Chapter 1: 16-17
Live by Faith
“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.'”
Thanks for all the emails. Some seem to be enjoying the study, and others have been helpful with pointing out things they disagree with. Both kinds of emails are read; and more often than not, responded to. It is a privilege to have others read the things that I write. There are many well-versed writers out there who love our Lord and His Holy Word.
Last week we looked at the importance of the Gospel and that we should not water it down. Jesus is and should be the focus of all that we do. The churches we as pastors serve are not ours but the Lord’s. He is the head of them all. I remind my folks often, that pastors leave in U-Hauls and hearses but Jesus remains.
I just read an interesting post from a friend of mine on Facebook; the gist of it was that we need to stop watering down the Gospel. We need to stop changing the meaning of what it says and what it means. Last week, I pointed out that the Gospel is only Good News if we are saved from something to something. We are saved from judgment to salvation. We are saved from an eternity in Hell to one in Heaven. We are saved from being the enemies of God to being the children of God. The Gospel is precious and it is not to be trifled with. Paul loved the Gospel. He longed to present it and explain it, he longed to share it with any who would listen, and he hurt when they rejected it.
Whether he was addressing King Agrippa in Acts 25:13-27, or Felix in chapter 24, Paul told his story of conversion. A personal story of how Jesus saved him. He told where he was, what he saw, what he did and how it transformed him.
I was a 14-year-old boy that had attended church all my life. My father was a deacon and a part of the Gideon group. I attended a conservative local church called Berean Bible Church in Barbados. On a Monday night in the spring of 1981, I was attending an outdoor crusade hosted by the Billy Graham ministries at the National Stadium; and when the invitation was given, I bowed my head and asked Jesus to save me, a sinner. I put my faith in Him. The next day I went forward at the invitation and told one of the men at the front that I had been saved. My brother Mark was saved that Tuesday night as well. We were baptized in June of 1981 at the church there in Barbados. This is my story; what is yours? Each of us has a unique account of our conversion, an encounter with Jesus that changed us forever.
Paul was not ashamed of his salvation story. He told any and all who would listen. Here is the gist of it: if God would save a wretch like me, a man bent and bound on arresting and imprisoning Christians, then He will save anyone. Paul dedicated himself to the Gospel with the same tenacity that he was committed to the Law. How has the Gospel transformed you? Sadly, for many people, they don’t know. They can’t see the transformation. There is no one who is outside of the reach of the Gospel. No one.
- Power to Save Everyone, verse 16
The Gospel is God’s power to save everyone who will believe in Jesus as Saviour. This is what men and women are called to do. Jesus the God/Man is clearly presented in the Bible and in both secular and church history. We have to choose to accept, to believe and trust in these accounts of the Man who claimed to be God, the Man who could heal the sick and raise the dead, the Man who died on a cross for the sins of the whole world and three days later rose from the dead.
C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying that Jesus was either a liar or a lunatic or Lord, but he could not just be a good man. In a teaching video by Cold Case ministries called ‘Everyone Makes Room for Jesus,’ the host J. Warner Wallace points out that most if not all of the major religions make room for Jesus as a Holy Man, a Prophet, a Wise Man and many other positions. It seems that one cannot have a major religion without Jesus. Even Islam makes room for Jesus as a Prophet. A bad one, but one nonetheless. Even the Devil knows that you can’t even have a religion without Jesus; His teaching is so good that even the false teachers have to give Him credit. Ghandi was known to want to copy Jesus.
What separates the true Gospel from the false teachings is that Christianity not only affirms that Jesus was a Good Man, Good Prophet, a Wise Man, and a Healer, but that He was and is God. This is the line in the sand that the born-again Christian must cross.
In 1 John 4: 1-3, we see this: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”
We all know, even from secular history, that Jesus is real; but what is it about Him coming in the flesh that is unique? It is that He is God in the flesh! If we deny that Jesus is God in the flesh, we are not one of His children. When you take the time to read through the Gospel and observe, you will see that Jesus healed hundreds of thousands of people. Many were healed just by touching His clothes. Sometimes entire major cities and all their surrounding areas came, and He healed from daybreak to nightfall.
Look at Mark 3: 7-12: “But Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea. And a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and beyond the Jordan; and those from Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard how many things He was doing, came to Him. So He told His disciples that a small boat should be kept ready for Him because of the multitude, lest they should crush Him. For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, ‘You are the Son of God.’ But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known.”
He just kept healing and healing people, and Jesus was so pressed by the crowd that He kept a boat handy to escape the throng if need be.
Look at Mark 6:53-56: “When they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret and anchored there. And when they came out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him, ran through that whole surrounding region, and began to carry about on beds those who were sick to wherever they heard He was. Wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well.”
Look, He healed people from anywhere and all the cities all around. Hundreds and thousands of people. Jesus showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that He was and is God. Jesus not only had the power to save the physical life, but He had the power to save for eternity.
In Hebrews 7: 24-26, we see that He saves completely. “But because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest truly befits us—One who is holy, innocent, undefiled, set apart from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.”
We, like Paul, should not be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the same power today as it had 2,000 years ago. It transforms people today like it did for my brother and me in 1981. It is still being sought by people all over the world. I have friends who are missionaries all over the world; they leave North America and learn Russian, Ukrainian, Spanish, French, Japanese, and on and on I can go, just for the sake of taking the Gospel. This year as in many games before, I have a friend who will lead a team of some 300 to hand out John/Roman Bibles at the Japan Olympics. The Gospel is all there is; no other way. Jesus or Hell; that is it.
- Live by Faith, verse 17
Salvation begins a journey of living by faith. A journey that says the very opposite of the world’s philosophy that has crept into the Lord’s churches. Jesus teaches that true Christians put God first above all else.
In Mark 12: 41-44 we see the faith of this poor woman who trusts God to supply her needs and is obedient even when she has so little. “Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.'”
The apostles noticed the rich people; God noticed the poor. God noticed the one living by faith.
In Mark 12: 29-31 we see this famous passage: “Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Love God fervently and others with the same passion. Jesus told the apostles that they should seek to be great servants first. Serve each other and love each other. They were to trust God to supply all of their needs and that of their loved ones. Whenever I read the account of God feeding the Jews in the wilderness, I am reminded that they only got enough for each day. Man, that is hard to live by today when we have been spoiled by abundance. Living by faith has become harder and harder the more ‘self-sufficient’ we think we are.
But, make no mistake; if you are going to grow in Jesus and become more like Christ, you will have to learn to live by faith. God will take you through whatever path that takes in life. Some with illness, others poverty, others family uncertainty, and on we can go. The just will live by faith.
This is why we are not to be ashamed of the Gospel. In it, we will be called to do things that are illogical, behave in ways that are unnatural, and believe things that are supernatural. Paul could reconcile that if he, a murderous Pharisee, could be saved, then anyone could be saved. If God could find me in a little third world island in the Caribbean, then He can do anything He says He can do. He can provide, He can form Christ in me, and He can keep me saved, even when my flesh is weak and failing.
I am not ashamed of the Gospel; it is the power that saved me. And if you are saved, it is the power that saved you as well. If God could save me, a rotten teenager; if God could save Paul, the one who presided over the murder of the godly man Stephen in Acts 7; then surely, I can trust Him to supply my needs and be my friend.
People think I am weird and can’t believe that I would think Jesus is either real or necessary. These are the same people that talk about the ‘golden rule’ and about loving your fellow man, yet they think Jesus is weird. Oh well. One day all will know the Gospel, some to future rejoicing, and sadly, way too many to eternal regret.
God bless you,
Pastor Sean Gooding
Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church