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This day, October 31, is significant in history. Not because of Halloween. Today is Reformation Day, exactly 502 years after the German monk Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses sa gate ng Wittenberg Chapel, as a sign of protest sa mga unbiblical, anti-gospel teachings and practices ng Roman Catholic Church. That sparked what we now call the Protestant Reformation. At ang nagsilbing rallying cry nito ay yung Post tenebras, Lux (after darkness, light!). The story of the Reformation is the story of the recovery of the biblical truth in time of spiritual darkness.
Although our evangelical heritage came from that movement, we must be aware that the church today is also in danger of moving away from the biblical gospel. Ang daming heresies abounding, and even mga teachings and practices within our evangelical circles na natatabunan, naiisantabi, at nababaluktot na ang gospel. And that aside from immoralities not just outside but also inside the church. The church, then, must always be rediscovering the light – the light of the gospel.
This is what this conference is all about. We are praying for gospel awakening, yun bang maliwanagan ang isip at puso natin sa kahalagahan at centrality ng gospel in life and ministry. ‘Yan ang pinag-uusapan natin the last five plenary sessions. Kasi naman, we cannot have a gospel awakening if we don’t have clarity about what the gospel is. We don’t assume it. Marami ang namamatay sa maling akala. It is a matter of life and death – for us, for our churches, for the world. Ganito kahalaga ang pinag-uusapan natin ngayon. It is so basic, yet it is also so important.
What is the Gospel?
So we spent most of our time talking about what is the gospel. Ang gospel ay hindi good advice – hindi ito tungkol sa kung ano ang ginawa na natin (mabuti man o masama), o ginagawa natin, o gagawin natin o dapat nating gawin. It is not about us! Ang gospel ay mabuting balita tungkol sa mabuting gawa ng Diyos –
Ginawa ng Diyos ang hindi natin magagawa para sa sarili natin; ayon sa kanyang plano, si Jesus na Anak ng Diyos nagkatawang tao, namuhay na matuwid para tayong mga nananalig sa kanya ay maituring na matuwid sa paningin ng Diyos, namatay sa krus para akuin ang lahat ng parusang nararapat sa ating mga makasalanan, at sa ikatlong araw ay nabuhay na muli at nagtagumpay laban sa kasalanan, kamatayan, at lahat ng kasamaan para baguhin ang lahat ng kanyang nilikha at tayo’y mapanumbalik sa Diyos.
Throughout Paul’s long letter addressing yung mga issues sa Corinthian church, he never get tired of talking about the gospel from beginning to end. Kaya sa bandang dulo ng sulat niya, sabi niya, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Clearly, this is the gospel according to Paul. Sabi niya kasi sa v. 1, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you…” So from vv. 3-4, we can learn several things about this gospel:
The gospel is historical.
Totoong nangyari. Hindi kuwentong barbero o gawa-gawa lang. This is not fiction, but history. Totoong namatay siya, kasi nilibing siya. Totoong nabuhay siya kasi totoong namatay siya. At sa vv. 5-7, sinabi niyang merong witnesses na makapagpapatunay nito, not just a few people, but more than 500! Totoong nangyari. Hindi lang historical from our point of view, but the point or the climax of God’s redemptive history. Ang kamatayan niya, “in accordance with the Scriptures.” Ang resurrection niya, “in accordance with the Scriptures.” Ayon sa plano ng Diyos, katuparan ng mga pangako ng Diyos. Hindi magiging good news ang gospel kapag fake news ‘to, kahit pa mag-viral o marami ang maniwala dito. Hindi ito magiging good news kung ang layunin at mga pangako ng Diyos ay masisira at di matutupad. The good news is that the God who created us, whom we have offended, has sent his Son, our Savior.
The gospel is doctrinal.
