The Duty of Saints and Sinners with Reference to the Gospel
By Milburn Cockrell
The Lord’s church has been entrusted with the work of preaching the glorious gospel of the Son of God. I Thessalonians 2:4 declares: “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.” What an exalted privilege to be allowed of God to be put in trust with the good news about Christ! It is God’s gospel, but He has commissioned His churches and ministers to declare it to all people. It behooves us to be faithful stewards.
NOT ASHAMED OF IT
The child of God must not be ashamed of the gospel. Paul said: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). There were many things which Paul may have been ashamed of. He may have been ashamed of his persecuting the church of God in his unconverted state. But he was not ashamed of the glad tidings of his Saviour, Jesus Christ. While the gospel was contemptible to the carnal eye, to Paul it was the only way of salvation for sinners. It was the great charter by which salvation was conveyed to them that believe. The gospel to Paul was “the arm of the Lord,” the power of God to heal spiritual maladies.
Are you, dear fellow-believer, ashamed of the gospel? Do you declare it to your friends and neighbors? Are you constantly going to hear it preached in a New Testament church? Or do you speak to people about the weather or politics? If you must bear news to others, be sure it is the good news of how a sinner is saved by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
READY TO DECLARE IT
It is the duty of every believer to be ready to witness of the saving power of the gospel. To the Romans Paul said: “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also” (Romans 1:14-15).
Do you pay your debts? If you say yes, what about the gospel debt? Are you striving to preach the whole gospel to the whole world? Are you witnessing to your neighborhood? Supporting missionaries who preach the gospel? If you must say no to the paying of this debt, then you have not paid the greatest of all your debts! How wonderful if every believer would say concerning this debt: “As much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel.”
The Head and Founder of the church gave it its marching orders in Mark 16:15 when He commanded: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” It is not the business of the church to save every lost creature in the world. But it is our business to preach the gospel to every human creature that is capable of receiving it. We are obligated to preach it in all places and to all persons. This we must do in each generation and until Christ comes. According to II Corinthians 10:16 we are to “preach the gospel in the regions beyond.” Luke 24:47 says it is to be preached “among all nations” and Acts 1:8 says to “the uttermost part of the earth.”
PREACHERS MUST PREACH THE GOSPEL
While it is the duty of every believer to preach the gospel, it is the special duty of every God-called preacher to preach it even more so. Paul spoke of this to the Corinthians: “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me” (I Corinthians 9:16).
Paul did not feel bound to preach the glory of some religious denomination. He did not spend all his time preaching some religious program made by an earthly religious headquarters. He was duty-bound to preach the gospel. He was not at liberty to quit at his pleasure, or retire when he was sixty-five. If he did this duty well, if he did it willingly, he would receive a reward for his labor. Jesus Christ promised: “Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35).
LABOR TO GET IT OUT
Christians are to labor to get the gospel out. Paul referred to Timothy as his “fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ” (I Thessalonians 3:2). To the Philippians he mentioned the “women which laboured with me in the gospel” (Philippians 4:3). These women were not ministers of the gospel. They helped Paul in his preaching of the gospel by supporting him and entertaining him in their homes.
It is the privilege of every believer to be what III John 8 calls “fellowhelpers to the truth.” We learn from I Corinthians 3:9 that we “are laborers together with God.” II Corinthians 5:20 reads: “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” We must see that the gospel is preached. We cannot save men; we cannot make them new creatures. But we can declare the gospel unto them.
LIFE SHOULD BECOME IT
Our daily life should be such as would cause men to respect the gospel which we believe and declare. We are commanded in Philippians 1:27: “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.” It is an ornament to our profession when our manner of life is agreeable to the gospel. Those who believe gospel truths must live by gospel rules and depend upon gospel promises. By doing this we can strive “together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27).
MUST NOT HINDER IT
Believers must not do anything to hinder the gospel. Paul declared: We. . . “suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ” (I Corinthians 9:12). All we do should serve the interests of the gospel and promote the salvation of souls. Paul knew the Lord had “ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (I Corinthians 9:14). But he renounced this right that he might not hinder the gospel. He said in I Corinthians 9:18: “Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.”
SHOULD DEFEND IT
It is our duty to defend the gospel, for Philippians 1:17 says we are “set for the defense of the gospel.” If we are to propagate the gospel in the world, we must defend it against the violence and opposition of its enemies. We must expose those who pervert it as heretics. We must defend it to the death, if necessary.
UNSAVED CANNOT BELIEVE IT
The gospel is ineffectual to some. We are told in II Corinthians 4:3-4: “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”
The problem is not in the gospel, for it will forever remain the power of God unto salvation. Nor is its ineffectiveness in those who preach it. Christ came to save the lost, and the gospel of Christ is sent to save such. If men are not saved by it, they are lost forever. The hiding of the gospel is the cause of the ruin of lost sinners.
The devil, the god this world worships, blinds the minds of men to the glad tidings of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. He blinds them to the very gospel by which they must be saved. He increases their prejudice and blinds their understanding lest “the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (II Corinthians 4:4). Satan does this to hinder the gospel from causing men to discover the glory of God in salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. For by the gospel those who are in darkness become lights in the Lord (Ephesians 5:8).
Here we are able to see the total depravity of man. The unregenerate man is ignorant of the saving power of the gospel. I Corinthians 1:18 declares: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” Since man is blind to the very gospel by which he must be saved, then I am able to see that unless God does something for him he is lost eternally. Ephesians 2:1 tells us the lost man is “dead in trespasses and sins.” Ephesians 4:18 discloses he is “alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in him, because of the blindness of his heart.” Romans 5:6 says he is “without strength.”
The condition of man necessitates the quickening work of the Holy Spirit. Unless the Spirit quickens the natural man, he can never believe the gospel. He can never repent of his sins. He will never turn to God. This is why I read in Ephesians 2:1 these words: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” John 6:63 declares: “It is the Spirit that quickeneth.” The natural man can only see the beauty of the Christ of the gospel when his Satan- blinded eyes are opened by the Spirit of God. It is written in Psalms 146:8: “The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind.” It is written again in Proverbs 20:12: “The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.”
THOSE WHO OBEY NOT
But what about those who obey not the gospel, those who die rejecting the Christ of the gospel? In I Peter 4:17 the question is raised: “What shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” The answer to this question is found in II Thessalonians 1:7-9. The passage speaks of the time “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.”
The Second Coming of Christ is the doom of those who reject the gospel message. These will be punished according to their works. They will suffer everlasting destruction of their bliss, not being. The punishment inflicted by an everlasting God upon an immortal soul runs parallel with the line of eternity. Gospel-rejecters are set out of the reach of Divine mercy and grace forever.
Do you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Do you believe He died for your sins in fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures? Do you believe He was buried? That He rose again the third day? If your answer is yes, you are saved from your sins, for the gospel “is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16). But while the gospel is a savor of life unto life unto you, it is a savor of death unto death to the unbeliever.
If you do not believe the gospel, the good news about salvation by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you are yet in your sins. You are a gospel-rejecter. God will be glorified by your everlasting suffering in the fires of Hell!
In Luke 8:12 I read: “Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” Here I see three truths: First, a man cannot be saved without believing the gospel. Second, it is possible for a man to believe the gospel and be saved by simple faith in it. Third, the devil does all he can to keep a person from believing the gospel. Satan tries to prejudice the unsaved man’s mind against it, for he knows it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes.
[From Milburn Cockrell, editor, The Berea Baptist Banner, March 5, 2007, pp. 42, 43-44. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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