HAVE YOU EVER OBEYED THE GOSPEL?
by Bo Danklefsen
Today many are searching for God and eternal salvation. They want a better life than they are experiencing at present here on earth and the assurance that they will be with the Lord throughout eternity. Not knowing where to turn, they ask a friend or turn on the radio or TV to find solutions to life’s problems and find spiritual direction.
Often the answer they receive from these sources falls short of the Lord’s teaching on salvation and eternal life. They almost never ask, “Have you ever obeyed the gospel?” It is clear in the scriptures that the main message declared by those who belonged to Christ was the gospel and it was essential to believe it, 1 Corinthians 15:1. It is also clear that obedience to the gospel was also taught as essential, 1 Peter 4:17.
WHY STRESS THE GOSPEL?
Jesus had stated after His resurrection, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” Mark 16:15. Everyone is to hear the gospel! Yet the vast majority with whom I have studied who claim salvation do not know what the gospel is. God not only expects the lost to hear the gospel, He asks them to obey it, 2 Thessalonians 1:8. Here He says that He will take vengeance on those who know not God and obey not the gospel. It is clear that a person who does not know God will die in his sins, John 8:24; Revelation 21:8. Therefore, the purpose for stressing the gospel to one in sin is so that God will not take vengeance on him for not obeying it.
IS THERE MORE THAN ONE GOSPEL?
Paul states, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed,” Galatians 1:6-8. The Lord says, there is no other gospel than the one taught by inspired men in the Bible.
One might ask, “What is meant by ‘other gospel’?” Today, members of various churches go and
talk to their friends about religious matters. Some stress prophecy as their main message. Others concentrate on Bible miracles. Still others offer what has come to be known as the social gospel – doing good to others as proof of one’s salvation. Others stress a plan of salvation as if this were the gospel. What is the only gospel God recognizes that brings about salvation?
ACCORDING TO GOD, WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?
Remember, Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” Mark 16:15. What did those told to preach tell those lost in sin? Let us look at the book of Acts where conversions are recorded and see what the lost heard. Peter’s first sermon after Jesus’ resurrection tells that Jesus was killed and raised, Acts 2:22-36. The reader will note that the only message given was the message about Christ. He tells of Jesus’ death in 23, 36. He stressed His resurrection in 24, 27, 30-32, 34. His ascension was also emphasized in 30, 33, 34. In chapter 3 the same message is expressed, verse 15. See 4:10, 33; 5:30. Every time the disciples faced those lost in sin, the main message was the same, Jesus Christ and Him crucified, 1 Corinthians 2:2. The letters sent to the churches always reminded them of the Savior’s death and resurrection, Romans 1:1-4, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Galatians 1:1. Many more passages could be cited. The death, burial, resurrection was that message of first importance, 1 Corinthians 15:3,4.
By stressing Jesus as the one to turn to and serve for life, then when one really makes Him Lord, that person will remain faithful to the One who died for his sins and was raised for his justification, Romans 4:25. Seeing Jesus’ faithfulness, even in adversity, helps a Christian to react the same when problems arise, Hebrews 5:7-9, 1 Peter 2:21-25.
HOW DOES ONE ACCEPT CHRIST AS HIS PERSONAL SAVIOR?
On radio and TV and from pulpits we often hear the plea to accept Jesus as one’s personal Savior. This is a valid call. The Bible does make it clear that a person must accept Christ, Colossians 2:6.
It also states that Jesus must accept those that come to Him, Romans 15:7. Like a marriage, both parties must accept each other. In this case, Jesus makes the final decision as to how one is to respond to His call. Even He has made it clear that this will not take place without obedience, Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21-23. After enduring the torment He had to go through on the cross, He does have the right to tell us how to accept Him.
It begins with faith, Hebrews 11:6. Jesus performed miracles to confirm that what He said and later, would be written, really did come from God, Hebrews 2:3-4. There were, however, people who believed yet did not have faith. “Nevertheless, even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God,” John 12:42-43. The inspired writer said that they believed, but did they really have faith? They could not deny the miracles, but they would not give allegiance to Him.
On the other hand, when told to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household,” the jailer’s whole family responded, Acts 16:31-34. What made the difference in this response? It is obvious that the faith of him and his family led them to obey the gospel. If they had not, God promised in His word to take vengeance on anyone who had not obeyed it,
2 Thessalonians 1:8.
IS OBEYING THE GOSPEL A PART OF THE RESPONSE FOR SALVATION?
Many have understood “obeying the gospel” to mean living the Christian life. Paul states, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel . . .” as he quotes Isaiah’s experience with people who did not believe then, as many do not today. Peter says, “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:17. Here Peter contrasts those who belong to God with those who have not yet become Christians. It is clear here that obedience to the gospel is included in the plan of salvation. Paul states that Jesus will return, “. . . in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” 2 Thessalonians 1:8. If one dies believing in Jesus but has never obeyed the gospel, the One who said He cannot lie, Titus 1:2, said He will take vengeance on that person!
