Conserving the Gospel – 5

The gospel is not only demeaned by the denials of apostates and the compromise of indifferentists. It is also denied by the ungodliness of professing Christians.

Intrinsic to the gospel is the truth that Jesus saves us from our sins. Certainly, He saves us from the penalty of these sins, and will one day save us from their presence entirely, but the New Testament is consistent in its teaching that true saving faith is evidenced by salvation from the power of sin in our lives. In other words, the gospel is testified to by the changed lives of its professors.
Conversely, the gospel is demeaned if those who profess to possess it contradict that claim with their lives. They effectively deny their profession with their lives.

Titus 1:16 They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

However, the Lord put something in place to protect the integrity of the gospel from those who demean it with their lives. He created the visible church as an institution, and commands it to guard its membership.

 Those who profess to be part of it (by believing the gospel) must live accordingly (by obeying Christ), or be removed from recognised membership of the visible church. No one knows who is part of the invisible church, but the acts of membership and church discipline are a visible, tangible means of protecting the integrity of the Gospel in the eyes of the world.

Matthew 18:17-18 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. 18 “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner — not even to eat with such a person.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.

What happens when churches refuse to limit their membership to baptised believers who profess and obey the gospel? What happens when churches refuse to preach on sanctification and holiness as the necessary effects and fruits of saving faith? What happens when churches refuse to discipline unrepentant believers or believers who commit scandalous behaviour?

The gospel is demeaned.

The world looks upon scandalous behaviour in the church and concludes that if the gospel is actually the boundary of the church, while guilty parties continue unchecked within the boundaries of the church, then the gospel itself must be a very porous thing. They conclude that the gospel must make very little difference to real life, if the people ‘on the inside’ look and live like the people ‘on the outside’.

Put simply, to believe the fundamentals of the faith, defend them, preach a clear gospel, and then extend Christian fellowship to people who act like unbelievers without remorse or amendment of life is to cut down the gospel message almost before it leaves your lips.

We conserve the gospel by practising Christian discipleship, church membership and church discipline.

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