[forthright] My Gospel

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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2007 10:37:52 -0300
Forthright Magazine
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Straight to the Cross

Job's suffering, our retirement, Christian life,
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COLUMN: FINAL PHASE

My Gospel
by J. Randal Matheny

Christians react against the phrase "my church,"
because it hints at approval of a plurality of
denominations. People often use it to talk about
what happens in their denominational body or how
the Bible is interpreted and applied by their
group, in contrast with other churches.

Indeed, the phrase grates on the ears when placed
beside Jesus' declaration, "I will build my
church" (Matthew 16:18 NET). If the church is his,
no one else has rights to it.

So far so good.

Paul didn't feel any such reservations, however,
when speaking of the gospel. He calls it the
gospel of God (Romans 1:1), the gospel of his Son
(Romans 1:9), the gospel of Christ (Romans 15:19),
and all these in one letter.

At the same time, he is comfortable with calling
it "my gospel," not once but twice in that same
letter (Romans 2:16; 16:25), as well as in 2
Timothy 2:8. (In 2 Corinthians 4:3, 1
Thessalonians 1:5 and 2 Thessalonians 2:14 he also
calls it "our gospel.")

What "My Gospel" Doesn't Mean

Paul does not call it "my gospel" because it
originated with him. He makes it clear that the
gospel is "according to the revelation of the
mystery that had been kept secret for long ages,
but now is disclosed" (Romans 16:25-26). The
gospel predated him. As an apostle he was a late-
termer, a johnny-come-lately. By the time he was
converted, Christians were already dying for their
faith.

Neither does Paul call it "my gospel" because his
preaching was different than that of the other
apostles. He served the gospel (Romans 15:16); he
did not tailor the gospel to serve him. On the
basis of the single gospel Paul could, on the one
hand, accept the right hand of fellowship from
other apostles (Galatians 2:1-10) and, on the
other hand, rebuke Peter for betraying it
(Galatians 2:11-14). They preached the same thing.
Because of that, there were certain doctrines and
behaviors expected of all, including the apostles.

Obviously, neither was Paul claiming ownership of
the gospel, since he acknowledged his call and his
separation by God for the gospel proclamation
(Romans 1:1). The gospel didn't belong to him; he
belonged to the God who created the gospel.

What then did Paul mean when he said the gospel
was his? In what sense could he say "my gospel"?

What "My Gospel" Does Mean

First, Paul considered the gospel his because he
obeyed it. In this sense, one could say he had
"owned" it. He took it personally. The story of
his conversion is told no less than three times in
the book of Acts, twice by Paul himself (chapters
9, 22, 26). He marveled that God's grace reached
even him, the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:12-
17). He saw himself as the prime example of
salvation -- if God could save him, he could save
anybody. In his letters, Paul often broke out in
praise. He perfected the doxology. The gospel was
his, its present and eternal benefits were his,
because he submitted to its demands and commands.

Second, Paul considered the gospel his because he
lived it. He repeatedly offered his life as an
example to others (see, for example, 2
Thessalonians 3:6-10; 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1).
To say what many say today, not to take one's life
as an example of the faith, would have been
unthinkable -- indeed, spiritual treason -- to
Paul. If Christ lives in us, we are lights to the
world, salt of the earth. He had no false
humility, harbored no illusions that his exemplary
life was a finished product at his own hands, but
by the power and grace of God.

Third, Paul considered the gospel his because he
preached it. Neither ridicule, nor opposition, nor
persecution could stop him from preaching the good
news. It was "my gospel," he said, "for which I
suffer hardship to the point of imprisonment as a
criminal, but God's message is not imprisoned!" (2
Timothy 2:8-9). Yes, "such is my gospel," he
declared. My good news. The message I speak. My
only topic of enduring value. While my body may be
put behind bars, nothing can stop the word of God.

Paul preached in many places and many churches
formed as a result of his message. Never once did
he call them "my churches." The were always "the
churches of Christ" (Romans 16:16).

But he called that wonderful sweet message of
Jesus Christ "my gospel."

Would that every Christian, like Paul, and for his
same reasons, would refer to the good news of
Jesus Christ as "my gospel!"

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