Hindi lang ito totoong Kuwento. Meron ding katotohanang dapat paniwalaan tungkol dito. Sino ang Diyos, ano ang problema ng tao, sino si Cristo at ano ang ginawa niya para sa atin, at paano tayo magrerespond dun. The gospel is good news, pero not good news to you kung di mo naman paniniwalaan at tatanggapin.
The gospel is Christological.
The gospel is about Jesus. “Christ died…he was buried…he was raised on the third day…” There is no gospel without Jesus. Magsalita ka nang magsalita, magpreach ka nang magpreach, kung di naman si Jesus ang ibibida mo, at sarili mo lang o ibang tao o yung clever ideas mo o ten steps to a successful life, hindi good news ‘yan.
The gospel is transformational.
Christ died “for our sins.” Para sa atin, para solusyunan ang pinakamalaking problema natin, para bayaran ang kasalanan natin, para akuin ang galit ng Diyos, para maibalik tayo sa mabuting relasyon sa Diyos. But it is not just about having a fire insurance para matakasan ang impyerno, hindi lang ticket to enter heaven. It is also good news for the here and now. Magiging malinaw ‘yan mamaya kung makita natin ang ibig sabihin ng “being saved” sa v. 2. The gospel is not good news if it is powerless to change our hearts, to help us fight against sin, and grow to be more like Christ.
The gospel is missional.
Hindi lang narinig ni Pablo. “For I delivered to you…” (v. 3). Para siyang messenger na merong delivery package from the Sender, from God. “The gospel I preached to you…the word I preached to you…” (vv. 1-2). Hindi good news kung di naman sasabihin sa iba. Ang good news ibinabalita, hindi sinasarili. More about that later when we talk about preaching the gospel.
We will not preach the gospel if we don’t believe it is transformational, if we are not confident in the power of the gospel. If we lack confidence in its power, we will not see it as a priority, of ultimate importance. So pag-usapan muna natin yung priority of the gospel, then yung power of the gospel, then yung application nito sa preaching of the gospel.
The Priority of the Gospel
Ito kasi ang problema sa mga Christians sa church sa Corinth. Mas priority nila na pakinggan yung human wisdom, above God’s wisdom in the “foolishness” of the gospel. Kaya nagkakaroon sila ng mga parti-partido. Ako kay Pablo, ako kay Apollos, ako kay Pedro, ako kay Cristo (1:12). So gustong i-emphasize ni Paul na ang focus ng misyon niya ay hindi para dumami ang fans and followers niya at patunayang siya ang pinaka. Sabi niya ang focus niya “to preach the gospel” (v. 17). Yung “gospel” na ‘to tinawag niyang “the word of the cross” sa v. 18, “folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Kitang-kita yung priority niya sa gospel, “we preach Christ crucified” (v. 23). “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (2:2).
Kaya sabi niya sa 15:3, na itong gospel na pinipreach niya sa kanila, “as of first importance.” Greek protos, unang-una, pinakamahalaga sa lahat, priority. Meron din namang ibang teachings sa Scripture, but secondary, tertiary. Wag nating pagbaligtarin. Gospel is not secondary, but primary. Pwede ring “the primacy of the gospel.” Hindi naman ibig sabihing puro gospel lang ang preaching natin. We need to understand na pag sinabing first importance, hindi sole importance, na yun lang. But it means, the gospel is…
“For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (3:11). Our ministry is to build upon that foundation. Hindi tayo gagawa ng ibang pundasyon. Nakalatag na yun. Fixed na yun. Di na babaguhin yun. You cannot improve upon the gospel. You cannot revise the gospel. You must not sweeten the gospel. “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
Like a sun, all planets revolving around it. Not that we don’t talk about other things. Si Pablo din naman, he’s addressing issues sa church like divisions, conflicts, lawsuits among believers, sexual immorality, church discipline, ministry practices, order in worship, role of men and women in the church, singleness, marriage. But he’s not talking about those things apart from the gospel. Lahat konektado sa gospel. Tanggalin mo ang gospel sa sentro, then mawawalang-kabuluhan din ang ibang mga pag-uusapan natin. Ang gospel ang pinakamahalaga at nagkakaroon lang ng halaga, linaw, kabuluhan ang ibang bagay kung nakakonekta sa gospel.
