Saturday, December 08, 2007

"Receiving" the Gospel

Paul Washer's HeartCry Missionary Society publishes a quarterly magazine available for download from their website. In Volume 54, September-November 2007, the leading article is on the Gospel. In the article, the author muses upon and exegetes First Corinthians 15:1-4. ("Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which 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 according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,"

In particular, I found the section on "Receiving" the Gospel to be one of the best (and most challenging) explanations of both the requirements for and the implications of becoming a Christian. 

For your edification, I reprint (via my typing, thus I take full responsibility for any typos) that section here. Any italics or bold are my emphases on the author's points. Please visit the links above to read the entire article or the entire magazine.

For men to be saved, the Gospel must be received. Yet, what does it mean to "receive" the Gospel? There is nothing extraordinary about the word "received" in English or biblical Greed, but in the context of the Gospel, it becomes quite extraordinary, and one of the most radical words in Scripture.

First, when two things are contrary or diametrically opposed to one another, to receive the one is to reject the other. Since there is no affinity or friendship between the Gospel and the world, to "receive" the Gospel is to "reject" the world. In this is demonstrated just how radical the act of receiving the Gospel can be. To receive and follow the Gospel call is to reject all that can be seen with the eye and held in the hand, in exchange for what cannot be seen. It is to reject personal autonomy, the right to self-government, in order to enslave oneself to a "messiah" who died two thousand years ago as an enemy of the state and a blasphemer. It is to reject the majority and its views, in order to join oneself to a berated and seemingly insignificant minority called the Church. It is to risk everything in this one and only life in the belief that this impaled prophet is the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

Secondly, for a man to "receive the Gospel" is for him to trust exclusively in the person and work of Jesus Christ as the only way of right standing before God. It is a common maxim that to trust in anything exclusively is dangerous, or at best, a very unwise thing to do. A man is considered careless to not have a backup plan, to not have an alternative escape roue, to not diversify his investments, or to put all his eggs in the same basket and burn bridges behind him. Yet, this is the very thing that is done by the man who received Jesus Christ. The Chirstian faith is exclusive. To truly receive Christ is to throw off every other hope in every other thing but Christ alone. It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul declares that the Christian is of all men most to be pitied, if Christ is a hoax. To receive the Gospel is not merely to pray a prayer asking Jesus to come into one's heart, but it is to put away the world and embrace the fullness of the claims of Christ.

To "receive the Gospel" is to open one's life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This is quite different from the plea of contemporary evangelism that directs men to "make Jesus Lord" of their lives. What we must understand is that Jesus IS Lord of every man. The Scriptures declared that God has made Him both Lord and Christ. He has installed His King upon His holy mountain and scoffs at those who would rebel against Him. God does not call men to make Jesus Lord, but t live in absolute submission to the Lord He has made.

The man who receives the Gospel, and with it, Jesus as Lord, does a very dangerous and sensible thing. It is dangerous in a Narnian sort of way. After all, He is not a tame Lion, and He is certainly not safe. He has the right to ask anything of those who call Him Lord, but He is good, and worthy of joyful trust. Those who do not understand the danger of the Gospel call have heard it only faintly. The same Jesus, who calls the weary to Himself, may also ask of them everything, and send them forth to lose their lives for His sake in this dark and fallen world. 

To receive the Gospel and Jesus as Lord is also a sensible thing to do. What could be more reasonable than to follow the omnipotent Creator and Sustainer of the universe, who has loved His people with an eternal love, redeemed them with His own blood, and demonstrated uncompromising commitment to every promise He has made? Even if He were not this way, and all this goodness was not in Him, it would still be most sensible to follow Him for who can resist His will? It is for these reasons and countless more, the Apostle urges us"to present our bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God", and calls it our spiritual or "reasonable service of worship."

To "receive the Gospel" is for the world and self to be dethroned and for Christ to become our new epicenter! He becomes the source, the purpose, the goal, and the motivation of all that we are and do. When a man receives the Gospel, his entire life begins to be lived out in a different context, and that context is Christ. Although the outward signs at the moment of true conversion may be less dramatic, the gradual effects will be monumental. Like a pebble cast in the center of a lake, the ripple effect of the Gospel will eventually reach the full circumference of the believer's life and touch every shore.

Finally, to "receive the Gospel" is to take it as the very source and sustenance of one's life. Christ cannot be received as "a part" of one's life or as an addition to all the other good things that one already possesses without Him. He is not some minor accessory that dresses up our life and makes it better. In receiving the Gospel, He becomes our life. In John 6:53, Jesus taught, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves." In Psalm 34:8, David cries out, "O taste and see that the Lord is good." What could make it clearer? To receive Christ into our lives is for Him to become for us not only a necessary meal that sustains us, but also an exquisite meal in which we delight.


Matt said...

You can download a PDF of that article here:

In Christ,
matt haney

Charley said...

Thank you, Matt...

I had the article from the magazine, which was also pdf... but for some reason, the copy and paste didn't work in blogger! was back to typing by hand.

Christos Kurios!