“Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other” 1 Corinthians 4:6.

This verse really stuck with me the other day, for some odd reason. In its context, Paul was talking about the Corinthian church exceeding, or going beyond what Paul and other Apostles had written to them previously, as well as exceeding what is written in Old Testament Scripture.

Gee, that sounds like a problem we have today, doesn’t it?

Over at Adrian Warnock’s UK blog, there has been quite a discussion going on about the simplicity of the gospel. If you check out his blog, you will see that Adrian has handled this discussion very nicely.

I do have this to say, however. Having read the many posts Adrian has written on this issue, I must say that to me, the gospel is very simple. One of the things we tend to include within the gospel is the idea that Jesus died for our sins, and that it is our sins keeping us from entering the Kingdom. The premise that it is our sins that need to be paid for, or that a sacrifice is required before we can be saved.

I would agree with this in technical terms. However, understanding the need for a sacrifice is not the gospel. In fact, the gospel, as far as I understand it, is much simpler than the requirement of sin debt to be paid, and the requirement of baptism. Why do I say this?

I think the reason I believe this is because of what both Jesus and Paul had to say on the gospel. To be certain, Jesus did come for the forgiveness of sins. However, He approached it much differently than we do today, the way I see it. As I read scripture, I see Jesus being far more focused on “belief” than on sin debt payment. As I read Paul, I see him saying some of the same things. Listen to this.

But what does it say? "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART"--that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus {as} Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
Romans 10: 8-11

This is one of the strongest examples of a pure gospel I have found in the New Testament. If you noticed, Paul literally told us that verse nine (If you confess with your mouth) was the very gospel he preached. Convincingly, it agrees with what Jesus said almost everywhere. Believing in Jesus for eternal life is the strongest common theme in the gospels. Requiring your sins to be forgiven so that you can be saved is a minor theme, and when compared to believing in Jesus for eternal life, the mention of sin seems almost an afterthought. I wonder why that is?

Was Jesus telling us something by His seemingly willful omission of the mention of sin in His gospel?

I am the first to admit that sin separated us from God, and that this separation needed to rectified. But I am also saying that Jesus didn’t focus on sin, instead, He focused on belief. Rather than giving them sermon after sermon on the need for debt payment, He gave them reason after reason to believe, by His words, by His works, and by scripture.

I believe if we want to people to believe in what we believe, in the risen Christ as Lord, then we should teach them to believe. The added baggage of sin debt can be learned any time. But to use sin debt as a pry bar, to use it as the reason people should believe, I think, is the wrong reason. The payment of our sin debt should be an issue of gratitude, and how can someone be thankful ahead of time? In other words, how can they be thankful if they do not believe?

That is what we are asking people to do, to be thankful to a Lord they do not believe in because He died for their sins. Jesus didn’t preach the gospel of sin debt. He preached the gospel of belief in Him, for eternal life. Payment for our sin is huge, yet Jesus didn’t focus on sin much? What’s up with that?

What’s your opinion about this? I really like to hear it.

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