally perform everything on the required list in an effort to self-proclaim their own righteousness.
If we make the “truth of the gospel” a legal system of theology to which one must meritoriously subscribe perfectly in order to be saved, then we have joined the audience to which Paul addressed the entire letter of Galatians. We have, though we may have a “proof text” under each point of our canonized systematic theology, actually produced something that is another gospel, and thus contrary to the grace of God (See Gl 1:6-9). We have turned the law of Christ into a legal system of meritorious self-justification.
We conduct the GR Workshops in order to help people to study themselves out of this quagmire of human religious traditions and self-imposed ritualistic righteousness. In order to accomplish this goal, the Workshops are centered around the simple gospel of Jesus Christ. Essentially, our purpose in conducting the GR Workshops is mandated in the following statement that was originally inscribed by the Holy Spirit: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gl 5:1). That “yoke” is any canonized legal system of theology that is composed of meritorious religious rites and rituals, as well as experiential religiosity that is focused on ourselves. Obedience to the gospel delivers us from such a yoke of self-imposed bondage, and thus in GR Workshops we remind people that in their obedience to the gospel they have been set free from self-righteous religiosity, and thus they must stay free.
• Restoring knowledge of and purpose for historical posterity. When we refer to the gospel in reference to restoration, we are referring to an historical event, the core of which was revealed for posterity in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4: “I declare to you the gospel … that Christ died for our sins … that He was buried, that He rose again ….” The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is the center core of the gospel from which we must spiral out in study of the whole gospel in the word of God. We do so in order to understand the entirety of what was offered in those few hours Jesus was on the cross, and the three days He laid dead in a tomb.
The totality of the good news, therefore, required a body to be offered, crucified and resurrected, and the same body to ascend into heaven. Put in titular single words, therefore, the gospel is the incarnation, atoning death, resurrection, ascension, present kingdom reign, and eventual consummation of all things (See Ph 2:5-11). When we speak of gospel restoration, therefore, we seek to workshop each of these subjects in order to clearly understand the purpose of these historical events in reference to our transition from our present state of eventual carnal termination in this world into the opportunity of an eternal existence with the One who came in the flesh into this world for us.
• Restoring focus on the incarnate Son of God. Restoration of the gospel events, with all the salvational gems that surround these events, is the central focus of a GR Workshop. We must be clear on this point in reference to what Jesus cautioned in John 16:13,14. In His personal promise to the twelve apostles, Jesus said that “when He, the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you [apostles] into all the truth.” We understand this. But what is so often confused in the religious world today is what Jesus said in verse 14 in reference to the work of the Holy Spirit. Because Jesus knew that many would turn their focus from Him as the Savior of the world to the Holy Spirit, who was only a messenger of the truth of the gospel, Jesus added, “He will glorify Me ….”
When we speak of restoration, therefore, we are not talking about restoring the Holy Spirit in our lives. On the contrary, we are reminding people that what the Holy Spirit accomplished when He came upon the apostles has already been fulfilled. We have Bibles in our hands, the historical report of the gospel. We thus call for gospel restoration by studying the Holy Spirit’s report on the matter. Our obsession is with the Lord Jesus Christ. We assume that the Holy Spirit will do His work in our lives today regardless of our knowledge thereof. Restoration is in reference to our beliefs and behavior in response to the gospel.
We are on a mission to restore gospel study that is focused on the incarnate Son of God. As a disciple, it is understood that we study the Spirit-inspired word of God in order to understand God’s eternal plan of redemption. We are thus trying to help people to fulfill the mandate of 2 Peter 3:18: “Grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” We are on a restoration mission, therefore, to encourage people to get into the word of God that the Spirit produced in order to better our understanding of the atoning death of the incarnate Son of God, His resurrection, His present kingdom reign, and His eventual coming again to fetch us out of this world. A GR Workshop is all about Jesus.
• Restoring the ministry of gospel-driven disciples.
Gospel Restoration Workshops are conducted by gospel-driven disciples. This is not a group of ordained “professionals.” On the contrary, these are ordinary members of the body of Christ with an extraordinary faith in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These are those who sincerely feel that they must do something because the gospel of the heart of God is burning deep in their souls.
