I recently had an opportunity to preach through Romans 1-3 and it struck me how obvious the Person at the heart of the Gospel message is and yet how easy it is to miss him in our preaching and testimonies. That the Gospel God promised through the prophets, the Gospel he preached through the apostle Paul is the Gospel about his Son, Jesus Christ:
1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 1:1-4.
It’s surprising how sometimes even well-meaning Christians can miss this as they try to emphasize a particular aspect of our conversion or Christian living. Some will want to stress the prayer on conversion while others go for the transformed life they lived after. All the while missing the one who did it all, Christ and him alone. I don’t think we would miss this if we saw the tragedy of human sin for what it is as portrayed here in Romans 1-3.
Why does this matter?
But one might ask isn’t this a mere quibbling with semantics, questions of language and communication? I think it shows what is closer to the heart. It also misses the point of the Gospel when it puts all the weight on me; my prayer, my achievements, and accomplishments.
And before long the Gospel becomes all about me and what I do for God. It’s the same old lie, a “gospel of works” packaged in good Christian lingo.
Before long we start using this criterion to judge our Christian health and fitness and the status of new believers. Are they coming to church regularly? Are they committed to weekly meetings? How is their giving? What about their prayer life? We use the results of the Gospel as the foundation of our faith, not Jesus and what he has done to undeserving wretched sinners like us. We see our merits not his own.
Shouldn’t we judge them by their fruits?
It’s a good thing we want to see change and the Gospel will produce this in time but our problem is we want to see transformation instantly forgetting that this is not achieved easily by grit and human will. True transformation is what results from hearing the Gospel constantly; being encouraged and rebuked by the Gospel and establishing firm convictions in the Gospel that consequently affect one’s lifestyle. Behavior change must start from deep within otherwise it’s fake.
This is why we need to keep hearing the Gospel message. We shouldn’t be surprised then, that Paul was preaching the Gospel to a church whose faith was known throughout the world, see Romans 1:8. And this is what Paul does in all his letters; reminding churches about the Gospel of Jesus which is what the church of Christ in Kenya and all over the world needs.
We also need to understand that transformation is a slow, messy and a lifetime process that can only be achieved by Christ’s work through the Spirit in our hearts as we keep hearing and believing his Gospel message. Our words and structures are powerless without his work in people’s hearts.
Preach the Gospel and let God do the work
I think it’s our attitude that needs changing before we think of changing the Gospel message. We don’t need to beat up people demanding a particular result. Rather, we should preach the Gospel clearly by teaching the Bible faithfully and let God do his work in his people.
Remember God is the first preacher and Gospel worker and ours is simply to point people to him and his Gospel. It’s only him who can give life to the spiritually dead and conform them to the likeness of his Son.
The only weapon therefore in a Gospel worker’s quiver is the true Gospel as preached by God in his Word. It’s what everyone needs; the young and the old. It’s not well crafted motivational and charismatic speaking. Rather, ours should be to preach his true Gospel clearly and boldly, the Gospel that points people to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Because there’s true life-changing power in this Gospel:
16 …I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith. Romans 1.