The Gospel of God
Arthur Shearman, Worcester, England
In the epistle to the Romans the apostle Paul outlines the great doctrines of the gospel. He had heard of the faith of believers at Rome and it would seem for many years had felt a longing desire to visit them, Rom. 1.11; 15. 23. But at the time that he wrote to them they were among those whom he had never seen. He would visit Rome, Acts 19.21, but looked beyond, further to the west, even to Spain, Rom. 15, 24-28. Thus the apostle was a man of wide vision and his greatest desire was to share the gospel with as many as possible, cf. 15. 18-21.
At the beginning of the epistle he introduced himself in three ways, (a) Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ; (b) called to be an apostle; (c) separated unto the gospel of God. These give three important insights into the apostle's ministry. In character he was a servant, a bond-slave of Jesus Christ. He takes his place as a lowly servant of the Lord he loved, and the master he willingly served. Notice in verse 9, the depth of surrender in his service: 'whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son. As to his call, he was called an apostle. Here he states as fact what in other epistles he earnestly defends. This was not an office by self-appointment, or something which reflected any human choice. He was designated an apostle by the God who chose him to fulfil His ptirpose in the spreading of the gospel. His commitment is described in the words, 'separated unto the gospel of God'. Here is his vocation; he is consecrated, set apart to the good news, the evangel of the God to whose call he had responded. He fully felt the burden of this vocation and never failed in his fulfilment of it. God did not call him to baptize, but to preach the gospel, 1 Cor. 1.17. His energies were directed to this glorious end, 'to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ', Eph. 3. 8.
The gospel of God is good news. This is the basic meaning of the word gospel. Thus, one who evangelizes is the bringer of good news, glad tidings. The verb in its Hebrew equivalent in the Old Testament invariably has this meaning, suggesting the bringing of good news. It is said that in all Semitic-languages, e.g. Accadian and Arabic, the sense of joy is contained in the stem of the verb, declaring something good. So, as Paul became involved with preaching the gospel, the word spoken conveyed good news, the best of news to sinful man. He spread ii abroad as an evangelist; he proclaimed it as an herald; he brought it as a vital communication to those who were in desperate need; he taught and discussed its meaning with lost souls who were seeking salvation, In whatever way he dealt with its content, and each of the above has its equivalent word in the original, it was plain that his burden was that all might hear, for 'how shall they hear without a preacher'? He was conscious that this was nothing less than a divine revelation, and that he was actually the mouthpiece of God.
There is much confusion today regarding what really constitutes gospel preaching. We face a world of men and women who are lost, Rebellion against the laws of God becomes more and more blatant, and the restraints and respect that nominal religion once commanded are almost non-existent. The situation demands a clearly defined message, spoken with conviction in the power of the Holy Spirit. Can we say that we are proclaiming in right terms the gospel of God, that which alone can bring life and salvation to lost and guilty sinners? Can it be that we offer with disinterest, and in half-hearted and superficial ways, a message which has ceased to move us, and certainly will not move those who are hungry for God and His love? Maybe it would be good for us to pause and allow the apostle's fervent commitment to challenge our evangelism.
We notice that the good news is the gospel of God. It is not merely from God, but its source is God Himself. Someone has said that the gospel is not an empty word; it is effective power which brings to pass what it says, because God is its author. In grasping the terms of the gospel how necessary it is to notice Paul's insistence upon the Godhood of God. 'All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ', 2 Cor. 5. 18. 'Of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever', Rom. 11. 36. Thus, within the scope of its message, we have the power of God, 1. 16; the righteousness of God, 1. 17; the wrath of God, 1. 18; the love of God, 5. 8; the grace of God, 5. 15, and much more. There are three important ways in which we can develop this thought.
The gospel unveils the mind of God. In it are revealed the eternal thoughts of good which God has for the creatures of His hands. As He could say to His people of old; 'I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you ... For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil', Jer. 29. 10-11. A nation that had no place in then - minds for their God, was never out of His thoughts. We must always remember that the gospel is not a hastily framed plan, conceived to meet an unforeseen emergency. Paul was always conscious of an eternity of wise and loving planning behind all it revealed. As he ends the Roman epistle, he describes 'my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest', 16. 25-26. Also, he realized that the gospel of God had been 'promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures', 1.2. Surely we need to handle the gospel truths that we preach with care and thought. Let us under the Holy Spirit's guidance, humbly seek to grasp the great thoughts of the eternal God enshrined in its message.
The gospel unlocks the heart of God. It comes as a message of love into a world of hate and bitterness. 'God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us', Rom. 5.8. 'God is love', 1 John 4. 16,-this is His nature, and out of His heart there flows to the sinful a causeless and measureless love. It is within the terms of the gospel that this love for the lost is presented, John 3. 16. There is a warmth that welcomes, a tenderness that touches the hardened hearts, a compassion that comforts those who have lost hope, a relevant appeal in the message that we preach. Yet, how cold and technical the way in which we present the gospel often becomes. There is no feeling, no sense of compulsion, no impelling urgency as we confront our fellow travellers to eternity, people who are on the road to hell. Perhaps we need a fresh vision of the Saviour who could weep over the city that rejected Him; who could pray for the forgiveness of the very men who nailed Him to the cross. The gospel declares the affairs of God's heart, and it comes to a world that is at enmity with Him.
Finally, it is a gospel that unfolds the will of God. There is a significant word given at the close of the epistle. Paul's gospel is 'according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith', Rom. 16. 26. Here is matter that calls for serious thought. In the gospel God does not only reveal His love. He also reveals His un-mistakeable right to command man's obedience and submission. At Calvary the love of God shone out in all ils fulness and each true believer can say with Paul, 'the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me', Gal. 2. 20. Yet, in no way can we give the impression that response to God's love is optional, and the forgiveness of sin a light matter. We represent a holy God who hates and must judge sin. In no place was this seen more than at the cross. The judgement of all sin was borne by the sinless One as He was made sin for us, 2 Cor. 5. 21. It is God's sovereign will that all should be saved and come to repentance, 2. Pel. 3. 9; cf. 1 Tim. 2. 4. Il is essential for us to make very clear that in the gospel of God is the command to all men to repent and believe, Acts 17. 30-31. How necessary that we preach repentance toward God, as well as faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, Acts 20. 21.
This is but a brief meditation on a great subject. How do we handle such a vital message? In Pilgrim '$ Progress, Christian sees a picture of a preacher in the Interpreter's house. Three features, among others, attracted his attention. He was a very grave person, the best of books was in his hands, and he stood as if he pleaded with men. May such obvious earnestness be ours as we continue to preach the gospel of God.