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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Living the Gospel (Part II)

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Living the Gospel, Part II

The first principle of the Gospel, "Christ died for our sins" speaks of his sacrificial payment for the penalty of our sins which is death. Death always speaks of separation. When speaking simply of physical death, it is: "…the body without the spirit is dead…" (James 2:26) When speaking of spiritual death, death speaks of being separated from God, by nature and by lifestyle.

We are born having received the life of our parents, which they received from their parents going back to Adam and Eve. This nature was self-reliant in the sense of being independent or separated from the life of God: "…by man came death… For as in Adam all die…" (1 Cor. 15:21, 22) As a baby grows to become an adult, so does sinful life grows: "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." (Eph. 2:1-3). The baby sinner will "walk according to the course of this world," (verse 2) which is dominated by Satan, "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience," (verse 2b). The Greek word for "disobedience" closes out the implied idea of legalistic rebellion and idealistic orientation. The Greek word has an idea of refusing to be persuaded. Having heard the Gospel, they did not allow themselves to be persuaded to trust in its message, and, therefore, trust God.

Stephen indicted Israel as he spoke to the unbelieving Sanhedrin and Jewish leaders:"Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye." (Acts 7:48) For hundreds of years they had the Law of Moses and the testimony of the prophets, but would not respond in faith and application. They were maintained a position of rejecting disobedient faith (Rom. 1:5; 16:25, 26). The Old Testament records how all too frequently by being obstinate they would not believe and trust in God and His promises and so often, were not only chastened by God, but subject to all that their enemies would want to inflict upon them.

The first principle of living the good news of forgiveness through Christ is found in Romans 1:5 and 16:25, 26. The Apostle Paul writes that the purpose of grace and apostleship is developing obedience of faith in God's people (Rom. 1:5) and describes the full sweep of revelation is to produce in those who believe--- obedience of faith (Romans 26:25-26).

Now, the English word obedience does not imply simply compliance to a set of rules. For the Jews, the set of rules were the Old Testament Laws. The world's religions vainly hoped for whatever salvation would result from obedience to their rules and regulations. In legalistic obedience, salvation of whatever kind would be according to whether their good works for forgiveness were more than their sins. However, the meaning of obedience found in the Greek word is not one of a legalistic relationship. The Greek word is composed of two smaller Greek words: the basic word for hearing joined to a preposition. The preposition has the idea of being under or subjected. So the Greek word for obedience is action dominated by hearing. It speaks of a personal relationship governed by faith. The Lord Jesus beautifully describes it as a personal relationship between Him and those that followed him as sheep: He said:"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:" (John 10:27).

The Letter of Paul to the Romans elaborates on this concept of faith/obedience. In Romans 1, he points out that sinners and their society remain lost because they reject a lifestyle of hearing/believing/obeying, a discipleship lifestyle of faith and obedience. In Chapters 2 and 3, Paul shows that the people who will not embrace obedience of faith that neither obedience to the Old Testament Law or natural law written in their hearts is able to justify the sinner. In Chapters 4 and 5, he develops the principles of faith that brings justification if faith develops into obedience of faith. In Romans Chapter 6, Paul describes what faith is that will justify and save and appropriate the life of Christ. In Chapters 7 and 8, he describes how obedience of faith overcomes self failure from self effort. He describes how faith that depends upon Christ and the Holy Spirit's ministry accomplices godliness and full-blown eternal blessedness. Finally, in Chapters 9 to 11, Paul points out when faith in God's promises grafts a person into union with God that that faith makes one secure. Paul uses the example of Abraham that he had experienced obedience of faith by nearly sacrificing Isaac. He demonstrated that trusting God produced obedience of faith. Following his example will result in the experience of becoming a child of God. Paul declared the basis for such trust was the promises consummated by Abraham. They were the reason that Israel would be restored as a nation. For: "…the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (Rom.11:29). Therefore, faith can grow upon this certainty shown to Israel, to produce obedience.

Obedience of faith can be simply understood as believing Jesus is who He said He was enough to respond to his voice as sheep. Thereby, they know who their shepherd is and are confident of his care and protection. Legalism trusts self or humanistic religion, obedience of faith trusts Jesus who cannot lie and is able to save and bless!

Related reading:  Living the Gospel, Part I

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