Standing in the Gospel
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:1-2
On Sunday Pastor Mike shared from 1 Corinthians 15 the three-fold work of the gospel in a Christian. First, Paul reminds us of the work of God in us to save us in the past (whether five minutes ago or 50 years ago). Second, and vital, is that we do not merely look back to that moment of God’s work, but we stand now in the gospel, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:1. Mike said, “One massive evidence of your conversion is that today your hope for life and everything is Jesus.” And, “We will never be defeated so long as we stand in the gospel.” Finally, the gospel has future hope in that we are “being saved” as Paul says. God saved us in a moment in time (five minutes ago or 50 years ago), God is saving us (presently), and God will save us.
Question: What does it look like to stand in the gospel and look confidently to God for hope? Should a Christian life be filled with doubt, anxiety, and fear? What response should the past, present, and future understanding of Paul’s gospel awaken in a Christian?
Martin Luther’s Anfechtungen
In his biographical work* on the great reformer, Martin Luther, Eric Metaxas noted a time between July-September in 1527 when Luther was plagued with physical illness but an even more spiritual crisis or tribulation which he referred to as “anfechtungen”.
During one of these physical and spiritual crises, Luther believed he was about to die and responded accordingly:
He prayed out loud the Lord’s Prayer and then two penitential Psalms. He was not only physically ill but also clearly tormented in his spirit feeling guilty of past sins and generally unworthy…He asked everyone around him to pray for him, quite sure he was now dying. He lamented not having been counted worthy to shed his blood for the sake of the gospel as others had done. Luther was inconsolable, slipping away.
Luther later described this suffering more vividly to his close friend, Philipp Melanchthon, in a letter.
For more than a whole week I have been tossed to and fro in death and in hell, so that I am still drained from all strength in my body and am trembling in all my limbs.
I have lost Christ completely and have been shaken by the floods and storms of despair and blasphemy. However, as moved by the prayers of the saints, God has begun to have mercy on me and to snatch my soul from deepest hell.
Should we stand in the gospel like Luther in his hour of anfechtungen?
In Luther’s hour of anfechtungen, his focus was more on his insufficiency before God (which is true), but he did not move from his insufficiency to the overwhelming sufficiency of Christ!
A Christian’s present stand in the gospel takes into account two massive truths which John Newton articulated as:
- I am a great sinner (insufficient and damned before God).
- Christ is a great Savior (totally sufficient taking on my sin before God).
Question: What does it look like to stand in the gospel and look confidently to God for hope?
Answer: Standing in the gospel involves a clear conviction of Newton’s two statements. “Yes, I am unworthy.” AND, “Yes, Christ alone makes me worthy.”
Question: Should a Christian life be filled with doubt, anxiety, and fear?
Answer: See below
Question: What response should the past, present, and future understanding of Paul’s gospel awaken in a Christian?
Answer: For a moment of Martin Luther’s life, he suffered a lapse into doubt and unbelief that he was still in Christ. The idea of standing before God knowing he was a sinner brought immense dread to the point of believing, “I have lost Christ completely…”
Praise God, our hope in the gospel is not in any way dependent on our goodness but on God’s mercy.
“[God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit…” – Titus 3:5
Praise God that he brought Martin Luther from the pit of anfechtungen, reminding him of his hope in Christ.
Stand in the gospel today. Stand in the truth that you are not worthy and only worthy in Christ.
Christ is a great Savior!
*”Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World”, by Eric Metaxas (Viking, 2017)