The Apostle Paul is really “fired up” in today’s second reading! He writes: “If we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” That’s strong language!
What is the Gospel? It’s not really a hard question – but a MOST important answer to KNOW with CERTAINTY! Those of you who remember Confirmation Class or Bible Classes know that “the answer is always Jesus” – the Gospel is “the Good News about Jesus.” It is “the life-changing power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16
The Apostle Paul, of course, knew personally of the life-changing power of the Gospel as Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus, and completely changed his life – for the BEST! That is why the apostle Paul is so adamant in today’s second reading that there is no other Gospel / no other name, but Jesus! He writes: “I am astonished (SHOCKED! fearing for your salvation!) that you are so quickly deserting the One who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all.” Notice, he did not call it “another gospel” as if it were just another way of looking at the same truth. He called it a “different gospel – which is really no gospel at all.” That’s because anytime we put our hope in anything we do, we’re putting our faith in the law & obedience instead of the finished work of Jesus.
There are a lot of “different” preachers who will talk about all the things that Jesus has done and then add the Law by saying, “Now it’s up to you. Now you have to do something to show God that you’ve decided to become a different person.”
There are only TWO “religions” in the world – “Do” or “Done”. Any different religion (even if they use the name of Jesus Christ) that emphasize “this is what you must DO to accept Jesus” or to “please God” – are Law-based and rob people of the truth of the Gospel. The ONE Gospel message is Done – Jesus said, “It is finished!” – nothing more could be done, nothing more could be added – centered and based only on Jesus.
In today’s Gospel reading, note the drastic difference between the Jewish leaders (who got it wrong) and the Gentile Centurion (who got it right!) A centurion, “sent some elders of the Jews to Jesus, asking Him to come and heal his servant (who was about to die.)” (Luke 7:3) When the Jewish leaders came to Jesus, “they pleaded earnestly with Jesus, ‘This man DESERVES to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.’” (v.5) THIS does not surprise us. We are used to thinking in terms of being “deserving,” “worthy” or “fair.” We hear it on commercials and the media all the time. And don’t we tend to only help those whom we consider “worthy” with our help and our money, also? It is so sinfully natural to think that God blesses us because we are “worthy!”
The Gospel in today’s Scripture readings is that Jesus responds to HUMAN NEED, NOT to HUMAN WORTH! God blesses us “not because of righteous deeds that we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” (Titus 3:5) It is “by grace we have been saved, through faith – NOT from ourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
The Roman centurion knew better. Before Jesus arrived at his house, he “sent friends to say to (Jesus): ‘Lord, don’t trouble Yourself, for I DO NOT DESERVE to have You come under my roof. That is why I did NOT even consider myself WORTHY to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come’ and he comes.” (v. 6-8) This centurion GOT IT RIGHT when he compared God to a military commander who doesn’t have to answer to his troops for the orders He gives. There is no way that we can tell God what to do, or to be “worthy” of any of God’s blessings. But “by faith” we know that God has already “said the word” – He has done everything necessary to “rescue us,” so that like the centurion, even though we too are “unworthy,” we still come boldly to our heavenly Father with our prayers and requests.
It is with good reason that we begin each worship service with the confession of sins; acknowledging that we ARE UNWORTHY / “poor, miserable sinners” and we hear God’s forgiveness and are assured that Jesus HAS FORGIVEN us ALL of our sins.
This is the message of the glorious Gospel: although we are “unworthy,” and GUILTY, Jesus has “said the word” / He has paid the price – so the TRUE GOSPEL is that we are “rescued by our Lord Jesus Christ and by Him alone!”