Why Do We Advance the Gospel?
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all
by raising him from the dead.”
Why do we advance the Gospel? Because God commands it. Because it is righteousness in a world of unrighteousness. And because it is the true welfare of all people.
It is very common today to hear about how the spreading of the Gospel is harmful to people and destructive. It is certainly true that many people have done things in the name of the Gospel and brought harm, but it is still entirely untrue that the spreading of the Gospel itself, by godly saints, is evil and harmful. In reality, it is the only true welfare there is for all people. It is the good news to all of mankind. The spreading of the Gospel is good, and it is the command of God.
Looking at Acts 17:30-31, we should learn from these verses that we spread the Gospel because this is what God has now commanded! The kingdom of heaven has come, the time for all people to turn from sin to righteousness has now come (Mark 1:15). This judgment is freedom and justice and for the true welfare for all people—at last removing sin from the world and saving us from God’s righteous wrath. The command to turn from sin and be saved must go out to all people, because it applies to all people.
Why the Gospel Is Good
One particular thought today is that by spreading the Gospel we’re actually condemning people by doing so. That we’re actually condemning people by ensuring they hear it! The thought goes like this, “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?” And a missionary or pastor replies, “No, not if you did not know.” To which the person responds, “Then why did you tell me?”
We shouldn’t be surprised at such thoughts from fallen man. To man’s mind God and His ways are evil and harmful. And so he believes the spreading of the Gospel to be evil and harmful. But for the Christian we need to be especially wary of this thinking because it is precisely within it that we obey man and the devil rather than God; we side with the world rather than God. It is also where Christians are made to feel they are doing evil and harm when in reality they are doing good. “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” (Ps 18:30) As God is perfect, so are all the ways that He commands His people to live, and this especially includes the call to declare His Gospel (Matt 28:18-20).
Therefore we must be perfectly clear here: it is not the spreading of the Gospel that condemns such a person, it is a person’s unwillingness to repent and believe the Gospel that condemns them (John 3:18)! It is their own refusal of Christ and disobedience to Him that condemns them (2 Thess 1:8, 2:12). The moment a person hears the Gospel they have the opportunity… to turn back to God! Their refusal to obey God is what condemns them. Man says they would have been saved if they didn’t hear! No, they would be saved if they heard God’s Word and obeyed it!
We also need to recognize that the command of repentance, the opposition to sin, is a wonderful thing. Here God has provided a way for man to forsake all that is evil and walk in righteousness!
To hate these things reveals the evil heart in man, and we must realize just how wicked this thinking is! It is man’s desire to live in the full measure of sin, to care nothing for righteousness (Zech 7:11). It is rooted in his pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thess 2:12). Man does not want to be bothered by the Gospel, so they will find ways to make it the fault of the one bringing the Gospel rather than their own fault for refusing it. And this thinking is rooted precisely in this wickedness, it is at the heart of much evil thoughts against God today. Where God is seen as evil and cruel rather than as righteous and just.
We must understand that God’s judgement from heaven has been revealed as well as His salvation. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Rom 1:18) And He has worked this in the coming of Christ. By this we must equally understand that God looks for people’s welfare in turning him from sin (Acts 3:26), giving them atonement in Christ, but also that He commands mankind as a whole to turn from their sins.
Part of the problem for us today is that within our understanding of the Gospel, we fail to realize that the Gospel is not only about a person's welfare. It most certainly includes this, but it is also, and most greatly, about righteousness. It’s about the salvation of God that brings a person into the righteousness of God, both in atoning for them by Christ’s righteousness and taking a person out of their sin and putting them within holy living. It’s about saving a person from their sin. When we fail to acknowledge this we actually begin to make man the highest measurement of good, rather than God. It is such good and a blessing to turn a person from their wickedness (Acts 3:26). The Gospel is about God, His righteous judgement against sin, man’s salvation from sin, walking within righteousness, and man’s welfare. We are going wrong and becoming fretful in our application of the Gospel precisely because we are putting a vague “man’s good” at the forefront rather than God and the righteousness that is defined by God’s Word. We are making man the master rather than the servant. We’ve begun to sever salvation from sanctification, salvation from judgement, wrath from love. This fretfulness is just one of many fruits that comes from a partial gospel.
Why We Should Not Be Ashamed
God reveals His judgement against all sin and He makes no apology for it. And yet how many of His people are ashamed of His Gospel and ashamed of His authority in commanding mankind to repent! This thinking from man is only his desire to do evil, to abuse God’s mercy. And how we serve such wicked ways in man! We obey such evil commandments from man rather than the righteousness of God. We believe God’s judgement to be evil rather than man’s sin to be evil. How ignorant and shameful we are often revealed to be. “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)
So many believers today are missing this second half in our understanding of the Gospel. We talk at length about God’s love, but we seek to do away with His judgement and authority over man. We see Christ as Savior but not also Lord (Psalm 2:12). And we do not preach both, but only one. And yet Christ is Judge! (Acts 17:30-31) God has judged us by His Son, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”(Rom 1:18). And this is just! We either receive Christ, repenting of sin and turning into holiness, or we refuse the truth, and suppress the truth by our unrighteousness . And this is what people are doing when they refuse the Gospel: forsaking all righteousness, goodness, truth, love, and holiness.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16) When Paul wrote these words, he wrote it as a Jew to the young church in Rome. For a Jew, this Gospel appeared weak and blasphemous: no more sacrifices, no more scheduled works required, the forsaking of so many rituals that had become part of their nation’s culture. But Paul was not ashamed, because this Gospel had the power to bring full and complete salvation to a people who formerly could only have their sins “covered”. For the Gentile, this Gospel appeared exclusive and restrictive: one single God rather than the many, a call for the absolute surrender of each believer equally to God as a “kingdom of priests” (Ex 19:6, 1 Peter 2:9). But Paul was not ashamed, because this Gospel had the power to not only forgive sin but transform the whole being of a person into holiness. To the world today, there are many objections to the Gospel. But none stand: it is a judgment and a salvation, a call to lay down one’s life that one might be saved, and yes, it is a call to death, but in the same breath, a call to Life. It atones for our sins fully at the cost of another, yet it also fully calls us to turn away from all sin. The Gospel is merciful and it is just.
God is not working harm by His Gospel, He is working righteousness, commanding that all people now turn from sin to righteousness. And those who refuse are justly judged, because they have hated the light (John 3:19-21).
How Should We Respond?
Man is living in rebellion against God, and this may be their sin, but it can no longer be the sins of His people. This confusion is only a ploy of the devil to keep God’s people back from spreading the Gospel. We must see it for what it is and resist the devil, and submit to God instead.
We must come to see that such “accusations” against the church often cause us to stumble precisely because we, in our hearts, also think such hard thoughts against God and His ways, especially that of His judgement. And we either see this, repent of it and seek the Lord to open our eyes, or we, too, continue to resist Christ’s Gospel.
Do we understand this? “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers… For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” (Matt 13:41,16:27) We need to realize that this is God’s world, it is Christ’s kingdom, and not man’s. God has the right to command man in how to live—He does so out of righteousness and wisdom, but He does so because it is His world to govern.
May 1, 2021