The Gospel of Jesus Christ – Article Series
1. What is the Gospel?
2. What does the Gospel mean? (Part 1)
3. What does the Gospel mean? (Part 2)
4. How should we respond to the Gospel?
5. Non-Gospels and False Gospels
9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” ~ Romans 10:9-15
We’ve described the context of the Gospel as being the message of the person and work of Jesus Christ. We’ve seen the meaning and achievements of the Gospel including salvation and revealing who God is. But the subsequent question is this: how should we respond to the Gospel? No one can stand neutral to the message! We must all respond to it and choose how we will live in a world where the Son of God has died and been raised to life in time and space. This is the most important question we will ever be faced with. It is the most important question we could ever ask anyone else to consider.
Depending on which passage we choose to draw from, the response to the person of Jesus that is called for may differ. Here are some examples:
- Mark 1:14-15 calls us to repent and believe the Gospel.
- Luke 9:23-27 calls us to deny ourselves (and be ready to die) and follow Jesus.
- Acts 2:38-41 sees people being called to repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ.
- Romans 10:9-10 calls us to believe Jesus was raised and declare/profess Jesus Christ as Lord.
If I can summarise the various calls to respond, the overarching theme is that:
we are called to repent and place our trust in the Gospel.
Repentance is the act of turning away from something and turning to something else, a change of mind and attitude. We are called to repent from our rebellion and idolatry against God (sins) and from our life apart from Him. This is what is involved in denying ourselves and being ready to die for Jesus – it means we are no longer living for ourselves. Our minds and attitudes change when we repent and turn to Jesus.
Trusting1 in the Gospel (i.e. placing our faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ) involves believing it and the act of following Jesus. If we really trust in Jesus and who He is then we will acknowledge that He is the Lord of all and, if He is the Lord of all, then we must follow Him. Following Jesus means to obey His words and follow His commands. This obedience is a response to what Jesus already has done, and the acceptance that is already possible, and is in no way a requirement in order to gain God’s approval. Trusting in the Gospel has historically been closely aligned with being baptised with water as an outward symbol of the internal reality of being joined to Jesus Christ. Water baptism is an important part of publicly embodying and declaring one’s trust in Jesus but it isn’t synonymous with it.2
So how would we ask someone to respond to the Gospel? We would ask them if they wanted to turn from their sins and turn to follow Jesus, and if they believed and trusted in who Jesus is and what He has done. That’s it. If the answer is yes to both, then they are a Christian. They are a follower of Jesus. They are brought from death to life (Ephesians 2:4-9), from slavery to freedom (Romans 6:15-23), and from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of God’s Son (Colossians 1:13-14). What I will now proceed to do is to outline, in broad terms, other responses we are to have to the Gospel. It is impossible to be comprehensive but I will do my best to explain them and then summarise at the end.
It must be said that repentance is not a one-time act but a continual attitude that marks the Christian life where we put off the desires and works of the earthly nature and put on the character of God’s chosen people (Colossians 3:1-17). Although a person may be a Christian they will continue to sin, but the promise of God is that forgiveness is always available to His people and there is no condemnation in Christ (1 John 1:8-10, Romans 8:1). Just as a Christian begins their life with Jesus with repentance and trust, so they are to continue with repentance and trust.
Having repented and trusted in the Gospel, another right response to the Gospel is to declare the majesty, excellence, and graciousness of the God of the Gospel (1 Peter 2:9-10). This is known as ‘praise’, where we declare positive truths and point out beautiful characteristics about something or someone. Praise is the right response to the God who saves His people and reveals Himself, and the way that God’s people throughout the history of the Bible. On top of praise, honour and service is also to be given to God. This is known as ‘worship’. Romans 12:1-2 indicates that our right response to God’s mercies is to give our whole lives as a living sacrifice to God, in that we are to live every moment of every day in honour and service to God. Praise and worship are proper responses to the Gospel because of the majesty, excellence, and graciousness of the God who made all this possible!
Part of this life of worship (honour and service) of God is in how we will be obeying Jesus’ commands and acting righteously inasmuch as is possible given our imperfection. We are called to work out our salvation, meaning that we are to consider how we can live in light of our new identities in Christ (Philippians 2:12-16). This can mean being thankful in all things, not grumbling or arguing, being kind and compassionate, not stealing but being generous, and seeking to model marriage after God’s design and pattern. These ‘good works’ are a response to the Gospel and a visible, tangible, public demonstration that we truly have been saved by God (Ephesians 2:10, James 2:24).
Working out our salvation also means that we understand we have been saved into a community of believers – a family of Christ. Being a family means that our response to the Gospel involves more than just us! We are to gather together and encourage one another (Hebrews 10:19-25), we are to teach and rebuke each other with songs (Colossians 3:16), and we are to confess our sins to each other (James 5:16). The Christian life cannot be fully embraced and lived out by ourselves – we must gather with our eternal siblings in Christ and walk in this journey together. Indeed, this is one of the greatest privileges of being a Christian.
Finally, we are to proclaim the Gospel that we have received. This is the right response to a message of salvation to all who would believe in a world that is under the just condemnation of God. As Romans 10:14-15 indicates, how will people be able to hear the Gospel and be saved if we don’t go and share it with them? A Christian is a saved sinner who is called to be an ambassador for Christ and call others to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). We proclaim the Gospel and call others to repent and trust in the Gospel as well. In doing so, we are following Jesus’ command to His disciples to go out and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:16-20). Note that the Christian cares about proclaiming the Gospel but should also have a desire to see those who respond to the Gospel mature and grown in their Christian walk. A Christian who just shares the Gospel but has no interest in helping new believers mature doesn’t understand the call to make disciples.
So, in summary, we have looked at four responses to the Gospel:
- Repent and trust in the Gospel.
- Worship and praise the God of the Gospel.
- Work out our salvation from the Gospel communally and individually.
- Proclaim the Gospel to make disciples.
The first one is the most important because it is what joins us to Jesus and allows us to experience the achievements of the Gospel (primarily, salvation and the knowledge of who God is). Repenting and trusting in the Gospel is what we are all called to do and it is the only right response to who Jesus is and what He has done.
Just as the whole New Testament could be seen as an attempt to understand the meaning of the Gospel, it can also be seen as the early disciple’s way of encouraging others in how they should respond in a world where Jesus was raised from the dead and declared Lord. In God’s kindness to us, He has given us direction, He has given us all that we need for a godly life (2 Peter 1:2-3), and He has graced us with His Holy Spirit who reminds us of the words of Christ and convicts us of our sin (John 16:7-15). Thank God for His Gospel! Praise God for His Son. Bless God for His mercies to us.
In our final article we will look at other messages that are not the Christian Gospel (but may be confused to be so!) and ones that are false versions of the truth.