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.

 

June 11, 2017

Becoming Like Christ

by Russell Young

How does a person become like Christ? John wrote, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 Jn 3:2─3 NIV) John’s teaching is that “we shall be like him.” Many accept, and have been taught, that the “we” refers to all who have made a confession of faith, those who have been identified as “believers.” However, “believers” are those who obey the commands of Christ. John completed his thought by adding, “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

Common teaching allows that Christ, by his mercy and grace, has done all that is needed to prepare the confessor for a place in his kingdom. There is no miraculous purification or soul transformation when this life ceases; the believer is to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling. It is for the sake of holiness and for the hope of being sanctified by Christ and made “an offering acceptable to God,” (Rom 15:16 NIV) “to become blameless and pure” (Phil 2:14) that God requires obedience to Christ. The Word reveals that without holiness no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14) and that it is righteous living that produces holiness. (Rom 6:19) “Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” (NIV)

John’s teaching that “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is,” is the understanding that needs to be grasped. Our earthly understanding of Christ remains ‘foggy.’ Paul wrote, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor 13:12 NIV) One day the obedient will see him free of the distortions of word and mind.

The reality is that unless the believer becomes holy through slavery to righteousness they will not see him or know him. They cannot conform to his likeness. To “see” means “to gaze (i.e. with wide-open eyes, as at something remarkable)” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary #3700) It will be those in close proximity to Christ who will have the advantage of enjoying his image; they will see him and know him

During their earthy life believers have been called to be like Christ. Those who take this call seriously have learned to cast aside destructive practices. Paul wrote, “You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph 4:23─24 NIV) All who claim the name of Christ are to conform to his nature. Unless the confessor is changing in the attitudes of his or her heart, he or she is not a “believer” and will one day face the wrath of God since the hearts and practices of humankind are not acceptable to God. In Genesis it is recorded, “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth.” (Gen 6:5─7 NIV) It is the heart of people that needs to be made acceptable to God. Holiness is not a gift to believers beyond their redemption. One’s body is to be “offered in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.”

If the “imaginations of the thoughts of one’s heart” are, and remain, offensive to God he or she will never achieve the glory that he offers. Knowing Christ through the Word and the revelations of his Spirit and through obedience to his commands (the application of his mind) allows believers to become transformed. “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18 NIV)

Becoming like Christ depends on one’s willingness to allow him to transform one’s heart and practices through his Spirit as he or she walks this earth. Those who have been led to holiness will achieve a state of glory far beyond their understanding. To accomplish this requires a humble and obedient walk with Christ as Lord, and requires suffering as evil imaginations are purged. God is to be loved with all of one’s heart, mind, body, and soul as evidenced in a person’s practices. Paul wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rom 8:18 NIV)

Believers will be truly like Christ in matters of the heart and mind. They will be able to fellowship unashamedly with God and with others. They will bring joy to his heart instead of pain. While on this earth the beauty of that relationship cannot be known because purity and holiness in people and relationships does not exist. Concerning the New Jerusalem, Paul wrote, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and he will be their God.” (Rev 21:3 NIV).



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.