“. . . in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:8).
THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST IS THE “GOOD NEWS” OF GOD’S SALVATION. But at this point, we encounter a misconception that is firmly lodged in the minds of many people: the notion that the gospel is unconditional and requires no response on our part.
Now certainly, anything we might do would be no more than a response to what God has done. Having cut ourselves off from God by our sins, there is absolutely nothing we could do to work our way back to Him. Paul says that “while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6 NASB).
That, however, does not mean the gospel requires no response. It is a message, but it is a message that must be responded to. In the absence of the response required by God, the benefits of the message should not be expected. As I remember hearing preachers say when I was a child, “The gospel contains facts which must be believed and commands which must be obeyed.” If we leave out either the facts or the commands, the gospel is no longer good news.
The expression “obey the gospel” should not be scoffed at or minimized. It is biblical language. More is involved than just our initial obedience (see tomorrow’s reading), but if we’re lost in sin, our initial obedience is our most urgent concern. We are wanting to enter the realm of God’s grace, so in the New Testament, what does the gospel say we must do? First, we must believe the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 8:24; 11:27). Then, we must repent of our sins (Acts 3:19), confess our faith (Romans 10:9,10), and be baptized in order to receive God’s forgiveness (Acts 22:16).
The gospel confronts us with a decision that is nothing less than life’s biggest decision. If we refuse God’s terms of pardon, we will have condemned ourselves by the stand we’ve taken. Jesus said, “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day” (John 12:48). The gospel is a gracious invitation from God, and it is open to every person. But the invitation has to be accepted, and God has not left it to us to decide what the conditions of that acceptance will be.
“No one is excluded from the gospel. But many are excluded by the gospel” (Karl Barth).