Saturday, March 5, 2016

Why the Gospel is the center and circumference of God's work in this world

The Cross as Seen by Artists and Pastors
1 Corinthians 1:17 "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void."

1 Corinthians 2:1-2 "And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."

Whenever we read Paul's letters to the churches he either ministered at or influenced, we turn to the Book of Acts for the background and then to the letter itself for specific instructions and applications. The church at Corinth was a church that needed to be reminded of the centrality of the Gospel. As Paul first came to the city of Corinth in Acts 18, we read of his activities in Acts 18:5 "But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ."

For eighteen months Paul labored at Corinth. When he came - he came proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A few years would transpire in the church at Corinth before Paul would write his two letters that we in the New Testament. There were indeed many issues Paul addressed with the church - but out of all the issues, none were more important than the Gospel itself. 

When we come to 1 Corinthians 1:17, we find Paul switching gears from the then present conditions at Corinth to that of their beginning days as new followers of Christ. In short, Paul makes much of the Gospel. He reminds them that when he first came to them, he aimed to proclaim this most incredible message. 1 Corinthians 1:17-2:5 truly represents the all-encompassing embrace of the Gospel that grips the soul not only at conversion, but all the way through daily Christian life and even into eternity. 

It is not an overstatement to say that the Gospel is both the center and circumference of Christianity - with Jesus Christ occupying the center of it and the boundaries of its edges. If a minister comes to a church and does not know the Gospel nor its most salient features - then that man is not fit to occupy God's sacred desk. Paul came with this message and all of its important elements. What makes the Gospel so significant? Two answers can be given by first defining the Gospel and then describing the Gospel's impact from the beginning of salvation through and into eternity.

First, the Gospel is the good news concerning Jesus Christ and His achievement in reconciling sinners who respond to the Spirit's call unto Holy God for the sake of granting them benefits of sonship and an eternity with Him.  The Gospel is based upon an event - namely Christ's death, burial, resurrection and ascension. This event spells out the achievement of salvation by the Son. The event must needs become an experience - which can only occur in saving faith. The experience of salvation is spelled out in how the Spirit applies the benefits of Christ's work, from saving faith all the way to preservation unto the end. These truths outline the definition of the Gospel.

But now what about describing all that the Gospel does? We cannot even begin to list all of the areas covered by the Gospel. Nonetheless we can at least draw out a general description. Notice how the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ's work on our behalf, is shown to be the center and circumference of spiritual life, daily life and preparation for the next life....

1. The Gospel saves by granting spiritual life through saving faith in Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:17-29

2. The Gospel sanctifies through spiritual life in union with Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:30-31

3. The Gospel sustains spiritual life into eternity by the power of God in Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

The Gospel is truly the center and circumference of Christianity and God's redemptive activity. Unless we get the Gospel right, nothing else will be right. 

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