How Do We Obey the Gospel?

“Obey” is not one of the verbs we typically connect to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We talk about preaching the gospel, sharing the gospel, and believing the gospel. But we don’t hear much about obeying the gospel.

And yet, this must have been a phrase used in the early church, because it appears in at least two places in the Bible. In the context of talking about eternal punishment, Paul writes of “those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess 1:8). In a similar manner, Peter refers to “those who do not obey the gospel of God” as being outside the household of God (1 Peter 4:17).

What did these apostles mean when they used this phrase?

News That Demands Action

The word “gospel” means “good news,” so on the surface this phrase doesn’t make much sense. After all, how can we obey news?

The gospel is not just any news. It is good news announced by God. Such news requires action.

The ministry of Jesus answers our question directly.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14–15)

Because the kingdom is at hand—meaning that the king (Jesus) is here—repent and believe in the gospel. This is confirmed in other places in the New Testament.

Paul ended his sermon in Athens this way, including the command for all people to repent.

“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30–31)

Paul also wrote this to the Romans, where he equates obeying and believing.

But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” (Romans 10:16)

Using these passages, we can take a swing at what it means to obey the gospel. Obeying the gospel means repenting of sin and believing the gospel.

This definition still demands an explanation “the gospel.” But, in an effort to keep the length of this post reasonable, I’ll leave that to another source.

We still have one question to answer. If the Bible speaks this way, why don’t we?

An Invitation or a Declaration (or Both)?

One reason we don’t talk about obeying the gospel is because we don’t view the message as authoritative. The good news about Jesus becomes one option among many. It might be our favorite option, but this mindset turns Christianity into one choice on a religious buffet. When we talk to our friends about the gospel, we’re hoping they’ll pick the potato salad like we did and sit at our table.

We have (rightly) understood the gospel to be an invitation, but we have not seen it as anything more.

To be clear, the gospel is an invitation! Jesus did not (and does not) coerce anyone into faith, and we won’t force or argue anyone into the church. Jesus was (and is) gentle and hospitable, welcoming all who call on his name.

But as we have seen, the gospel demands action. Turning away from Jesus is not just making a different, individual choice—it is disobeying and rejecting God. Our evangelistic efforts should emphasize both the call to obey and the invitation.

Ongoing Obedience to the Gospel

We need the gospel every hour of every day, not just at the beginning of our Christian lives. Therefore, the obligation to “obey the gospel” is not just for unbelievers—it’s for Christians too.

We get a hint of this in a letter from the apostle John, who was writing to Christians.

And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. (1 John 3:23)

And in this same letter, we are not only urged to believe in the name of Jesus, but also to confess our sins and repent (1 John 1:8–10).

We enter into faith by the grace of God, and we are sustained in faith by this same grace (Gal 3:1–6). This glorious grace of God helps us to repent and believe in the gospel and to invite others into this same obedience.

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Links for the Weekend (2022-06-17)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Why Self-Help Is Not Encouragement

Sadly, much of what passes for encouragement among Christians is more like self-help mantras. Lindsey Carlson helps us understand what Christian encouragement is all about.

Encouragement based on self-confidence has produced a world of under-encouraged Christians. Our confidence is too often in our own desires and feelings, both of which are subject to change. When our confidence is shaken, our heart grows quickly discouraged and we’re far less likely to endure the trials set before us.

Help! I’m terrified of evangelism!

If evangelism feels like a scary enterprise, this article is for you. It’s a simple, down-to-earth list of ideas about how we might start talking to other people about Jesus.

Don’t overthink evangelism. You don’t need to come to every interaction with a non-Christian with a checklist of items to include in the conversation. But don’t censor yourself. Talk about the church service you attended on the weekend. Pray for help from God for courage and clarity. Mention something you have been thinking about from Bible study. Thank God for the weather. Let your faith be seen by others, and you will find opportunities to talk about the One who matters most.

Should I Pray Someone Else’s Prayers?

Chris Woznicki writes about using The Book of Common Prayer to help him pray. Coming from a “low church” Baptist background, this wasn’t natural, but he has found it helpful.