The GR Workshop team is composed of disciples throughout the church in Cape Town. These are those individuals who seek to live an incarnational life after the One who was incarnate in the flesh for them. These are those heart-motivated disciples who have allowed the gospel of Jesus to transform their lives (See Rm 12:1,2). They thus seek to work within the boundaries of South Africa, the people for whom they feel responsible as teachers. At the same time, they seek to encourage others to do the same in their nations.
If a GR Workshop outreach does not evolve among the disciples in any particular nation of the world, then that nation must fall under Jesus’ mandate of Mark 16:15. That nation has not heard the true good news of the incarnate Son of God, and thus not had the opportunity to in turn reach out to their nation with the gospel. People who are not gospel-driven will find it comfortable to sit on benches and pews Sunday after Sunday without being energized into action by the gospel. But those who truly understand the empowering nature of the incarnate and offered Son of God cannot sit idle. They are emotionally driven to help others on their gospel journey.
If the gospel has not motivated a team (“church”) of people locally, then it may be necessary to invite a “church” of dedicated gospel-driven people to workshop the gospel locally in order that the local disciples take ownership of their own nation. At least this seems to be the case in reference to Paul going to Roman in order to workshop the gospel among the few first generation disciples who lived there, which disciples still did not fully understand all the implications of the gospel (See Rm 1:13-16). But just in case he could not make it to Rome, Paul wrote a Spirit-inspired letter of the gospel of grace in order that the disciples in Rome connect the dots between the incarnation, cross and their baptism into Christ (Rm 6:3-6).
What we are encouraging is that the gospel-motivated disciples in every nation must generate a GR Workshop team effort in order to do what we are trying to do in South Africa. If a nation of disciples have not been motivated by the gospel to reach out to their own nation with teaching on the gospel, then they may have led themselves into the bondage of a legal system of self-righteous religiosity, and thus have no good news of freedom to proclaim to others. They have thus moved away from the simple freedom of the gospel. And having moved back into the bondage of law-keeping religiosity, they are, as some of the early Jewish Christians, trying to convert others to some system of legal religious theology to which possible converts must meritoriously adhere. And thus, they may be preaching their church as a legal system of salvation, rather than the church being serendipitous of the gospel of God’s grace.
In 2 Corinthians 4:15 Paul explained that it is the gospel of the grace of God that causes thanksgiving for all things that Son of God has done on our behalf. This is the driving force of the GR Workshop team. Our response to all these salvational sacrifices that the incarnate Son did for us causes us to go forth to conduct GR Workshops. What the South African GR Workshop team members are saying, therefore, is that they will take ownership of South Africa as far as conducting workshops, but they want to encourage other nations to be caused by God’s grace to take ownership of their own nations.
• Restoring unity among gospel-believing people. Regional members of the Western Cape make up the GR Workshop team. In other words, this is not the work of one “local church.” The team is composed of those who attend different assemblies of the church throughout the metropolitan area of Cape Town. These are gospel-motivated members who have determined to explain to others that God works with us as individual members of His one universal church in order to motivate gospel living and to accomplish His mission. Therefore, the Cape Town disciples, regardless of where they sit on Sunday morning, are working together as a “team” in order to reach out to other cities, towns and villages in South Africa.
One of the beautiful serendipitous blessings of the GR Workshop ministry is that the outreach presents an opportunity for every member of the body in a region to work together in a united effort to teach the gospel. Individual members must not allow autonomous theologies to keep them separated from one another as they seek to work together in a team effort. Both Timothy and Luke did not allow such divisiveness to hinder them from joining Paul’s evangelistic team when Paul’s team first passed through the churches in Lystra and Iconium and Troas (See At 16:1-3; 20:4-6).
In order to give and example of this gospel behavior of oneness, disciples throughout the city of Cape Town send their contributions to a single bank account in order to pay for the petrol, housing, literature and equipment that is necessary to conduct the GR Workshops. The team does not ask for any contributions during any GR Workshops. If a city, town or village hosts a Workshop, then team seeks to inform the host that they are not responsible for any expenses in reference to a local GR Workshop they may host. Cape Town disciples willingly pay all the bills. Therefore, local hosts can be assured that there will never be a request for contributions during any GR Workshop.
