30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ (Luke 16:30–31, NKJV)
It is the devil’s deception that suggests only an extraordinary experience can persuade a sinner to repent. The rich man thought it would take a miraculous visitation from the dead of Lazarus to convince his brothers to repent and thus avoid the torment in which he was engulfed. But, Abraham reminded him they had Moses and the prophets to persuade them. The person who will not believe God’s message in the inspired Scriptures will not be persuaded to repent even if one arises from the dead. After all, that is exactly what Jesus would later do. Yet still, in spite of His empty tomb, most people refuse to believe in Him. Why? Because they do not love the truth, and prefer the pleasures of sin (2 Thess. 2:10-12). The word of God amply persuades the person with a good and honest heart to repent (Lk. 8:15; Acts 17:11-12). The hindrance to repentance and salvation is not for lack of a miraculous visitation. The problem is a hardened, closed heart that refuses to receive God’s truth (read Acts 28:23-28). And so, the question comes to each of us. Will we be persuaded by the gospel of Christ to repent, so we can join Lazarus after death? Or, will we refuse to be persuaded, keep living in sin, and find ourselves in torment with the rich man? We answer that question every day.
1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, 2 who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. (Hebrews 3:1–2, NKJV)
As benefactors of the redemptive work of Christ (outlined in Hebrews 2:10-18), it is only fitting that Christians pause to consider (fully observe) Christ Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. Our “confession” is the profession of faith the gospel calls us to live (Heb. 4:14; 10:23). As God’s Apostle (one sent forth), Jesus came to earth as a messenger with a mission. The message the Father sent Jesus to proclaim was the gospel, God’s heavenly invitation to sinners to be saved (Lk. 4:16-21). Jesus, who God sent, spoke the words of God (John 3:34). The mission Jesus was sent to accomplish was to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14). In the shadow of the cross, Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:3-4). We partake of the heavenly calling by a life that professes the gospel He preached (Matt. 28:19-20). One cannot partake of the heavenly calling by rejecting the word and work of the Apostle of our confession. Just as Jesus was faithful to the Father, Christians must be faithful to Jesus. This is how we “hold fast our confession” (Heb. 4:14).
14 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. 15 And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?” 16 Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” (John 7:14–17, NKJV)
The Jews were perplexed that Jesus was teaching with skill and expertise. He had not been trained at the feet of their scholars. Jesus was not given authority to teach by the scholars of the day. He was a commoner from an obscure village, far from their center of learning. Yet, He spoke the doctrine of God with authority (Matt. 7:28-29). The reliability of someone’s teaching does not depend on credentials the teacher has earned from a school of learning. Seminary training is not a biblical prerequisite to knowing and teaching God’s truth. The prerequisite to knowing the teaching of Christ is having a will to do God’s will (v. 17). A heart that is open to hearing and receiving the teachings of Jesus equips us to know the truth of God that has been revealed by the authority of Jesus. He taught the doctrine of the Father, who sent Him to the earth. The gospel of Christ is that very doctrine (1 Tim. 1:10-11). We preach His doctrine today, to save the lost and to secure the saved (Matt. 28:18-20; Col. 1:24-29). May we always have a will to do God’s will, and follow the teaching of Jesus.
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. 29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.” (Romans 3:28–30, NKJV)
God’s promise to Abraham was that “in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 22:18). The seed of which He spoke was Christ (Gal. 3:16). In this age of inclusiveness it is vital to see the inclusive nature of the gospel is not about everyone deciding truth for themselves (whether that “truth” is Hinduism, Buddhism, Islamic, Judaic, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, atheistic, agnostic, ad nauseam). God includes all of humanity in one blessed way of justifying sinners. The way of salvation is Christ and is revealed in His gospel. Israel was not justified by the law of Moses (Rom. 2). Gentiles were guilty and under wrath through their unbelief, idolatry and immorality (Rom. 1:18-32). There is one God over all humanity. God justifies Jews “by faith.” The gospel (the law of faith, Rom. 3:27), not the law of Moses, is how Jews are saved. God justifies Gentiles “through” faith. The gospel (the law of faith, Rom. 3:27), is how Gentiles are saved. We do not keep the law of Moses or add anything else to the gospel in order to be saved (see this applied in Gal. 5:3-6). God justifies sinners by “faith” – one faith, not many (Eph. 4:5). The gospel of Christ is sufficient to save sinners (Rom. 1:16). To include other “faiths” nullifies its power and forfeits grace (Gal. 1:6-9).
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. (Romans 3:27–28, NKJV)
No one has room to boast before God of being a perfect keeper and therefore, of being justified by law. Everyone under the law of Moses sinned against it and were condemned as sinners by it (Rom. 3:19-20, 23). By the works or “deeds of the law,” no one is justified because all have sinned against it. It is the “law of faith” (the gospel), which is “apart from the deeds of the law,” that justifies sinners. Paul defines “works” in this context as “the deeds of the law” (the Greek text does not include the article, so literally the phrase here is “deeds of law”). Keeping law for justification demands sinless perfection. That is earning salvation. But, that avenue is forever impossible to us, since we have all sinned. None of us can earn our salvation. Scripture says we are justified by faith (v. 28). The gospel (the faith, Gal. 1:11, 23) produces personal faith (Rom. 1:16-17). Personal faith includes obedience, but an obedient faith is not “works” that earn salvation. Obedience is the action of trust in Jesus to save you when you obey Him (Heb. 5:8-9). When we trust and obey the gospel our only boast is in Jesus, not in ourselves (Lk. 17:10; Gal. 6:14).
Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (Colossians 1:28, NKJV)
What kind of preaching do you expect to hear from a preacher? Do you want preaching designed to entertain an audience of spectators? Do you want preaching that is filled with pleas for money? Do you want preaching that is political in nature? Gospel preaching is none of these things (2 Timothy 4:2). Preaching Jesus includes warnings and wise instruction that establishes souls in the faith (Colossians 2:6-7). The purpose of preaching Jesus is to present every person perfect (whole, mature, complete) in Christ. Insist on preaching that proclaims the word of God and not the will of men (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:1-5; Galatians 1:11-12). Then, take God’s word into your heart and grow to maturity in Christ.
14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14–15, NKJV)
The preaching of Jesus was radical, revolutionary, and redemptive. Those who envision Jesus as a soft spoken, mealy-mouthed professor of theology have woefully missed the mark. Undeterred by the imprisonment of John, Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom in Galilee (see Matthew 4:12-17). This passage is a big problem for premillennialists (those who believe Christ’s kingdom was not established in the first century). The kingdom of God is linked to gospel Jesus preached. If God withdrew the kingdom and substituted the church (as they say), then how can they be sure the kingdom’s gospel was not also withdrawn? Put another way, since the apostles preached the gospel from Pentecost onward, the kingdom Jesus said was “at hand” also arrived through the gospel they preached (Acts 1:6-8; 2:1-4, 33-41; Colossians 1:13-14). Jesus said His kingdom, which is not of this world, came during lives of His contemporaries (Mark 9:1; John 18:36). Will you accept the good news of the kingdom that calls you to repent and believe the gospel? We hope so. After all, that is what Jesus preached.