You can feel free to adopt the words of biblically-based, gospel-centred, Christ-exalting prayers written by someone else as our own. I would encourage you to find written, historic prayers, like The Litany that help you to articulate the content of your heart as you pray to God. Doing so has been helpful for me and it might be helpful for you too.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Praying “God, Be With Us.” If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (2022-04-29)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Friendship and Belonging in Middle Age

Here’s an article by Alan Noble on some of the reasons it’s hard for people in middle age to make and sustain friendships. And yet, we need friends!

The way our lives are set up is broken. The structures, habits, practices, and values. Our city planning, markets, careers, laws, and entertainment—all have been designed with a false idea of what a human being is. Collectively we assume that to be a human is to belong only and ever to yourself. Thus, friendships can be a nice perk of a successful life, but friends can’t demand anything of you that you don’t choose to give. At any point, if a friendship is holding you back or bringing you down, you can bail. Because the only person you owe happiness to is yourself.

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

One of the main accusations that Jesus faced was that he hung out with sinners too much. What are the implications of this for our churches today?

Some Christian circles assume that if a pastor or church is drawing in sinners, they must be compromising the message of the Bible. Maybe they’re seeker-sensitive, watering down the more offensive doctrines of Christianity. On the flip side, pastors who have a reputation for castigating sinners, faithfully exposing the sins of society, must be doing something right. But the truth is, neither approach captures the complexity of Christ’s gospel ministry. Jesus had the ability to attract notorious sinners with the offer of grace without ever compromising truth. It wasn’t the outwardly sinful who were typically put off by Jesus, but the sanctimonious! Ministries that repel sinners through so-called boldness can be just as unfaithful as those that attract them through compromise. 

Go to Funerals

I love the way this article talks about a church body attending funerals. The author encourages everyone who is able to go—especially children—because a church is a family.

The Christian community can be distinct by going to funerals of everyone in your church. At funerals, we display to the world what the body of Christ is like. At funerals, we display what commitment looks like in a covenant body. When we take our membership vows, we are not joining a hobby or a club. We join a body. A body needs all its members—especially at a funeral.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (6/4/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

What Does Ongoing Sin Say About Me?

The title of this article is a common question for Christians. Scott Hubbard gives us some helpful categories to think through our relationship with ongoing sin.

Some of the clearest displays of our loves and hates appear on the battlefield. While some fight their sin half expecting and (if truth be told) half hoping to lose, others learn to fight like their souls are at stake — like Jesus spoke seriously, even if not literally, when he talked about cutting off hands and tearing out eyes (Matthew 5:29–30).

Going Beyond Clouds That Hide the View

Sylvia Schroeder writes a beautiful meditation on waiting, God’s timing, and beholding his glory.

When clouds draw shadows dark and foreboding, when mist dims His splendor, we can take heart because we know the certainty. We have seen His glory, and nothing less can satisfy.

This Week’s Free eBook: ‘Evangelism as Exiles’

It looks like this deal at The Gospel Coalition is only good through June 6. But hey, free book!

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called How to Find Hope When Hope Has Perished. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (2/5/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

What Do You Mean by ‘Unity’?

I appreciated this article by Quina Aragon about what unity is and is not, according to the Bible.

It’s important for us to keep in mind the biblical vision, especially when we hear hollow unity calls that fail to also call us to repent of damage done to others. If we really want true and virtuous unity among God’s people, that both reflects him and also expresses the unity his Son secured on the cross, then we must examine ourselves. Are we insisting on our own way or dismissing others’ pain (Phil. 2:3–4; Luke 10:25–37)? Then we must repent, resolving anew to love our neighbor as ourselves.

The Lost We Love the Most

If we’ve already shared the gospel, and if there’s been no response, how do we continue to love our friends and family?

But what if evangelism is about more (not less) than sharing the content of the gospel? What if people are more complex and unpredictable than we may think? And what if the situation with our spouse, friend, child, parent, or neighbor is more dynamic than Satan would have us believe? In the face of an apparent stalemate, it’s refreshing and encouraging to remind ourselves of three dynamic realities in any relationship with a lost loved one.