Please keep in mind that the GR Workshops are not a ministry of any one local group of disciples. Members of the body of Christ in Cape Town have “joined the team” through their contributions. This is gospel behavior. In other words, one does not have to go personally on a GR Workshop trip itself in order to be a member of the team. One can be a member of the team as the Philippian disciples when they sent contributions to the gospel team that went to Thessalonica from Philippi (See Ph 4:15-17). Through their contributions, the Philippians thus became a part of the team that went to Thessalonica, though the contributing members stayed in Philippi.
As mentioned by James, not everyone is a teacher (Js 3:1). Therefore, when there are teachers throughout a region who are gospel driven, then they seek to work together in order to restore gospel teaching in other regions. In our case, several gospel-driven teachers throughout Cape Town seek to work together in the region of South Africa. They do so by actually going on GR Workshop trips. Their collective desire to accomplish what Paul explained in Roman 1:13-16 is realized in the GR Workshops. This is possible because the extended GR Workshop team of many in Cape Town seek to send the “traveling teachers” on their journey (See 3 Jn 5-8).
• Restoring a call for unity that is based on the gospel. If there are those of any religious faith in a particular city who believe in Jesus as the resurrected, ascended and reigning Son of God, then it is time to call for a GR Workshop in that city in order to encourage people of faith to focus on the unity that is produced by a common obedience to the gospel (See Jd 3). A GR Workshop is focused on calling together all people of faith in a particular city, town or village who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Workshops are a call to all the “Apollos” and “eunuch” disciples in any region who are studying the word of God, and thus seeking to link with others who are on the same gospel page. The purpose of a GR Workshop is to encourage people to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus (See At 8:34,35; 18:24-26; 1 Pt 3:18). For this reason, it is the focus of a GR Workshop to call together and encourage all those who believe in Jesus as the incarnate and resurrected Son of God who is now reigning from heaven over His body of obedient subjects.
As the GR Workshop Team of Cape Town, it is our prayer that this statement will encourage you to conduct GR Workshops in your nation. Workshops are being conducted in South Africa because there are those throughout South Africa who have allowed the power of the gospel to work in their hearts. Because they realize that others are having some difficultly in working themselves out of religious bondage, they are willing to share with others the tremendous motivational power that is inherent in the gospel (Rm 1:16). These grace-motivated disciples are seeking to go from synagogue to synagogue (At 17:1-3), and into every desert place in order to open their mouths for Jesus (At 8:35). They are thus pleading with others to join them in making King Jesus the center of reference throughout the world. If you want to understand better the material that is presented in the GR Workshops, please download the following books. These books will give you more than enough material to conduct a three-hour GR Workshop in every city, town and village in your nation.
Download from www.africainternational.org, or Whatsapp +27 82 452 8100 for the following books: Book 33: 21st Century Restoration; Book 34: A Call For Restoration; Book 73: The Gospel Of God’s Heart; Book 76: Escape From Religion; Book 79: Gospel Restoration; Book 92: Releasing The Gospel; Book 103: Living The Truth Of The Gospel
THE FULLNESS OF THE TIME Restoration must be generated from within a society by the constant and consistent preaching of the gospel. It is difficult to import restoration movements simply because the movement is often attached to some expatriate culture, or worse, some supposedly “foreign religion.” So for this reason, God destined the incarnation of His only begotten Son into the flesh of a Jewish man in a Jewish society and a local spot on planet earth—Palestine (Jn 1:14). The importation was directly from heaven, a fact with which there could be no argument, though most of the early Jews vehemently denied this. To them Jesus was just another self-appointed Rabbi from an obscure village called Nazareth. Nevertheless, the Jews could not deny that Jesus was of Jewish origin.
The incarnate Son of God was born a Jew, born in a Jewish barn, grew up as a Jewish carpenter in a small Jewish village, and preached and taught only within Jewish territory. He never made a “mission trip” outside Palestine. His mission trips were always confined to His own people, the Jews. He then died as a condemned Jew outside the capital city of the Jews—Jerusalem. He was all Jew, and thus, never sought to change His Jewish heritage that had been laid as the foundation for revelation of the gospel for fourteen hundred years before His coming into this world. And thus, the first “gospel restoration” that took place in history was first among the Jews, as stated by the apostle Paul: The gospel “is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek [Gentiles]” (Rm 1:16).
