The Centrality of the Gospel in the Christian Life and Community
Wiseman Baptist Association October 20, 2017
On October 11, 2017, Pope Francis, the highest and central figure of the Roman Catholic church stated, “The death penalty, no matter how it is carried out is in itself, contrary to the Gospel.” The Wiseman Baptist Association 23 development of church teaching, Pope Francis insisted, is not the same as contradicting or changing church teaching. “Tradition is a living reality and only a partial vision would lead to thinking of “the deposit of faith” as something static. Pope Francis made these remarks at the 25th Anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church at the Vatican (Catholic News Service, Accessed October 12, 2017, catholicnews.com). Clearly, the pope’s statement contradicts the Scriptures found throughout the Old and New Testaments (Genesis 9, Romans 13); however, culture and secular convictions have crept into the thinking of religious elites, and new doctrines are introduced which are contrary to sound doctrine.
This article is not about the pope, Roman Catholic Church, or a defense of the “death penalty.” The focus of this article is to discuss the centrality of the gospel in Christian life and community. The pope mentioned that the “death penalty is in itself contrary to the Gospel.” In our culture, there are many other things that the world would propose are contrary to the gospel. First, we must consider, “What is the Gospel?” Second, how does the Gospel motivate Christian behavior or ethics? The purpose of this report will be to remind all our churches to remain true or plumb (Amos 7:8) with the Gospel and to continuously educate its members of its glorious and liberating truth. This was the driving passion of the Apostle Paul as he had witnessed the churches of Galatia being bewitched or so quickly removed from the Gospel. He wrote one of His most passionate letters defending and defining the one and only glorious gospel of Jesus Christ (Galatians).
We are living in a time when there are many messages being proclaimed in the world and promoted as being from God. All of the world religions outside of Christianity make a claim of having a way to heaven and provide a world view for their followers to live by. Our dear brothers and sisters within our churches do not need to be swayed that there may be other ways to get to heaven. Within Christendom, there are many messages from many churches that proclaim to be presenting the Gospel; however, when evaluated under the light of the truth of Scripture, they are deemed shallow, artificial, and false. Some of the “so called” gospels are filled with “self-help and self-righteousness” promoting a better you. The focus is on self, and in the “health, wealth, and prosperity” gospel, many are focused on their best life right now. These messages are filled with self-sufficiency, shallowness, and shimmering lights of worldliness rather than dependence on God, theological depth, and the Light of the world.
The first question before us is “What is the Gospel?” Simply stated, it is good news from heaven. The Scripture describes God’s message as the gospel (Luke 4:18), gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23), gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1:1), gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24), gospel of God (Rom. 1:1), gospel of his Son (Rom. 1:9), gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16), gospel of peace (Rom. 10:15), Christ’s gospel (2 Cor. 2:12), glorious gospel of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4), gospel of your salvation (Eph. 1:13), gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 1:8), glorious gospel of the blessed God (1 Tim. 1:11), and everlasting gospel (Rev. 14:6). It is a message from God, about God, and for God. The Gospel is heaven sent, holy, and about humanity’s rescue from its plight of sin to live a life pleasing to God.
The Apostle Paul described it in 2 Timothy 1:10 saying, “But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:” He also summed up the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 stating, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” The entirety of Paul’s ministry was to proclaim, “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 1:17, 2:2). This is the same message God delivered to the first man, Adam, in Eden and demonstrated in type through the shedding of blood and providing a covering for man’s nakedness before God (Gen. 3:15-21). The Gospel reveals the holiness of God, sinfulness of man, consequence of sin being death, and redemption through Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross. It is the greatest news in the world and the only news wherein a person can know how to get right with God (Romans 1:17). The imperative among humanity is “repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
Since this is a message from God, it cannot be tampered with without consequences. Any deviation from or dumbing down of the Gospel will lead to gospel erosion in the church, loss of spiritual power, and cause little impact on the community outside the church (Rom. 1:16). In some places, it is reduced to four spiritual laws or just a message to get one saved. It is so much more. The good news from heaven is about God’s work in this broken world and impacts every area of a person’s life. God reigns and is seated high and lifted up on His throne. He is in control. He is angry with the wicked every day and will not clear the guilty (Psalm 7:11, Ex. 34:7). He has offered an abundant pardon for those who repent and have faith in Jesus Christ, His beloved Son (Isa. 55:7). When a person is saved by grace through faith, he or she is right with God and called to follow Jesus as a faithful disciple (Eph. 2:8-10). This requires making a public profession of faith through baptism at a gospel-centered church and being a witness throughout their lives attesting to the goodness and grace of God (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8, 2:38). The church which preaches and lives out a robust gospel will know God’s power, see lives transformed, and be going into the world advancing the kingdom of God through mission work and church planting to the glory of His great name.
The vision of God’s glory displayed in the Gospel is not always what we see in the homes and churches around us. Instead, fathers are absent or not focused on spiritual matters in the home. Mothers lead the home spiritually or dismiss those responsibilities. Extra-curricular activities become the central thrust dominating family activity. Family worship becomes reduced to saying grace before an evening meal. The worship of God is reduced to attending church on Sunday morning and putting leftovers in the offering plate. The gathering of the church becomes a weekly social gathering rather than a life changing experience of worshipping God. This is what gospel erosion looks like in the home and church.
Therefore, the fundamental need of the hour regarding Christian education is to rediscover the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ individually and as churches. Five hundred years ago on October 31, a man by the name of Martin Luther was gripped by Romans 1:16-17 which states, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” The pope, though endued with power from people did not have the heavenly authority to change, add to, or pervert the gospel. Luther came to understand the good news. God had sent His Son to provide the gift of righteousness to those who would believe. This good news saturated Wiseman Baptist his heart, led him to write his 95 theses protesting against the Roman Catholic Church, and sparked the Reformation. The driving force was the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ which true churches had been guarding and proclaiming all along (1 Tim. 6:20).
Let us, as Missionary Baptist Churches, strengthen what remains, be renewed to build again, and carry this message to every creature (Rev. 3:2, Haggai 1:8, Mark 16:15). We must be reminded that God’s gospel is offensive and foolishness to a world filled with pride, “but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). When we fear the Lord and consider all that He has done for us, we will respond by loving God and joyful obedience in fulfilling our respective roles as men and women, husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees, government officials and citizens, pastors, teachers, and church members. The gospel truth (doctrine) will direct our practical living including our motives, thoughts, words, and actions as we are conformed into the image of God’s precious Son sent from heaven. May God’s truth come alive in our personal studies, be discussed around our dinner tables and family altars, and be thundered in power from the pulpits of our churches to bring honor to the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29).