"FOLLOWING JESUS WITHOUT DENOMINATIONALISM" Accepting The Call Of The Gospel INTRODUCTION 1. In the last lesson I proposed the following as the way out of religious division... a. First, follow the example of Jesus and maintain a "non-sectarian" relationship with God 1) Living under the Old Covenant, He was simply an Israelite, as the Law intended 2) Living under the New Covenant, His disciples were simply called "Christians", and so should we! - cf. Ac 11:26 ; 1 Pe 4:16 b. Second, to ensure that we are truly members of Christ's body, the church (i.e., His "called-out" ones)... 1) Let us be sure that we have answered the call of the gospel, by which He adds us to His Church (and not some denomination begun by man) - 2 Th 2:14 ; Ac 2:41 ,47 2) Let us follow the example of the early church, who "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine" - Ac 2:42 2. An important key, then, is that we properly answer the call of the gospel... a. For through the gospel Christ is calling us into His church b. When we accept the gospel call, by God's grace we receive salvation and the Lord adds us to His church 3. Unfortunately, there have always been those who have "perverted" certain elements of the gospel... a. In the first century, Paul wrote of those who had perverted the gospel by trying to add elements of the Old Law to it - Ga 1:8-9 ; cf. Ac 15:1 ,6 b. Later, others attempted to change the basis of salvation by teaching a salvation of works, rather than by grace through faith c. Even today, many pervert the gospel by the manner they call upon people to respond to the gospel, leaving out the proper response as taught by Christ and His apostles -- For this reason, it is important that we understand the gospel of Christ, and how to properly accept the call of the gospel! 4. There are several good ways to summarize the gospel that makes it easy to remember, and one was that suggested by Walter Scott... a. Not Sir Walter Scott, the British author who wrote "Ivanhoe" b. But a kinsman born in Scotland (1796), who came to America and proclaimed the gospel throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Kentucky c. In his study of the gospel, Walter Scott summarized it as containing... 1) Facts to be believed 2) Commands to be obeyed 3) Promises to be received d. Indeed, accepting the call of the gospel involves a person accepting the "facts," "commands," and "promises" contained in the gospel of Jesus Christ [To elaborate, let's consider first of all that to accept the call of the gospel one must...] I. HEAR & BELIEVE THE "FACTS" OF THE GOSPEL A. HEAR THE GOSPEL CALL 1. One cannot accept what they are not willing to hear; hearing the Word develops faith - Ro 10:17 2. Jesus exhorts us to listen to His words of truth - Mk 4:9 We must believe... B. THAT JESUS WAS "CRUCIFIED" FOR OUR SINS... 1. The death of Jesus for our sins is a fundamental part of the gospel - 1 Co 15:1-3 2. It was foretold by Isaiah - Isa 53:4-6 3. It's necessity is seen in that all are sinners, and the wages of sin is death - Ro 3:23; 6:23 4. But in love, God sent His son to be a propitiation (atoning sacrifice) for our sins - 1 Jn 4:9-10 C. THAT JESUS WAS "RAISED" FROM THE DEAD... 1. Together with His death and burial, the resurrection of Christ is fundamental to the gospel - 1 Co 15:4 2. In the first gospel sermon recorded, Peter centered his message around proving that God raised Jesus from the dead - Ac 2:22-32 3. Without the resurrection of Christ, the gospel is meaningless - cf. 1 Co 15:14-19 D. THAT JESUS IS "EXALTED" AS KING AND SAVIOR... 1. So Peter proclaimed at the climax of his first gospel sermon - cf. Ac 2:33-36 2. All have been put under His feet, and made subject to Him - Ep 1:20-22 ; 1 Pe 3:22 3. Therefore He is truly "the ruler over the kings of the earth"! - Re 1:5 E. THAT JESUS IS "COMING" AGAIN... 