Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared to me. (1 Cor. 15:1-8)
The gospel is an announcement, or a proclamation, of the good news that sinful people can be reconciled to a holy God through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul reminded the Corinthians of that in his epistle to them. Clearly, the gospel has specific content which must be proclaimed to everyone.
But the gospel is not simply an announcement of good news – it has implications, too. The same apostle Paul who wrote to the Corinthians wrote these words to Timothy:
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ before the ages began. (2 Tim. 1:8-9)
To the Ephesians, Paul wrote:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (Eph. 1:3-4)
The gospel obviously has moral and ethical implications – we have a holy calling and were chosen by God in order that we might be holy and blameless before Him. When we believe the gospel, we’re declared righteous by God (justification), but that isn’t the end of the story. God works, with our responsible cooperation, to sanctify us and make us more holy. Sanctification is a process that goes continues throughout our life, and will end when we are glorified in the presence of the Lord for all of eternity.
God’s work of salvation begins at justification, but it doesn’t stop there. The gospel transforms our heart and life in such a way that our thoughts, speech, and actions are changed – we became more holy as time goes by. Not only that, but our family, our vocation, our church, and our world are changed as the implications of the gospel are lived out in everyday life.
Paul didn’t end his epistles with the “indicatives;” he applied them by giving the “imperatives.” Believing the gospel leads to a changed life – it has to or it’s not genuine. The New Testament is filled with commands, all of which are based on the truth of the gospel. It’s not legalism to emphasize, or even mention, God’s commands – it’s what should naturally follow from believing the announcement of the gospel.
The gospel is an announcement of good news which has ethical and moral implications. We can’t forget that. If we do, I fear we’re preaching only half of a gospel.
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