Do Not Despise the Gentle Nudge

While there are exceptions, we often need many small nudges instead of large shoves in order to stay on a faithful path with God.

These little adjustments to our spiritual lives, while seemingly small and insignificant by themselves, make all the difference in avoiding spiritual danger and experiencing intimacy with God.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (2/14/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

A New Year’s Resolution: Don’t Try to Be With It

At the end of 2019, Kevin DeYoung wrote an article about the trivial nature of so much of the media we consume. Without being a scold, he urges us toward contentment in not keeping up with every last thing.

It can be scary to detach, even a little bit, from the screams of social media, Netflix, and cable news. But let’s not mistake knowledge for wisdom, or a multimedia platform for kingdom usefulness. There is no way to possibly stay with it, so why bother? Look out the window. Put down the phone. Lose touch with pop culture and reconnect with God. If you get to the end of 2020 and can’t recall any of the big style stories from CNN, don’t fret: in a few minutes no one else with either. 

The One Life Dream That Makes a Girl Blush

Here’s a wonderful article on the high calling of marriage and motherhood and how sad it is when young women feel ashamed to desire such a calling.

I wish we loved the strength it takes for a woman to become a wife and a mother. We marvel at her physical strength when she births a child. But we forget what invisible strength she shows when she lays down her life for her home every day after that.  

5 Necessities for Engaging Skeptics with the Gospel

This article is geared slightly toward preachers, but there is a lot here for the rest of us to learn as well. How can we engage skeptics with the gospel?

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called The Bible is for Everyone. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (11/1/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

When Joy Feels Far Away

Over at Desiring God, Scott Hubbard uses Psalm 40 to discuss those times when darkness settles in. He gives solid, helpful encouragement from King David’s experience.

David’s confidence in the coming joy does not mean his darkness was not so deep after all; it means that joy, for those in Christ, is always deeper and surer than the darkness — everlastingly deeper, infinitely surer. You may not feel the truth of it right now. But can you, in hope against hope, imagine yourself singing again, laughing again, telling everyone who will listen, “Great is the Lord!”?

The Cross Is Our Stairway to Heaven

Jen Wilkin writes about the common evangelistic tool known as “the bridge.” She observes some small flaws in the basics of the drawing and explains why it is important that God came down (not across).

But Christ is not merely the stairway, he is also the perfect mediator, superior to angels in his descending and ascending. “To which of the angels did God ever say, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet?’” (Heb. 1:13). In the incarnation Christ descended to Earth. The sinless Son condescended to take on human flesh. And having suffered, died, and raised from the dead, he ascended to the right hand of the Father.

Five Questions about Faith and Works

The doctrine of justification by faith is at the heart of the Reformation, and Kevin DeYoung has a good discussion about some of the important facets of the related debate. The article draws on the work of Francis Turretin for helpful answers.

In short, while our good works are often praiseworthy in Scripture—pleasing to God and truly good—they do not win for us our heavenly reward. There is a true and necessary connection between good works and final glorification, but the connection is not one of merit.

5 Myths about the Reformation

Here’s a brief discussion of five myths that persist about the Protestant Reformation.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (8/16/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

The Commuter Bible Podcast

If you’re looking to spend more time in the Bible, consider the Commuter Bible podcast, created by John Ross. Each episode is around 30 minutes long, perfect for a commute, a workout, or chores around the house or office. Released on weekdays (and excluding official U.S. holidays), over the course of a year you’ll listen to the entire Bible (CSB translation).

Overcoming the Fear of Evangelism

Juan Sanchez knows that evangelism is easy for some and difficult for many. He takes Jesus’s promises in the Great Commission (that he is with us and he is sovereign) and helpfully traces out the implications for different situations that call for us to share the gospel.

You see, because Jesus is with us and because He is sovereign over all things (including salvation), we can share the gospel courageously and confidently. Christ will build His church, and we need not fear what man may do to us.

