I am writing a Bible Study on the book of Galatians. As I have worked my way through the epistle, I have been struck by how easy it is to slip away from the true Gospel unintentionally. Of course, there is only one true Gospel message but to misconstrue it in any form is to turn it into something that it is not.
What is the Gospel Message?
The Gospel Message in a nutshell is simply this, by faith alone in Christ alone by grace alone are we saved from the condemnation that is ours apart from Christ’s redeeming work on the cross. Jesus became our propitiation because we were powerless to save ourselves. We could do nothing to satisfy God’s anger against the sinful state in which we are born into this sinful world. Apart from Christ we are lost and without hope. On this I think we would all agree. However the problem comes with our beginning to live out the confession of our faith.
Paul asks in Galatians 3:3, “Are you so foolish? Although you began with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort?” The misuse of the Gospel is not usually in our presentation to the lost. It is found more often in our presentation to the saved. In our effort to disciple our little saints we can if we are not careful, create a new gospel message. Are we asking them to pull up their boot straps and do what is right? Are we giving them rules and regulations that define the Christian walk for them as though by checking things off a list of do this and don’t do that, they can somehow please God or improve their standing with Him? If we are in anyway communicating that their walk with Christ can be through human effort, then we have distorted the gospel message.
The Gospel is the message we need to be saved from our sins. It is the message we need to live out our faith. It is the center of the Christian life, the foundation that supports it and the very fortress that protects us from falling off on either side of the righteous path, into self-righteousness or into sinful indulgence. Our children count on us to teach them the truth. The truth is that the Gospel frees us from the works of the law. We are called to a higher standard than what the Pharisees practiced.
Ours is the law of love. Jesus said if you love me you will keep my commandments. John 14:15. In Matthew 22:36-40, when asked what the greatest commandment was, “Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” And in John 13:24-35 Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment, ““I give you a new commandment—to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.”
As a believer in Jesus Christ, what we do is important. Our lives tell a story, His story. But, as believers in Jesus, why we do what we do is just as important. As parents and teachers we are always looking to motivate our children to obey what the Bible says. Let’s be careful to teach them that obeying in and of itself is not the goal. Always our goal is to know Christ and the power of His resurrection in us, for us, and through us. Paul says in 2 Cor 5:14-21, the Love of Christ controlled him motivating all that he did. May the Love of Christ, found in the Gospel message, control us and our children too.
We began by faith, let us walk in faith, trusting the God who promises to do the work. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 says, “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” (NKJV) And also in Philippians 2:12-13 we read, “So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort—for the sake of his good pleasure—is God.” God is the beginning and God is the end. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus as we run the race. Hebrews 12:1-4