The Simplicity That is in Christ

‘But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.’ 2 Corinthians 11. 3

Simplicity in the gospel

One of the outstanding aspects of the gospel is its simplicity. To understand that salvation is simply a matter of acknowledging our need of Christ and looking to Him through faith alone to remove the penalty of sin and to make us citizens of Heaven is nothing short of amazing. Well can we sing the words of that enduring hymn, ‘Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!’ Indeed it is amazing grace and the heart that is fully occupied with the Lord Jesus and His gracious work toward us will never tire of singing those glorious strains. It truly is ‘love divine, all loves excelling’.  How grateful we are for our salvation and what a debt we owe!  His love has been shed abroad in our hearts so that it can be shed abroad from our hearts. It fills us with praise and adoration making us instant in season to proclaim the gospel to all around so that they too can enter into the same love and appreciation for the Saviour.

We do not rely on our own wisdom or elaborate explanation to win people to Christ, but strive to be like Paul who confessed to the Corinthians. ‘And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God, 1 Cor. 2. 1. False teachers had attempted to corrupt their thinking using strategies of philosophy and dialectics and so we should be on guard lest our thinking and preaching is also corrupted through reliance upon our own wisdom and strength. The gospel does not need to be propped up, nor does it need to rely upon our powers of persuasion or cleverly-packaged programming, but rather on the plain, unadulterated Word of God. We should preach with this in mind and leave the results with God.

Apostolic example

The apostles and other servants of the Lord did so; we should do the same. When the Apostle Paul travelled to Athens and stood on Mars Hill before an antagonistic crowd, Acts 17, he unabashedly presented the Person of the Christ and the exclusivity of the gospel as the only means of salvation. In the midst of rampant idolatry, he boldly proclaimed, ‘Him declare I unto you’, v. 23. It was a simple message that stood in contrast to the various religious and philosophical sophistries that resided atop the Areopagus and nearby vicinity. He did not map out a ‘seeker-sensitive’ strategy before he preached but instead, swung the gospel hammer and broke through stony hearts to the glory of God, Jer. 23. 29. We would do well to do the same.

Simplicity in worship

Not only is it important to emphasize the simplicity of the gospel in our preaching, but we should stress it in our worship as well. We should be like that leper in Luke chapter 17 who being healed of his dread disease, rushed back to thank the Lord for the miraculous work that God had done in his life. We too have been healed of the dreadful disease of sin and should return to give Him thanks regularly. The early disciples worshiped together on a weekly basis according to Acts 20 verse 7 and were occupied with but one Person-the Lord Jesus. Boldness was also a recognized result of being with Jesus and people will recognize that we too have been with Jesus as we witness for Him, Acts 4. 13. Moses face was radiant after being in the presence of the Lord (Ex. 34. 29) and we will be radiant as we spend time in the Lord’s presence.

Worship is not about performing, but rather about prostrating ourselves in the sacrifice of praise. When the Old Testament priests entered the Tabernacle to worship the Lord they saw themselves in the mirrors that made up the base of the brazen altar Exod. 38. 8. When we come to worship we cannot help but ‘see’ ourselves in the light of gospel truth-what we were and what we are now in Christ. Amazingly, we are what we are now despite of what we were then. Without reservation we can say, ‘We love Him, because He first loved us’.

Worship is always Christ centered

Not only do we love Him, but we look to Him because He is our Shepherd and we daily need His help and guidance. We also live for Him because we know that there are others who are watching our lives closely and could ask us at any time about the hope that lies within us, 1 Peter 3. 15. We love Him and look to Him and live for Him and therefore it makes perfect sense that our gatherings should emphasize Him and not allow anything to dilute or distract from that emphasis. There is nothing that thrills our souls more than when we set our affections and focus our attention on the Lord. We are not to be those that are taken up with religious trappings–ceremonies and rituals and traditions of man, but rather we are taken up with Christ. Like Simeon of old who upon entering the temple where the Lord Jesus was being presented as a little child, embraced Him and blessed Him proclaiming, ‘Mine eyes have seen thy salvation’ Luke 2. 25-35. Simeon’s actions underscore the truth that salvation and heart-felt worship is not centered in a place or in performance, but in a Person.

First experiences of Christian simplicity

When I first entered through the doors years ago where a company of Christians were meeting solely in the Lord’s Name and gathered to worship Him, one of the first things that stood out to me was the simplicity of the meeting. There were no stained glass windows, no relics, no icons, no special titles recognized, no priestly vestments worn by those who addressed the audience, no candles, and no religious or cryptic-looking symbols on the wall. In many respects it was a regular looking room. There was a verse on the wall however which read. ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His begotten only Son…’ Coming from an unsaved background and not yet a believer, these words were easy to understand and together with the simplicity of the meeting became far less intimidating than I had supposed it would be when I first walked through the doors.