When we read the Holy Spirit’s statement of Galatians 4:4, it is incumbent on us to think more historically about the meaning, rather than the fulfillment of prophecy. So when the Holy Spirit said, “when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a [Jewish] woman, born under law” our understanding of the statement goes beyond fulfillment of prophecy. Prophecies were fulfilled because the religious, social and political times were right.
The “birth” in the fullness of time was not inconsequential. That Jesus came into this world was certainly in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. But the statement of Galatians 4:4 does not infer that we should consider the “fullness of the time” with the same meaning of a similar statement that is commonly made throughout the gospel records: “That it might be fulfilled . . .” (See Mt 1:22; 2:15,17,23; 4:14; 5:18; 8:17; 12:17). These statements of the gospel records refer exclusively to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy in reference to Jesus. But the Galatians 4:4 statement emphasis is on “the time,” not the fulfillment time of prophecy. Galatians 4:4 focuses on the fact that it was the right time in history for the fulfillment of all Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of the Redeemer into the society of the Jews in Palestine. It was indeed a time of fulfillment, but we believe that something more was in the mind of the Holy Spirit when He made the statement of Galatians 4:4. (If we understand Galatians 4:4 correctly, then we will be looking around the world for similar peoples who are religiously, socially and politically receptive to the preaching of the gospel and a restoration to God through the Lord Jesus Christ.)
The “fullness of the time” referred to the religious, social and political circumstances that prevailed at the time the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in the coming of the Redeemer. Because the religious, social and political environment was suitable for the coming of the Messiah into the world, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John thus revealed “that it might be fulfilled” in reference to all the Old Testament prophecies that directed the minds of the Jews toward the coming of the Messiah and Savior of the world (Lk 24:44). Their minds had been prepared for the refreshing times to come from the presence of the Lord (At 3:19).
The preceding meaning of Galatians 4:4-7 was in the mind of the angel who delivered to the shepherds the following message concerning the birth of Jesus: “I bring you good tidings [gospel news] of great joy that will be to all the people. For to you a Savior is born this day in the city of David, who is Christ [Messiah] the Lord” (Lk 2:10,11). It is interesting that the angel did not wait until the second day in order to make this first gospel proclamation. On the contrary, this first announcement of the birth of the Redeemer was far more important than to tarry around for twenty-four hours until it was made. It was urgent that a gospel announcement of the incarnational entry of the Son of God into this world be made. The religious, social and political environment in which the shepherds lived, as well as all the Jews, demanded that the announcement urgently be made the very same day the birth event of the incarnation took place. The times were in their fullness in order that the Messiah and Savior of the world be announced and received. The time of refreshing had appeared from the very presence of the Lord, and thus, it was time for restoration.
It is important to understand the “times” in which the Son of God came. The Holy Spirit turns on the light bulb of understanding by what He had Paul inscribe in Galatians 4:7. The Son of God came “to redeem those who were under law” (Gl 4:4). The word “law” in this text does not carry with it the article “the” in the Greek text. Therefore, reference was to any law, especially legal religious rites and rituals under which we often bring ourselves into bondage, whether Jews or idolatrous Gentiles. This is true because the mission of the Christ was to be a Redeemer. He would bring into freedom those who had brought themselves into the bondage of self-righteous law-keeping. Since the redeemed—that is us—could not redeem themselves through any self-sanctify works of law, or meritorious obedience to any law, whether the Sinai law or some man-made law, they could find redemptive power only in the sacrificial offering of the crucified Redeemer. But in specific reference to the Jews, who would represent all religionists throughout history, they had bound upon themselves all sorts of religious rites and rituals that brought them into bondage (See Mk 7:1-9). Their bondage was so severe that the Jewish religionists of Jesus’ day were doing as Jesus said of them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God so that you may keep your own [religious] traditions” (Mk 7:9). When this spiritual condition prevails within a society, then it is time to call for a restoration in order that refreshing times might come from the presence of the Lord (See At 3:19). The only way to generate such refreshing times is to preach the gospel message that a Redeemer has appeared on earth in order to release us from our own self-imposed bondage.
