Saturday, June 23, 2012

This is the Gospel


The Old Testament Scriptures attest to Jesus’ coming life and death (Isaiah 53, Zechariah 12).  These elements are seen in many places in the New Testament, perhaps no more concisely that in 1 Corinthians 15:1ff.  Paul lays out the truth of the gospel in four points:  Point number one – Jesus came, lived and died for our sins.  He was able to do this because He was the perfect man – God become man in the flesh.  Paul reminds the Corinthians that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah, King) who came to atone for and forgive their sins forever, and that He is not simply some martyr who willingly laid down His life.  Point number two -- Jesus’ burial shows the finality of His death, which leads to the empty tomb.  There is no way that Jesus would have been buried while He was still alive, so the fact that He was buried eliminates all of the skeptics’ arguments…and has stood the test of time for 2000 years.   Point number three -- the central aspect of the gospel is…the Resurrection.  This is where all people are able to claim new life.  If Jesus was raised, which we who are in Christ believe, then all of those who have been baptized, converted to Him, likewise, will be raised from the dead (Romans 6:4-5).  This is an issue for some of the Corinthians, because they deny the Resurrection of Jesus, claiming that they have been already reigning with Christ.  I do not have any idea as to how they would come up with such a concept, but it clearly is not the gospel.  In effect, what they were claiming is that “they were not really Christians,” because the Resurrection is critical to what Christians believe.  Point number four – Jesus’ appearances to others following His resurrection bear witness to His resurrection.  This was (and is) a great testimony to the world.  Everything that Jesus did and stood for was in order that people might believe in Him and have eternal life. 

It is important to understand that Paul often felt unworthy of the gospel because of his life before he was in the Lord -- he persecuted the church.  Paul makes the all-important, profound statement that he was able to have life…only by the grace of God.  The gospel is good and sufficient even for the vilest of people, and Paul considered himself in this category.  And like Paul, we were all dead in our sins, because we were ignorant of the gospel. Yet, like Paul, we are also saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).  After Paul was converted to Christ, the importance of his life was in what he did – he preached the truth of the gospel to which he was called.  It was Paul who first revealed to the Corinthian believers the gospel of Christ.  God Himself told them through Paul that it is in the gospel itself that they are saved.  The Corinthians must persevere in the gospel in order to have that promise of eternal life…because questioning circumstances, other matters, is one thing, but questioning the resurrection is another (much more serious concern).  It seems as if many people today life like many the Corinthians...only half-way committed to the cause of Christ.  Tony Campolo in the Seven Deadly Sins (p.21.) shares this -- “Joy in Christ requires a commitment to working at the Christian lifestyle. Salvation comes as a gif, but the joy of salvation demands disciplined action. Most Christians I know have just enough of the Gospel to make them miserable, but not enough to make them joyful. They know enough about the biblical message to keep them from doing the things which the world tempts them to do; but they do not have enough of a commitment to God to do those things through which they might experience the fullness of his joy.”  Like Paul, we who believe in Christ are made alive so that we may have life and have abundantly!  We can have this life, if we are faithful to the Lord (John 10:10).

There was a business owner who had employed many Christians in his company, even though he himself was not a genuine believer in the Lord. He watched them like a hawk. "You know, I was naturally drawn to God by observing Christian workers who were conscientious and kind and thorough and aggressive on the job," he said. "But I’ll tell you what really impressed me. One day a guy who I knew to be a fresh convert asked if he could see me after work. I agreed to meet with him, but later in the day I started to worry that this young religious zealot might be coming to try to convert me, too.  I was surprised when he came in my office with his head hanging low and said to me, ’Sir, I’ll only take a few minutes, but I’m here to ask your forgiveness. Over the years I’ve worked for you I’ve done what a lot of other employees do, like borrowing a few company products here and there. And I’ve taken some extra supplies; I’ve abused telephone privileges; and I’ve cheated the time clock now and then.  But I became a Christian a few months ago and it’s real - not the smoke and mirror stuff. In gratitude for what Christ has done for me and in obedience to Him, I want to make amends to you and the company for the wrongs I’ve done. So could we figure out a way to do that? If you have to fire me for what I’ve done, I’ll understand. I deserve it. Or, if you want to dock my pay, dock it whatever figure you think is appropriate. If you want to give me some extra work to do on my own time, that would be okay, too, I just want to make things right with God and between us.’"  Well they worked things out, and the business owner said that this conversation made a deeper spiritual impact on him than anything else ever had. It was the single most impressive demonstration of true Christianity he had ever witnessed.  What was it that made this new believer so contagious? Was it a clever new gospel presentation? Was it a well-rehearsed testimony? Obviously not. It was merely a genuine and humble admission of wrongdoing along with a willingness to make it right. It was consistent Christianity.

We need to live with the attitude in Christ, Jesus…just as Paul shares with the Philippian Christians (Philippians 2:5-8).  There are many matters in the Word of God that are important, but we must always keep things in perspective.  As one person said, “it is one thing to know the doctrine…it is a whole other matter to know the doctrine maker.”  We who are in Christ remember Jesus Christ and what He has done for us on a regular basis…it should never be far from us.  In fact, we do this as a church, weekly, as we partake of the Lord’s Supper together.  We need the blood of Jesus in our lives, which comes through baptism and living faithfully. In the book, "Speechless," Christian singer, Steven Curtis Chapman, and his minister, Scotty Smith, say this: “In the Gospel we discover we are far worse off than we thought and far more loved than we ever dreamed."  Yet, we could never be so bad, so vile that the Lord cannot rescue us through the gospel.  Satan tries to get us to belive that we are hopeless...that we do not have a prayer...but it is not true -- it is a lie.  If Paul could be rescued...all people can be saved.  Jesus tells the believers at Smyrna – “Be faithful until death and I will give you a crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10).  Now, these are words to life by…forever!  As Paul encouraged the Corinthians, we must also continue in the gospel...continue to live the Good News that has been proclaimed to us in order that we may have eternal life.  We remember the elements of the gospel…that He lived, died, was buried, was raised again to eternal life, and appeared to many witnesses.  And we look forward to His promised return to take us all home to be with Him forever!

Blessings, Don

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