Thursday, June 30, 2011

Moving on from the gospel?

I’ve often found myself reading or studying Romans over the last few months. While reading it recently I was struck by two observations.
  • The book is written to Christians.
  • Paul has a lot to say about the gospel, the good news of what Jesus has done to pay the price for our sins and make us right with God.
I know these seem like quite obvious observations. You’d have to not be paying much attention to notice them. However, these simple observations do have some significant implications when combined.

I have been in Christian settings where the gospel gets quarantined into something just for those who are not yet Christians. It gets treated like a gateway into faith, after which you move onto more “advanced” aspects of the Christian life and leave it behind. The main sermon becomes about how to live the Christian life and the gospel gets compressed into a mini message at the end for unbelievers that the Christians tune out on.

When we read Romans we find quite a different way of thinking about the gospel. Romans does not appear to have primarily been written as an evangelistic message. Instead it is written to Christians. Paul talks about his readers having faith that is being proclaimed throughout all the world (Romans 1:8) and obedience known to all (Romans 16:19). But despite their impressive progress in the Christian life, for chapter after chapter Paul works through the problem of our sin, the futility of our attempts to work our way right with God and how we are made right with God through faith as a result of what Jesus has done.

Evidently Paul doesn’t think the gospel is just a gateway into faith after which we move onto other things or he wouldn’t be reminding these Christians about it. While Paul certainly has a lot to say later in the book about what living a Christian life looks like, but he is so intent on bringing the focus of the believers he writes to back to the gospel. He wants them to be thinking about it and talking about it. You can feel the passion he has for it in his writing.

Let’s head Paul’s example and passion. We need to make sure that the gospel is central and something we keep coming back to no matter how spiritually advanced we think we are. In my next post on the topic I’ll be dealing with more of why it matters that we don’t “move on” from the gospel.