Present Suffering and Eternal Glory

In the last post, we asked the question, “Can we speak like Paul in 2 Cor. 4:17-1?” On an even deeper level, what moves a man to speak the way Paul did? This is what Paul wrote:

17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

What is it that enabled Paul to respond to affliction in this manner? In the context of this passage, Paul is surrounded by many trials (read 4:8-11). Yet, he describes them as “light momentary affliction” which “is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory.” Lloyd-Jones puts the question like this; “What was it that made him to write in this way and manner? What is the explanation of his ability to face all these things?”

According to Lloyd-Jones, Paul could speak this way simply because he was a Christian and not because he was a great apostle. But what does that mean? It means that any Christian (a person who has a totally new view of the whole of life because of his or her faith in the Lord Jesus) can speak this way. Before Paul was a Christian, he could not speak like this in the face of trials. In Christ, his life and worldview changed. He became a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Now he sees everything in light of Christ. Those in Christ do not get stuck with the little things of life, no matter how hard, but they strive to see them from the whole picture of the Christian life. Faith looks not only at the individual situation at hand but at the whole picture. That is what Paul did and why he could say what he said. He did not only look at the afflictions, but he saw that they were momentary, and that there is an eternal glory for believers. This affected how he responded to his present affliction.

As a Christian, Paul, through the lense of the gospel, saw that life is for a moment. Unseen things are eternal while the things that we see are temporary (4:18). Though life is long (100 years at most), those with a Christian worldview know that it is momentary. Paul also had a view of affliction that is gospel centered. He listed all his trials and then called them light. Does that make sense? There is no doubt that what he listed is enough to send one into depression and to despair of life, yet Paul calls them “light.” As Lloyd-Jones points out, we are wrong to use the word “light” focusing on the afflictions themselves. There is no denying that they are heavy things that he described. In what sense, then, are they light? Lloyd-Jones answers, “What he says is that they become light when contrasted with something else.”  Look again at verse 17. Lloyd-Jones explains that it is like Paul puts all his toils, troubles, problems, and tribulations on one pan of a scale and the weight is heavy. Then, he puts on the other pan of the scale “an eternal weight of glory,” which overbalances the weight of all his afflictions. No matter the weight of his momentary afflictions, when compared to the future glory they become as light as a feather.

So, Paul could respond to affliction the way he did because he had a glimpse of future glory. He understood that what awaits him in the future cannot be compared to anything he has suffered. He understood that because of what the gospel has done in his life.

Christians can speak like Paul when they have gotten a glimpse of glory through the gospel, and have a new view of life. They look not on what is seen  but on what is unseen. What is seen is temporary (including afflictions) but what is unseen is eternal and far better. Paul says, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

Paul’s secret according to Lloyd-Jones is that, “He sees into the glory by faith.” That too can be our secret in the face of adversity, learning to see into our future glory by faith. Like Paul, we can always weigh our afflictions against our “eternal weight of glory” and we will always find that glory outweighs affliction.

What are some practical ways that we can face present sufferings in light of our future glory? (See next week’s post).

The Real Acid Test of Our Profession of Faith in Christ

In the last post, I noted that Martyn Lloyd-Jones lists and rejects three possible acid tests for one’s profession of Christianity. Having rejected those, what is the real acid test?

The answer for Lloyd-Jones is found in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18;

17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

This passage, according to Lloyd-Jones, includes the other three tests, covers them, and guarantees them. Thus, he says, “I am suggesting that the acid test of our profession is our total response to life, to everything that takes place within us and around us.”

The real issue is not what we say we believe, how upright we are, or what experiences we have had. The real test is our response at that moment when we are face to face with end of life situations. What is our reaction when facing “a disease that brings us face-to-face with time and eternity, with life and death?” The acid test in these situation for us in situations is “what we feel, what we say, and what our reaction is . . .” when facing a possible life-ending situation.

But how does this answer relate to the 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 passage? In the context of those words by Paul, he is facing many troubles and trials. Even then, Paul could say, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” Lloyd-Jones then asks, “Do we react like that as we look at the worst, as we look at life at its darkest and its starkest?”