The Redeemer of Galatians 4:5, therefore, came in a time when the Jews had rejected the law of God in order to enslave themselves in the bondage of their own religious legal traditions. We must never forget, therefore, that in our obedience to the freedom-giving nature of the gospel, we are being redeemed from our own misguided self-justification through an attempted perfect keeping of either law or self-imposed religious rites and rituals. And thus in our response to the gospel, we “are no longer a bondservant” to our own manufactured religiosity (Gl 4:7). For this reason we cry out “Abba, Father” in thanksgiving that we are saved by the gospel of God’s grace, not by any self-imposed religious rites and rituals that we might meritoriously impose on ourselves (2 Co 4:15). Glory HALLELUJAH!
GOSPEL RESTORATION BIBLE SCHOOL IN ROME Familiar passages must always be reexamined. And one of those passages that must always be reexamine is the commonly quoted statement of Paul in Romans 1:16:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel [good news], for it is the power [dunamis] of God unto [eis] salvation to every one who believes ….”
The context that explains this verse begins in verse 13, where Paul informed the Roman Christians that he had planned to come to them. He explains, however, that for some reason, we are not told, that he was hindered. To fully appreciate the significance of verse 16, therefore, it must be clearly understood that in the context Paul was writing his comments to Christians, not unbelievers. He was planning to go to Rome to meet with Christians who had previously heard and obeyed the gospel, possibly on a visit of some Jews to a Pentecost/Passover feast in Jerusalem (See At 2:9,10).
The fact that these were Christians to whom Paul planned to visit clarifies what he wanted to do when he arrived. He wanted to start a gospel Bible class. He explained his objective. He said that he wanted to visit them in order “that I might have some FRUIT among you also, even as I have among the other Gentiles” (Rm 1:13). His use of the word “fruit” would be better understood if he were going to unbelievers and preaching the gospel (See Ph 4:17). But in this context, the “fruit” refers to that which he wanted to produce in the hearts Christians, not unbelievers. This is a very interesting use of the word “fruit.” So verse 16 explains what he meant in reference to the “power” of the gospel that is able to continually produce fruit in the hearts of Christians.
Paul’s use of the word “fruit” in Romans 1:13 is similar to how he used the word in the context of Philippians 1:9-11. He desired that the Philippians “abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment . . . being filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” (Ph 1:9,11). Paul likewise desired the same in the lives of the Christians in Rome. He wanted to bear the fruit of righteousness in them that began when they first responded to the gospel. Therefore, they would continue in the production of fruit by their continued study of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So herein lies the key to why Paul wanted to go to Rome. He wrote in verse 15, “So as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you [Christians] also who are at Rome.” This is a very interesting statement in view of the fact that the good news (gospel) of the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and coronation of Jesus Christ is a message that is normally preached to unbelievers, not to those who already believe and have obeyed the gospel by immersion into Christ for the remission of their sins.
Some analysis is thus in order. What confuses some is that most translators use the English word “preach” to translate a word that is not the common word that is used for “preach” in the New Testament. The common word for “preach” is kerusso. This is the Greek word that is used to make a public announcement or proclamation about news that affects the community. When proclaiming the gospel to unbelievers, therefore, the word kerusso is the most appropriate word. Preaching is an announcement of good news to unbelievers.
But the word that Paul used in verse 15 is not kerusso, but the Greek word euaggelizo. This word is used to convey the concept of carrying on discussions concerning good news. This is the word that is used when emphasis is on teaching Christians matters concerning the good news of the Son of God coming into this world, His atoning sacrifice, and His present reign at the right hand of God the Father (See At 5:42; 8:4,12,35; 10:36; 11:20).
Contexts in which euaggelizo is used emphasize that the teacher is explaining the gospel to an audience or individual, particularly an audience of Christians. This brings us to the context of Paul’s statement in Romans 1:16. He wanted to go to the disciples in Rome in order to instruct them further in matters concerning the gospel. In the context, he already pointed out the reason for his trip. He wanted to produce the fruit of righteousness among the disciples in Rome. But there is also another understanding that we must take away from Romans 1:16.
