|Saul's conversion on the Damascus Road (Caravaggio)|
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Triplets of Faith: Gospel of Grace
When Jesus came in the flesh, most of the Jews failed to recognize Who He was. As we have seen, He and His disciples preached the Gospel of the Kingdom, namely that Jesus is the Son of God and the promised Messiah. Jesus gradually revealed more and more to His disciples about His imminent betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection (Matthew 17:22-23; 20:18-19; 26:2,45; Luke 24:7),.
Yet the disciples were reluctant to believe it (Matthew 16:20-23; Mark 8:29-33), for they saw Him not as the Sacrifice for our sins, but as the Christ (Messiah) Who would deliver them from earthly oppression and the King Who would reign over them. Even after His condemnation by false witnesses, death by crucifixion, and burial, the disciples were slow to accept the significance of these events.
Had the disciples believed that He would rise again on the third day, as He had foretold, they would no doubt have been waiting by the tomb, instead of hiding at home for fear of the Jews (John 20:9-10,19). They would not have been mourning His death (Mark 16:10) but eagerly anticipating His reappearance.
When the women ran to tell the disciples of the empty tomb, the men still doubted their “idle tales” until Peter saw Jesus’ head cloth lying separately from the other grave clothes (John 20:6-8; Luke 24:10-12). Mary Magdalene told the disciples of her meeting with the risen Christ (Mark 16:9-10), as did those on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-35).
Yet the apostles still did not believe until they themselves had seen the risen Christ in His glorified body (Mark 16:11-14; John 20:19-20; Luke 24:36-47), Thomas doubted what the other apostles said and did not accept that Christ had risen until he himself could see and feel the wounds in His hands and side (John 20:24-29).
Even after Christ ascended into Heaven, the focus’ of the disciples preaching was the Gospel of the Kingdom, that He was the Messiah Whom they rejected. Peter's sermon in Acts 2 to the Jews (v. 22) speaks of Jesus' resurrection (v. 24,27,31,32) as proof of His divinity and of being the promised Messiah. He speaks of His crucifixion to make his audience feel personally convicted of killing their Messiah (v.23,36,37).
But when the Jews, convicted in their hearts of having rejected Jesus, asked what they should do, Peter didn't say "you are saved by grace through faith," as Paul would later say (Ephesians 2: 8-9). Instead, Peter promised the Holy Ghost to those who repented and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (v. 38), which is the Gospel of the Kingdom first preached by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2,6,11).
Not until Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6) was the mystery of salvation for the Gentiles revealed – that Paul (Saul’s new name) would preach Jesus Christ to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews (v. 15; Acts 20:21; Romans 10:12). Paul's message was the Gospel of Grace, that all are saved who place their faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Son of God, the perfect sacrifice to reconcile sinful man to Holy God, as the only Way to Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 14:6).
Simply put, verbally declare that Jesus is Lord; believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved (Romans 10:9). This offer is open to anyone – “whosoever” -- will be saved (Romans 9:11-13). Salvation by grace is God’s freely given gift requiring only faith, not works, for there is nothing we can do to earn or merit it (Ephesians 2: 8-9).
The Gospel of Grace (Acts 20:24) is referred to by three different names; the Gospel of God (or of Christ, Who is equal with God; Romans 1:1; 2 Corinthians 10:14), the Gospel of Peace (Ephesians 6:15; Romans 10:15), and the Glorious Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 Timothy 1:11). The Gospel of God was foretold by the prophets, that God would become flesh as His Son Jesus Christ, and that He would show His power and holiness by rising from the dead (Romans 1:1-6). This Gospel of God reflects God’s love (John 3:16), manifested as Jesus Christ Who is the saving power of God for all who believe in Him (Romans 1:16).
The Gospel of Grace is also the Gospel of Peace because it reconciles sinful man to Holy God, appeases His wrath at our sin and gives peace to believers in their eternal security. Having our feet shod with this Gospel is part of our armor of God (Ephesians 6:15), and our feet will be beautiful if they carry us to places where we preach this Good News (Romans 10:15).
Finally, the Gospel of Grace is the Glorious Gospel because Christ has the glory (Hebrews 2:7-9); He brings believers to glory (Hebrews 2:10); and we are awaiting His glorious appearing (Titus 2:13). How radiant and brilliant is that light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God! He commanded that light to shine out of the darkness of our sin, to shine in believers’ hearts, and to illuminate the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4-6).
Paul himself is perhaps the best example of the power of the Glorious Gospel! Before he was saved, he was the worst of sinners, persecuting and killing Christians, thinking he was doing great religious works in God’s name because of his pride and self-righteousness (1 Timothy 1:11-17). As Saul, he was a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious (v. 13). But Jesus Christ Whom Paul persecuted appeared to him in a brilliant light, causing him to fall to the ground in temporary blindness before He revealed Paul’s unique mission.
God not only saved Saul but used him to spread the Gospel of Grace to the Gentile nations and to pen a large portion of the New Testament! Paul’s example proves that there is Good News for each of us, no matter how dismal our past or how wicked our sins were, thanks to God’s grace, love and mercy!
© 2013 Laurie Collett