No message is of greater importance than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The good news that God saves sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone is our eternal hope. And it is this gospel—and our adherence to it—which is the basis of our unity as believers.
We saw this a couple weeks ago, as we witnessed the Holy Spirit’s intentional display of missionary direction to take the gospel to the Gentiles. The basis of this call is the work of Christ on behalf of all who will be saved, both Jew and non-Jew. This gospel unity is beautifully described in Ephesians 3, where we learn of God’s long-ago plan to bring the nations of the world together into one—both Jew and Gentile. When writing about this mystery in Christ, Paul says it this way:
This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:6-10)
For this gospel, Paul suffered much. And until his dying day, he warned that the church would always be in a war. Until Jesus comes again, the church will fight against the forces which seek to destroy it and undermine the gospel of grace.
The two most common means by which Satan destroys local churches both come from within—division and doctrine. When people are divisive, the enemy gains a foothold in people’s hearts, especially those who are naïve. When Christ-diminishing doctrine is spread among God’s people, the sheep are harmed and God is grieved.
Therefore, we must remain vigilant. But in our vigilance for the truth, we must also strive to grow in grace. Sometimes we err by thinking the Christian life is about either grace OR truth, but not both. Of course, Jesus is the greatest example that not being true. He was full of grace and truth. But in Acts 15 we find another example. As the apostles and church elders handle a delicate and potentially dangerous situation, they do so with both grace and truth. It is a shining example of how you can love doctrine and people at the same time.
One year after the first missionary journey, the church at Antioch faced a crisis that placed the gospel in jeopardy. Acts 15 records it for us, which is the passage that I preached to our congregation last Sunday. The sermon outline was simple. There were two important warnings.
- Beware of People who Distort the Gospel by Adding Works
- Beware of People who Distort the Gospel by Diminishing its Moral Demands
Until Jesus returns in all of His glory, the gospel of God’s grace will need to be guarded. It needs to be protected against false teachers who preach false gospels. It also needs to be protected against subtle attacks from within the church, sometimes from well-meaning believers who want to elevate personal preference to the level of the gospel. To make following their personal convictions a standard of holiness. But we must be careful.
Salvation by grace through faith, apart from the works of the Law, is the only true gospel. Any other message is a corrupted message. Sanctification by grace through faith, as the life of Christ within us being worked out in obedience to the Word and Spirit, must also be guarded.
You may listen to, or watch, the sermon here.