So in order to make an emphatic statement about what the Holy Spirit sought to remind all of us in the New Testament, the Spirit emphasized the power of the gospel as the central motivating factor to Christian living. There can be no politics in our total commitment to live the gospel. If we marginalize the gospel, we marginalize its power to transform our lives. We marginalize the cross and the sacrifice of the One who was nailed there.
• The truth of the gospel means that the gospel is true: In the three letters that Paul wrote to the two evangelists, Timothy and Titus, the fact of the gospel was made strikingly clear in his use of the phrase “the truth.” Before the letters were written, both evangelists had been with Paul for several years in his efforts to preach the gospel. These two former companions in the ministry of the gospel believed that the gospel was true. For this reason, Paul used the abbreviated form of the phrase “the truth of the gospel” in reference to all the gospel events and their significance throughout his letters to the two former fellow workers. He did not have to use the entire phrase. Because Timothy and Titus had preached the truth of the gospel with Paul for years, Paul needed only to remind the two evangelists of the message they had preached by using the abbreviated phrase, “the truth.”
Therefore, when we go on a journey with Paul through his three letters to Timothy and Titus, something becomes clear in reference to the power of the gospel and our necessity to continue to respond to the report (the New Testament) of the events that revealed the good news of God’s grace. If the reader has previously been schooled that the phrase “the truth” is a reference to some system of theology by which we can self-justify ourselves before God, then the following exercise of reading quotations throughout 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus will be quite helpful, if not revealing. If nothing would change one’s thinking from making “the truth” some self-justifying system of doctrine, to the historical events of the incarnational offering, resurrection, ascension and present kingdom reign of the Son of God that inspires godly living, then one is stuck in religion. He or she has denied the faith. He or she has severed themselves from Christ. Therefore, the following is a reading of the texts of Paul’s letters, with the phrase “of the gospel” added when Paul used the phrase “the truth”:
• 1 Timothy 2:4: God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth [of the gospel].” It is absolutely necessary to know the gospel before one can obey the gospel. However, knowing the gospel is not a matter of better understanding codes of doctrine. Neither is meritorious law-keeping the truth of the gospel. When we better understand the eternal sacrifice of the Son of God, it is then that we are motivated to begin living the gospel by first obeying it in baptism (Rm 6:3-6). It is this that God desires all men know. In order for the gospel to be known, it must first be preached.
• 1 Timothy 2:7: “For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I speak the truth [of the gospel] in Christ.” Paul announced the true events of the good news. It was not an announcement of doctrinal matters of law-keeping that he preached to the world. It was the truth concerning the gospel journey of the incarnate Son of God. He was personally chosen by Jesus to preach this good news to the world.
• 1 Timothy 3:15: “But if I tarry long, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth [of the gospel].” We, the church, are the medium through which the events of the gospel are made known to the world. God will not send angels to preach the crucifixion and resurrection. We are the pillar and ground of the gospel simply because the world will never know the gospel unless we live and preach it.
• 1 Timothy 4:1,3: “Now the Spirit clearly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith [Jd 3], … forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from foods that God has created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth [of the gospel.” Religionists will devise all sorts of religious rites, rituals and ceremonies in reference to religious behavior. These performances are preached in order to draw people to favorite religious groups. But those who have obeyed the gospel will always receive with thanksgiving those things that have been created by God. They do so because they believe what Jesus did for them. Their motivation is the good news about the incarnational sacrifice of the Son of God and the fact that He is now reigning over all things.
• 1 Timothy 6:3-5: Some are “obsessed with controversy and disputes about words, from which come … perverse disputings between men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth [of the gospel], supposing that godliness is a means to gain.” If there is no believe in the truth that Jesus is the resurrected King, then there is no impetus (power) in the gospel to motivated change in our lives. Men can dispute about certain points on an outline of doctrine, but there can be absolutely no debate about the events of the gospel journey of Jesus.
• 2 Timothy 2:17,18: “And their word will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymanaeus and Philetus, who concerning the truth [of the gospel] have strayed, saying that the resurrection is already past. And they overthrow the faith of some.” If indeed Jesus was not raised from the dead, then there is no reason to live righteously before God. Those who do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus have sucked the power of the gospel. Their faith has been overthrown, and as those who presume to be followers of Jesus, they wreck the faith of others.