Everything is shaped by the gospel. Yung “gospel-centered” kasi pwedeng maging slogan lang, o cliche, o something trendy na wala namang epekto sa buhay at sa ministry natin kung we will not intentionally reflect and prayerfully plan to apply it sa bawat bahagi ng buhay natin. So kung gospel ang nasa sentro, we ask the question, how does it change the way we relate to our spouse, the way we shepherd our church, the way we evangelize, the way we make disciples, the way we engage in politics and deeds of mercy. The gospel changes everything.
It is foundational, central, and instrumental. Sabi ni Tim Keller,
“The gospel is what brings unity to all that we do. Every form of ministry is empowered by the gospel, based on the gospel, and is a result of the gospel” (Center Church).
The Power of the Gospel
Bakit mo nga naman bibigyang priority or primacy ang isang bagay na hindi naman powerful, or infinitely less powerful kung ikukumpara sa iba. Bakit ka pupusta kay John kung ang kalaban niya sa boxing ring ay si Manny Pacquiao? Bakit ka magchicheer sa Ginebra kung ang kalaban sa basketball ay NBA all stars? Bakit ka mag 3-in-1 instant coffee kung meron namang purong kapeng Barako? Ganun din sa gospel. Why would you lesser for lesser substitutes? Bakit mo itataya ang buhay at ministeryo mo sa mga humanly-devised, kahit gaano ka-clever, kahit gaano ka-appealing, kahit gaano karami ang results (seemingly), when we already have God’s perfect wisdom and infinite power in the gospel?
Kapag sinabi ni Paul na “the gospel is the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16), ang pumapasok agad sa isip natin na “salvation” ay yung mapupunta sa langit. But it means much more comprehensive than that. It means at least these three things.
Its power for regeneration.
Merong life-giving power ang gospel. Kailangan natin yun, kasi apart from God’s regenerating grace, we were dead. Pero, we were “born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23). Itong “word of God” dito ay hindi lang yung “word” in a general sense. Na tulad halimbawa ng some pastors leading Bible studies sa isang company or government office full of non-Christians, teaching them moral values and transformation and work ethics from the book of Proverbs. Kaso, puro “law” ang naririnig nila, gawin mo ‘to, wag mong gawin ‘to. The law is good, but is not intended by God as means to give life to a valley of dry bones (Ezek. 37). Only the gospel has that power. Kaya sinabi ni Peter specifically kung ano yung “word of God” na may power to give life. “This word is the good news that was preached to you” (1 Pet. 1:25). When dealing with unbelievers, we’re dealing with dead people, bulag ‘yan, they cannot see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4). Kaya kailangang we preach not ourselves but “Jesus Christ as Lord” (v. 5). When we preach the gospel, we preach with the creative power of God na nagsabing “Let light shine out of darkness” (v. 6). Walang “out of darkness, light” kung walang gospel preaching.
Its power for justification.
Ito yung mas specific sense sa context ng Romans 1:16-17. Sinabi niyang the gospel is the power of God for salvation (v. 16), kasi, “for in it (in the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed” (v. 17). Very significant kay Martin Luther yung discovery ng meaning ng “the righteousness of God.” Sabi niya, in a sense ibig sabihin naman nito ay yung attribute ni God as righteous and just. Pero more specifically, tumutukoy ito sa paraan ng Diyos kung paanong tayo na mga unrighteous ay marereconcile sa Diyos na perfectly righteous and be declared righteous (justified) in his sight. Very devoted siya as a priest, pero nakita niya through that passage that he was lacking the righteousness needed to be accepted by God. He was saved by believing the gospel! Tayo rin, kailangang marinig yung gospel na yun. For how can people get saved without believing in Christ? Paano sila maniniwala kay Cristo kung di naman nila maririnig yung gospel? At paano maririnig kung hindi naman ipipreach (see Rom. 10:13-14).