This is the ultimate test because it brings out our orthodoxy. Only those with right belief about God can speak like Paul in this passage. Those with only right belief will turn away in hard times. It covers morality because we continue to trust and obey God in crisis. It covers experience because only those who have experienced the new birth can speak like Paul. They have truth living in them.

This being the real test, the question for us is, “Can we speak like Paul?” Even before answering, we must seek to understand what is it that moved Paul to speak this way, and how it can be an example for us?   (See next post).


[1] This sermon can be found in a recently published book, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Setting Our Affections Upon Glory: Nine Sermons on The Gospel and the Church, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 11-27.

How Can You Know Whether You Are A Christian?

Even without saying it out rightly, one of the weaknesses of the human heart is to pass judgment on others as to whether or not they are Christians. Sometimes we even ask that question of ourselves. Sometimes these judgments/questions are based on expectations that the other person has not fulfilled. Some examples are: committing particular sins, holding to certain doctrines, or lacking in “required” experiences.

If there were a test to see if one is a Christian, what would that be? Martyn Lloyd-Jones answers this question in a sermon, “The Acid Test.”[1] He asks the question, “What is the acid test of any man or woman’s profession of the Christian faith?” He lists and dismisses a number of possible tests. For example:

  1. Test of orthodoxy (right belief). If one does not believe certain things he cannot be a Christian. This is a true and important test BUT Lloyd does not accept this as the acid test. Why? “It is quite possible to be perfectly orthodox and yet to be spiritually dead.”2
  2. Test of lifestyle (morality). One can claim to believe all the right things but is that person moral? While morality is an essential part of the Christian faith, Lloyd-Jones rejects it as the acid test. Why? “There are many men and women who live highly moral and ethical lives in this world, . . . yet who cannot be called Christian . . . because they deny God himself.” Morality is necessary for the Christian life but it cannot be the acid test of our profession of faith.
  3. Test of experience. That is, anyone who can clearly testify that he has come through some dramatic experience that has made him a new person. The experience of being born again is essential as well but it cannot be the acid test. The reason is that there are a growing number of cults (and some churches) that give people experiences, but do not fear God.

With the rejection of these three tests, what then is the acid test of our profession of faith?  See next post.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

In 1819, a man was born into a rich family in Ireland. When he was 25 years of age, he migrated to Canada. Why did he leave his home? First, because he became a Christian and was rejected by his family. Second, because of tragedy in his life. He was engaged and the night before their wedding, his fiancée drowned. He moved to Canada and became a school teacher. He fell in love again, but this woman also died before they could get married.

How would Joseph Scriven respond to these events in his life? He responded in two ways: 1) he dedicated himself to working and helping the poor and needy and 2) he wrote a hymn (which was first written as a poem to comfort his mother who was living in Ireland):

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

 

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

 

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.

Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!

In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

 

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear

May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.

Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer

Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.

 

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  (John 15:13)

For more on the story of Scriven, see http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Music/hymns-the-songs-and-the-stories/what-a-friend-we-have-in-jesus-the-song-and-the-story.html

The Heidelberg Catechism on “As We Forgive Our Debtors.” Matthew 6:12

The Heidelberg Catechism addresses the question of our forgiving others and God forgiving us as follows:

Question 126. What is the fifth petition?

Answer. “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;” that is, be pleased for the sake of Christ’s blood not to impute to us, poor sinners, our transgressions, nor that depravity which always cleaves to us; even as we feel this evidence of thy grace in us, that it is our firm resolution from the heart to forgive our neighbor.[1]

The question follows:

IV. How are sins remitted unto us, or why is it added, As we forgive our debtors?

Our sins are so remitted unto us, as we also forgive our debtors, which clause is added by Christ, 1. That we may rightly desire and pray for the forgiveness of our sins, and may, therefore, come before God in true faith and penitence, the sign of which is love to our neighbor. 2. On account of our comfort; that we may be assured of the forgiveness of our sins, when we extend forgiveness to others for the sins which they may have committed against us; and may have the assurance that we are acceptable to God, although there are many remains of sin still within us.