• 2 Timothy 2:24,25: “And the servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those who oppose themselves, if God perhaps will grant them repentance leading to a full knowledge of the truth [of the gospel].” In other words, one cannot understand the good news of the incarnate Son of God if he does not live a repentant life. We repent in changing our lives to conform to the life that was illustrated by Jesus during His earthly ministry. Repentance in the New Testament is not in reference to changing doctrinal beliefs, though one must change beliefs if he or she believes that the gospel events truly occurred. We believe what Jesus said because we believe He was raised from the dead. But we must first believe in the events of the gospel before we change our beliefs, and most important, change our lives.
• 2 Timothy 3:6,7: “For of these are those who creep into houses and lead captive gullible women weighed down with sins, let away with various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth [of the gospel].” If one would fully understand that the Son of God was crucified for our sins, then the desire to sin would be suppressed. But some, because of their desire to live unrighteously, never want to understand the love of God for them that was revealed through the incarnation and crucifixion of His Son. Those who do not want to transform their lives in order to spiritually align with Jesus will never understand who Jesus really was and is (See Rm 12:1,2).
• 2 Timothy 3:8: “Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth [of the gospel]—men of corrupt minds, rejected concerning the faith.” Those who are corrupted in their thinking have no desire to come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ and His sacrificial offering for their sins. Those who are rebellious against authority will always resist the authority that has been given to King Jesus (Mt 28:18; Ep 1:19-23; Hb 1:3).
• 2 Timothy 4:3,4: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound teaching [about the gospel]. But to suit their itching ears, they will surround themselves with those who will agree with their own desires. And they will turn away their ears from the truth [of the gospel], and will be turned to fables.” Some religions are created after the desires of those who want to live immoral lives. For example, many today seek to live in fornication (adultery, lesbianism, homosexuality) because they seek to follow after the lusts of the flesh. Some religions are fabricated around the desires of those who have thus gone astray morally. It is for this reason that they do not desire any knowledge of a resurrected King Jesus before whom we all must eventually give account (See Hb 4:13; 9:27).
• Titus 1:2: “Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth [of the gospel] that is according to godliness.” The gospel is according to godliness because those who believe that the gospel is true seek to live a repentant live in conformity to the instructions of their Father.
• Titus 1:13,14: “This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply so that they may be sound in the faith [Jd 3], not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth [of the gospel].” When religious people start believing in fables and the religious authority of the commandments of men, they turn away from the power of the gospel. Therefore, it is inherent in religion itself to be opposed to the true events of the incarnational journey of the Son of God.
• Falling from a life-style: Obedience in response to the gospel means that one is motivated to live within the parameters of the instructions of the One who loved us through the offering of His Son. Therefore, our lives must reveal that Jesus Christ is our Lord. Our submission to the lordship of Jesus must be revealed in the life of every disciple of Jesus. If one would fall away from the gospel, therefore, he falls away because his life is no longer motivated and controlled by the lordship of King Jesus. In the first century, such falling away was happening among many of the Jewish Christians prior to the fall of Jerusalem in A. D. 70. This was a falling away that was addressed by the Hebrew writer about thirty years after the event of the gospel in Jerusalem. It was a falling away unto destruction (Hb 10:38,39).
James, John and Jude wrote at about the same time as the Hebrew writer, sometime in the decade before the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A. D. 70. It is not incidental, therefore, that all four writers referred to “the truth” of the gospel events in their letters. Their use of the phrase “the truth” was a reference to the motivation that encouraged a life-style that would keep one in fellowship with God (See 1 Jn 1:3). It was not that people were falling away from a catechism of doctrine, but from the power that encouraged one to continue in the faith. The following statements, therefore, must be understood in the context of what the gospel of God’s grace must cause in the life of those who believe that Jesus Christ is the incarnate, resurrected and reigning Son of God:
• Hebrews 10:26: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth [of the gospel], there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” This is not a reference to receive an outline of law, but receiving a knowledge that Jesus was the Messiah and offering of God for the sins of the world. If we would turn away from this truth, then the offering of Jesus for our sins no longer continues in our lives.