Is It True That God “Loves the Sinner but Hates the Sin”?

In this brief video, Stephen Nichols looks at the biblical evidence for this common phrase. He concludes that we don’t do sinners any favors by trying to downplay the wrath of God.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Grandparents, We Need You! If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (8/9/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Make Sunday Mornings Uncomfortable

In this excellent article, Rebecca McLaughlin describes the three “rules” she and her husband keep in mind on Sunday mornings. These guidelines focus on welcoming those visiting their church for the first time, especially when a visitor might not be a Christian. I love this perspective, because it urges us to take risks and underscores how important community and connection are for everyone who is considering the Christian faith.

This was one of many opportunities my husband Bryan and I have had to connect with not-yet-Christians inside our church building. We have very little else in common. I’m an extrovert; he’s an introvert. I’m from England; he’s from Oklahoma. I’m into literature; he’s an engineer. But God drew us together around a shared sense of mission, and Bryan recently expressed that mission in three rules of engagement at church. These rules make our Sundays less comfortable, but more rewarding. If you’re tired of comfortable, you might want to give them a try!

Three Cautions and Encouragements for Dads

Dustin Crowe writes a good word for fathers. He reminds us how our words, actions, and attitudes should reflect our heavenly father when we interact with our children. I think all parents will be able to relate to the story that sparked his reflection.

When my daughter delayed getting our tent set up, I was more concerned about finishing the job and creating a great experience than I was about her. The idol of my plan ended up keeping me from loving my daughter well. That’s what idols do. They ruin and rob the things we hope for.

El Paso, Dayton, and Gilroy

After recent mass shootings, the public conversation about these tragedies becomes political all too quickly. John Stonestreet urges us not to point fingers at sin out there, but to look in here as well.

Yet, we wonder how lonely young men without meaning or moral formation or fathers, who have no way to fulfill their pornographic-fueled fantasies, but have access to plenty of self-medication options, could be driven to white-supremacist or progressive extremism.  We need to ask what it is about our culture that’s producing these young men bent on killing and chaos. And we need to ask: Where is the church?

Thanks to Cliff L for his help in rounding up links this week.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (7/26/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Mothers in the Church

Jen Wilkin has written an outstanding piece on spiritual motherhood. It’s worth a read by everyone, not just by women. Spiritual infants need spiritual mothers, and all women can leave a legacy of spiritual descendants.

But a motherless church is as tragic as a motherless home. Guiding the spiritually young to maturity is not solely the job of the vocational pastor, the elder, or the Sunday school teacher. The church needs mothers to care for the family of God. We must rise to our responsibility, eagerly searching for whom the Lord would have us nurture. There is no barrenness among believing women. Through the gospel, all become mothers in their maturity. And unlike biological motherhood, spiritual motherhood holds the potential for hundreds, even thousands of descendants.

The Most Radical Mission for Christians May Be the Most Mundane

For many Christians, the thought of foreign missions is much more compelling and attractive than loving our neighbors down the street. Brett McCracken writes about the beauty of committing to and serving in a local church, even if there are fewer exotic stories that result.

Why is it easier for us to go to the other side of the world than it is to go across the street to talk to our neighbors about Jesus? It’s uncomfortable to share our faith with people in our immediate context because, well, we have to continue to do life with them and it may get awkward if we bring up Jesus. Plus it is sometimes easier to care for the soul of the foreigner who we don’t know than the proven heathen that we do.

Study the Bible for the Sake of Others

Evangelism is rarely about a one-time, thirty-minute conversation. Using the story of Philip in Acts 8, Kelly Minter writes about how our personal study and learning from the Scriptures prepares us to share the gospel with others.

So here are the two challenges this passage confronts us with: First, we must be willing to step into some chariots and sit alongside people who can’t make sense of life, much less the Bible (assuming we’ve been invited in). Second, we must be studying God’s Word diligently, learning from good teachers about His whole counsel, so that when we do have opportunities with those seeking to understand, we can engage them with the whole story instead of leaving them with a presentation.

Thanks to Maggie A for her help in rounding up links this week.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here.