. . . He who does not forgive fully and perfectly, does, nevertheless, obtain forgiveness, if he does but forgive truly and sincerely. Therefore forgiveness shall also be extended to us, if we forgive truly and sincerely.

Amen!!!!

How Should the Church Pray When Facing Threats of Persecution?

When the gospel is preached and God adds to the number of believers, it is not surprising that persecution arises and the church is forbidden to preach. When that comes, how should we pray? The temptation is to be self-focused and pray for peace, or judgment on those persecuting the church, or for protection from enemies.

Yet, the example of the apostles in Acts 4:22-31 (in the context of Acts 3:1-4:31), helps us know how to pray. They prayed that God would enable them in the midst of persecution, and that they should be able to preach the word with boldness. At such a time, we appeal to who God is in his being, what his word says, and then ask him to do his work as only he can do through us.

The Situation

After their release and threats against preaching the name of Christ (4:1-22), Peter and John went to their friends and reported what had happened 4:23-24a).

Notice how they reported about their questioning by the chief priests and elders and the threats, but said nothing about their own defense. The challenge for the advancement of the gospel is at stake and in that case the focus is on that gospel. They are looking to the future and seeing the danger facing the gospel.  How would they respond to this threat? Their response was to turn to God in prayer.

The Apostles’ Prayer

How did they pray? By affirming who God is in his being and quoting scripture that was applicable to their current situation (verses 24b-28).

They addressed God as sovereign Lord (cf. Luke 2:29; 2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 4; Rev. 6:10). They affirmed that God is the ruler over all (including the current situation). How is God sovereign and ruler? He is the one who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them (cf. Exod. 20:11; Neh. 9:6; Ps. 146:6; Isa. 37:16). Thus, he rules over all. Their faith in God and their theology came together in their prayer. They trusted God and they believed that he controls all things and no human threat will stand against him.

They quoted Scripture from Psalm 2:1-2 (see 4:25-26). Why? They saw that the quotation was fitting for the situation they were facing. In Psalms 2:1-2. The nations conspired in vain against the Lord’s anointed, as did the enemies of the gospel in the situation of the apostles. The chief priests and elders, in their threats, could not win. They could not succeed against God. Everyone who comes against God’s anointed is fighting a losing battle, in view of Ps. 2:1-2.

Their actions (4:28), unknown to them, fulfill Scripture (in this case, Ps. 2). So, the apostles saw their current situation from a biblical theology (salvation history) point of view. The actions carried out against Jesus in crucifying him were planned by God (cf. Acts 2:23; cf. 3:18).

They prayed by making a request to God (4:29-31). It is important to note the content of their request in the face of threats.  They prayed that God would consider the threats against them and grant them boldness (to continue to speak the word). They prayed that God would confirm their proclamation with healings, signs, and wonders. They prayed that God would do this through the name of his Son Jesus (4:29-30). The remarkable thing about this prayer is that the apostles are not focusing on themselves and asking for protection (which was going to come if they continue to preach) but their focus is on the progress of the gospel. They could pray this because they knew that God is in charge. An interesting note on the request for boldness is that when they speak in boldness, there is astonishment and evidence that they have been with Jesus (4:13; cf. 14:1-4). They asked for miracles and wonders since only God does those, and when they are performed as they preach in boldness, it will confirm that God is at work.

Their prayer received an immediate answer (4:30). It is not every prayer that receives an immediate answer. This is a unique situation and confirms that God has heard and answered them. He gave them boldness to proclaim the word. The only other place where we have this kind of an immediate answer to prayer is in Acts 16:26.

The apostles asked that God should perform healings and signs and wonders in through the name of Jesus (4:30). What does this mean? A clue is in the context of Acts 4:1-22 (see post next week).

Forgiveness as a Condition for Answered Prayer (Matthew 6:12)

In my last post I wrote on conditions for answered prayers. In this post, I want to look at one example of this kind of condition for effective prayer. There is no better place than Matthew 6:9-15, where Jesus gave his disciples directions on how to pray. The request for God to forgive us our debts (sins) just as we have also forgiven our debtors (those who have sinned against us) is simple but deep (6:12). There are two things in view here. The person praying is saying that God should forgive just as he himself has forgiven others. This is a condition and the plea is that the forgiveness of God that is sought is compared to how one has already forgiven.

