Hello Church Devotion Sept. 07, 2013

“G” is for “Gospel”

Romans 1:13-20 ESV - I want you to know, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 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 also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith." For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

What is this Gospel? It is more than just a genre of writings called the “Gospels”. Although we do have the “Gospel” according to St. Matthew; the “Gospel” according to St. Mark; the “Gospel” according to St. Luke; and also the “Gospel” according to St. John.

The Gospel is namely the good news that in Jesus Christ, God has paid the price for our stubborn rebellion of sin and has conquered our enemies including sin, death and the devil.

In fact the word “Gospel” is many times translated as good news. It is also the same root from which we draw the “Evangelical”. This is why so many of our churches bear “Evangelical” in their names. In fact, our formal legal name is Our Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church. We are a church that believes and confesses the good news of salvation found in Jesus Christ alone.

In our Confessions (FC SD, V, 20) we read:

“The Gospel, however, is that doctrine which teaches what a man should believe in order to obtain the forgiveness of sins from God, since man has failed to keep the law of God and has transgressed it, his corrupted nature, thoughts, words, and deeds war against the law, and he is therefore subject to the wrath of God, to death, to temporal miseries, and to the punishment of hell-fire. The content of the Gospel is this, that the Son of God, Christ our Lord, himself assumed and bore the curse of the law and expiated and paid for all our sins, that through him alone we reenter the good graces of God, obtain forgiveness of sins through faith, are freed from death and all the punishments of sin, and are saved eternally.”

It is remarkable how consistently our Confessions emphasize this central theme of the Gospel, how all their discussions support and lead to this theme of salvation by free grace through faith in Christ.

Melanchthon in the Augsburg Confession clusters all the articles of faith around the redemptive work of Christ and justification through faith in Him. When the writers of our Formula of Concord at a later date try to settle certain controversies over original sin, the spiritual powers of man's will before conversion, the third use of the Law (as a pattern to regulate our lives), or even church usages, they make it crystal clear that their concern for the right doctrine on these matters is to enhance the Gospel and its comfort to poor sinners.

When Melanchthon speaks out so strongly and at such length against the legalism and work-righteousness of the Roman Church of his day, it is only because "the Gospel (that is, the promise that sins are forgiven freely for Christ's sake) must be retained in the church" (Ap, IV, 120). And when he insists so vehemently that a sinner is justified by faith in Christ, it is because to deny or undermine this great fact "completely destroys the Gospel" (ibid.).

Martin Luther in the Smalcald Articles structures all of Christian doctrine around the simple doctrine of the Gospel, the doctrine of Christ and faith in Him. Here is what he says (SA, II, i):

The first and chief article is this, that Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, "was put to death for our trespasses and raised again for our justification" (Rom. 4:25). He alone is "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).... Inasmuch as this must be believed and cannot be obtained or apprehended by any work, law, or merit, it is clear and 25 certain that such faith alone justifies us, as St. Paul says in Romans 3, "For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law" (Rom.3:28), and again, "that he [God] himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26). Nothing in this article can be given up or compromised, even if heaven and earth and things temporal should be destroyed.... On this article rests all that we teach and practice against the pope, the devil, and the world. Therefore we must be quite certain and have no doubts about it....

This is the spirit of Luther and the Lutheran Confessions. This is why our Confessions, like Scripture itself, are always contemporary and useful. If we share this Gospel spirit, we will see how helpful and exciting our Confessions are and we will read them with avidity and profit.

This Gospel message is given to us to share with the entire world, our neighbor, and our family. We are to live according to it. Believe in it strongly. Be ready to share it at any moment.

The Gospel is purely God’s work alone. We do nothing. It is all God! He who saves, calls, enlightens, and gathers. It is God who sent His very own Son to pay the price for our sinfulness. It is God alone who can provide forgiveness to us. Who would want to muck up God’s work of Jesus on the cross with some of our works? Yet, that is one of the two main problems today.

We either think we have to do something to earn salvation ourselves. By tying our works to salvation, we no longer consider God’s action enough and therefore insert the corruptness of our situation into the pure and loving sacrifice of Jesus. This is not what the Bible teaches!

Problem number two is that we think that since God has done everything completely for our salvation that we also don’t need to follow His law or guidance in our daily lives. In other words, since what the Law demanded perfectly for us to follow was paid for by Jesus obediently dying on the cross, it no longer has any place in our lives. Again, this is not what the Bible teaches!

Good works do not count towards salvation. This is certainly true. However, they do follow God’s will for our lives and serve our neighbor and supply the proof that faith is alive. So for us, we keep the “Gospel” pure by remembering that it is God’s action alone for us for salvation. And we live out the “Gospel” when we follow the will of God in our lives as noted for us in His commandments and word.

One of the hymns, #580 “The Gospel shows the Father’s Grace” has some good lyrics for us to keep in mind:

The Gospel shows the Father’s grace,

Who sent His Son to save our race,

Proclaims how Jesus lived and died

That we might thus be justified.

It sets the Lamb before our eyes,

Who made the_atoning sacrifice,

And calls the souls with guilt oppressed

To come and find eternal rest.

It brings the Savior’s righteousness

To robe our souls in royal dress;

From all our guilt it brings release

And gives the troubled conscience peace.

It is the pow’r of God to save

From sin and Satan and the grave;

It works the faith which firmly clings

To all the treasures which it brings.

It bears to all the tidings glad

And bids their hearts no more be sad;

The weary, burdened souls it cheers

And banishes their guilty fears.

May we in faith its message learn

Nor thanklessly its blessings spurn;

May we in faith its truth confess

And praise the Lord, our righteousness.

Public domain

1. What are the two main errors dealing with the Gospel?

2. What is it that Jesus commanded us to do? Preach what?

3. What is the definition of the Gospel?

Prayer: Lord, we thank and praise You for continuing among us the preaching of Your Gospel for our instruction and edification. Send Your blessing upon the Word, which has been spoken to us, and by Your Holy Spirit increase our saving knowledge of You, that day by day we may be strengthened in the divine truth and remain steadfast in Your grace. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

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