The gospel, simply stated, is the ‘good news’ that God has sent his son Jesus Christ into the world in order to reconcile Creator to creation. It is a powerful message (Romans 1:16), that brings salvation. It is a communiqué that regenerates people’s hearts through the Holy Spirit and renews all of God’s creation as He establishes His Kingdom through King Jesus. It is the truth that Jesus Christ was sent from the God the Father, empowered by God the Spirit, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for the atonement of sinners, and rose from the dead triumphing over satan, sin, and death in accordance with the Scriptures. It is a narrative about the God who looked with compassion on people and entered into history to change it and the future.
Since the gospel is both story and news, it is somewhat distinct from the commandments given to Moses for Israel and even, apparently, different from all that Christ commanded. It is easy, at least intellectually, to understand how one must obey commands. It’s a bit more difficult to understand how to obey a story or news. None the less, the scriptures call us to ‘obey the gospel.’ Here are some examples:
But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” (Romans 10:16 ESV)
As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. (2 Corinthians 9:13 NLT)
He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (2 Thessalonians 1:8 NIV)
For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17) NASB
“Obey” is one of those words which makes people cringe. Properly, it is to obey what is heard… literally, “under hearing,” or listening to the one giving the command (order). It suggests attentively listening, i.e. a fully compliant (response). It can also be considered an “intensification” of the simple verb “to listen.”
In the second passage above (2 Corinthians 9:13 NLT), some versions use the word “obey” and others do not. What is clear in that passage is the idea of “obeying the confession of the gospel while in the service of others.”
The last passage (1 Peter 4:17 NASB) doesn’t actually use the word “obey,” but “disobey” apeithéō – literally, refuse to be persuaded (by the Lord) and it’s where we get our word “apathy.”
I can ‘work’ towards obeying commands, but ‘obeying’ the gospel? Sure, the gospel is a message of Grace and of Hope and of Kingdom and of Peace and of Reconciliation. It exemplifies both messenger and message, and is the power of God unto salvation for those that believe (Romans 1:16).
Last thought; We don’t obey a command of God and say we’re finished. Likewise I don’t believe that we can say we’ve obeyed the gospel by responding, ‘accepting Christ into our hearts,’ or believing the message once. Whatever it means to ‘obey the gospel,’ it is certainly an ongoing process.
But, how do you suppose the Gospel is to be “obeyed?” How does one obey ‘news’ or a story?