"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

About me

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Independent Gospel

"What is this chlorophyll in my milkshake, Mom?"

This is exactly (or approximately, at least) what a child would say if he or she were handed a chocolate milkshake into which a floret of broccoli had been blended.  It would not go unnoticed and it would not be appreciated.  This, however, is how many churches and individuals treat the gospel.  To such as these, the gospel may not be pleasant, but it is good for a person - much like a plate of lima beans.  It needs some sugar to sweeten its allure.  And so these peddlers of false hope couch the precious gospel of Christ amidst enticements calculated to bedazzle even the most worldly of sinners.

To pronounce this tragedy as devastating is understating the case.  The gospel is looked upon almost as a necessary evil, or else it is dispensed with altogether.  Such treatment for the dearest treasure to ever grace our sin-worn world!  How do we treat this gospel, the only avenue to eternal life we will ever see?  It is enough to make a grown man weep, to consider how pastors or music groups or fellow believers tiptoe around the gospel and mention it so guardedly that it becomes almost the Christian version of an inside joke - without the humor. 

May these words of Paul, long esteemed by the church he helped to found, serve either to encourage or to convict us in this matter:  "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (Rom. 1:16) These words resonate with a tireless and burning spiritual potency, and they should clamorously issue from our own hearts with an unrivalled earnestness and faithfulness such that we daily thrust our very lives into the hands of our sovereign Lord, to use always and only as He sees fit!  No matter how beleaguered we may grow, these words hold faithful and true in all things.  If nothing else, be encouraged in reading this.

A few brief considerations on this verse:

1.  The gospel is God's power unto salvation, not ours.  This is not a scepter we can pry from His omnipotent fingers.  The Lord calls us to give His gospel to an unbelieving world, and as we do so, we can and should command all the tact, wisdom, gentleness, and love which we can muster, but this never extends to altering the gospel itself to force a result within someone.  We proclaim it in fullness and God in turn unleashes the power of salvation according to His own inscrutable will.  We must know both our place and His in this work.

2.  It is the power of God unto salvation only for those who believe.  Here is how God has determined where the power of salvation will go.  Belief (also translated as "faith" in the Greek) itself is a heavenly gift, imparted by God alone so that any boasting on our parts is an utter lie (Eph. 2:8-9 - what believer does not know these verses?).  Without this gift of belief, the gospel will not come in power, and would not be received, even if it were. 

There are no handholds, loopholes, or back doors that allow for human interference here.  God grants belief.  He opens the heart of the sinner to feel the offense of sin before God, and then convinces this sinner of the reality of Christ's saving work until the sinner can do nothing but cry out for salvation.  God then sends the power of His salvation.  These acts cannot be duplicated by mere humans - can we enliven a dead heart to turn inexplicably toward the God it has always despised (Rom. 3:10-12)?  Can we explain things to a heart that only the Spirit of God can disclose (1 Cor. 2:10-14)?  So it is less than worthless - it is downright dangerous - to expect people to be saved by a weak or false gospel, and it is fully blasphemous to suppose that God might honor belief in such an abomination. 

3.  There need be no shame in the gospel.  It is a simple thing to regard the rich and full gospel as something that can only bring confusion and rejection to an unbeliever, and ridicule upon the believer.  This is how we allow ourselves to be ashamed of the gospel.  Paul Himself wrote that "the word of the cross is foolishenss to those who are perishing" (1 Cor. 1:18), but this fact did not compel him toward shame, exactly because this gospel which the world regards as foolish is God's unfailing power unto salvation!  It does its work precisely as God intends it to - for those whom He enlivens, it turns from complete foolishness to precious, live-giving, unfailing hope!  What shame could there be in so perfect a work from so perfect a God?  Far from prompting a debilitating, dishonoring shame, the reality of God's gospel should spur us toward greater service of Him in seeking the spread of His kingdom of glory!

There is no place for a weak, vague gospel in which God's avowed power is replaced for a wholly inadequate, ineffectual human substitute.  This is, to be honest, the best possible news for His children, as we do not have to bear the burden of being the unbeliever's only hope.  We passionately proclaim the message in love and faithfulness, and our God works through that as He desires.  We have our simple, happy, loving work, and God has His glorious, effectual, sovereign work. 


Post a Comment

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Bluehost Coupons