Its power for sanctification.
By the gospel, we were saved. Past tense yun. Pero hindi lang past tense ang salvation, present tense din. “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1:18). By this gospel, “you are being saved” (15:2), present tense, sanctification ‘yan, yung ongoing process na nilalakaran natin, na nakikipaglaban sa kasalanan at hinuhubog para maging katulad ni Cristo. We need the gospel everyday. Kaya nga yung no. 1 thesis sa 95 Theses ni Martin Luther, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (present active imperative in Greek) (Matt. 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” We cannot separate repentance and faith as our response to the gospel. Sinabi ni Paul na itong gospel ay power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (present active) (Rom. 1:16). And we take hold of that righteousness “from faith to faith” (v. 17) the Christian life is a life of faith from beginning to end. Ganun din sa 1 Cor. 15, yung gospel na yun “you received (aorist tense, referring to their initial response of faith), in which you stand (perfect tense, tinayuan at nagpapatuloy na tinatayuan o pinaninindigan)…by which you are being saved…if you hold fast (present tense, kumapit kay Cristo at patuloy na kumakapit sa kanya)” (vv. 1-2).
The Preaching of the Gospel
Para mangyari yun, we preach the gospel, and we keep preaching the gospel. Unswerving yung commitment ni Paul sa mission na ‘yan. Sinasabi niya, I already preached that to you (v. 1, v. 2, aorist tense ‘yan, pati yung “I delivered to you.”) Nagawa na ni Paul. Referring to evangelism. Yung gospel galing sa word na euangelion, yung preach euangelizo, ibinalita na niya ang magandang balita sa kanila. Tayo rin we…
Preach the gospel to unbelievers.
We call that evangelism. Paano naman magiging evangelism ‘yan kung walang evangel, kung walang gospel. Paano kung puro entertainment, puro gimmicks, puro moralistic preaching, puro programs to satisfy their felt needs. Yung iba sinasabing ginagamit lang yun as means to an end, para mahikayat sila sa church at dun marinig nila yung gospel. But because we place so much importance dun sa means, yung means nagiging end na. We are not free to devise whatever means we want or the people want. Yung means na gagamitin natin ay yung means that God has designed in his wisdom (he is wiser eh?) to bring the lost to himself, namely, the preaching of the gospel. So many pastors, so many churches are spending a lot of their time, energy, money and resources to giving unbelievers something they don’t need. People don’t need to feel good about themselves. They have to feel bad, because they have offended God. They need to taste and see that the Lord is good in the good news of the gospel.
Preach the gospel to your church.
Ganyan nga ginagawa niya sa Corinthian church. Believers na kausap niya. Sinabi niya, napreach ko na ang gospel sa inyo. Pero inuulit-ulit niya, hindi siya nagsasawang ipaalala sa kanila. “Now I would remind (present tense) you…” Ipinapaalam ko ulit sa inyo, kahit alam n’yo na, kasi nakakalimutan n’yo, hindi pa bumabaon ng malalim sa puso n’yo.
At first, I preach the gospel in my sermon because I’m not assuming everyone present was a Christian. Now I preach the gospel in my sermon because unbelievers are present, and believers also need it.
Ganito rin naman kasi yung pattern ni Paul. Sa Romans, sabi niya, “I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome” (1:15). Mga Christians kausap niya. Yung very long exposition of the gospel sa chapters 1-11, ang purpose is to help them sa Christian life nila, sa unity and ministry sa loob ng church, and their engagement sa missions in reaching the unreached. Yung transition sa chapter 12, “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God…” Sa Colossians ganun din. Chapters 1-2, about the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ in the gospel. Chapters 3-4 about the Christian life, transition sa chapter 3, “If then you have been raised with Christ…” Sa Ephesians, 1-3 about the riches of the grace we have received in Christ. Sa 4-6 how to live in light of that grace: “I therefore…urge you…” (4:1).
