Contenders for the Gospel

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” Romans 1:16-17

As Martin Luther poured through the pages of Scripture in his studies, one of big questions he wrestled with was, “What does it mean that there is a righteousness that is by faith, revealed from faith to faith? What does it mean that the “just (or righteous) shall live by faith”? God opened his eyes and understanding to the wonderful truth of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Romans 1:17 is really the thematic verse that Paul sets forth for his exposition of the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, in the Book of Romans.

The Gospel of Christ is a message that is like no other. It isn’t a slogan. It isn’t a speech. It is a great message of good news to sinners. As Paul told the church in Rome, the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ must not go forth from a position of shame. We must proclaim it boldly. Note the reason for the necessity of boldness. It is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes! Isn’t that amazing? There is awesome power in the Gospel! This awesome power should make us excited and give a sense of urgency to share it with others. God uses this message to change the dead hearts of sinful men to those that are alive in Christ. This is the same message God used to save the saints of old. It is the same message that He used to save you. It will be this same message that He will use to build His church in the days ahead. What is this message of good news? Paul explained it clearly in his first epistle to the church in Corinth.

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures”. 1 Corinthians 15:1-5

There is no doubt that this message goes forth in the midst of adversity. This adversity is not only seen in those that hate, deny and reject the Gospel. It is also seen in those who change, twist, and add on to the purity of the message (1 Corinthians 4:1-6). It is no longer the true Gospel of Christ, although it is proclaimed to be such. It isn’t hard to think about the false teachers in history, even in our modern day.

“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude 1:3-4

For the Gospel, the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes, to go forth, the people of God must be valiant contenders for Christ! The literal meaning in the Greek for “contending earnestly” that Jude uses is to “contend strenuously in defense of” the faith. So, take note that contending isn’t relaxed. It isn’t just if we want to. It’s a call to strenuous action. We are to contend with passion and vigor!

As Paul and the apostles were great examples of such passion and vigor in action, the purity of the message must be protected today. We must not take attacks on the Gospel or the Word of God lightly or in fear. We must hold fast to the word that has been preached to us. We must stand in the full armor of God (Ephesians 6) with our mouths open in sharing the hope that we have within us. Rise up, contenders for the Gospel! Defend and proclaim the truth of the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.