The Gospel of Christ

When Paul began his letter to the Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” (1:16), he didn’t mean the gospel about Christ but the gospel Christ Himself preached as evident by how he ended his letter, “the preaching of Jesus Christ” (16:25). The true gospel message, the message that saves, is the message the Savior Himself preached. Paul’s entire letter of Romans is defining and explaining the gospel Christ preached. Salvation or eternal life isn’t according to our beliefs but according to our actions, “Who will render to every man according to his deeds [actions]: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life” (2:6-7). “I know thy works [actions]” (Rev 2:2,9,13,19,3:1,8,15), “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work [actions] shall be” (Rev 22:12).

Jesus Christ preached, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Mat 5:17), “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Mat 7:12). That “this is” the law and the prophets is that this one commandment of doing good is the satisfying of all that was required in the law and the prophets. With regards to the requirements of the Old Covenant law, there’s a distinction between the moral and the formal, the righteous and the ritualistic. There’s no change in what’s morally and righteously required of God’s people from the Old Covenant to the New—Christ preached the same righteous standard. What changed is the formal and ritualistic from which Christ set us free, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (Gal 5:1).

In Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, He said nothing of believing but everything of obeying. He began the main portion by declaring, “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 5:20). If we don’t live righteously according to the standard He taught in this Sermon, then in no case, without exceptions, will we enter His Kingdom. Toward the end of His Sermon, “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity [anomia 458]” (Mat 7:23), “you lawbreakers!” (NET), “you who practice lawlessness!” (NKJV). The Greek anomia is contempt, transgression, or violation of law. And He ended His Sermon with, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them … And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not” (Mat 7:24,26). It’s simple—if we do what He commanded we’ll be saved, but if we don’t we won’t be, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them … But he that heareth, and doeth not” (Luk 6:46,47,49).

Jesus Christ preached that we must fulfil the righteousness of the law: “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Mat 5:17); “That except your righteousness” (5:20); “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (6:33); “this is the law and the prophets” (7:12). And this was Paul’s gospel: “Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law … if it fulfil the law” (Rom 2:26-27); “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us” (8:4); “for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law … love is the fulfilling of the law” (13:8,10).

Jesus Christ preached faithfulness to Him as Lord: “Who then is a faithful and wise servant” (Mat 24:45); “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things” (Mat 25:21); “Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little” (Luk 19:17); “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much” (Luk 16:10). And He preached that unfaithful servants will perish, “The lord of that servant … shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites” (Mat 24:50,51), “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness” (Mat 25:30). But to convey a different gospel message, throughout the New Testament the Greek noun [pistis 4102] and verb [pisteuo 4100] have been translated as “faith” and “believe” respectively, rather than “faithfulness” and “trust.” But Abraham isn’t our example of faith but of faithfulness: “because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Gen 22:18); “Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Gen 26:5); “So then they which be of faith [faithfulness] are blessed with faithful Abraham” (Gal 3:9). Furthermore, not even once were the early Christians called “believers,” but translations have been fudged to read that way: “All the believers were together” (Act 2:44 NIV); “All the believers were one in heart and mind” (4:32); “And all the believers used to meet together” (5:12).

The gospel of Christ is obedience to Him: “But they have not all obeyed the gospel” (Rom 10:16); “that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Th 1:8); “he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb 5:9).

How to Perform that which is Good

There has been an ongoing debate whether Romans 7:7-25 is Paul’s former life under the law, or his present struggle as a Christian. It’s actually neither, but his former life without God’s breath in his heart because in the next chapter he used pneuma for “breath” 22 times!

In chapter 7, he quoted the Tenth Commandment he was guilty of breaking, “I had not known lust [epithymia 1939], except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet [epithymeo 1937]” (v. 7), then five verses in a row he referred to it simply as “the commandment” (vs. 9,10,11,12,13). He said repeatedly that he wanted to do good, “what I would” (v. 15), “perform that which is good” (v. 18), “the good that I would” (v. 19), “when I would do good” (v. 21). However, the evil of coveting and lusting that he didn’t want to do, he was doing, “that which I do I allow not … but what I hate, that do I” (v. 15), “I do that which I would not” (v. 16), “the evil which I would not, that I do” (v. 19), “I do that I would not” (v. 20).

Except for the two “positive” commands “Remember the sabbath day … Honour thy father and thy mother” (Exo 20:8,12), the Ten Commandments are “negative” prohibitions: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (v. 3); “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” (v. 4); “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain” (v. 7); “Thou shalt not kill” (v. 13); “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (v. 14); “Thou shalt not steal” (v. 15); “Thou shalt not bear false witness” (v. 16); “Thou shalt not covet” (v. 17). But Jesus taught that all of the “Thou shalt nots” are kept by two “Thou shalts,” “Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength … Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mar 12:29-30,31). Paul wasn’t doing the good “Thou shalts” because he was doing the evil of the “Thou shalt nots.”

His members, “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (vs. 22-23), were his eyes for lust and his hands for getting what he coveted. This is the evil that Jesus taught against, “That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after [epithymeo 1937] her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” (Mat 5:28-30).

But Jesus also taught us to do the good: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Mat 5:44), “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Mat 7:12), “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luk 6:31), “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again” (Luk 6:35). When Paul said “how to perform that which is good I find not,” he meant that without God’s breath in him, he couldn’t find how to perform the good of doing to his enemy as he would want done to him. This is the litmus test of salvation—do we sincerely love as ourselves, our enemies and those that mistreat us? God’s children do as He does, “Love your enemies … That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Mat 5:44,45), “The Spirit [breath] itself beareth witness with our spirit [breath], that we are the children of God” (Rom 8:16).

Those “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit [breath]” (Rom 8:1,4), are those who walk after God’s breath in their hearts. “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself … Walk in the Spirit [breath], and ye shall not fulfil the lust [epithymia 1939] of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth [epithymeo 1937] against the Spirit [breath], and the Spirit [breath] against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Gal 5:14,16-17). That we “cannot do the things that ye would” is that we cannot the “thou shalts” without God’s breath. By the “thou shalt nots,” the law manifested or revealed the works of the flesh, “But if ye be led of the Spirit [breath], ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness …” (Gal 5:18-19). But there are no “thou shalt nots” against the fruit of the breath, “But the fruit of the Spirit [breath] is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith [faithfulness], Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal 5:22-23). Do the “thou shalts” and we won’t be doing the rest.

How do we NOT walk after the flesh? By walking after the breath. When we do the good by God’s breath in our hearts, we won’t “fulfil the lust of the flesh.”