Gospel and the present Christianity - Part 03 of 04
For the disciples, speaking about Christ was gospel. Mark begins his book saying, "Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God," 1:1. St Paul claimed that he was "Separated to the gospel of God," Rom 1:1. He declared his unquenchable thirst for preaching the gospel, "Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel," 1Co 9:16 and "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is power of God to salvation for everyone who believes," Rom 1:16. And what gospel he preached? "Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord who was born of the seed of David according to flesh, and declared to be Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead," v3-4. St Paul thus summarizes the gist of the gospel, "Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory," 1Tim 3:16. He continues; "This is the faithful saying: "For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him, If we endure, We shall also reign with Him, If we deny Him, He also deny us, If we are faithless, He remain faithful; He cannot deny Himself," 2Tim 2:11-13. St Peter attests the honesty of the gospel, "We did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to him from excellent glory: "This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain," 2Pe 2:16-18. St John declares, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life - the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare unto you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us - that which we have seen and heard we declare to you," 1Jn 1:1-3. It is absolutely necessary to know Christ intimately as the apostles testified and then only one can honestly proclaim and live up-to the gospel of Christ. That means an evangelist must first develop intimate relationship to Christ through stable faith, constant prayer, study of the word of God, blameless and righteous conducts. Why the apostles excelled in the gospel and many became martyrs is because of the unwavering conviction that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, he died for "my" sin, he rose again, he is alive and through and in him "I" have eternal life, which is salvation. It is not an intellectual awareness but a personal experience. Unfortunately these days, radio/TV evangelists prefer rhetoric more than holy life, lacks personal experience, integrity and prayer life. They are deceitful to Scriptures; twist them to exploit the innocent for personal gains, thus fall into the snare of devil.
What then is the gospel, which is very foundational to Christian existence? The crown and pinnacle of all, is the gospel of Resurrection. "Lord is risen from the tomb" (Masiho Kom men kabaro). "We believe and confess; He truly resurrected." (Mhaimneenan shareeroees kom). It is the resurrection that distinguishes Jesus from all other philosophers and founders of world religions. Had Jesus not resurrected from the dead, if the tomb of Jesus was not empty as the early witnesses recorded, had he not appeared alive, walked, spoke, ate and taught them about the kingdom of God, for forty days after resurrection there would have been no Christians on earth. The reality of resurrection is what changed the feeble, frightened and illiterate disciples into mighty fighters of truth and valorous orators and wonder-workers who transformed the very civilization of the world. St Paul says, "The gospel I preached to you, is that Christ died for our sins according to Scriptures, He was buried and that He rose again the third day, He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve, after that seen by over 500 brethren, and then to James, then by all apostles, and last of all seen by me, 1Co 15:1-8. The reality of witnessing the resurrected Christ prompted Paul to say, "If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is empty; your faith is futile and you still in your sins," v12-19.
Basic calling of a Christian is to proclaim the gospel. St Peter said, no one can put it better, "You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into marvelous light," 1Pe 2:9. St Paul admonished that one's qualification to take up gospel is the awareness that he/she has a heavenly calling to confess Christ as Lord and Savior, "Holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus," Heb 3:1. Gospel is power and wisdom of God for those who believe and foolishness to those who perish, 1Co 1:24. But all are not evangelists, "Some are apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for edifying the body of Christ," Eph 4:11, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit. St Paul fully and more perfectly elucidates the diverse gifts of the Holy Spirit: "For one the word of wisdom, to another word of knowledge, to another faith, to another gift of healing, to another working miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning spirits, to another different tongues, to another interpretation of tongues" and so on, 1Co 12:8-10. The gifts are given different people in diverse manner by the same Holy Spirit and all work in unison for the edification of the body of Christ, the Church. Jesus said, "The harvest is truly plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest," Mat 9:37-38. "Pray to the Lord of harvest" clearly indicates the evangelism is not self-ordained, but through established means. St James says, "Let not many of you become teachers knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment," 3:1. Let each one who claims he or she is an evangelist think as to what manner he or she was ordained.
To be contd....
Rev. Fr. K K John