Did you know that the “Good news” of the Kingdom of God has to be obeyed? How do you “obey” good news? I was reading this in my quiet time and that phrase struck me as odd. According to Paul’s letter, not “obeying the Gospel” is a sign of being an unbeliever (2 Thess. 1:8). I had to think about it for a bit and wanted to write down my thoughts.
Given most “gospel” presentations, this seems like a strange union of words — “Obey the Gospel.” This phrase makes the “good news” sound so weighty and serious. Most people only consider “receiving” the Gospel. After all, who doesn’t want to receive good news? It doesn’t cost us anything and it might even make us feel better!
The Immediate Context
Notice that the author couples this statement with knowing God. According to Scripture, when a person knows God, there is an awe and reverence of Him (Romans 1:18-21, John 17:3). To illustrate this point as a stand-alone, even Cornelius was described as a “God-fearing” man, before he came to know the Gospel (Acts 10:22). But Paul couples these two points together, “knowing God” and “obeying the Gospel”. Both are equally significant identifiers of a believer. Why would the “Gospel” have the same significance as actually knowing the Almighty Creator?
What do you mean by “Gospel?”
First, we must understand what the gospel is. You can’t just obey good news, right? So, to help understand what it means to obey the Gospel, you must piggy-back that first statement of knowing God. If you know God, you have a reverence and awe of Him. If it is He Who has sent the “good news” which was proclaimed by His angels (Matt. 1:20-23; Luke 2:9-14), then the good news must be honored with reverence as well.
The good news, or Gospel, is presented in Scripture as God saving His people from their sins. The Person He sent was Jesus, the work He chose to accomplish this task was twofold: Living a life of perfect obedience to God the Father and dying a perfect, sacrificial death which could be a substitute for those He was to save. Jesus is unique. It could be no other that saved people from sins (Acts 4:12). Only Jesus was born perfectly, lived perfectly and died perfectly. Only Jesus was raised from the dead by God the Father, to validate His life and work (Acts 4:10; 13:30; 17:31; Rom. 4:24).
How do you ‘obey the Gospel?’
How does one “obey the Gospel?” The Greek word for obey in this verse means, “of the thing to which one is obedient or which one embraces in full surrender”* Fully surrendering to the good news that was sent by God! God’s good news is Jesus! Think of it this way. The One True God promised to send a Messiah, a Savior for His people. When He did, it was done so in a manner which fulfilled His prophetic promises and announced by His angels. That message of good news was given a name at His birth … Jesus. Demonstrating obedience would be to believe this fulfilled promise of God as God Himself. Jesus is actually God, manifested in human flesh (John 14:9)!
Obeying the gospel is to illustrate by our actions that we believe Jesus Christ is the redemptive plan of the One True God. God, Himself, handed down a very important piece of “Good News”. That “News” is Jesus Christ as Redeemer. The people who were persecuting the church of the Thessalonians were not treating the Gospel of Jesus Christ as if it were actually handed down by the Almighty Creator Himself (2 Thess. 1:4-6). Instead, they were persecuting the church, as if Jesus were just some common religious idea. Obeying the Gospel means that we live a life oriented around the unique, holy, glory of Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 1:9-10). Obeying the gospel is a faith in God Himself.
*Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
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