As a young man, catching the bus to work in the city, I decided to use my travel time memorising bible verses. One of these verses became foundational for me when I became an ordained minister, For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith. (Rom 1.16-17 RSV) I used these verses as the basis for the first sermon I preached at Greyfriars. I said, I think the Lord has prompted me to offer a vision to you, that we would be a people who rely on the power of the gospel, all that God has revealed through his word, all that Jesus has accomplished for us, all that the Holy Spirit gifts and empowers us to do and to be. That is what I have sought to do over the last 10 years, and by the grace of God it is what I will continue to do. I am fully convinced that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe.
To glimpse the power of the Gospel you simply need to look at the man who wrote the letter to the Romans. He went from holding the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr, to holding fast to the gospel and saying, “… I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16) He went from persecutor to persecuted, from Pharisee to Preacher of the gospel. The Gospel of Salvation is big theme in the letter to the Roman church, and this is summarised in Romans chapter one. In the opening greeting Paul gave a glorious, sweeping overview of his gospel message, writing, this news of salvation was Promised by the Prophets – Contained in the Scriptures - Empowered by the Holy Spirit - Revealed in the Resurrection, of Jesus Christ our Lord.
The greatest human need, although overlooked by many, is our need for God and therefore our need of the gospel of reconciliation. Blaise Pascal wrote, There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each person. As spiritual beings there is a gap in our lives that can only be filled with the presence of Jesus Christ. Sadly, many people allow that gap to be filled with other things. Like a fatberg that blocks the sewers many allow the crud of this world to gunk up their lives. This spiritual blockage grows with the junk associated with envy and greed, the grime of unforgiveness and bitterness and the debris of anger towards others or self-loathing towards ourselves. None of this truly satisfies our needs, rather it dulls the longing we have for God and numbs us to our need of the gospel. Only God can clean up such a mess.
How do we create a Gospel Community? 1) We must make the Gospel a priority in our church; 2) We need to realise we are all Partners in the Gospel; 3) We must focus on making disciples; and 4) We need to play our part in outreach and evangelism. I am truly glad that we are a church that takes the gospel seriously. I wonder which of our gospel outreaches resonates with you? We don’t force the gospel upon people, but echoing Paul, We are not ashamed of the gospel. Because of our commitment to the gospel: we hold out the word of life, offer the living water, and live as witnesses to the gospel reality of Jesus in our lives.
Perhaps today you need to do a gospel check on your own life. Are you where you want to be in your relationship with God? Over the past two difficult years, has something of a spiritual fatberg begun to clog and choke your spiritual life? Perhaps we as a church need to kick the tyres of our ministries, to allow them to be reinflated with the gospel good news. Let us determine to lend our strength, time and gifts to the ways the gospel is shared through our ministries.
- Do you think it is important for a church to focus on the gospel? If so, why is this a priority for you?
- Do you agree that the gospel is a part of Greyfriars spiritual DNA? If so, where do you see evidence of this in our church life?
- How does being Christ-centred, Bible‑based, Mission-oriented and People-related help us reflect the gospel priorities through our church life?
- Read Romans 1.1-4 What do we learn about the gospel from these verses? How does the cumulative effect of each of Paul’s statements build up a picture of the significance of the gospel?
- Why do you think Paul was convinced that the gospel of salvation has power for all who believe?
- What keeps many people in the wider community from sensing their need of the gospel? (2 Cor 4.4 & 2 Tim 4.3-4)
- What does it mean to you to be a partner, co-worker or benefactor in the gospel? (Rom 16. 2, 3, 9 & 2 Cor 8.23)
- What do you think it means to be a Gospel Community? And how might Greyfriars increasingly become one?
Rev John Malcolm