Second, there is an underlying condition in this request and that is, if I have not forgiven those who have sinned against me, God will not answer my prayer for forgiveness. How should we understand this? First of all, this is not a prayer for initial justification. We cannot merit it and God’s forgiveness of us is not merited on what we have done. Christ has accomplished it perfectly. Second, we cannot deny that if we are not forgiving of others, we cannot expect God to forgive us our own sins.

Matthew 6:12 is a prayer for ongoing restoration with God in fellowship as we sin against him daily. It is a prayer that recognizes that the kind of fellowship sought for in prayer is one we ought to be giving to others daily. Forgive us “just as we have forgiven . . ..” The nature of the verb used here (perfect tense) gives the sense that forgiveness has already happened on the part of the one praying and the results of it continue even into the present. The kind of forgiveness sought from God is one in which one’s sins are not held against him and that is the kind of forgiveness we have also extended to our brothers and sisters. To ask God to do what we have not done or are not doing for fellow brothers and sisters is hypocritical (cf. 6:5).

Thus, there is a condition for the prayer of forgiveness. It is there implicitly in 6:12, and is stated explicitly in 6:14-15;

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

 

The word “for” in verse 14 provides a sort of commentary on the request in verse 12. Though the exact connection between our forgiving others and God forgiving us can be debated, we cannot deny the conditional relationship between what we are asked to do and what God promises to do for us.

For other instances where forgiveness is a condition for God answering us and forgiving us, see Matthew 18:35; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:37 (cf. Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13).

Conditions for Answered Prayers

Are answered prayers conditional on something that we must do? Twice in John 15, Jesus speaks of prayers that will certainly be answered. He says in John 15:7, “. . . ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.” In 15:16, he says     “. . .whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” The question is, what is it that guarantees the answers to these prayers?

First, there is a condition to answered prayer. John 15:7 begins with a conditional clause,

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Before claiming the promise that all our prayers will be answered simply because we have asked, as we are instructed (see Matt. 7:7-8), Jesus lays out a condition for answered prayers. The condition is twofold: abiding in Christ and his words abiding in us. That is, trusting him, loving him and keeping his commandments (cf. 14:21, 23). This promise of answered prayer is for those who are abiding in Christ. Thus, when believers live close to Christ and in obedience to Christ, their prayers will be in accord with the will of God and the purposes of God, and are certainly going to be answered. The person who is abiding in Christ and in whose heart the words of Christ are abiding (and taking full control), such a person will not ask anything that is contrary to the will of God. Such a person will not pray for selfish reasons (James 4:3) but for the right reasons. In John 15:7, the “if” clause is what determines whether one’s prayer receives an answer or not. Therefore, there is a condition for answered prayer here.

Second, John 15:16 says,

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

Even here, there is a twofold condition to answered prayers: going in obedience and bearing fruit, and praying in the name of Jesus. The first condition is along the same lines as in 15:7, trusting Jesus and obeying his words. The second condition is praying in the name of Jesus (cf. 14:13-14). The one who prays in the name of Jesus is the person who has faith in him and is obedient to his words and therefore prays in accord with his purposes. Hence, a prayer in the name of Jesus proceeds from faith, embraces our union with Christ and more importantly, brings glory to God. In 14:13, prayer is to be done in the name of Jesus for a purpose, “. . . so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (14:13). We can conclude that to pray in the name of Jesus is to pray in line with who he is and with his desire to glorify the Father. It is asking Jesus for those things that will result in him bringing glory to the Father. One of the things that brings glory to the Father is bearing fruit as a result of abiding in Christ and his word abiding in us (see 15:7-8).

The prayers that God answers are the prayers of those who abide in the Son (through faith) and in whom the words of the Son abide (evident in a life of obedience). It is the prayers of those who bear fruit in keeping with the Son’s appointment of them. It is the prayers of those who glorify the Father through the bearing of fruit (15:8) and who pray on the merit of the Son.

