Knowing the Gospel Because it is Doctrine
One of the most frequent arguments made about doctrine is that it divides. This flows from the same logic that leads people to say, “No Creed but Christ.” Which is itself creedal. The driving force behind such statements is the lack of intellectual engagement in Western Christian Culture (WCC). The predominant mindset of WCC is that of emotionalism and emotional engagement. This has led to an abandonment of the study of doctrine. This lack of study has also led to a large percentage of people in WCC not knowing the Gospel.
If there is any doctrine as important as the doctrines of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ it is the doctrine of the Gospel. Therefore, we need to know the Gospel. Moreover, I am not simply speaking about knowing the Gospel as it pertains to salvation. I am specifically speaking about knowing the Gospel from the perspective of doctrine.
Knowing the Gospel is of utmost importance to the believer as much as it is for the unbeliever. What prompts me to say that? As believers we live the Christian life because of what God has wrought in us through the completed work of Christ. That message, the Gospel, should be ever on our minds. It works to keep us in a position of humble service to God. Furthermore, it has the effect of drawing us out of ourselves and into the lives of others.
Knowing the Gospel from the perspective of doctrine also works to cause us to relate to the world biblically. If we take our eyes off the what the Gospel says to us about man our focus becomes centered on man. Instead, knowing the Gospel compels us to keep our eyes on God as we look to what the Gospel has to say about humanity.
Knowing the Gospel Builds Confidence in God
One of the things that plagues many Christians is doubt. We doubt our salvation. We doubt God’s love. Moreover, we doubt the truth of Scripture when we are in the depths of our weakest moments. Knowing the Gospel becomes pivotal in these moments because it refreshes our trust in God.
Furthermore, with a refreshed or renewed trust in God, we gain, or grow, in our confidence. However, not in ourselves, but in Him. The natural, or default setting of the human heart is self-reliance. We strive to be free of the constraints of dependency on others. Our greatest desire is most often found in rugged individualism that cries, “Look at what I have done!”
Yet, the Gospel destroys that independence and thrusts us to the floor on our knees before God. In those moments, with our wretchedness utterly laid bare, we come to appreciate what God has done. However, this is not only a one time event, it is a daily, or maybe even hourly. If we rightly understand the doctrine of the Gospel, we grow, according to God’s grace, in our dependence upon Him.
We come to a place where knowing the Gospel leads us to say with Paul, “It is no longer I who lives.” We lean into God when He tells us that it is He who has begun and will complete the good works in us. It becomes a joy to know that it was God working according to His good pleasure to lead us to repentance. We cherish the truth that before the foundation of the earth it was God who chose us to be conformed to the image of His Son.
It is God who reminds us that we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus. Therefore, knowing the Gospel, builds these confidences.
Knowing the Gospel Builds Confidence in the Face of Opposition
The more we live, work and generally interact with others as Christians, the more we will face opposition. Opposition from varied directions and in many shapes. Often opposition comes when we take hard stands on incredibly sensitive subjects. Yet, knowing the Gospel, makes our positions sure.
When faced with an incredibly delicate decision, the Christian bakery owner in Colorado, stood his ground. He wasn’t angry. Moreover, he wasn’t hostile and abrasive, he simply rested in the promises of God. Those promises find their fulfillment in God in the same way that the Gospel does. In particular, God saves utterly wretched people unworthy of salvation. Therefore, how much more so will He keep the promises He has made to those same people?
This is the nature of knowing the Gospel. It builds this type of confidence. We must understand that God has worked to build into the Gospel, promises. Not only the promise of being delivered from His wrath, but also the promise of being made different than the world. This molding and shaping of us brings with it the reality of hatred from the world.
Why do we marvel when we face opposition? Didn’t Christ promise us these types of problems for the sake of the Gospel? Knowing the Gospel delivers us from fear of the unknown to confidence in the promise. Knowing the Gospel drives us to faithfulness not despite opposition but for the sake of opposition.
Penultimately, it is knowing the Gospel that brings us to a place where we actively pursue living our lives according to the promise. It is knowing the Gospel that allows Peter to tell us to be ready to answer for the hope within us during persecution. Knowing the Gospel isn’t about being saved, it is about embracing everything God has promised.
