What is the Gospel?
Here in America, the word Gospel has become a common catchphrase in Christian circles. There is “Gospel music”, “Gospel artists”, “The Gospel-centered life”, amongst other “Gospel” flavored options. With the prevalence of this word in our culture, it is important to clarify what it means. The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 labors to define the Gospel as a set of historical, well attested facts. In short, the Gospel is the truth that “…Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” (vv. 3-4). This Gospel is not just a set of historical facts though. The Apostle Paul again labors to show in his letter to the Romans just how powerful this Gospel truly is. In the first chapter of Romans, verse sixteen, Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and to the Greek.” Paul doesn’t say that the Gospel is moderately powerful. No. He says it is the power of God! To take this verse lightly is to take God’s glory and power lightly. Therefore, what does this mean on an individual level?
The Individual Effect of the Gospel.
The Gospel’s power is seen in the effect it has on totally depraved sinners. The Holy Spirit, through the Gospel, causes sinners chosen by God to be “born again” (John 3:3) or regenerated. This powerful Gospel is blessed by God Himself to overcome the natural resistance and hard-heartedness of fallen man and to make them willing to receive Jesus as Savior and follow Him as Lord. On this point, many Christians agree. So, if that is the case, why the question on if the Gospel is truly powerful?
If the average American Christian is asked whether the Gospel is powerful enough to save a lost sinner from God’s eternal wrath in a very real place called the “Lake of Fire” (Revelation 20:14), they would affirm this truth. However, if the average American Christian is asked whether the Gospel is powerful enough to turn the tide of the moral decay around us, they would respond negatively, saying that it must not be able to positively affect morality in the world because that is what is predicted in the Bible. Average American Christians believe that the Gospel, which is the power of God, is prophesied to suffer defeat and failure in world history before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. So who in mainstream Christianity would hold this view?
The Titanic is Sinking!
Pastor, theologian, and seminary president, John MacArthur of Grace Community Church and The Master’s Seminary, recently spoke on a panel about this year’s presidential election. When asked for his final thoughts on the election and what it meant for all parties involved, he said amidst laughter and clapping in the crowd, “We’re rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The ship is going down. All we’re trying to do is make the people more comfortable as it sinks but there’s one other thing we can do. We can launch the lifeboats and the lifeboats are the Gospel of Jesus Christ” (http://www.masters.edu/summit). This popular and understandable yet misguided train of thought is due to unbiblical eschatological views such as Historic Premillennialism, Dispensational Premillennialism, and Amillennialism. It is also due to misinterpretations of prophetic texts in the canon of Scripture. Does the text of Scripture paint a different eschatological picture for “the Gospel of God” (Romans 1:1)? Does the Bible speak of a humiliating defeat of the Gospel before the Eschaton at the hands of Satan, demons, and sinful men or does it foretell of an increasingly greater victory over the forces of Satan and fallen mankind?
An Eschatology of Victory
There is much biblical data to study and consider but these examples will suffice. Scripture informs us that Christ is the King who is also the true heir of the nations of this world (Psalm 2) and as such, has told His church to go into the whole world as His ambassadors to make disciples of every single nation for He has all power and the nations are now His (Matthew 28:16-20). They were given to Him as the reward for His sufferings and obedience. This Great Commission, as it is commonly called, is carried out through the preaching of the Gospel of God’s power. Scripture tells us of the Messiah who is ruling and reigning from the right hand of God on the Davidic throne where He is currently seated until all His enemies are made His footstool through the Gospel or through His destroying them (Psalm 110:1-2; 1 Corinthians 15:25). Scripture tells us of a special Child who would be born who would carry the government on His shoulders and who would see no end to the growth of His kingdom from the time He receives it (Isaiah 9). Scripture paints for us a time before the return of the King where, because of Him and His Gospel, creation will be greatly improved (Isaiah 65) as well as there being a global conversion of the peoples of Earth (Isaiah 66). We see through the lens of Scripture that Jesus’s kingdom will be like a stone that expands into a great mountain which will fill this world (Daniel 2:31-35, 44). Jesus likens His kingdom to a mustard seed that starts very small and yet, grows in size and influence which results in blessings for the world (Matthew 13:31-32). Jesus says that His kingdom will be like leaven that will continue to grow just like physical leaven does until it has taken over (Matthew 13:33). Scripture, in Romans 11, also foretells of a great day before the Eschaton in which the power of the Gospel will overcome the stubbornness of the Jewish people as they see Jesus for who He truly is: their Messiah. Paul describes the effect this national conversion will have in two verses. The first is in verse 12 where he writes, “Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!” Then in verse 15, he writes, “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” What the Apostle Paul is describing is a positively glorious future for the world because of the power of the Gospel shown in the conversion of the nation of Israel! How could the world grow worse when Paul says that this major event in history will be like “life from the dead?” Lastly, Jesus promises His Church that the forces of Satan will not prevail against them, which means the church will be victorious in the commission God has given her, so therefore we are to be on the offensive as we knock down the gates and stronghold of Hell in the name of our victorious King (Matthew 16:17-18)! With all this biblical data at our fingertips, is this ship really sinking after all?
Is the Gospel powerful enough to alleviate poverty? To outlaw abortion? To tear down same sex marriage?—@lamont_english
Whose Ship is it Really?
The Gospel doesn’t seem to suffer defeat when looking at the plethora of relevant texts in God’s Word. In fact, it looks like just the OPPOSITE is and will continue happening! That the Gospel of Jesus Christ will see even brighter and more glorious days in the future! As Pastor Paul Viggiano of Branch of Hope Orthodox Presbyterian Church said in a phone interview, “The ship is God’s.” In fact, we are called to beautify the ship and tend to it instead of waiting for it to sink into the abyss of moral decay. Since the Bible truly teaches the progressive nature of Christ’s kingdom spreading throughout the world via His Gospel, we are to be about our Father’s business as Jesus’s witnesses so that we might see His reign and rule acknowledged worldwide.
Is the Gospel Truly Powerful?
Let’s bring this back home. Ask yourself, with all the hope given to Christians in the Scriptures concerning the future of this planet, is the Gospel powerful enough to alleviate poverty? Is it powerful enough to outlaw abortion? Is it powerful enough to tear down same sex marriage? Is it powerful enough to destroy the racial hostility and conflict both inside and outside the Church? Is the Gospel powerful enough to transform not just individual sinners but entire communities, cities, states, nations, and our world for the better? As Postmillennial scholar, Kenneth Gentry asked, “…Which is more powerful? The fall of Adam or the Resurrection of Christ?” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAduML9ljLQ). Jesus is not just concerned with people’s individual salvation but also with the state of the world and it is through the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation, that real and lasting change takes place. In Colossians 1:20, Paul lays out another reason why Jesus had to go to the cross. It was “…to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on Earth or in Heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.” That is the Gospel. It is through this powerful Gospel that Christ is fulfilling what He accomplished on the cross which is worldwide reconciliation.
Christians, remember that Jesus has come, in the words of the famous hymn Joy to the World, “To make His blessings flow…As Far as the curse is found” (https://www.carols.org.uk/ba27-joy-to-the-world.htm). May the King receive the reward of His sufferings and may we all remember that the Gospel of our salvation TRULY is the power of God!