At kahit nagbibigay siya ng mga exhortations, he makes sure na rooted, motivated and empowered by the gospel yung obedience natin.
- Romans 15:7, Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (ESV);
- Ephesians 4:32, Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (ESV);
- Ephesians 5:1–2, Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (ESV);
- Colossians 3:12–13, Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.(ESV);
- Ephesians 5:25, Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, (ESV)
So I resolved at the outset of my ministry as pastor to keep preaching the gospel, especially as we went through Galatians (20 sermons!) during my first year. But this confidence in the gospel must keep being renewed. Kasi recently, I felt some ounce of doubt in its power to change. Kasi meron kaming one of the staff sa church na recently lumabas yung kasalanang ginagawa niya for the last four years. Nakikinig siya lagi ng gospel, we’re working together sa ministry. Bakit nangyari yun in light of constant exposure sa gospel? God dealt with my doubt, renewed my confidence in the gospel, nang makita ko how the church responded, yung forgiveness sa kanyang during our staff meeting, yung forgiveness ng mga church elders sa kanya, yung love and support ng church sa kanyang family. This is the result of the gospel bearing fruit in our church. O praise the Lord!
I don’t know about your church. Maybe you’re losing confidence also, because you’re not seeing the result of your faithfulness. Or maybe compromising ka na, just to get more people to come. Repent, re-commit to be a faithful gospel minister. At kung napapagod ka na, gusto mo nang umaway, may you find rest in the gospel’s “It is finished.” It doesn’t depend on you! It is the work of God.
Preach the gospel to yourself.
Look at 1 Cor. 15:8-10. He was reminding not just the church in Corinth but himself. He needs the gospel desperately. Jesus appeared to him, saved him, called him to ministry. Why? Because he was the best of the apostles? No, “I am the least of the apostles.” Because he was worthy? No, “unworthy to be called an apostle.” Because he has shown a lot of potential that will benefit the church? No, he was harming the church, even out to destroy it, “I persecuted the church of God.” Is he what he is because of his skills? “But by the grace of God I am what I am…I worked harder…it was not I but the grace of God…” You are not preaching the gospel to yourself, but a false gospel of self-esteem if you’re just saying to yourself, “I am worthy, I am the best, I am good, I am lovable, I am important.” We don’t need the power of “I am.” We need the power of the gospel, preach it to yourself everyday. Gal 6:14 – “May I never boast except in the cross of Christ…” Preach it to yourself. We need it everyday.
I realized how badly I needed it just recently. Easy to tell people to forgive, but harder to tell myself to forgive. Merong nagwalk out na dalawa dahil di sila agreeable sa agenda during our recent members meeting. Pagkatapos nun, merong isang member namin ang nakapagsabi ng masasakit na salita against me. Umiyak ako. Maraming umiyak. Mahirap pala magpatawad. Madaling magcounsel sa mga tao na magpatawad tulad ng pagpapatawad ni Cristo. So I need to preach the gospel to myself araw-araw.
Gusto nating magkaroon ng awakening sa mga churches natin, but that awakening must start with our hearts. Jonathan Edwards, instrumental in the first great awakening in the US, early 18th century, sabi niya,
“He who would set the hearts of other men on fire with the love of Christ must himself burn with love.”
Yun ang awakening – setting our hearts on fire with the love of Christ. The preaching of the gospel is instrumental, yes. But that awakening may not happen immediately after this conference. We keep preaching to our churches, we keep preaching to our hearts. We keep working together to help other churches. We are here for the long haul. And we must pray hard. Awakening is not our work, but God’s. We do our part, and pray that God will use these little efforts, put together, over a long period of time, to build our churches, to reach the nations, until that day when our eyes will be opened to see Jesus face to face.