HOW DOES ONE OBEY THE GOSPEL?
It is clear from the scriptures that the gospel is the message of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. It is also clear in these verses that it is essential to believe the gospel. Paul said it is possible to believe in vain, verse 2. Faith obviously leads one to repent, (turn from sin) as Jesus clearly portrayed in His story about Nineveh, Matthew 12:41; Jonah 3:10. True repentance would include one’s response to render obedience to the gospel since it is a part of the plan of salvation. How can one obey Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection?
God says that one obeys a form of the gospel, Romans 6:17-18. A form is used when pouring a concrete walkway. The form is not the walk itself, but shapes the design for the final sidewalk. Likewise, to literally obey the gospel, one would have to be nailed to a cross, buried, and then to come out of the tomb. God has never asked us to be literally nailed to the cross. What He has asked us to do is to demonstrate our faith in the gospel by reenacting that event as expressed in Romans 6:3-4. Paul writes, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His DEATH? Therefore, we were BURIED with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life.” Here we learn how one obeys the gospel – Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. See also Colossians 2:12-13. When one obeys the gospel, God forgives their sins. If one does not, He takes vengeance on them, 2 Thessalonians 1:8. By stating that He will take vengeance, the Lord has made this response essential for salvation, Mark 16:15-16.
After hearing the gospel, those converted were immediately obedient, Acts 8:38-39; 16:33. Peter’s first gospel message resulted in 3,000 obeying the gospel, Acts 2:41. Peter had said, “Repent and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” verse 38. Once again, forgiveness of sins will not take place until one obeys the gospel.
WHAT ABOUT CALLING ON THE NAME OF THE LORD?
One must call on the Lord. “And it shall come to pass that whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved,” Acts 2:21. This same verse is quoted in Romans 10:13. The next few verses tell how one must take the gospel to the lost. The hearer must then accept it through obedience, verse 16.
Saul of Tarsus, who later became the apostle Paul, tells of his own conversion in Acts 22.
A disciple named Ananias told him how to call on the name of the Lord, Acts 22:16. He said to Paul, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Calling on the Lord could not mean an appeal through prayer, for Saul had been praying for three days, Acts 9:9, 11. Certainly, as some teach, if calling on the Lord is praying through to God, then Ananias’ statement to him to have his sins washed after he obeys the gospel becomes meaningless. When one obeys the gospel, he is calling on the Lord.
“I THINK I HAVE ALREADY OBEYED THE GOSPEL”
Some when taught what the gospel is begin to reflect back to their earlier response. Having been immersed in the past, they begin to rationalize, “Since I have been baptized, I must have obeyed the gospel.” This sounds acceptable at first but, one must examine what really did happen when he responded. Did I hear the gospel before I responded, Mark 16:15? Was I told that I would be saved from sin before my obedience to the gospel? It must be understood that most religious groups teach that one can receive Jesus in his heart in his living room or by praying through at the front pew and is saved at this moment. Then later, he is immersed as a person already saved from sin. Therefore, one who has been taught that one receives remission of sin before baptism would not have in mind that he was going to be baptized to be saved. Later, he may read from the Bible or have a Christian point out the response, found in Acts 2:38 or 1 Peter 3:21, which does definitely show salvation after obedience to the gospel. One should not gamble with his soul on such a serious response to God. Another method of determining what one believes before he has been approached with the gospel is to determine what is being taught where he now attends church.
Recently, I had talked to a young woman who had said that she had been baptized three weeks earlier. She then related how the night before our discussion she had been with her preacher to visit some people who had never made a response to God. This preacher asked the wife they were visiting to repeat the “sinner’s prayer” so that she could be saved. This did take place that night and she and the preacher left that home with all present believing the woman was saved even though obedience to the gospel was not even discussed. Paul tells of some disciples who had to be immersed again after they heard the gospel, Acts 19:1-5. Please read again 2Thessalonians 1:7-9, if this is something you have experienced earlier in you life.
DO YOU WANT TO OBEY THE GOSPEL?
If you are considering obeying the gospel, please think seriously about the commitment.
When one obeys the gospel, he needs to be with others who have also responded to God’s invitation, Acts 2:42-47. The Church of Christ in your area stands ready to help you obey the gospel any hour of the day or night. You don’t need to wait until an assembly of the church occurs. Then you can assemble with others of like faith. The next Lord’s Day you will be able to once again remember the Lord’s death and resurrection when partaking of the communion, as you did when you obeyed the gospel.
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