Readers are asked, “What is the commanded biblical response to the Gospel?”
More specifically, the writers challenged, “Whatever one’s response may be, does it align with Jesus’ teaching?” The question is meant to lead one to more questions, such as… why did so many people go away when Jesus shared His truth? An example would be, why did the rich young ruler go away sad (Luke 18)?
In this recorded account, a man with much wealth approached Jesus to inquire about eternal things. “How do I inherit eternal life,” he asked?
How would you have responded to his question? Would you have told the young man who desired eternal life that being a disciple of Jesus would require him to surrender his entire life, even his wealth, to Him? Would you have told him that the only means of gaining true life was to lose this life?
Or, would you have been like me? Would you have gotten excited about the prospect of bringing this man’s wealth onto the membership roll of the church? Maybe you would have deployed one of our common witnessing techniques, such as, “Just ask Jesus to come into your heart,” or, “God has a wonderful plan for your life.”
Instead, Jesus told this man to sell everything, give it to the poor, and follow Him. He said that to find the Life he sought, he literally had to dispose of his current life.
The authors of these archaic writings agree, “The Gospel is good news! But it’s not cheap news. God poured His wrath out on His Son to redeem and reconcile His sin stained image-bearers to Himself.”
They continue, “The Gospel is God’s work, not man’s. Salvation is freely given to ‘whosoever will’. It is a gift, and if anything is paid for it, it is no longer a gift.” Repeatedly, these writers insist, “We are saved by grace through faith; by faith alone.”
And yet still, when Paul gave an invitation to those on Mars Hill (Acts 17), he didn’t offer a sinner’s prayer, the signing of a card, or the shaking of a preacher’s hand. He declared that God commands all people everywhere to repent, because one day Jesus will judge the world!
So what response did Paul expect? What does he mean by the term, repent? Does it include turning from a life of self-serving materialism? Think about Peter’s survey of his and the other disciple’s lives… “we have abandoned everything for You (Luke 18:28).”
Consider the many times Jesus equated faithful service to Him with a denial of self-indulgence.
Does this create a personal challenge for us? Can we create a defense for the American dream? Can we find comfort in a biblical example of our lifestyles in this nation? Or… are we also called to rid ourselves of the weights that may hinder our faithful service to our Lord, just as the rich young ruler?
After Pentecost, what was the mindset towards this by the young church? We’re told that they sold their possessions and gave to those in need (Acts 2: 45). While we desperately try to explain away Jesus’ blunt honesty when dealing with a man consumed by materialism and worldliness, it seems the same honesty must have been relayed to the early church. Want to hear something truly exciting? Unlike the rich young ruler, they didn’t leave in sadness (2: 46, 47). Will we?