Obey the Gospel?

10 Dec

Repentance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction…”

Obey the Gospel?

I’ll have to admit that when I first read this, I was perplexed.  What does it mean to obey the gospel of Jesus Christ?  I’ve spent much time emphasizing that the gospel is a message delivered to men regarding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Was I missing something?

No.

In the wider context of the passage, Paul is writing to encourage the Thessalonians, who are experiencing persecution.  In doing so, Paul explains that Christ will return, and that He will inflict holy, righteous vengeance on two types of people:

1. Those who do not know God
2. Those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus

These are really just one group of people–unbelievers–who stand in contrast to believers, who both know God and obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

So what does it mean to obey the gospel? It means to respond to the news of Jesus Christ (His life, death, and resurrection) and its implications in repentance and faith.  As Calvin puts it, “Unbelief is the occasion of resistance to it [the gospel].*”  In other words, unbelief is a lack of obedience–disobedience–to the gospel.  Thus, Paul is not instructing believers to adopt some new command, or Kingdom ethic, but rather, making clear what distinguishes believers from unbelievers: repentance of sin and faith in Christ.

In light of these truths, then, Paul reveals his prayer for those who have obeyed the gospel:

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The grace of God, which propelled the Thessalonian believers to obedience to the Gospel and a saving knowledge of God, would also work in them by the power of the Spirit to do the things Christ commands: care for the poor, the widows and orphans, love their enemies, work to the glory of God, spread the Gospel and make disciples (and every other work of faith God had prepared for them).  The result?  Jesus is glorified, and in Him, so too would the Thessalonian believers.

The same is true for us today.  If you are a believer, praise God that, by His grace, you have been obedient to the gospel, and ask Him to work in you by His Spirit, so that you may work it out in good works that make much of Christ.  And if you have yet to obey the gospel, know that only the righteous judgment of God awaits you for your disobedience.  I plead with you, that you would turn away from your sin and wholly trust in the saving work of Jesus Christ.

 

*From Calvin’s commentary on Philippians, Colossians & Thessalonians (p. 289)

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