Paul wrote that the gospel “is the power [dunamis] of God unto [eis] salvation.” The Greek word for “power” is dunamis, the word from which the English word “dynamite” is derived. We could metaphorically take the function of dynamite back into the statement that Paul made in reference to what a growing knowledge of the gospel does in one’s heart. As dynamite moves great stones, so the gospel of the incarnate Son of God moves hearts. In other words, the good news of the incarnation, atoning death, resurrection, ascension, and present reign of the Lord Jesus, is God’s motivational dynamite to move one into the realm of salvation, and subsequently, into the continued transformation of one’s life.
The gospel is not the salvation, it is the dynamite that motivates hearts to do that which is necessary in order to bring one into the realm of salvation. For this reason, Paul used the linear action of the participle of the word belief (believing). That is, if one begins and continues to believe, then the gospel continues to be the motivating power that leads to a life of continuous behavioral transformation (Rm 12:2).
If one does not continue to believe in the historical events of the gospel, then he will lose his salvation (See 1 Co 15:1,2). If we continue to believe the gospel, therefore, we will continue to allow Christ to be formed in our lives. This was Paul’s fatherly concern for the first generation disciples to whom he had preached the gospel in Galatia. “My Little children for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you” (Gl 4:19). Christ is not completely formed in one immediately at the time he or she obeys the gospel in baptism. “Forming,” or “transformation,” is a lifetime project for those who continue to believe and behave the gospel of Jesus. This point is what makes the statement, “Just believe on, or accept Jesus as your personal Savior,” so shallow in reference to the lifetime struggle to grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus (See 2 Pt 3:18).
The gospel was an historical event that revealed the grace of God wherein only there is salvation. In an obedient response to this divine journey of the incarnate Son of God, the “beginning believer” is baptized into Christ (Rm 6:3-6; Gl 3:26-29). And if we are continually motivated by the death, burial and resurrection of the incarnate and reigning Lord Jesus Christ, then we will walk in the abundant life in this life (Jn 10:10), but also into eternal life when the Lord Jesus returns for His own.
It is the gospel that motivates those who are willing to believe, and thus be brought into the realm of God’s grace through their obedience that is manifested in baptism. Baptism, therefore, is not an action in reference to simply obeying law, but a response to the gospel. If it were simply a response to law, then we might feel that we have merited our salvation through our legal obedience to law. But if baptism is a personal response to the gospel, then what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:15 comes alive: “For all things [in reference to the revelation of the gospel] are for your sakes, so that the grace that is reaching many people may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.”
GOSPEL RESTORATION BIBLE SCHOOL IN ROME In Romans 1:16 Paul linked gospel and salvation with one Greek word, the word eis. Simply believing in the gospel is not enough to bring one into the realm of salvation. The gospel is only the motivational power to stir one unto obedience of the gospel, and subsequently come into the realm of salvation. It is at the point of baptism that one’s sins are washed away by the gospel offering of the blood of Jesus (At 22:16). It is thus at the point of baptism that one is raised with Christ into a salvational relationship with God (Rm 6:3-6).
The historical event of the sacrificial offering of the incarnate Son of God will stir belief. But this belief must be a participle of action, not a once-off statement of belief in self-declaring one’s salvation. The active belief about which Paul wrote in Romans 1:16 was an action that must continue throughout one’s life. The same thought was stated by Jesus, but in different words: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk 16:16). The believer will come into the realm of salvation only when his faith is stirred into action. He will come into this realm through obedience to the gospel wherein one’s sins are initially forgiven. It is also at this time that one’s cleansing of sin begins and continues throughout one’s life if one’s belief does not wane (At 2:38; 1 Jn 1:7). For this reason Paul wanted to go to the Christians in Rome and remind them again of the gospel to which they had responded.
The good news of the Son of God coming into this world, going to the cross, and His present reign, is the power that moves hearts from the time one first believes, until his last dying breath. This is the power that moves one into (eis) the realm of God’s grace, wherein he or she is saved. And thus, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves [through meritorious law-keeping], it is the gift of God” (Ep 3:8). When the gift of God’s Son becomes awesome in our hearts, it is then that we are moved with thanksgiving throughout our lives. Paul’s going to Rome in order to conduct a gospel Bible class, therefore, should generate a perfect attendance on the part of the Roman Christians.
