Christianity 201

July 9, 2017

Confusion: The Command to “Obey the Gospel”

by Russell Young

Paul wrote: “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among those who have believed.” (2 Thess 1:9─10 NIV)

Only through obedience to the gospel will the believer find a place in the presence of the Lord. There is a divergence of understanding on what “obedience to the gospel” means however, because there are different understandings of the gospel.

The passages that speak of the need to obey the gospel –2 Thess 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17—refer to the issue of not keeping it. Peter infers that keeping the gospel implies righteousness and Paul implies that it is accomplished by those who believe.

“Gospel” means “good news.” The good news is that the opportunity for eternal life exists and that God has provided the way through Christ. Within the Jewish nation there had not been agreement on the hope of eternal life. The Sadducees had rejected such a hope and the Pharisees accepted that eternal life came through obedience to the Law. Christ revealed that the hope of eternal life was real and came through him. “Jesus answered, ’I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn14:6 NIV)

Those committed to Christ readily accept that he is the way and the truth, but there is disagreement concerning the nature of his “life” in relation to the gospel. It is commonly accepted that “the life” refers to the sinless life that Christ lived while on this earth. Such acceptance rests in the understanding that his sinless life or righteousness was imputed or applied to the believer; accordingly, obedience to the gospel means believing that Christ has died to pardon and cleanse the believer of his or her sins leaving them righteous. Belief does not mean to suggest merely a mental activity regardless of the intensity of belief.   James wrote: “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (Jas 2:26 NIV) Faith or belief requires the application of that which a person believes; consequently, judgment will rest on the things done in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10) The deeds of the confessor prove whether his or her faith or belief is genuine or not.

The Lord did not say that believers were to obey his command (singular), but “to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:20 NIV) Paul taught that “they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” (Acts 26:20 NIV) He told the Romans, “[Christ] condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:3─4 NIV) And Paul admonished, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please the sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:7─8 NIV) (He did not teach that eternal life came at the cross.) Obedience to the gospel requires obedience to the Spirit who was given for the purpose of enabling righteous living.

Many quote the Lord, “Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is to believe in the one he has sent,” (Jn 6:28─29 NIV) and limit “belief” to head knowledge. The Lord is the Spirit (2 Cor 3: 17, 18) and the righteous requirements of the law will be fulfilled as he lives his life through the obedient believer. The confessor must believe sufficiently to obey the one he or she called “Lord.”

The command to obey gospel in order to avoid being shut out from God’s presence refers not to accepting that the Lord suffered and died for the repentant, but to honoring his provision of the Holy Spirit and through obedience to the law of the Spirit (Rom 8:2) becoming a sacrifice acceptable to God. (Rom 15:16).



Russell Young is the Sunday contributor to Christianity 201 and author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.

 

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