In my last article, “Are You Teaching Your Brethren to Obey Christ Christocentrically?”, I made the argument that the New Testament teaches Christians to engage in the teaching of disciples of Christ, or discipleship, by proclaiming the Lord Jesus Christ, and doing this by warning them and teaching them with all wisdom, so that they will be made complete in Christ (Colossians 1:27b-28). In this article, I want to expound on this concept by showing that the New Testament also teaches that the particular blessings that come from and through the Lord Jesus Christ for His people are also to be the foundation and theme of Christian teaching that instructs His people to obey Him.
In Romans 1:13-15, the apostle Paul clearly teaches this:
“13 And I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you (and was hindered hitherto), that I might have some fruit in you also, even as in the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am debtor both to Greeks and to Barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that are in Rome.”
In this passage, Paul is clearly speaking to brethren in Christ, or those who are in the family of God, and yet, he tells them that he is “ready to preach the gospel to you”. If they were believers, then they had already had the gospel preached to them, and yet Paul tells them that he wants to preach the gospel to them so they can hear it again!
Paul teaches this in another passage:
“And I, brethren, when I came unto you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” – 1 Corinthians 2:1-2
If you read the book of Acts, you will find that the time during which Paul was among the Corinthians in this passage was a period of at least a couple of years. It was only in the beginning of this time period that many of the Corinthians were unsaved, and yet Paul says that he determined not to know anything the whole time he was among them but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, which is the gospel he makes known to them in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. What does this tell us about Paul’s teaching and preaching? That the foundation and theme of all of it was the gospel.
So, since this is the case, then how are we to teach our brethren to obey Christ by preaching and teaching the gospel to them?
Since it would take far too long to look at how the entire New Testament does this, let us just look at the Letter of James, one of the most intensely practical Bible books, as one of the best examples of how we can teach our brethren to obey Christ by teaching and preaching the gospel and its blessings to them:
- By telling them that the testing of their faith produces perseverance:
“2 Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations [trials]; 3 knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience.” – James 1:2-3
2. By telling them that God gives wisdom liberally and without reproach to those who ask:
“5 But if any of you lacketh wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” – James 1:5
3. By telling them that those who endure temptation will receive the completion of their eternal life:
“12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he hath been approved, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to them that love him.” – James 1:12
4. By telling them that God gives them every good and perfect gift, and has begotten them by the Word of truth:
“13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempteth no man: 14 but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is fullgrown, bringeth forth death. 16 Be not deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.” – James 1:13-18
5. By telling them that the implanted Word is able to save their souls:
“21 Wherefore putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” – James 1:21
6. By telling them that they will be happy if they practice God’s Word:
“25 But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing.” – James 1:25
7. By telling them that God chose them to be rich in faith and heirs of His Son’s kingdom:
“My brethren, hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2 For if there come into your synagogue [assembly] a man with a gold ring, in fine clothing, and there come in also a poor man in vile clothing; 3 and ye have regard to him that weareth the fine clothing, and say, Sit thou here in a good place; and ye say to the poor man, Stand thou there, or sit under my footstool; 4 do ye not make distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Hearken, my beloved brethren; did not God choose them that are poor as to the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to them that love him?” – James 2:1-5
8. By telling them that mercy triumphs over judgment:
“12 So speak ye, and so do, as men that are to be judged by a law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to him that hath showed no mercy: mercy glorieth against [triumphs over] judgment.” – James 2:12-13
9. By telling them that the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace:
“13 Who is wise and understanding among you? let him show by his good life his works in meekness of wisdom. 14 But if ye have bitter jealousy and faction in your heart, glory not and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not a wisdom that cometh down from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where jealousy and faction are, there is confusion and every vile deed. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without variance, without hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace [by] them that make peace.” – James 3:13-18
10. By telling them that God gives grace that is greater than our sin:
“4 Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God. 5 Or think ye that the scripture speaketh in vain? . . . the spirit which he made to dwell in us long[s] unto envying[.] 6 But he giveth more grace.” – James 4:4-6a
11. By telling them that God gives grace to those who humble themselves:
“Wherefore the scripture saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. 7 Be subject therefore unto God; but resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” – James 4:6b-7
12. By telling them that God draws near to those who draw near to Him:
“8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” – James 4:8
13. By telling them that the Lord lifts up those who humble themselves:
“10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall exalt you.” – James 4:10
14. By telling them that the Lord is coming soon:
“8 Be ye also patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” – James 5:8
15. By telling them that the Lord is full of pity and mercy:
“10 Take, brethren, for an example of suffering and of patience, the prophets who spake in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we call them blessed that endured: ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, how that the Lord is full of pity, and merciful.” – James 5:10-11
16. By telling them that prayers of faith can strengthen the sick and influence the Lord to forgive people:
“14 Is any among you sick? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15 and the prayer of faith shall save him that is sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, it shall be forgiven him.” – James 5:14-15
17. By telling them that interceding for others can accomplish much:
“16 Confess therefore your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working.” – James 5:16
18. By telling them that turning someone from their apostate error to the truth will save them from death and lead to the forgiveness of their sins:
“19 My brethren, if any among you err from the truth, and one convert him; 20 let him know, that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins.” – James 5:19-20
Just to make my point clear, let me offer one of the classic examples of gospel-focused, or evangelical, teaching in the New Testament:
Paul says this in Romans 12:1:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service.”
