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  • Writer's pictureDwight Smith

Has The Full Impact Of The Gospel Left Us?

old world map

Biblical history seems to me to indicate that the full impact of the redemptive force of the Gospel comes only once to a nation or people. The Old Testament is itself a witness to this. From King David to the final prophets Israel slides into succeeding generations of apathy until the judgment of God is fully felt, Jerusalem falls, the temple is destroyed and the majority of people are carried away in waves of forced exile.

A trip to Europe today bears witness too to the same conclusion. The Church in Protestant Europe for all intents does not exist. England, Wales, Scotland, Germany, Holland, The Netherlands, and so on, all felt at one point the full impact of the Gospel. Thousands of people became true followers of Jesus. Churches were planted in every village and neighborhood of every city. Social institutions were begun, and even laws were transformed by the tenacious actions of people of the redemptive community, the Church. Catholic Europe has not been immune from the same reality. Nations recorded in history as being fully under the sway of the Catholic Church, today are as nominal and pagan as any of the nations to which they sent missionaries in centuries past.

This is one way to take the words of Paul in Romans 11, and especially verse 22, “Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.”

The Geneva Study Bible says of this passage, “Many are now for a season cut off, that is, are without the root, who in their time will be grafted in: and again there are a great number who after a certain manner, and with regard to the outward show seem to be engrafted, who nonetheless through their own fault afterwards are cut off, and completely cast away: which thing is especially to be considered in nations and peoples, as in the Gentiles and Jews.

The People’s Bible says, “Gentile believers will be cut off unless they "continue in the goodness of God," so the Jews, if they abandon their unbelief, shall again be grafted in. They are not cut off by a decree of God casting them away, but by their own unbelief. For if thou, etc. This argument is to the Gentile. If wild branches were grafted into the good olive tree, the Gentiles grafted into the spiritual stock of Abraham, how much more likely is it that the natural branches, the Jews, shall be grafted again into their own olive tree, the seed of Abraham to which they belong by nature.”

How long the full impact of the Gospel lasts (decades or even centuries) in a people or place depends upon how well each succeeding generation is nurtured in the fundamentals of God’s creative purposes for human creation. In Deuteronomy, God reminds Israel just how important this passing on is: “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, "Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children." (4:9-10)

Israel is a witness that it only takes one generation of people disobedient to God’s revelation, and the slide is not just slight, but proportional. Once the intensity of the fundamentals is reduced the number of people truly in the redemptive community declines. As the number of people truly in the redemptive community declines the restraining and purifying effect of the redemptive community on that people or place correspondingly decreases, and the wrath of God sits on them. As Paul says in Romans 1:18: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.”

The results of this wrath are not so much because eternal judgment has set in, but because when a people reject the primary call of God of obedience to the revelation of Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ, they have chosen wrath rather than God. As Jesus Himself says in John 3:16-17: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.”

Or, as John the Baptist put it: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)

The full effects of a society in the grip of spiraling disobedience come upon the people and their way of life. Wickedness increases and will not cease except by the final collapse of the culture or the return of Jesus.

In the face of this, what then is the role of the Church in such a reality? In fact, the role of the Church does not change. As the redemptive community they are to live and declare the message of reconciliation to God in His Son, Jesus Christ. For we never know if God Himself in His sovereignty over this world and all that it is in it, might not break the evident pattern of Biblical and human history of unrestrained decline when once the full impact of the Gospel as felt in the lives of the redemptive community is rejected by succeeding generations. In such a case, a time of broad repentance in a wavering generation will at least have the effect of restraining for a time the full force that comes over a people or place when once a significant number of people in it have rejected obedience to God’s invitation back to Himself in His Son, Jesus.

1 komentarz

Lou B
Lou B
08 lut 2022

After a recent study of Jeremiah I have had similar thoughts..

Unfortunately believe you are correct .

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