What is the Gospel? “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13–14 NIV)
Paul is “eager to preach the gospel to” (Romans 1:15 ESV) “all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (Romans 1:7 ESV); why would Paul be eager to preach the gospel to Christians? Isn’t the gospel primarily for the unregenerate that need to repent and be saved? No, Paul views the gospel – the proclamation of good news that God has made a way for sinners to be reconciled with Him – not only as the means by which unbelievers are saved, but also as the central component for ongoing growth and transformation in our faith (“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” (Colossians 1:21–23 ESV)
The Scriptures call us to walk by faith (trust) and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) – for our faith is grounded in a hope in what we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). We now walk not according to what we can see and can accomplish by our own efforts, but by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:4); Galatians 5:6 says it like this: “for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6 ESV). Paul persists in his letter to the Corinthians that the gospel is of singular importance in their lives of faith – “for what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4 NIV). Behavioral change is not accomplished by our hard fought discipline or white knuckled effort; at the root of us presenting our bodies as living sacrifices that are holy and acceptable to God is connecting this effort to the mercies of God that are most visible in God’s saving work in our lives (Romans 12:1). It is this kindness that prompts us to live continually repentant lives (Romans 2:4).
An ever growing awareness of God’s holy nature, our failure to measure up and the glorious grace of the gospel that bridges this gap should be where the Christian spends His time and energy investing. Our disciplines should be aimed at beholdingthe glory of God and reveling in His grace – for as we behold Him we become more like Him: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” 1 Corinthians 3:18