A recent column by Paul Prather was entitled “The gospel message is simple — and very, very hard to obey.” To further obfuscate the meaning of the gospel, a second headline said “The gospel is so hard that even Christians rarely try to obey it.”
First, I realize that oftentimes headlines are not written by the author; but whoever tacked on these highlighted statements creates significant confusion.
It is of primary importance that the gospel be understood for what it is, so that it can be recognized for what it is not. The gospel, which means “good news” is just that. The prerequisite understanding a person must have to consider the gospel is that every person is a sinner. With this awareness, the good news of the gospel may be appreciated.
The gospel is simple. The gospel, according to orthodox Christianity, is the following: Jesus is God (as the son, born of virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit). Jesus (being fully God and fully human) died on a cross for the forgiveness of every person’s sins. Jesus was resurrected and because of his resurrection Jesus’ followers will also be resurrected in the future.
The gospel can be accepted or rejected, but there is no command associated with it. This is the knowledge one must accept to become a follower of Jesus. However, knowledge alone does not constitute saving faith.
The Bible says that even the demons knew about Jesus. Coupled with this knowledge, it is necessary that one have active trust in Jesus. It is through living a life of active trust that obedience is a factor. The concept is that by grace you are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. It has been attributed to Martin Luther and is found in James 2:14-19.
This life of active trust is confirmed by obedience. Christ followers obey the commands of Jesus out of thanksgiving for what he, as savior, did for them in paying for their sins. A Christ follower demonstrates his or her love for Jesus by following his commands and thereby strengthening their relationship and faith.
Prather listed a number of these commands and alludes to the difficulty of keeping these and others that Jesus made. I know of no followers of Jesus who would disagree.
I do disagree with the headline, “The gospel is so hard that even Christians rarely try to obey it.” That is not true. Every true follower of Christ tries to obey the commands, however none of them can do it faultlessly. They do their best to lead a life of active trust now empowered by the Holy Spirit.
However, these followers still are sinners, although now forgiven, and they still sin and make mistakes. This does not mean that they do not stop trying, they work at it out of love for Jesus.
My purpose is not to argue for the veracity of the gospel, although I do believe in its truth, but rather to clarify exactly what the gospel is in all of its simplicity and beauty. Having a clear understanding of what it is will then allow a person to explore it for themselves and then accept it or reject it.
David M. Burandt is an orthopedic surgeon in Lexington.
At issue: May 22 column by Paul Prather, “The gospel message is simple — and very, very hard to obey”