• James 5:19,20: “Brethren, if any of you strays from the truth [of the gospel], and one brings him back, let him know that he who converts the sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” The error is in straying from our belief that Jesus was the incarnate Son of God who was offered for our sins. We are saved by the gospel as long as we continue to believe in the salvational events of the gospel (See 1 Co 15:1,2).
• 1 John 1:6: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth [of the gospel].” Reference here is not to performing the points on an outline of doctrine, but to living in thanksgiving of our Savior Jesus who offered Himself for us. The power of the gospel, therefore, is beyond salvational matters in reference to baptism for remission of sins. The power of the gospel continues in the lives of baptized believers in order that they are transformed into the image of the One who died for them (Rm 12:1,2). When lives are transformed, then people are living the gospel that they obeyed in baptism.
• 1 John 1:8: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth [of the gospel] is not in us.” It is true that we continue to sin when in Christ. However, if we say that we are not sinners in Christ, then the gospel of Jesus’ redemption is invalidated by our desire to live in sin. When we continue to allow the mind of the Son of God to influence our behavior, it is then that the transforming power of His gospel journey changes and guides our lives (See Ph 2:5-11).
• 1 John 2:4: “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar. And the truth [of the gospel] is not in him.” Those who are disobedient to the will of God cease allowing the grace of God to cause thanksgiving in their lives. Since the gospel of God’s grace must motivate us to be obedient to the will of our Father, if we say that we are living by the gospel while willfully sinning, then we are liars. One’s faith in the truth of the gospel motivates one to live in response to the gospel.
• 1 John 2:21: “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth [of the gospel], but because you now it, and because no lie is of the truth [of the gospel].” We accept the letters of the New Testament because we have not grown dull of hearing (Hb 5:11). We believe what is written about the gospel because we believe the gospel.
• 1 John 3:19: “And by this we will know that we are of the truth [of the gospel], and will assure our heart before Him.” We will know that we are living after the gospel when we live in gratitude of what the Son of God did for us at the cross. When we are motivated by this faith, then we are of the gospel. When we are motivated by the same love by which God loved us, then we know that we are of Him (1 Jn 4:9,19).
• 1 John 5:6: “This is He who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by the water and the blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is [bears witness to] the truth [of the gospel].” The Holy Spirit bears witness to the gospel through the New Testament letters that were written in order to explain the gospel, as well as reveal the effect the gospel had on the lives of thousands of people in the first century. The Holy Spirit is the revelation of the event of the gospel (See 1 Co 15:1-4).
• 2 John 1,2: “The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, for the sake of the truth [of the gospel] that dwells in us and will be with us forever.” God and His Son dwell in us as we live in response to the redemptive work of the Son. His sacrificial redemptive work will take us into eternity.
• 3 John 8: “Therefore, we ought to show hospitality to such men [evangelists] so that we might be fellow workers for the truth [of the gospel].” Jesus commissioned His first disciples to preach the gospel to the world (Mk 16:15,16). When Christians, as Gaius, financially support those who go forth and preach the gospel, then they are partnering with those evangelists they support. Supporting evangelists thus makes one a fellow worker to preach the gospel to the world.
• 3 John 3,4: “For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth [of the gospel] that is in you, just as you walk in truth [of the gospel]. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth [of the gospel].” John’s reference to “walking” was a metaphor that explained the life-style of Gaius to whom he wrote. It was not that Gaius was living according to the subpoints of an outline on Christian living. He was walking in response to the fact that he believed that the gospel was true. In this way he lived in response to the gospel, and thus, the gospel was in him. We can know, therefore, that one believes the gospel by the manner of his or her behavior in response to the gospel.
• 3 John 12: “Demetrius has a good report from all, and of the truth [of the gospel] itself.” If one walks in response to the grace of the gospel, then his walk reveals that he lives in response to the gospel. Our lives, therefore, should manifest to the world that King Jesus is our Lord.
[End of series. Look for the book.]