What are some examples of prayers that are according to God’s purposes and that meet the conditions for answered prayers? I will answer the question in my next post next week.

Praying the Purposes of God

What kinds of prayers is God bound to answer? Scripture teaches that God will certainly answer the prayers of his people. This creates some confusion since often one is left with prayers that are not answered and wondering how one ought to pray to receive an answer. In some cases, you would hear a prayer end with, “Not as I will but as you will” in keeping with Jesus’s prayer in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:42) or end with “in Jesus name” (John 14:13-14; 15:16). But, what does it really mean to pray effectively? It means praying prayers that fit with God’s will and purpose for the world and for our lives. One of the sure ways to know we are praying in accordance with God’s will is to pray his purposes; that is, praying that he should do what he says he is going to do. On this, we have a few examples in Scripture.

In Romans 10:1, Paul writes:

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.

In response to Israel’s unbelief and zeal that sought righteousness by works, Paul prayed that God would save them. This was his sincere heart’s desire and prayer. Yet, Paul knew that God had a plan to save Israel. We read in Romans 11:25-27:

25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,

he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;

27       “and this will be my covenant with them

when I take away their sins.”

According to Paul, then, the situation of unbelief on the part of Israel is a temporary hardening until the fullness of Gentiles is brought in. Also, there is a future time when Paul knows that God will save all Israel and this is in keeping with Scripture (he quotes from Isaiah 59:20, 21; Psalms 14:7; 53:6; and Isaiah 27:9 to support his claim that all Israel will be saved). Knowing this truth, Paul still prays for the salvation of Israel.

What are we to make of this? The knowledge of what God is going to do does not remove the need for prayer. Why? Simply put, prayer is the means that God has put in place and uses to accomplish his purposes. Knowing the outcome of something does not mean that we should not pray. For example, we know that Jesus is coming and we pray, “Come Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).

Daniel is another example of one who knew the purpose of God and yet prayed that God would bring it about. Daniel prayed fervently for the release of Israel from exile (Dan. 9:1-19). Daniel knew what God had purposed to do. We read in Daniel 9:1-2:

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

According to Daniel, he knew that God had purposed to bring release to his people after seventy years (see Jer. 25:11-12 and 29:10). Yet, in verses 3-19, he prayed fervently to God for the release of Israel.

With the examples of Paul and Daniel, we can see that prayer centers on what God has purposed to happen and so we pray that he will do what he has planned to do. Often our prayers center on what we want to see happen and the question is, are we interested in God’s agenda or only our agenda? Sometimes we pray that God will do things because we do not know what the outcome is or ought to be (like being delivered from unbelievers in Romans 15:31) but most of the time we ought to pray the promises of Scripture, that God would bring them to fulfillment (as Paul and Daniel prayed).

When we focus on the agenda of God and pray that his purposes will be fulfilled, we are praying in accordance with his will and those prayers bring him glory and are sure to be answered.

Yet, are answered prayers conditional on something we do? See my post tomorrow.

What is the Gospel? Please, Remind Me Again!

As 2012 comes to an end and 2013 looms, I reflect once again on the nature of the gospel. Our work in training pastors is to help them understand the gospel, practice it in their lives, and proclaim it to others, all with a view to helping the nations worship God when they have understood him through the gospel. In thinking through how God has used TLI and many other ministers of the gospel, I cannot help but think again on the nature of the gospel of which we are all ambassadors. Following are some observations on what the gospel is. These are not new, but simply reminders of what we already believe and hold onto. We must be reminded of these things lest we became lazy and presume to know them when we don’t.

Definition

Simply, the gospel is the good news about God (and Christ). It is a message of salvation addressed to a lost world, that tells what God has done to save sinners and how those saved ought to live before God. The high point of the gospel is not what we must do to be saved but what God has done in Christ to save us.

