GRASPING THE GOSPEL (How Jesus Wants Us to Celebrate His Resurrection)
This past Sunday was Easter, the day all those professing to be Christians commemorate Jesus’ resurrection. In many churches, the day is recognized in ceremonial ways, through special traditions and rituals. Others are less structured. And, of course, we are all familiar with the secular traditions associated with the day as well.
But how does Jesus want us to celebrate his resurrection? Is he seeking mere ritual, ceremony marked by special services or masses? Surely these things have value if practiced by disciples with faith and sincere hearts that love God. But is this all that Jesus is looking for? Of course not! Jesus wants something deeper and more life changing. The crucifixion and resurrection occurred that people might hear, respond to, and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
REALITY OF THE GOSPEL — ACTS 2:22-36
To grasp the Gospel of Jesus, it is first necessary to understand the Reality of the Gospel. In Acts 2:22-36, Peter lays out the facts! He reveals the reality.
Isaiah 59:1-2, Romans 3:23, & 1 Peter 2:9-10 > What do these passages teach us about our spiritual state without Jesus dying for our sins and our coming to faith in Jesus Christ?
Hebrews 9:22& Romans 3:21-26 > What do these passages tell us regarding what is necessary for us to be forgiven of our sins? Why did Jesus have to shed his blood to save us?
1 Corinthians 15:1-8 & 2 Corinthians 5:21 > What do these passages tell us are essential truths of the Gospel?
The reality of the Gospel is this: we are all sinners, separated by our sin from a holy God. Jesus shed his blood and died on the cross to pay for our sins. God raised him from the dead, defeating the power of death and opening the door to eternal life.
Do you believe this gospel? If so, how would anyone know by watching your life? How would anyone know by hearing your words and conversations?
RESPONSE TO THE GOSPEL — ACTS 2:37-41
How are we to respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? What impact does Jesus want the news of his crucifixion and resurrection to have on people when they learn of it?
Ephesians 2:8 tells us that we are saved “by grace through faith.” The reality of the gospel reveals God’s love, mercy, and grace. How we respond to this reality reveals our faith. Do you believe the people in Acts 2:37 had saving faith? Why or why not?
Acts 11:23 tells us that when Barnabas went to Antioch to investigate the baptisms of Gentiles, he was convinced that these baptisms were valid because he “saw the evidence of the grace of God.” (The original Greek simply says he “saw the grace of God.”) What “evidence” did Barnabas see that made it evident to him that these people had faith in the grace of God? How do we “see grace” today? In our own lives? In the lives of others who are disciples of Jesus? In the church?
Read 2 Corinthians 5:13-15. What impact does saving grace have on a person according to this passage? Read James 2:14-26. Can one say they have saving faith if their life does not back it up?
Repentance means to turn from one’s sin to follow Jesus. Read 2 Corinthians 7:10-11. According to this passage, how can we recognize true repentance in ourselves and in others?
Repentance is not just a matter of changing some bad habits or improving one’s behavior to be a “better person.” True repentance involves not only turning away from sin, but also turning towards and following Jesus! A person must surrender his/her whole self to Jesus and make him Lord of his/her life.
Romans 10:9 > One must confess Jesus as Lord to be saved! Matthew 7:21-23 & Luke 6:46 > It is not enough to simply call Jesus your Lord; only those who actually do what the Father commands will be saved. 1 Timothy 6:12-14 > Paul calls Timothy to remember his confession of Jesus as Lord and use it as ongoing inspiration to fight for the faith!
(It was customary that disciples in the first century made a public profession of faith in Jesus. This was usually first done at their baptism. This is why we ask people we baptize, “What is your good confession?”, to which they reply, “Jesus is Lord.”)
Peter tells the people that they are to repent and “be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins.” Those who respond to the gospel with faith, repentance, and a decision to make Jesus Lord must be baptized for the forgiveness of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Until one has submitted to baptism, one has not yet fully obeyed the Bible’s prescribed way of responding to the Gospel.
Baptism was (and is) the crowning event of the conversion experience. It was recognized by the early church as the moment of passage from darkness to light, from lost to saved (1 Peter 2:9-10, 3:21-22; Galatians 3:26-27). There is nothing in scripture to suggest anything is different today. Read the following passages and note how baptism was always part of the immediate response to the Gospel. Acts 2:39-41 Acts 8:9-13, 26-38 Acts 9:17-18 Acts 10:23-48 Acts 16:25-33
(It is important to note that the English word “baptism” comes from the Greek word baptizo, which literally means “immersed.” Thus, biblical baptism involves total immersion. It is also clear that baptism was meant for those who had faith and had made a decision to follow Jesus as Lord. How should this impact our understanding of rituals that are often called “baptism” but don’t involve immersion and/or infant “baptisms”?)
What about you?
Have you responded to the Gospel as Peter preached in Acts 2? Does your life support the claim that you have saving faith? That you have repented? That you have made Jesus Lord? Have you been baptized accordingly for the forgiveness of your sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? If so, do you recall your “good confession” and baptism on a daily basis? Does it motivate and compel you to live for Christ rather than for self?
REVERBERATION OF THE GOSPEL — ACTS 2:42-47
This passage gives us a glimpse of the impact the Gospel had on the people’s lives and their community of faith (the church). What lesson should we take from this?
Having embraced the reality of the gospel and responding to the gospel as called by God, the people then lived lives which reverberated the gospel!
Definition of “Reverberation” >“An echoed sound; the persistence of a sound after its source has stopped, caused by simple reflection of the sound within a closed space.”
As a community of disciples, our church should serve as an “echo chamber of Christ-likeness!” In what ways does the Gospel reverberate through your life? What will you do to see that it continues to echo to the next generation in our church?