The Gospel and Conduct
It is a wonderful privilege to talk about the gospel. Alas, the glorious gospel is often misunderstood. Some view the "good news of the Kingdom" as only consisting of the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord. Indeed, such do constitute the "facts" of the gospel, but when fully viewed, there is much more involved in the gospel (I Cor. 15: 1ff.). For instance, there are resident in the gospel promises to be obtained and commands to be obeyed (Acts 2: 38, 39, I Jn. 5: 3). Another matter that is reflective of the functionality of the gospel is the fact of the design of the gospel to produce and control conduct. Before we establish this, suffice me to say that one of the most pervasive extant doctrines is that of salvation by faith only. This is the teaching, viewed in its true form, that salvation is wholly of God and man does not participate in any way. The doctrine of salvation by faith only has invaded just about every religion to some extent and it suppresses the utility of Jesus' gospel. Salvation by faith only is of man, men who often look for a "comforting gospel" that demands absolutely nothing of man (cp. Jas. 2: 14-26). Regarding the gospel regulating conduct, please carefully read the following:
"11: But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12: For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 13: And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. 14: But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?" (Gal. 2).
There are a number of very interesting truths seen in the above reading. The fact that Paul publicly rebuked Peter is of importance for several reasons. First, such shows that Peter was not viewed as "a Pope" and that Peter was not sinless. The text also reveals the sinfulness of racism. In addition, the text shows what standard was used to determine right and wrong conduct. Such is seen in the language, "But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel…." The gospel contained teaching that condemned racism; hence, the gospel is more than simply and only the good news of the Kingdom. Consider the following succinct comment from the International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia:
"The word gospel is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word which meant 'the story concerning God.' In the New Testament the Greek word euaggelion, means 'good news.' It proclaims tidings of deliverance. The word sometimes stands for the record of the life of our Lord (Mark 1: 11), embracing all His teachings, as in Acts 20: 24).' (It must be remembered that Paul "taught the commandments of the Lord," hence, the epistles also constitute, in a comprehensive sense, the gospel, dm.)
Conduct as husband, wife, and children. The gospel teaches husbands to love their wives, leave all others, be the head, and render "due benevolence" (Eph. 5: 25, 28, 29; 31; 23; I Cor. 7: 2-4). Wives are to love their husbands, submit to headship, and render their due (Tit. 2: 4; Eph. 5: 22-24; I Cor. 7: 3, 4). Children are also addressed and told to obey their parents in the Lord (Eph. 6: 1). Hence, the gospel regulates and controls the family unity and renders it a smoothly functioning relationship that is characterized by order and harmony.
The gospel and public worship. It is apparent from a number of verses that God intends for the faithful Christian to be an active member of a scriptural local church (cp. Eph. 5: 19, Acts 2: 42). In fact, the Christian is commanded to "…not forsake the assembly" (Heb. 10: 25). The gospel regulates public worship in that it teaches orderly and structured worship, modest dress, and intelligible teaching performed by qualified males (I Cor. 14: 33, 40; I Tim. 2: 8-12). The gospel even addresses such detail as vocal music, the type and how it is to be rendered (Eph. 5: 19, Col. 3: 16).
The gospel and controversy. Contrary to popular opinion, the gospel is aggressive and militant in its essential nature (Jude 3, Phili. 1: 7, 17). The gospel, though, regulates and controls this aggression. For instance, there is to be no biting and devouring (Gal. 5: 15). Issues rather than personalities are to be the focus (cp. Acts 15).
Conduct in secular work. While Paul enunciated teaching specifically pertaining to the servant/master relationship, the teaching in general is applicable to the secular job situation. Consider the teaching of the gospel:
"22: Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: 23: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24: Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ" (Col. 3).
Not only are "servants" addressed and told how to perform their responsibilities, but also "masters" are charged with the proper treatment of those under them (Col. 4: 1).
Conduct in persecution and mistreatment. In view of the nature of the gospel, persecution is inevitable. In fact, we are expressly taught that all "…who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3: 12). The gospel forbids suffering as a "murderer, "thief," "evildoer" or as a "busybody" (I Pet. 4: 12-15). However, suffering as a Christian is part of it and should not result in shame (I Pet. 4: 16). We may observe how the Christian is to suffer in the example of the apostles:
"40: And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41: And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. 42: And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ" (Acts 5).
The apostles put God's laws as such over man's requirements (Acts 5: 29). They rejoiced in their sufferings and they continued to teach and preach Jesus without intimidation.
Conduct toward others in general. The gospel teaches a certain decorum on the part of Christians towards other Christians. There is to be lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, and forbearing one another in love (Eph. 4: 2). Reciprocal forgiveness is plainly required (Eph. 4: 32). Jesus' "Golden Rule" sums it up thus: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" (Matt. 7: 12).
The core design of the gospel is indicative of the fact that it is of the nature to control conduct. Yes, it contains and declares the fact of Jesus' death and offers promises to be received, but it also enjoins numerous matters of responsibility. The same gospel that tells us of Jesus and his Kingdom also informs us how to live and "…walk uprightly according to the truth of the gospel" (Gal. 2: 14).