The Nature of the Gospel Message

As we proclaim the gospel message, there are certain elements that we must be conscious of and take seriously. Only then will we proclaim it well and expect it to do its work. We note the following elements of the gospel:

The Gospel is Power

The gospel is God’s power that accomplishes salvation for all who believe (Rom. 1:16). God works through the gospel message to bring people to himself. Through the gospel, those who believe are reconciled to God, redeemed, delivered, and justified (see Rom 3:23, 24; 8:1; 1 Cor. 15:1, 2; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; 1 Tim. 1:15; cf. Acts 3:13; 4:27).

Source of the Gospel

The source of the gospel or the author of the gospel is God and Christ. We read that it is “the gospel of God” (1 Thess. 2:9), or “the gospel of Christ” (1 Thess. 3:2). God and Christ as the source of the gospel mean that both are the author of salvation. As such, it is not from man (Gal. 1:11, 12; 2:16) since man cannot produce the means for his own salvation. He is unable to do so and so depends only on God (Eph. 2:1, 5, 9). Therefore, from beginning to end, it is God alone who works in Christ to save man.

Emphasis of the Gospel

In the gospel message, the emphasis is not on man but on God. The emphasis is placed on God’s sovereign work to save, and his unmerited grace. Thus, it is the “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24; see also Rom. 3:23-24; Eph. 2:6-10; Titus 3:4-7).

The Message of the Gospel

What does the gospel communicate? Again, we look to Scripture for an answer. We find that the message of the gospel centers on the person of Jesus Christ. It reports the historical events surround the life of Christ (Luke 1:1; 24:14, 18) and centers on his death and resurrection, all in fulfillment of Scripture (1 Cor. 15:1-5; Acts 2:23; cf. Gal. 2:20). His death was a saving event, in that he died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3; Gal. 1:4). His resurrection was for the vindication of Jesus (Acts 2:23, 24; 3:13-15; 5:30, 31), vindication of God (Rom. 3:25-26), and for our justification (Rom. 4:25)

Witnesses of the Gospel

By witnesses, we are referring to the evidence that supports the gospel message. The apostles appealed to evidence to support their gospel, and that evidence is Scripture itself (1 Cor. 15:3, 4; Rom. 3:21; Acts 26:22, 23). All of the Old Testament bears witness to Jesus, who is the center of the gospel (see Luke 24:24ff). The apostles themselves were witnesses of the gospel message, so what they proclaimed was true (Acts 1:8; Luke 24:48; Mark 3:14; John 15:26; Acts 2:32). The witness of the Old Testament and the apostles is primary in giving support to the truthfulness of the gospel message. 

Demands of the Gospel

The gospel demands repentance, faith, and baptism. The gospel clearly calls sinners to accept the gospel and repent from sin (Acts 3:19; 17:30; 2 Cor. 7:10; 2 Tim. 2:25), and turn to Christ in faith.  The gospel is not something to be ashamed of, since it is the power of God and through it God saves sinners (Rom. 1:16, 17; Gal. 3:11; Eph. 2:8; Phil. 2:12, 13). The gospel then appeals very strongly that we be reconciled with God (2 Cor. 5:20) and this is more so because there is no other means of salvation except the means provided by God.

Messengers of the Gospel

Knowing the implications of the gospel, how are sinners to hear it in order to be saved by it? God does not only send the gospel, he sets aside people to proclaim its message (Rom. 1:1). Those set apart for the gospel feel an obligation to proclaim it (Rom. 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:16). We can say that all believers are indeed ambassadors (messengers) of the gospel of God’s grace (2 Cor. 5:20).

Gospel Affirmation

Those who believe the gospel must affirm Jesus; that Jesus is Lord and Christ (Rom. 10:9; 14:9; Phil. 2:9-11; Acts 2:36; 5:31); that God has exalted him at his right hand and therefore he rules over all (Acts 2:32-33; 10:36).

Promises of the Gospel

The gospel comes with promises, but not material promises. Rather, the gospel promises the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who believe (Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19; 10:43; 13:38).

 


 

Being reminded over and over about the essential elements of the gospel helps us to keep these things in focus and communicate the gospel message to the nations in a way that is true to Scripture.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (Matt. 24:14).