We need to understand in as simple terms as possible the events of the gospel. When we use this word, we are referring to the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and present kingdom reign of Jesus, the Son of God. Without going into detail in explaining every event of what Jesus did for us in order that we have the opportunity to join Him in eternity, we suggest that the reader download Book 79, Gospel Restoration, from the Biblical Research Library at the following website: www.africainternational.org.
An unfortunate misunderstanding centers around how people have failed to understand the gospel in the context of the New Testament. To many the word is erroneously used to refer to law. For example, when someone would say, “We must obey the gospel,” what is often meant is that we must obey the law of God. But this understanding is contrary to the gospel itself as it is revealed in the New Testament. The fact that one would use the word “gospel” to refer to a legal system of law is a denial of the gospel itself.
Immediately after Jesus returned from His fast in the wilderness, He “came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God” (Mk 1:14). Does this mean He started preaching the law of God? Is the gospel just another system of law that must be meritoriously obeyed? If it were, then the Jewish audience to whom Jesus preached would have understood that He was just preaching another system of law, as opposed to the Sinai law under which they sought to justify themselves before God.
The English word “gospel” was used by translators to translate the Greek word euaggelion. This word simply means “good news.” But if the word “gospel” means law, then it would not be good news. Law is not good news simply because no one can keep law perfectly in order to save himself. There are no perfect law-keepers who are saved, no, not one (Rm 3:9,10). In fact, Paul said he lived until law came: “For without law, I was once alive. But when the commandment came, sin revived and I died” (Rm 7:9).
Paul told Peter that because they could not be justified by law-keeping, they fled to Christ (Gl 2:16). In view of the early Jewish Christians’ attempt to be delivered from law, and thus, sin and death, why would the Holy Spirit supposedly use the word “gospel” as a reference to another system of law under which one would again be brought into bondage because it too could not be obeyed perfectly? In other words, in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 Paul revealed that Jesus was coming from heaven to destroy from the presence of God all “those who have not obeyed the gospel.” Did he mean that those who had not obeyed every point of law would lose their souls? Did he infer, therefore, that the gospel, if it is law, must be obeyed perfectly in order for one not to suffer destruction from the presence of the Lord?
When Jesus began His ministry, He stated the good news (gospel) that He had arrived and was going to the cross in order to reveal the grace of God by which men could be saved. Little by little throughout His earthly ministry He taught the people about the coming grace, though His first disciples did not understand the good news (gospel) of the cross until after the event.
As Paul explained briefly in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, the gospel was the revelation of the death of the incarnate Son of God for our sins. It was His resurrection for our hope. This was an act of grace on the part of God, not law. This all happened in history before one word was written of the New Testament. This was the grace of God that was revealed as an event on a cross outside Jerusalem. Obedience to the gospel does not refer to obedience to another system of law whereby one would seek to justify himself before God. Obedience to the gospel is joining with Jesus on the cross, in the tomb, and in His resurrection (See Rm 6:3-6). Our obedience to the gospel is a response to the grace of God that was revealed at the cross over two thousand years ago (2 Co 4:15; Ti 2:11). The “truth of the gospel” is the offering of Jesus for our sins on the cross (See Cl 1:5; Gl 2:5,14). So hereafter when we speak of “obedience to the gospel,” we are not referring to obedience to another system of law, but to a response to the grace of God that was revealed through the death, burial, resurrection, ascension and reign of the incarnate Son of God. We obey this gospel by our own repentance, burial and resurrection from the grave of water.
Somewhere between the extremes and misunderstandings concerning grace, there must be a simple understanding of God’s grace that is important and central to Christian faith. We would not for a moment believe that what is so important concerning our salvation would be difficult to understand. Because some have developed their own theologies on grace in reaction to legal religiosity, we must caution ourselves when we come to the New Testament in order to study this subject. We must guard our objectivity by allowing the word of God to speak for itself. We must assume that understanding the grace of God is not difficult simply because God wants us to be assured of our salvation. Grace should bring comfort, not theological confusion. Grace brings peace of mind in reference to our relationship with God. We must assume, therefore, that the Holy Spirit’s teaching on the subject is so clear that even the novice student of the Bible can understand the truth of the matter.
[Next in series: Oct. 20]