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Obeying the Gospel
An important concept regarding the Gospel as agency that is not an attribute of the Gospel. Rather, it is the natural response after a study of the Gospel. I am confident that my readers are aware that when confronted with the Gospel, there is an anticipated response. Paul alludes to this anticipation in passages that reference the idea that the Gospel can be obeyed.
Two of the three passages that include this idea speak just to the subject—obey (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17). There is nothing complicated about that. The third passage takes us to the next level regarding obedience to the Gospel (2 Corinthians 9:13). Our obedience is to our confession of the Gospel. In the Corinthian passage, it “could have the general sense of assent, acknowledgment, obligation” (1). Paul uses the term homologia, which is a compound word that means to have the same (homo) words (logia). We are saying the same words as the text and agreeing with each other in our words. This is the unity that Jesus and Paul anticipated (John 17:21; Ephesians 4:1-3). The writer of the book of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus is the subject of the confession (4:14; compare Matthew 10:32-33).
On the day of Pentecost when Peter preached the first Gospel sermon after the resurrection of Christ, he demanded something from his audience whose hearts were pierced by the message (2). The message produces faith (Romans 10:10). The faith prompts action (repent and be baptized). This quality drives home the Gospel as agency. The subject (the Gospel) produces action (response to the Gospel). Acts provides us the clearest account of the Gospel in action.
The first to consider is the Gospel sermon of Peter on the day of Pentecost. Peter powerfully presents Jesus as the Messiah they crucified. They had not paid attention to the law and the prophets. Peter concludes by stating “God has made Him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Peter demands repentance. They need to change their minds about Jesus. That’s right. It was not an altar call regarding personal sins. It was an expectation that they must accept the rightful place of Jesus as both Lord (over Caesar, Pilate, or Herod), and Messiah. Peter had proven it, and it was validated by the resurrection. The response was overwhelming. “Those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). There had to be a reason.
The next account involves the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:25-40). The first was a Jewish audience. This one was a Gentile, who was “barred from active participation in the Jewish rites by his race and his emasculation (Dt. 23:1).” He would have been considered a “God-fearer” (3). In this account, the implications of the activity of the Gospel are obvious. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” It is evident that there was something in Philip’s message about Jesus that prompted this question. The answer is found in Paul’s explanation of baptism in Romans 6.
(1) O. Hofius, “homologia,”Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, Horst Robert Balz and Gerhard Schneider, eds. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990–), 514.
(2) We call this being under conviction. This is the job of the Holy Spirit to bring the message XE "message" home to the hearer. This is what Jesus had described in John 16:7-11. Regarding sin, the Spirit will convict, that is, he will “show someone his sin and to summon him to repentance.” (Friedrich Büchsel, “elegxei,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 474.)
(3) D. A. Hubbard, “Ethiopian Eunuch,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 346. His familiarity with Judaism should not be unexpected. Jewish influence in Upper Egypt “ made by Jewish life and thought on the Ethiopians.” (Ibid.)
* This page is an excerpt from is my book Non-Negotiable: Focusing on the Essentials of the Faith. The book goes into more detail on many of these issues.
Last update: 5 September 2015
Gospel as Agency