Friday, August 05, 2011

Ephesians 1:13: The Message of Truth

"In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation ..."

As I write this I am on vacation, surrounded by natural beauty and a long list of books I want to read. Two of them intend to answer the question "what is the Gospel?' And I just finished listening to Alistair Begg's sermon of the same title! Seems the whole idea of the Gospel is big right now. But what is startling is the fact that the books and sermons asking the question are doing so because it appears the Christian public at large is in need of the answer.

My personal opinion is that the church has gotten caught up in so many things the last few decades that we've either marginalized the Gospel, or forgotten it all together. In the "marginalized" category would be those well-intentioned folks who view the Gospel as " the minimum amount of truth you have to believe to get into heaven." This has led to things like dehydrating the glorious story of God's redemptive work in Christ down into 4 statements, or 5 questions, or some  concise paragraph that will fit on a 3 X 5 card. And unfortunately in the process, things like sin and God's wrath have largely given way to an undefined statement of God's love, and the benefits of "trying" Jesus. We've reduced Jesus to a personal consultant - a Life Coach - that will help us make better decisions, and thereby helping us enjoy a more prosperous, satisfying life.

Or in some cases, we've left the Gospel out all together. Some believe that giving food to the hungry and clothes to the naked actually fulfills the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Apparently, these folks don't comprehend the difference between common grace, and the saving grace which alone can redeem, forgive, reform, and fit for eternity. Giving to the needy in abundant, sacrificial ways is certainly part of our calling. But Jesus said to go, and preach the Gospel, not only feed and clothe. And Paul reminds us that he wasn't "ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16). Food and clothes may satisfy the body, but on the Gospel can satisfy the soul.

The Gospel is essential, and it is essential that we know what it is. If the Gospel is the tool the Holy Spirit uses to bring about saving faith and repentance, then we'd better take care to get it right. In Ephesians 1:13 Paul makes a brief but cogent mention of the Gospel when he refers to it as the "message of truth" and "the gospel of your salvation." The Gospel, through which God grants salvation to undeserving sinners is, first and foremost, a message of truth. It isn't sly. It isn't concocted. It isn't polluted by the cultural needs of the day. It isn't part truth and part wishful thinking. It isn't even truth with chocolate sauce poured over the hard parts. It is a message that is thoroughly, fully, completely, and positively true. And the measure of this truth is the God who has authored it, and the Scriptures in which He has extended it to us. Simply put, the truthfulness of our Gospel with be measured by our faithfulness to the revealed story of God in the Bible.

Paul was very much aware that his primary responsibility in declaring the Gospel was not to the hearer. He didn't change the truth to suit the issues and desires of his audience. Nothing could be further from the truth, even though in our day this happens most of the time. Too often our "gospel" is presented as a remedy to the felt needs of those we encounter. Are you sad? Jesus will make you happy. Are you lonely? Follow Jesus and get the fellowship of the church. Are you poor? sick? or despairing? Try Jesus and see if your life doesn't improve!

In Paul's case, he realized that the message had been given to him by Christ, and he was expected to "herald" that message without compromise, under the watchful eyes of his Master (1 Thessalonians 2:4). Further, as previously mentioned, Paul knew that the Gospel was the power God used to bring about salvation (Romans 1:16). He labored hard not to compromise the message not only because it was God's message, but also because it was the means by which God would reclaim hard, sin soaked hearts, and transform them in vessels of beauty and grace for His glory.

Our world is starved for the truth of God in the Gospel. Sadly, the people entrusted with this message are largely either uninformed, or unprepared to share the story of God in Christ with others in a way that is natural, winsome, and most of all, true. Why else would all these books and sermons be flooding the market? And worse, why else would we see the church becoming less and less holy, and more and more weak? We need the Gospel, not only on our lips, but even more importantly, in our hearts, and on our minds. And not only at the beginning of the life of faith, but every day, as we seek to walk in a manner that is worthy of the calling of Christ on our lives.

Hope this helps,



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