Knowing the Gospel Intimately Motivates Obedience to the Great Commission
The more familiar we become with the doctrine of the Gospel the more we will be moved to obey it. Knowing the Gospel is much the same as knowing a mathematical formula. One may struggle to understand a math problem and how to solve it. However, once the formula for the that problem, is learned, studied and employed, the problem becomes less intimidating. A common example of this mathematically is the formula used to find percentages:
Part/whole = %/100
This is simple enough to me now. However, years ago when I was first taught this in elementary school I struggled to understand it. Once I grasped it I had no trouble understanding its usage.
So it is with knowing the Gospel. When you first came to saving-faith I would guess that you struggled to accurately explain the Gospel to anyone. I know I did. I had to follow a formulary to even mumble through it. Yet, as time passed, and I studied the Word more and practiced proclaiming the Gospel, the more intimate I became with it. The more intimacy I had in knowing the Gospel the more natural it became. Furthermore, the more natural it became the easier it worked into conversations.
This may seem simple to you as you read. However, ask yourself, does the seeming simplicity of it motivate your obedience to the Great Commission? If it doesn’t, why doesn’t it?
As is the case with any doctrine that we study, the knowledge of that doctrine should motivate us toward an end. Knowing the Gospel as doctrine should motivate us toward obedience to proclaiming it. The Gospel communicates powerful truths about mankind, God and how those entities relate to and interact with one another.
Therefore, understanding those “interrelational” realities compels Gospel centered compliance to the Commission of Christ.
Eternal Life Hangs on Knowing the Gospel
Knowing the Gospel may indeed drive us to be humbly submissive to the command contained in the Great Commission. However, knowing the Gospel also drives us to preaching it correctly. Paul was deeply concerned for the foundational truths of the Gospel. In Galatians Paul anathematized the preaching of any message that purported to be the Gospel but wasn’t pure.
Paul makes it clear that such a message is perversion. However, why is it so important? Why does Paul take it so seriously?
The Gospel is a matter of life and death. Knowing the Gospel well and communicating it effectively means the difference between salvation and damnation. The Judaizers had come into the church in Galatia and had begun to add certain works to the message of the Gospel. These men were making things like circumcision a necessity for salvation.
Moreover, they were heaping up these burdens on unsuspecting souls and leading them into death. Paul would have none of it. He drove at the heart of the Gospel message. Paul emphasized the need for a doctrinally pure Gospel message.
Similarly, we must pursue knowing the Gospel to ensure doctrinal purity. We must preach a purely unadulterated message that leaves no confusion that results from our lack of Gospel clarity. This is not to say that those who have heard a Galatian heresy type message in the past won’t be confused. However, this should open the doors for us to take the Gospel we know and bring it to bear on the false Gospel they have heard.
Consider not only the cults such as the Mormons and the JWs and their false gospel messages. However, also the droves of so-called “Christian” denominations that teach works as part of the Gospel. The Church of Christ and her baptismal regeneration come to mind.
As I have emphasized in so many articles, the Great Commission is not optional for the true convert. They will by nature of their relationship to God strive to preach the Good News to their neighbors. However, it is fundamentally important that we not let novices go out into the world unprepared for the preaching of the Gospel.
Furthermore, love for neighbor and for fellow Christians, commends us to the study of the Gospel. Knowing the Gospel intimately requires that we help others know it in the same way. I recently read of a church body in the US that requires any person approaching for membership or baptism to articulate the Gospel. Any struggle to articulate the Gospel clearly and biblically leads to further discipling. Then the question is revisited. This is repeated until the individual is able to demonstrate that they know the Gospel.
This is the picture of what a healthy church body with healthy members looks like. There is no equivocation in knowing the Gospel. They will not brook any sloppy or lazy doctrine in something so fundamentally important to Christian faith.
My dear beloved readers, does this sound like your congregation? Moreover, does this sound like you? How familiar are you with the Gospel? Is it the air your breath and the water you drink? Or is the Gospel something that you heard once and then believed to escape the consequences of your sin?
My call to you, to me, to all of us, is to examine what we know about ourselves. Examine what we know about this fundamental doctrine of our faith. If we cannot demonstrate how knowing the Gospel is changing us and motivating us, then perhaps we need to stop and ask if we truly know it all.
Soli Deo Gloria!