The Gospel is one thing and the fruits of the Gospel are something else. They are like the roots of a vine and the grapes that grow on it.
The Gospel, the “Good News,” is a message, the accepting of that which produces new men, with new ideals and new ethics. The ideals and ethics flowing from the Gospel are as impossible to achieve without it as are grapes without the root and vine.
Yet there is today a feeling that society can be saved without the salvation of the individual. This idea is appealing because it presents man with something he can accomplish for himself and for the social order, without challenge to his personal beliefs or way of life.
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The Gospel calls for the humiliation and subordination of self and the magnifying of Christ. It is a supernatural message about a supernatural Person that brings about supernatural changes in the lives of those who accept it.
To a patient with diphtheria, the good news is that a cure—antitoxin—is on the way. When a car engine sputters, it is good news that a mechanic is near.
But the Gospel is the best news of all, for it is the answer to man’s greatest need. It is the offer of clean hands and a pure heart for those who are defiled. It is the offer of the divine heart transplant, a new heart for the old. It promises a renewed mind, one that can grasp the things of the Spirit.
Our Lord numbered the wretched fruits of the unregenerate heart: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts (the natural minds of men), murder (hate), adultery (lust), sexual immorality (uncleanness), theft (covetousness), false witness (lying), slander (vindictiveness). These are what defile a person” (Matthew 15:19-20).
Add to this the equally damning sins of pride, lovelessness, insensibility to the condition of others—sins both of commission and omission—and we find ourselves convicted in thought, word and deed.
We are all guilty. Let’s not compound our guilt by ignoring or denying the divine diagnosis.
The Gospel is God’s Good News that there is an escape from the effects of sin and its certain judgment. It is the message that the miserable wretch on skid row and the sophisticated matron in the social register are both sinners in God’s sight, with the same disease and needing the same cure.
While the fruit of unregenerate hearts has been enumerated, there is another kind of fruit that is found only in the lives of men and women who, by faith and by the power of the Holy Spirit, have been changed (converted, born again). This fruit is beautiful to behold and comforting to experience. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:22-24). These things are the fruits of the Gospel!
How tragic to replace the marvelous message of hope with futile exhortations to men to lift themselves and the social order of which they are a part by some sort of boot-strap endeavor! To the church, and to individual Christians, there has been committed the preaching, teaching and living of the Gospel message.
If we give the Gospel top priority, it will change things. There is no other way to bring results that last. D © 2015 BGEA
L. NELSON BELL (1894-1973) was the father of the late Ruth Bell Graham.
This article was adapted from While Men Slept: A Concerned Layman’s View of the Church Today (Doubleday 1970), with permission from East Gates Ministries International.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.
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