1. As prophesied in the Book of Revelation - Re 1:7 2. As proclaimed by the "two men in white apparel" when Jesus ascended to heaven - Ac 1:9-11 3. The purpose of His coming? To execute judgment and be glorified! - 2 Th 1:7-10 [Certainly there are other elements of the gospel necessary for us to believe (such as the virgin birth of Christ, His deity, etc.), but in the preaching of the gospel as recording in the book of Acts, the facts which I have described were emphasized time and again. Do you believe the "facts" of the gospel? If so, that is wonderful, for when you have such faith you will be prompted to accept the call of the gospel to...] II. OBEY THE "COMMANDS" OF THE GOSPEL A. "BELIEVE" THE GOSPEL CONCERNING JESUS CHRIST... 1. Yes, this sounds redundant, but it is important to stress two things: a. That there are indeed "commands" one must obey to be saved b. And that the first command is to "believe"! 2. Unless one believes the gospel, there is no hope - Mk 16:15-16 3. The gospel is God's power unto salvation, but only to those who believe - Ro 1:16 4. Faith (along with confession) is a necessary step leading to salvation - Ro 10:9-10 a. Without faith it is impossible to please God - He 11:6 b. Without faith, one will not act upon the other conditions of the gospel (such as confession, repentance, etc.) 5. Do you lack faith? Then I direct you to the four gospels (Matt, Mark, Luke, John) a. For they were written to produce faith - cf. Jn 20:30-31 b. For faith comes from hearing the Word of God - Ro 10:17 B. "CONFESS" YOUR FAITH IN JESUS AS LORD... 1. In addition to the command to believe, there is the command to confess Jesus as Lord - cf. Ro 10:9-10 2. This means to acknowledge that you believe Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God, who is "King of kings, and Lord of lords" 3. An example of such a confession is found in Ac 8:37 4. Without confessing Jesus before men, we have no hope that He will confess us before His Father in heaven - cf. Mt 10:32-33 5. Are you willing to confess that you believe Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God? C. "REPENT" OF YOUR SINS... 1. To "repent" means to have "a change of mind", in which case you make the decision to turn from your sins and turn toward living for God a. It is brought about by a "godly sorrow" for your sins - 2 Co 7:10 b. And it will produce a visible change in one's life - 2 Co 7:11 2. Jesus said that "repentance" should be preached in His name among the nations - Lk 24:46-47 3. Indeed, the apostles Peter and Paul both stressed repentance in their gospel preaching - cf. Ac 2:37-38 ; 3:19; 17:30-31 4. Dear friend, has faith in what Christ did for you on the cross and sorrow over your sins moved you to the point that you have made the decision to change? 5. If so, then you are ready for the culminating act of faith and obedience to the gospel of Christ... D. BE "BAPTIZED" FOR THE REMISSION OF YOUR SINS... 1. Baptism is clearly a part of the gospel message that Jesus wanted His disciples to proclaim - Mk 16:15-16 ; Mt 28:18-20 2. Peter proclaimed baptism for the remission of sins in his first sermon - Ac 2:38 3. Paul related that he was commanded to be baptized "to wash away sins" - Ac 22:16 4. Not that there is anything in the act of immersion (the meaning of "baptizo") that merits or earns forgiveness, but it is simply the point of time in which God by His grace unites us with Christ in His death, and by His working in conjunction with our faith raises us to walk in newness of life! a. Ro 6:3-6 describes baptism as the point in time we are united into the death of Christ at which point we die to sin and thereby raised to newness of life b. Co 2:11-13 reveals that in baptism we are buried with Christ and then raised through faith in God's working who makes us alive in Christ by forgiving us of our sins! 5. Dear friend, have you been baptized for the remission of your sins? If not, are you willing to let God cleanse you through the blood of His Son and raise you to a new life? E. BE "FAITHFUL" UNTO DEATH... 