“The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
We’ll end our discussion on the gospel where we began. These words of Jesus in Mark 1:15 have helped frame our thoughts on the gospel. We have been working through the phrase, “Repent and believe the gospel” backwards, asking first what is “the gospel” which Jesus says we should believe in?
We have seen the gospel is the message about God, mankind, and Jesus Christ.
If we are going to know, love, live and teach the gospel then we must think deeply about what the Bible says of God, ourselves, and Jesus. Without these three elements, we do not really have the “good news.” When we think of the gospel beginning with who God is (holy), then moving to who we are (wicked at heart), we are left wondering where the “good” of the good news is! And that’s precisely the point. It is then that we by grace begin to long for deliverance from sin and death and all that we are in the core of our beings. It is then we are ready to learn of the Treasure of treasures – Jesus the Savior.
Having come to some sense of God’s absolute, uncompromising holiness, and our utter sinfulness, we are in a place where we see the beauty of the life, death and resurrection of Christ in our place. The guilt of our sin transferred to Christ on the cross becomes a hauntingly beautiful thing to us.
What remains, then, are the gospel commands – repent and believe.
To repent in the Bible means to have a change of mind and heart, to turn away from sin and one’s own inherent wickedness. It involves a confession (agreeing with God’s assessment of us) and a determination to walk in the way of Christ.
To believe or have faith means to submit one’s life to, or to totally trust. When Paul told the Romans to confess with their mouths the Lord Jesus and believe in their hearts that God had raised Him from the dead (Rom 10:9), he was requiring them to be willing to part with their heads in order to follow Jesus. Indeed, as Paul was writing, Rome was not a very safe place for those who “believed” in Jesus and refused to call Ceasar “lord.” This is far from easy believism.
Repentance and belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior are the essential gospel commands. This is the required human response to the message called the gospel. Repentance and faith in Christ always go hand-in-hand in the Bible. One turns from sin and to Jesus alone for forgiveness and justification before a holy God.
Now here’s the kicker. Salvation is such a complete work of God’s grace that we are told in Scripture that everything involved in it is a “gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:9). Wow! It’s all a gift. This includes the conviction of sin and the compelling power of God bringing us to treasure the perfections of Christ (John 6:44, 65; 16:8). This includes saving faith. This includes repentance (2 Tim 2:25). God saves us. God gives spiritual life to the spiritually dead! This is why Jesus told Nicodemus, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
The Spirit of God mysteriously blows into the sinner’s life, giving new life in Christ, opening the heart and making it new (Acts 16:14; 2 Cor 5:17), just as He promised He would one day do (Ezek 36). And the result of this great, regenerating move of God’s Spirit in the sinner is saving faith in Jesus Christ (1 John 5:1). And, little wonder Christ alone is the object of saving faith; for He alone has made it all possible.
No more striving to be good enough. No more praying some formulaic prayer. No more simple “ABCs.” No more trusting in the work of Christ plus our own efforts at being righteous. No, what we see in the Bible when a sinner comes face to face with the Spirit applying the gospel is much more “native,” much more “real,” much less “flashly” and man-manipulated. It’s the pure, unadulterated cry for mercy: “God, be merciful to me, the sinner” (Luke 18:13). It’s the helpless plea of a man bleeding out his last on the cross beside Jesus: “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).
Makes me think the gospel really is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). Know the gospel. Love the gospel. Live the gospel. Teach the gospel. Pray the gospel. And center your homes on the gospel. Then one day, by God’s immeasurable grace, you too may have the joy of hearing your children cry out to Jesus for mercy.
May God make it so, for the sake of His Son and our Holy Savior, amen.