Why is it important for the Christian to grow in understanding of the Gospel? The Gospel is not an object, rather it is foundational to our growth in Christ. The Gospel is not a message of self-esteem, improvement, or prosperity. Scripture teaches us “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9); “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins … and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Eph. 2:1, 3)”; “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:10-12).
What does scripture declare is essential in our sharing of the Gospel?
1) You are a slave to sin.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Eph. 2:1-3; cf. Col. 2:13).
He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him (John 3:36).
For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice an envy, hateful, hating one another (Titus 3:3).
2) No one has escaped the stain of sin:
There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one. Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes (Rom. 3:11-18).
Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin (Rom 3:19-20).
3) We need a new heart:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances (Ezek. 36:26-27).
This is our condition according to the Bible – enslaved, condemned, and dead. Clearly change is needed.
4) Change is possible:
We were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him… (Eph. 2:3-Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… (1 Peter 1:3-4).
5) We cannot please God by what we think or do and We can’t please Him by merely believing orthodox truth about him.
Because this people draw near me with their words and honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, therefore…the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed (Is. 29:13-14)
We can’t please Him by merely pulling ourselves up by our own moral bootstraps.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph. 2:8-9).
6) You alone are the Lord.
“You have made the heavens, the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them and the heavenly host bows down before You (Neh. 9:6). Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity (Ps. 98:9).
God therefore has the right of ownership over us by virtue of creating us, and He has the right to punish or reward us by virtue of His royal, judicial office. Because God is both our Creator and Judge, we are doubly accountable to Him for all our behavior – word, thought, and deed.
7) The Gospel is not a checklist! It is not a list of do and don’t do nor is it just living a moral or “Christian” life. Our inability to please God by ourselves means the real change of Christian conversion must involve relying on Christ alone in repentance and belief. True repentance means that we turn away from sin and turn to God. We turn away from the many individual sins by which we have offended God’s character and broken His Law.
We turn away from any attempt whatsoever to justify ourselves before God by appealing to our own orthodox beliefs or acceptable behavior. We turn to God, and look to Him to pardon our sin, to give us right standing before Him, and to bring us into close fellowship with Him. True belief means that we trust only in the person, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We trust Jesus as God’s appointed provision for the forgiveness of our sins.
We trust Jesus for moral power to effect real change in our thoughts, attitudes, motives, desires, affections, words, actions, and patterns of relating to God and others.
We trust Jesus to keep us in this saving belief until He takes us all the way to heaven, where faith will become sight. For the sorrow according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Cor. 7:10)
8) Some say we don’t need to do anything at all to be saved. God’s job is to forgive, Christ died for all people without exception, so we have all been saved already, regardless of whether or not we ever make a decision to become disciples of Christ. Others say that our salvation is up to us. We simply need to make the decision to follow and obey Christ, which we have full power to do of our own free will. So which is it?
The Bible presents conversion as God giving us the desire to repent and believe. Biblical conversion does involve our repentance and belief. It is God who is behind the scenes working in our hearts to produce that repentance and belief in us. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; [why?] for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13).
Conversion must be God’s work because we are unable to produce repentance and belief on our own. In preaching the gospel, the Bible tells us that the preacher is really preaching to a bunch of lifeless corpses (Ezek. 37:1-14; Eph. 2:1-3). Therefore, whether we stand in the pulpit or sit in the pew, we are dependent on God to produce this repentance and belief in us.
9) First God calls people to Himself, enabling them to hear and understand the gospel.
We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:23-24).
The only reason anyone thinks the Cross is anything other than foolishness is the call of God.
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the survivors whom the Lord calls. (Joel 2:32).
The only ones who will call on God are those God has already called to Himself. Then He graciously grants those He calls the free gifts of repentance and belief. “…with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25). When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18; cf. also John 15:16; Acts 2:39; 16:14; 1 John 4:10). Conversion is therefore that work of God in us whereby He sovereignly grants life to our spiritually dead hearts and produces in us a willingness to repent of our sins and believe in the gospel.
“holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.” (2 Tim. 2:5)
Paul is referring here in context to believers or teachers who hold to a form of the Gospel but deny its power either through what they say, teach or how they live. The point Paul is making is that such people hold to a form of godliness but deny its power through how they live or teach.
The Gospel is authoritative over every area of our lives. The message of the Gospel has been preached from Genesis to Revelation. Its message calls for repentance, a change of life, and moreover, it calls us to live for His glory. The purpose of the Gospel is to draw men to Jesus. The purpose of the Gospel in the life of the believer is to humility. The Gospel is a hammer that keeps chipping away at a person until finally the believer concedes they cannot live by its power in their own strength, but only by the power of God. Understanding this leads to understanding how God’s power is made manifest in our lives, and the key to growth in the Christian life is unlocked.
Growth in the Christian life relates to our growth in understanding the purpose and intent of the Gospel. Timothy was charged by Paul in 2 Timothy 4:2 to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” Paul was teaching Timothy, his son in the faith, a great lesson. He was teaching him to not hold to his own opinion but to hold onto the Word of God. The only source of sound doctrine is the Bible. The Bible’s message from Genesis to Revelation relates to the message and mission of Jesus to draw sinners to Himself and redeem their past, present and future for His glory. Only in Jesus can man be saved and only by His grace.
Why is it so important to understand the nature of the Gospel for our growth in the Gospel? The following verses teach us: 1) The Gospel is the only means by which we are established in Christ. 2) It is the means by which God will judge the secrets of men. 3) It is the Gospel we have received. 4) The Gospel is the message of Truth which seals us. 4) The Gospel is to be defended. 5) The purpose of preaching is to strength and encourage God’s people. 6) The purpose of the Gospel is to bring us to realize the glory of God in Jesus Christ:
- Romans 16:25 – “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past,”
- Romans 2:16 – “on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”
- 1 Corinthians 9:23 – “I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”
- 1 Corinthians 15:1 – “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,”
- Ephesians 1:3 – “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,”
- Ephesians 3:6 – “to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,”
- Phil 1:7 – “For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.”
- 1 Thess 3:2 – “and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith,”
- 2 Thess 2:14 – “It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
As believers we must stand upon the Gospel for it is the foundation for our strength and growth in God’s grace. Knowing the contents of the Gospel message is vital but applying its truths to our lives is just as vital. By applying the message of the Gospel to our lives they will change, and as we come under the authority of the Gospel; our witness for God will improve. The health of our Christian faith rests in the Gospel. It is the Gospel that saves us, seals us, and secures us. If this Gospel can do all this then surely we ought to grow in the “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20).