1. Those who gladly received the preaching of the apostles were baptized, and the Lord added them to His church - Ac 2:41 ,47 2. So while in one sense the "commands" of the gospel end with the command to be baptized, there is also the command of our Lord for faithfulness a. Jesus wanted His disciples to teach others "to observe all things that I have commanded you" - Mt 28:19-20 b. Jesus exhorted His church in Ephesus: "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." - Re 2:10 3. The need for continued faithfulness is paramount: a. For believers can develop an evil heart of unbelief in falling away from God - He 3:12 b. For believers can become hardened through the deceitfulness of sin - He 3:13 c. And believers become partakers of Christ only "IF we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end" - He 3:14 4. Therefore the need for such exhortations as the one given by Paul: "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." - 1 Co 15:58 [Finally, to fully accept the call of the gospel, we need to...] III. RECEIVE THE "PROMISES" OF THE GOSPEL A. THE REMISSION OF SINS... 1. As stated by Jesus, remission of sins was to be proclaimed among all nations - Lk 24:47 2. Faithful to the Lord's charge, the early Christians offered this wonderful promise to those who would heed the commands of the gospel - cf. Ac 2:38 ; 3:19; 22:16 3. In their epistles, the writers would often refer to this wonderful blessing - e.g., Ep 1:7 4. Don't you want the assurance that your sins have been forgiven, washed away by the blood of Christ? -- Then heed the commands of the gospel! - Ac 2:38 B. THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT... 1. Jesus had also spoken of those who believe in Him receiving the Spirit in a special way - cf. Jn 7:37-39 2. Thus Peter offers the gift of the Spirit to those who will obey God - Ac 2:38-39 ; 5:32 3. The blessing of having the Spirit in our lives is related to His indwelling... a. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit - 1 Co 6:19 b. With the aid of the Spirit, we are able to put to death the deeds of the flesh - Ro 8:9 ,11-13 c. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is an instrumental agent by which the Father imparts strength to the Christian - Ep 3:16 , 20-21 4. Dear friend, God does not expect you to live the Christian life solely by your own strength; don't you wish to receive all of the aids (the Holy Spirit is only one such aid) that God affords His children? -- Then heed the commands of the gospel! - Ac 2:38 C. THE GIFT OF ETERNAL LIFE... 1. The expression "eternal life" is an interesting one, evidently used in two different ways in the scriptures a. It is used to describe the reward of the faithful, received only at the end, on the day of judgment 1) Jesus used it this way in Mt 25:46 2) Paul, likewise, describing it as gift from God through Jesus Christ - Ro 6:23 (cf. 6:22; also 2:5-8) b. It is also used to describe the spiritual life we now enjoy by virtue of our knowledge of (or fellowship with) the Father and the Son 1) Jesus describes it as such in Jn 17:2-3 2) As well as His beloved disciple, John, in 1 Jn 5:11-13 2. Thus the gift of eternal life is one that has "promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come" (to borrow a phrase from Paul) 3. Aren't you tired of the shallow life this world has to offer? Don't you wish to receive that "abundant life" that Jesus came to give? - cf. Jn 10:10 -- Then heed the commands of the gospel! - Mk 16:16 CONCLUSION 1. These wonderful promises (and there are many more) can be received by anyone who is willing to heed and accept the call of the gospel of Christ a. Those who do, will not only receive these blessings b. But they will also be added by the Lord to His church, that great assembly of "called-out" ones who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb 2. Have you accepted the "call" of the gospel? Have you... a. Believed the "facts" of the gospel? b. Obeyed the "commands" of the gospel? c. Thereby received the "promises" of the gospel? 3. It is possible that you have only obeyed some of the "commands" of the gospel... a. Many have "believed", "repented", confessed", but were never "baptized" b. This is because you rarely hear preachers stressing that aspect of the gospel in their preaching 3. Sadly, I fear that many... a. Have reacted to one "perversion" of the gospel (adding meritorious works) b. By going to the other extreme where they commit another "perversion" of the gospel (taking away a command of God) I plan to discuss the subject of "baptism" more closely in the next lesson, but if you are convinced that you need to obey Christ in this regard, why not do so today?