This morning while in bed I was thinking about the types of questions that we as Christians have in our daily life. Some of these I have tried to answer, while some not. The same time another question entered my mind. It is not a question that one would always think about, but nevertheless it is a question that is often heard in discussions on Church, namely, do we preach a gospel of Jesus plus.
This took me back to a Sunday in church, when our minister at our local congregation, mentioned how pleased he was with us as a congregation as he had just returned from a three month long sabbatical. He was so pleased as we were on fire for Jesus. During this three-month period he visited a number of other church groupings, but unlike us they were all preaching a gospel of Jesus plus, either Jesus plus baptism, or Jesus plus obedience, or whatever their specific plus was.
While thinking on this subject, I suddenly thought that maybe you too can think that I am preaching a gospel of Jesus plus. I then asked the LORD to give me a scripture that I could use to explain my own interpretation of what it means to be a Christian. What I found is that it is not a subject that can be taken lightly, but that John must have had the same question in his time. Fortunately he gave us a fairly clear definition. 1 John 5:1 “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.” This scripture declares that whoever loves Jesus is a child of God. So far it fits with all groupings that I have had dealings with.
In verses 2 and 3 John goes a little bit further, explaining how someone that loves Jesus will act like. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” We have to love God, and obey His commandments. In other words I have to act in a certain way. If I do not act in a loving way to all Christians, I am exhibiting the life of an unbeliever. So people must be able to see it in my life. This now becomes a gospel of doing.
Next John states that one must be born again. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5). How is this achieved? “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:5-6). This now becomes difficult, as one has to overcome the world, which is our own self and our own sins. I have to be able to rule over my sins. I have to now start believing that I can live a sinless life for Jesus. I cannot cling onto this one little sin, as I then demonstrate to the world that I am not acting like a Christian. If I do not act like a Christian, the chances are that I am not a Christian. If it is sin I have to break with it. So if you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, then you must be able to break with sin. Why? When one is born of God, His Spirit is placed within you, and we all know that His Spirit cannot sin.
Let us continue with John’s definition. “This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” (1 John 5:6-8). Jesus is the one that not only went through the water to be baptised, but He also shed His blood for us in order for us to inherit eternal life. Jesus not only went through the baptism water to show us the way, but He shed His blood for us in order for us to receive forgiveness of sins. Both the Blood and the water point to the new covenant He has with us. You see the Father, the Word, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost witness in heaven, while on the earth, the water of baptism, the blood of the new covenant, and the Holy Ghost will witness on earth. So in order to be a Christian, I have to be baptised, become part of the new covenant, and move in the gifts of the Spirit.
John also warns us not believe in what people are saying, but we must believe what God witnesses about his son. “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:9-13)
“We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” (1 John 5:18-21)
How does Paul sum up people with the attitude of saying that you teach a gospel of Jesus plus? He writes to Timothy as follows: “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.” (1 Timothy 1:5-7)