What was also unusual to me was that there were no offerings taken. I kept looking around to try to figure out who was in charge but no one appeared to be dressed differently or the leader above the rest. When the speaker got up to address the audience, he spoke in such a clear and simple way that I understood completely what he was saying, even though I knew nothing about the Bible. It was as though he was talking directly to me. As he spoke of Christ, tears trickled down his cheeks, though he remained calm and dignified. His voice did not quiver nor was there any histrionics in his manner. I had never heard nor seen such a thing in my religious life before and so it made quite an impression on me. No one cornered me as I left; but on the other hand, they did not have to since I was planning to return anyway. Like John Wesley, my heart was also ‘strangely warmed’. One thing was sure; more was ‘said’ by what I saw than by what I heard. That was my first experience of this kind of meeting and its simplicity truly made a difference to me.

As our world becomes more technologically advanced and we are ‘wowed’ at every turn by new and eye-popping innovations, there will always be subtle pressure upon the churches to borrow from worldly sources to make the gospel message more impressive and less offensive. The same pressure will demand to make the Christian life more palatable to them to the unbeliever in order to attract them to it. But what will speak more powerfully to the all around us will be ‘a changed life’ as the result of the simplicity that is in the gospel of Christ. This is what will always need to be protected. It will be demonstrated by a genuine relationship with the Lord Jesus, adorned not by ecclesiastical traditions, but by a transparent life declared in the simplicity of worship and the plain declaration of God’s Word and His great love for the entire world.

The Message and the Messenger

When Paul came to Mar’s Hill in Athens during his second missionary journey, he was completely by himself. Timothy and Silas, his associates in ministry had been left in Berea, while he was sent away by the brethren due to the dangerous and escalating conditions there (Acts 17:13). The unbelieving Jews who had stirred up the crowds in Thessalonica were intent on doing the same in Berea and consequently the apostle had to flee the area for his own safety.

Arriving in Athens, the apostle discovered a culture steeped in pagan idolatry. Surrounding him were the abundant evidences of man’s dark and fallen nature. The scene deeply provoked his spirit as he witnessed firsthand the grip that sin has over the hearts and minds of people, whom God had created in His own image. Not one for standing idle, the former Pharisee made a beeline for the local synagogue reasoning with the Jews and devout Gentiles and daily with those in the marketplace who would meet with him. Others, like the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers adversely encountered him, ridiculing and questioning his new and unique message of Jesus and the resurrection (v. 18). Not backing away and always ready to give an answer, Paul certainly relished the opportunity to clarify his message to these religious curiosity seekers (v. 20), who brought him to Mars Hill, the central meeting place in town. What followed was a concise, yet effective presentation of the Gospel in all its simplicity, demonstrating that is the power of God unto salvation—a message for everyone regardless of their cultural background or personal persuasions. It clearly shows that the Gospel can stand on its own and does not require any props or apologies to ramp up to its audience, no matter how diverse that audience may be. It is also a display case of the qualities and attitudes that are behind any successful Gospel ministry. What were some of the qualities and attitudes that Paul exhibited in this proclamation of the truth, qualities that we need to likewise embrace in our diverse, but depraved culture?

First, Paul demonstrated the quality of boldness. Without spiritual back up, Paul might have been tempted to waffle at the opportunity speak to the crowd assembled on Mars Hill. But standing in their midst, surrounded by an adverse and potentially dangerous audience he boldly proclaimed the truth of the Gospel. The scripture reminds us, “the righteous are as bold as a lion” (Prov. 28.1) and certainly Paul was that as he single-handedly preached the Word to them—“a stranger in a stranger land” with a “strange” message to a really strange audience. Paul was bold in the Lord and we need to be bold in the Lord, too.

Paul also exhibited respect. Even though he knew that he had to speak the truth in love, he also knew that he needed to “adorn the doctrine of God” (Titus 2: 10) and emulate the Savior who brought a message that was both “grace and truth” (John 1: 17). He knew that many, if not all of them were lost in the darkness of sin and were fundamentally opposed to the Gospel of Christ, but still there was no attitude of condescension in his opening remarks. Rather, he acknowledged what they were—not superstitious but religious and devoted to their cause. He commended them for their intensity (albeit misdirected intensity) and by so doing gained a listening ear, at least initially. We also need to be respectful in our presentation of the truth.

Paul was also direct in his message. He was frank about the core issue – ignorance of God and His way of salvation. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you” (v. 23). The altar dedicated and inscribed with the words “to the unknown God” only heralded their misconception of the true God. Paul did not “beat around the bush” or sidestep the issue, but was direct in his words, dealing with the real matter at hand. “The night is far spent, the day is at hand” Paul reminded the believers in Rome (Rom. 13:12) and the time is short for us as well. “Let the redeemed of the Lord, say so!” (Ps. 107:2).

