Saturday, September 15, 2007

How do you "obey" the gospel?

Paul's words in Romans 1:15-17 are probably my favorite explanation of the gospel and what is contained in it.
Rom 1:15-17
15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
So much is said here in such few words! Why is Paul not ashamed of the gospel of Christ? Because it (the gospel) is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes! The gospel is God's power to save people! And it only gets better! Paul goes on to say that in it (the gospel), "the righteousness of God is revealed." The gospel is the revelation of God's righteousness! Following Paul from 1:18 to 3:20, he speaks in great detail about the unrighteousness of man, including a great explanation about how it was the law's purpose to point that out.

With Paul making such a huge case for man's unrighteousness, the contrast becomes exceptionally clear between it and God's righteousness. In chapter 3:21 he brings it right back around to his original point in 1:17... "But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed..."

So... two essential things here. 1. The gospel is God's power to save people. 2. The gospel reveals God's righteousness (contrasted greatly with man's unrighteousness). If it wasn't for the gift of God's very own righteousness, we would all be toast!

Later, in Chapter 10, Paul quotes from Isaiah as he talks about those who preach the gospel:
Rom 10:14-15
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

"How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!"
What Paul says next has always intrigued me, and it brings up a question that I think is worth discussing. In verse 16, Paul says, "But they have not all obeyed the gospel." We all know how to obey instructions and commands. But how do you "obey" the gospel? I've heard plenty of explanations of this that I don't agree with... Such as, "to obey the gospel is to obey God's commandments or Jesus' commands." Or "to obey the gospel means to do all the stuff that the scriptures tell us to do." You know, stuff like that. I'm sure many of you also disagree that that's what it means to obey the gospel! Given all that's said above about the gospel, and all the thoughts that have been shared about the question, "what is the gospel," what do you think? How does one "obey" the gospel?


  1. Obey! My flesh just doesn't like that word! :)

    I think "obey" in Romans 10:16 is a translational thing. I looked it up in my Strongs and it could also mean "listen to" or "heed." "Listen to," makes sense to me in light of the next verse:

    "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

    If you look at some of the other translations you see these other contexts

    However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?" NASB

    But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our message?" NIV

    But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, “Lord, who has believed our message?” NLT

    Translating scripture isn't an exact science, but what if it turns out "obey" is the correct translation? One idea I have is that we obey the "call" of the gospel. The gospel "calls" us to repentance and faith. Just thinking out loud. What do you think?

    P.S. I may not be thinking too clearly. As I type, I am watching my team play Arkansas.

  2. I'm with you, Gary. My flesh hates the word obedience. Christianity everywhere to me, is starting to feel like school. And I despised going to school.

    I thought I was the only one who felt hostility in my flesh when I heard the word "obey". Apparently I wasn't one of those extra holy Christians.

    But I totally agree with Gary's answer. Obedience to the gospel can mean nothing more than faith in it. A lot of people would say, "Well, it's only faith when you buckle down and get to work."

    Oddly enough Paul says, "But to him who does not work, but believe in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness."

    I'm not at all saying that faith doesn't cause good works. A new creation will not remain the same. But I believe good works are to be natural. Not working to please God. Lots of people today are doing good works and then call it faith.

    Obedience to the gospel means to trust only in it. The first 6 chapters of Hebrews stress the seriousness of trusting in it and standing firm in the grace of God. It's a warning to anyone who is unwilling to put their trust in the gospel. He is basically saying, "Either receive the grace of God or be doomed."

    Being threatened with grace is very reassuring and can shake you up a little if you find you're being a coward and still trying to please God with your works.

    It's a very difficult thing in my opinion to stand firm in grace these days. It's so easy to drift away from the gospel and get into a performance based mentality.

  3. Gary and Matthew,

    I agree with both of you. Another example, when the same Greek word is used, is in Heb 5:9. Speaking of Jesus, it says, "...having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him." There are several other instances like this.

    What you guys said is really what I wanted to draw out of all this. To "heed" or to "obey" the gospel is not to follow a law, but rather to "listen intently" or to heed the truth of the gospel. The gospel reveals God's righteousness, which is found in Christ Jesus by faith alone. As others have said here, the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. The gospel is God's work that He has done freely for us to receive. There's nothing we can add to it or take away from it, and so I believe that to obey or heed the gospel is to heed, accept, receive and appropriate this truth.

    About obedience, I will say that obedience is a part of our walk with God. I fully agree that our flesh hates obedience. :) But our flesh is not what we follow. As we become established in grace, and grow in more and more in our spiritual walk, obedience to our wise Father becomes an overflow of our life in Him. He is not a harsh master, but rather a loving Father who lives in us and guides us by His grace.

  4. Sometimes I laugh out loud just reading these posts and comments. How good it is to find people who understand grace! It's such an encouragement; my heart leaps for joy!

    One of the recent posts/comments said something about a grace salvation that somehow gets turned around to works based. Isn't that how most "baptist" churches are teaching "race" nowadays? I don't mean to pick on them, but that's where I was for a few years after leaving the legalistic background. I thought I'd found something wonderful, until...

    "Yes, we're saved by Grace alone. But, if you're not feeling called to drive the church bus, or teach Sunday school, or go out and visit the sick in the hospital, or witness door to door you'd better check your salvation!"


    Since when does God require us to be a part of weekly church organizations to show His love? Why can't I just be an ordinary person, indwelled by someone extraordinary working through me so that His love goes everywhere I do, whether it be changing my kid's diaper or talking to the clerk at the grocery store? In the "church" there is no room for people to just love people. You've got to do it through their little programs.

    Ok, maybe I just needed to rant. Sorry!

  5. Erica,

    No need to apologize... Your rant is fully understood and welcomed here. :) I've been put under those guilt trips plenty of times. Sometimes it's subtle and sometimes it's not so subtle!

    We, the body of Christ, are members of one another and need each other, but my oh my how we've added all kinds of legalistic attachments and requirements (such as 'church membership,' being involved in programs, etc). I've found that when I'm set free from all of those expectations, I genuinely walk as who I am in Christ, with no one needing to poke me along to get involved in various activities and programs. Some people don't understand why, if I talk about the power of God's grace so much, I don't get involved in many of the things that go on in church. Simply put, it's because I'm "busy" being who I am in Christ instead. :)

    I love the body of Christ. I love the people who haven't come to Christ yet.

    "Duty" used to lead me, through guilt, to do the things I thought I was supposed to do (simply because other people were doing it or telling me I had to do it). Now it's love and delight. I'm not "obligated." Rather, I'm motivated by love. And I'm free to sit back as well, and just enjoy life and not be busy all the time with 'church activity!'

  6. Erica,

    I attend a Baptist church, but God has blessed me by bringing to one where Grace is preached and taught. There are a few in the church that are somewhat legalistic, but those are a minority.

    I think that most Baptists are on board when it comes to salvation by grace alone, but tend to be legalistic when it comes to living the Christian life.

    The past few Sunday's a lady has been visiting our church who is from a very legalistic church and denomination (Church of Christ). She just couldn't get over how well she was treated by our church, even after she shared that she was divorced. "You mean you don't have a problem with me helping teach Sunday school?" Grace is beautiful thing.

    In Christ,