Especially now, amid turmoil, the church needs to declare the truth of the good news of God. People need to hear that there is ultimate good news!
Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel … Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” (Mark 1:15, 38)
The urgency to preach the gospel ought to be foremost in every church that professes Christ as her head! Through the gospel, the person and work of Christ, God has reconciled the world to Himself. Those who receive the gospel are at peace with God, the ultimate and necessary reconciliation.
The reason for Jesus’ public ministry was to preach. His message was clear. He preached: “Repent and believe in the gospel!” Both verbs are in the imperative mood and present tense. The imperative is the mood of command. The present tense describes current and ongoing action. Therefore, both repenting and believing are current ongoing actions commanded by God.
Jesus gave two reasons for His dual command. The first was the “time is fulfilled.” The second, “the kingdom of God is at hand.”
The first was a reference to Daniel’s prophecy. (Daniel 9:25) It was confirmed by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 4:4. This time of fulfillment was in fact the time set in eternity by God for the Messiah’s arrival on earth. Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2 in the synagogue (see Luke 4:18-21). Jesus said He was the one prophesied who would proclaim the “year of the Lord’s favor.” In other words, Jesus declared that at His first coming God was commanding men and women to call upon Him and be saved. The Apostle Peter boldly told the religious leaders in Jerusalem,” there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
The second reason given by Jesus was not separate and distinct from the first. The kingdom of God, namely the rule of God was at hand. Jesus the King and Lord, the one who rules all things, was physically present with His hearers. The King who rules all men and has absolute authority, Matthew 28:18, commands repentance, and faith.
Repentance and faith go together. Repentance is a change of mind, a turning away from sin. Faith is trust in the object who is Jesus. When God converts a sinner into a saint, He gives two gifts. One is repentance. The other is faith. The converted man and woman turn away from sin and turn to Jesus. Paul explained the action of a converted sinner in Romans 6:11. “So you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Both God-given gifts continue throughout every Christian’s life. We live repenting and believing, turning from our sin, and relying upon the perfect righteousness of Christ.
Jesus was specific. He commanded believing in the gospel. Christians believe in the gospel. Why? The answer is simple and clear. “The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16)
I am sure that you have heard that the word “gospel” means good news. So, what is the good news? It is, “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 Corinthians 15:3-4) This is profoundly good news because we all deserve to go to hell. But God who is “rich in mercy,” (Ephesians 2:4) chose some for heaven. The only way to heaven is through Jesus as He is offered in the gospel! That is relying upon the only begotten one, Jesus, not born but eternally proceeding from the Father. Those destined for heaven rely upon Jesus’ perfect life and His perfect sacrifice for sins. This reliance is not by our strength and power. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. The gospel is good news because God applies it to those whom He has chosen. Those who receive the gospel have a hope that is eternal, the only hope of mankind!
Repent and believe in the gospel! “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
The Rev. Lou Tiscione is the pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church.