The statement of the attached billboard lists the centrality of the good news (gospel) that was carried out from the time a woman cried out in childbirth in a barn in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, to the moment when that same child, as a grown man with nail holes in His hands, disappeared in a cloud from His apostles’ sight somewhere in Palestine. Some have believed in this gospel journey of the Son of God, but have never taught a lesson on the incarnation of God into the flesh of man. And yet, the incarnation establishes the very heart of what constitutes the mentality and life of a believer (See Ph 2:5-11).
And then there are some who fail to understand the extent of the present kingdom reign of the incarnate Son of God, assuming that He is coming sometime in the future in order to begin His reign as God on this speck of dust that we call the earth. They assume that His present reign is limited to the church of believers whose members are sprinkled throughout the world. They have not understood that He now reigns over all things, including the church of believers (1 Pt 3:22).
Religionists who do not preach and teach the incarnation of God, nor believe in the totality of Jesus’ present reign over all things, are preaching and teaching a marginalized gospel message. As a result, they often fill in the gaps of their message with religious rites and ceremonies that they assume merit a salvational relationship with God. In doing so, they unwittingly establish a self-righteous system of religion to escape the implications of incarnational living after the One in whom they believe was only some good religious teacher who wandered throughout Palestine. But in teaching such a limited understanding of the gospel, they are actually preaching another gospel, that is, fragments of the true gospel that is saturated with meritorious religious rites and ceremonies that one must obey in order to be justified before God.
There can be no unity among such religionists simply because everyone is binding religious rites and ceremonies that are unique with their particular denominated group. They thus believe and teach another gospel that opens the door for self-righteous religiosity that marginalizes the sanctification of the incarnate Son of God on the cross.
This book was written to call out of the religious world misguided religionists who would seek to come into a unity of faith that is based on the totality of the gospel, the final action of which will be revealed in Jesus’ revelation from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire. He is coming again in order to take vengeance on all those who refused to respond to His gospel journey to this earth, which journey is reported to us in the Bible. If one does not respond in obedience to the His gospel, then there will be some unfortunate consequences when He comes again (See 2 Th 1:6-9).
Please download and share this book with your religious friends who have been frustrated with all the division among people of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We can be united on the foundation of the gospel, and thus, give one another freedom in those areas that do not infringe on the gospel. The more we agree on and focus on the gospel, many points of debate on other issues simply vanish away.
The forerunner of Jesus, John, was tagged with the nickname, “the Baptist.” He so carried the name, “John the Baptist” because he was preaching “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” and baptizing people “for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:1,4). Because he was preaching and baptizing, “THERE WENT OUT TO HIM all the land of Judea and those from Jerusalem” (Mark 1:5). Subsequently, “they were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins” (Mark 1:5). This is exciting!
It is interesting to note in the narrative of John’s ministry, that everyone who went out to be baptized by him, did so because they believed that John, as a prophet, was preaching a message that was given to him by God. They were subsequently baptized because God said that they must be baptized. They KNEW NOTHING about the gospel of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, for at the time of John’s preaching, Jesus had been neither crucified nor resurrected. They KNEW NOTHING about the gospel reign of King Jesus, for Jesus had not yet ascended to the right hand of God. And yet, on basis of their simple faith that a preacher was preaching what God said one must do, THEY WERE WILLING TO BE BAPTIZED. This is what a true believer does.
If you read this book, THE GOSPEL COVENANT, and have not been baptized in the name of Jesus, then be careful about plagiarized the name “Christian.” You might be as those religious rulers during Jesus’ ministry who “believed on Jesus,” but were not willing to confess Him (John 12:42). We assume, therefore, that there are many today who “believe on Jesus,” but because they are not willing to be baptized into His name, they are not yet true believers. Therefore, if one has not been baptized, and yet believes on Jesus as the Son of God, then he or she should say as the Ethiopian eunuch after hearing the gospel message of Jesus, “Here is water, what hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). We must remember that true believers do not have to be asked to be baptized for the remission of their sins. On the contrary, they are willing to go out from Judea and Jerusalem, or from any place in order to find “much water” in order to be baptized, as John the Baptist baptized “believers” in the wilderness near Salim (John 3:23).