Let’s take a break from Teachings That Must Not Be Lost to respond to a comment.
It isn’t really a break. I’m trying to put TTMNBL posts up every two days, and this is going up on an inbetween day.
My response to a comment with a really good question got away from me. It was so long, I figured I better make it a post. So here it is:
Why would spiritually dead people (everybody) have acknowledged Jesus as their King and started obeying him if they have not been told what’s in it for them? If the news that Jesus is King because he has been raised from the dead had been the only gospel ever preached, why would GENTILES, who knew nothing of Psalm 2, become disciples and martyrs only because Jesus is King? The answer must be: the gracious gift of faith and enthusiasm supernaturally given to them by the Holy Spirit. Is that a correct conclusion? Is that “how it works?”
My Rambling But Important Answer
At least every week, maybe more often, I’m reminded about how much I’m assuming my readers know. It seems outright impossible to remember to include foundational issues behind my blogs that my readers may not know about. I depend on questions like these to address those issues.
The answer you gave to your own question is obviously true, but it’s only part of the truth. The Holy Spirit must be involved in repentance and belief because salvation is spiritual.
But there’s more. Your question makes an assumption, and that assumption is right on. People want to know what’s in it for them, and simply telling them that they must submit to Jesus, God’s Son and Anointed King, is not enough.
I’m willing to say that because the apostles did address what is in it for their hearers. The saving confession, as I taught in the article, is that Jesus is the anointed King, the Son of the Living God.” In order to get people to make that confession, you have to tell the hearers about it. That does not mean, however, that we are limited to saying nothing except that one sentence.
In addition to that sentence, we preach the resurrection, which is the proof that Jesus is the King, the Son of God. We also preach, because the apostles preached, that there is something in it for the hearers. Things specifically mentioned by the apostles are:
1. Forgiveness of sin
2. Escape from judgment
3. Receiving the Holy Spirit
The escape from judgment part was not really spoken as a reward. Instead, Paul told the Athenians, with the resurrection as his evidence, that a day would come on which God would judge the world by one man. That’s a warning, not a promise, but implicit in the warning is that if you repent and submit to God’s Messiah, you will do well at the judgment (or possible avoid it altogether).
It appears to me that Paul is the one most likely to focus on the forgiveness of sins. He was, as you point out, preaching to Gentiles, so he focused on the benefit as well as on repentance. Peter, however, had a Jewish audience, and you can see in his sermons, he was willing to frighten them by announcing that the resurrection proved that they had killed God’s Messiah. The Jews knew this was a horrendous thing to do, and horrified, they cried, “What must we do?”
Then Peter told them about water baptism, the forgiveness of sins, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Paul couldn’t frighten the Gentiles that way. It’s not very convicting to hear, “They killed their King, who was sent from God.” Instead, he told them that the resurrection established that Jesus was God’s representative on earth, his Son, and that one day he would judge them.
Resurrection and judgment motivated the Gentiles. When Paul told them that if they believed in this new King, they would receive the forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit would move, and the Gentiles would repent. Paul didn’t have to tell them they were sinners. They knew they were sinners.
The Jews are the ones who needed to be told they were sinners because they had the Scriptures and theologians to help them with the Scriptures. This allowed them to try to hide their sins behind verses like “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” They thought that if they were circumcised, kept the Sabbaths and Feasts, avoided unclean foods, and tithed, they would be among those to whom the Lord would not attribute sin.
Their mistake. The one to whom the Lord will not impute sin are men like David, who wholeheartedly serve God, but prove to be human as well. David was a sinner, but he was a sinner devoted to God, given to being transformed by him, and utterly submitted to his will even when God’s will was horrific in David’s life.
Don’t think that anyone else has hope of being among those that the Lord continually and daily favors.
John tells us, “Do not be deceived. The one who practices righteousness is righteous as he is righteous. The one who practices sin is of the devil” (1 Jn. 3:7).
Jesus, the King himself, is just as clear as his disciple John: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Or consider, perhaps: “He who loves mother or father more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37-38).
Comment About My Comment and My Warnings
In a private conversation with someone I knew to be pursuing holiness, but stumbling in the process like a lost hiker in a wet and rocky ravine, I would not add the warnings I added at the end of this answer I gave.
To such a person I would give encouragement, comfort, and 70×7 forgiveness every day.
This is a public blog comment (and now a post), however, and because of the practice and example of the “churches” in America, I almost always give warning as well as promise in my blog’s post. We Americans love promises of good things, but I doubt any of our promise boxes contain “For to us, on behalf of Christ, it has been granted, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Php. 1:29).
Get rid of the false teaching that we enter the kingdom of heaven for eternity by faith alone, and I can drop the warnings I include. Until then, I cannot, lest the majority of Christians or pseudo-Christians, the ones deceived into believing that their works don’t matter on the day of judgment, hear in my words the greasy grace that brings licentiousness, laziness, and destruction rather than the grace of salvation which teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age.