Vol. 8, No. 4
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Question: "I've heard you say that a person must 'obey the gospel' in order to be saved. Could you please explain what you mean by this?" Answer: I appreciate this thoughtful question. Please consider the following:
The Gospel is defined in the New Testament as the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; cf. Acts 8:25; 14:21; 16:10; Galatians 1:6-11).
Those who fail to obey the Gospel will be eternally lost. "And to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power" (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; cf. Mark 16:15-16).
An individual is saved by the Gospel when he obeys a form of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became the slaves of righteousness" (Romans 6:17-18).
Baptism is a form of the death, burial and resurrection. "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the death by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:3-4).
When important events occur, we give them our strict attention. Assuming you were alive at the time, do you remember where you were on:
November 22, 1963--when you first heard that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated?
January 28, 1986--when you first received the news that the Space Shuttle Challenger had exploded over the skies of Florida?
September 11, 2001--when you were first told that terrorists had hijacked four jet airliners and then slammed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field outside of Pittsburgh?
These tragedies by their very nature "captured" our thinking. They were indelibly copied into our long-term consciousness. We probably couldn't forget them if we wanted to. Most of us can remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the awful news.
I find that strangely ironic. We can barely remember what we had for lunch three days ago, but the events of 1963, 1986 and 2001 come flooding to our recollection in vivid detail. Like an old video cassette movie that we've watched a dozen times before, our minds can immediately recreate the circumstances associated with those shocking snapshots in American history. Yes, when important events occur we give them our strict attention.
That being the case, isn't it interesting that during the most important event in the history of mankind (Romans 5:6ff), the soldiers at the cross of Jesus seemed indifferent and unconcerned? Strict attention? Hardly. The mangled form of the Savior of the world was suspended above them on the second of three crosses, but the Roman guard was preoccupied with the value of a scarlet robe (Matthew 27:35; Luke 23:34; John 19:23-24; cf. Psalm 22:18)! Amazing, isn't it?! The Lamb of God was offering himself as an atonement for the transgressions of humanity and these men were concerned about getting their loot!
And yet, perhaps we shouldn't be too hard on the soldiers. For if we're not careful, we too can fail to grasp the real meaning and significance of Golgotha. For instance, when we play with our children during the Supper, aren't we gambling for the scarlet robe? When our minds rehearse the forthcoming day's responsibilities during the time that we ought to be communing with Jesus, aren't we gambling for the scarlet robe? When we whisper humorous antidotes to our neighbors in the pew, aren't we casting lots, in a manner of speaking, for the tunic? When we pass notes when we ought to be passing over the scenes associated with the death of the Perfect One, aren't we gambling for the scarlet robe? In myriads of ways we can lose sight of why we've come together and what our purpose should be (1 Corinthians 10:16; Matthew 27:26-29). "Those cold-hearted, spiritually blinded, soldiers. How dare they?!" How dare they, indeed.
Each Lord's Day (Acts 20:7), we as children of God all over the world have the mandate, and yet privilege, of reliving the crucifixion in our minds. We go back to the Lord's death and ponder how we, as individuals, contributed to that ugly-wonderful day. We remember that our own sins made the entire occasion necessary. And we remember that there was One who was willing to die in our stead.
Dear reader, please don't desecrate this precious memorial feast; don't gamble for the scarlet robe. "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body" (1 Cor. 11:28-29).