- Paul is urging his brethren to obey Christ by presenting their bodies as living sacrifices.
- Paul is urging them to do this based on something he has explained earlier in the book, which is indicated by his use of “therefore”, or “for this reason”. The reasons are “the mercies of God”, which are the blessings of salvation that he has explained in Romans 3-11.
You will see this pattern of teaching all throughout the New Testament letters; the author will begin by explaining the blessings of salvation that the audience has access to, and then will urge them to do something because they know that they have those blessings. But why? Paul explains much of it in 1 Corinthians 1:18:
“18 For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are [being] saved it is the power of God.”
The power of God for what? Paul again explains:
“16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith unto faith: as it is written, But the righteous shall live by faith.” – Romans 1:16-17
So what is Paul saying in 1 Corinthians 1:18? That the gospel is the power of God in the progressive salvation, or sanctification, of believers.
May we who believe in the gospel teach our brethren to obey Christ by telling them what they have from and through Him, as well as who He is.
Are you absolutely certain, without any doubt whatsoever, that you know what the good news of Christ is? Please make sure:
Your Creator, God the Father, sent God the Son, His Son, to the earth, to become a man, without ceasing to be God. This man was Jesus of Nazareth, who lived the perfect life, perfectly pleasing the Father. Then, He was arrested by men, who were appointed by the Father to do so, and was nailed and hung on a cross. Although Jesus was perfectly pleasing to the Father, the Father ordained this event to happen to punish Jesus by making Him slowly die on the cross, and by treating Him as if He had committed our sins against His Father, all because of our sins against Him, which make us deserve physical, eternal, and spiritual death from God. For three hours, the Father crushed and forsook Jesus, putting Him to grief, because of our sins against Him. In so doing, Jesus satisfied the Father’s wrath and justice against sins. Then, He died, and was buried shortly after. His body lay in a grave for about 2 days, and then, He physically rose from the dead, and appeared to the apostle Peter, to the 11 apostles, to about 500 people at one time, to James, to all the apostles, and to the apostle Paul, during a period of 40 days, after which He ascended into heaven. The apostles then turned the Mediterranean world upside down with their new lives and preaching, revolutionizing the Mediterranean world, and undergoing incredible persecutions, while at the same time winning more and more converts, who gladly went to their deaths because of their love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
God’s command to all people everywhere is to change the way they think about God, about the Lord Jesus Christ, about His death, about His resurrection, about themselves, and about their sins, and to depend only upon the Lord Jesus Christ, His death because of their sins, and His resurrection as the only grounds for His forgiveness of their sins and His gift of eternal life. If you have changed the way you think, and depend only upon the Lord Jesus Christ, His death for your sins, and His resurrection for God’s forgiveness of your sins, and your peace with God, then you will be saved from His wrath. If not, God has fixed a day on which He will judge you in righteousness through the Man He has appointed, having provided proof for all people by raising Him from the dead. If you fail to obey God’s command to repent and depend on the Lord Jesus Christ, then He will eventually cast you into eternal hell, and punish you for the sins you’ve committed against Him. Right now is the time to make sure that you have changed the way you think about the Lord Jesus Christ, and that you are only depending upon Him, His death for your sins, and His resurrection from the dead for His forgiveness of your sins. Depend upon Him, and you will be saved from His wrath.