Worthy of the Gospel
October 2, 2014 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
One of the most astonishing characteristics of the apostle Paul is his utter Gospel-centeredness. I pray that I can imitate Paul in my ministry and that our church would champion such a passion for the gospel.
We are probably most familiar with Paul’s gospel-centered acclamations in Romans 1:16 (“For I am not ashamed of the gospel…”) or Galatians 1:9 (“If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”). But one of the most striking passages that reveals how Paul understands that the gospel impacts and dictates every area of life is Galatians 2:14, where Paul confronts Peter at Antioch. Paul writes, “But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel…”
For Paul, the gospel was not only the means for salvation from the wrath of God, but also the power and guide from God for how to live each and every day. Notice this emphasis in some of Paul’s comprehensive commands to the churches:
Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling (gospel call) to which you have been called.
Philippians 1:27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.
The gospel sets the standard of a worthy life, and a worthy church. What does that worthy walk look like?
1. Denial of Self for the Sake of the Unity of the Church. In both Ephesians 4 and Philippians 1 Paul emphasizes the need for humility, care for one another, and uniting in one mind and spirit. Individual self-interest and isolation have no place in a gospel centered life or church community. Why is this so important for a life worthy of the gospel? In the gospel we are taught the truth that we are more sinful than we ever dared to believe. No one has bragging rights. No one is more important than another. No one has ever earned anything from God. Only the gospel truth can free us from our infatuations with ourselves in order to “count others more significant than ourselves.” Just like boot camp in the military, the gospel tears all of us down to equal level and builds us up as a unified whole. To the extent that we are humbled and the church is unified is the extent the gospel has shaped our community.
2. Active Imitating of God’s Love and Forgiveness. We are commanded to forgive as God has forgiven us, but only the gospel frees us from our selfish drive for dealing out justice on others. The gospel teaches us that we are more loved and forgiven in Christ than we ever hoped for. Nothing satisfies the longings of the heart than this unconditional acceptance before God. Out of this abundance we are empowered to genuinely love and forgive others. When we are empty, not believing in the gospel, we lash out at others, consuming people for our needs. To the extent that we are loving and forgiving as individuals and as a church community is the extent the gospel has penetrated our hearts.
3. Striving for the Faith of One Another and Those Outside the Church. Easily seen, the apostle Paul was convinced there was no hope outside of the gospel. He made it his life’s ambition to strive for the faith of all those he ministered to. This means he labored so that others would deepen their satisfaction in all that God has done for them through Jesus Christ. And he calls for the church to strive for this very thing. What’s most valuable to us? What do we believe holds the greatest hope for our community? How are we “striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” This is our mission. When we gather on Sunday mornings, yes we gather to glorify God, but one of the main ways we glorify God in this life is standing unified for the sake of the gospel going forth to one another and to our community. To the extent that we strive together as a church for the gospel to be proclaimed is the extent that we have prioritized the gospel in all that we do.
I pray for gospel renewal. I pray that we would strive side by side for the sake of the gospel. I thank God for your partnership in the gospel already. May God be glorified in his church.