Paul was also logical in his presentation. He was orderly in his argument. The major tenets of his message were: 1) they were religious, but ignorant (vv. 22-23); 2) the God Whom they do not know controls them and not the other way around (vv. 24-27); 3) we are the offspring of a personal God, and therefore should not worship Him with fanciful images and carvings (vv. 28-29); 4) their ignorance in the past God overlooked, but now calls people to repent based on Christ’s resurrection from the dead (vv. 29-31). At first, there was resistance to the message, but that resistance was countered by Paul’s powerful refutation, which was clear, orderly and logical in its development. Our messages should be the same. “The Preacher …set [s] in order many proverbs” (Ecc. 12:9).

As is often the case, whenever the Gospel is preached there is a varied response to the message. In this case, here there was ridicule and indifference (v. 32) but also belief unto the truth (v.34). The fact that there were not more “decisions” for the Lord was not because Paul did not effectively present the truth–it was because wherever the Gospel seed is sown there will always be hard ground that prevents it from taking root as well as indecisive hearts that have not yet been willing to release their grip from the pull of the world.

Paul’s message at Mar’s Hill was brief, but it was long enough to show us some of the essential qualities of the simple Gospel message that we also need to exhibit regularly in our preaching of the Word. May we be bold and respectful, direct and logical as we too bring the Gospel message with us, wherever we go.

The Road to Damascus

freeimage-4508268-web

“The conversion of Saul of Tarsus” 

Acts 9  

While awaiting his execution in a Roman prison, the apostle Paul penned these words to Timothy his son in the faith: “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing (2 Tim. 4:6-8).

Read More»

The Invitations of Christ

 

The Call to Step Out in Faith – Matt. 14:22-33

During His earthly ministry, the Savior presented many calls to many people for many situations. He called the weary and heavy-laden, laboring through life’s toils and troubles to find rest in Him, Matt. 11:28-30. He called those who were spiritually thirsty to come to Him and drink deeply and in so doing find that He alone is able to quench the deep needs of the human heart and become a source of refreshment to others, John 7:37-39.  Through parables and principles, He called to the children (Mark 10:14); He called to the dead (John 11:43); and He called to poor and needy who had no means to enter into a lavish feast yet did so by the magnanimity of One who paid it all and declared, “Come, for all things are now ready”, Luke 14:17. The spiritual lessons were obvious then and just as obvious today for those who would respond to those same invitations from Him who graciously offers them. And depending upon the situation, these invitations can apply to sinner or saint, for salvation or sanctification, whatever the need may be.

Read More»

The Resurrection

“..because I live, you shall live also”  John 14:19

Jesus spoke these words to His disciples just after His resurrection. It reminded them that because He had risen from the dead and was alive that they too would one day live forever. That is why the resurrection is so important.

Read More»

Acts 10 – The Conversion of Cornelius

Watching and Remembering

“Therefore watch and remember…” Acts 20:31

Sometimes charting the course for the future comes by looking to the past.

I did not have the privilege of growing up in a Christian home. It was a good home in many ways, but one in which Christ was not present. During my childhood years, no one in our family knew the Lord though we attended a sizable Methodist meeting in town. I don’t ever recall hearing the Gospel preached there, but if it was, we were blind to it and eventually our family lost interest and stopped attending. For a number of years, we were part of the “unchurched” segment of society until a sickness in our family providentially stirred interest in attending “church” once again. At first, my ten-year-old sister began attending the Friday night Bible club program at a local assembly. It started through her friend who invited my sister to this program. “Points” were awarded to those who brought others and this friend brought her. It was not long afterward that my sister upon hearing the Gospel, made a profession of faith in Christ. Eventually, my mother whose spiritual interest had peaked began regularly attending the assembly on the Lord’s Day. She also heard the Gospel faithfully proclaimed and trusted the Savior. Simply put, God was at work in our family.

Read More»

Ready: A Call to Witnessing

“So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.” Romans 1:15

Among many of the childhood memories I have, the ones that stand out the most were the races that I had with the other kids in my neighborhood where I grew up. “Ready, set, go!” was the phrase that propelled us from a standstill position to bodies in motion. First, we prepared ourselves by establishing a strong foothold. Then we crouched down, putting all our weight on our toes eagerly waiting for the command to go. When we heard it, we sprang forward in a sudden burst of energy toward an established finish line some distance away.

Read More»
Copyright © 2017 Know the Word Ministries. All Rights Reserved. Designed and Developed by Louise Street Marketing.