The Everlasting Gospel in an Ever-Changing World

by Rev Dr Jong Yun Lee

My fellow colleagues in the ministry of the everlasting gospel, I give thanks to our Lord God for this opportunity to stand here before you, who have come from many different parts of Asia, to join us in the 7th ALCOE Conference here in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I welcome each and every one of you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…

All creation on this earth is subject to change. It is true that while change is sometimes for the better, it is also oftentimes for the worse….

“The Shaking of the Foundations”[1]

All creation on this earth is subject to change. It is true that while change is sometimes for the better, it is also oftentimes for the worse. All things, including people, nature, powers, customs, wealth, culture, knowledge etc., change and will continue to change, and there is nothing, in fact, that can be said to be an everlasting constant in this world. As the bible confirms, all of creation undergoes constant change, and will continue to change, as often as if changing clothes (Hebrews 1:10-12). On the other hand, our God, the creator, preserver and ruler, and His word, are everlasting and immutable to change, and will not, could not, ever change. Jesus Christ, the one who died on the cross, is the gospel, and His words stand as an everlasting constant today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

 

In the life of Jesus Christ, we know that His work on this earth came to completion on the cross. As such, a testimony of the gospel is essentially a public pronouncement of Christ on the cross. As we all know, the gospel is not only about the baby in the manger, the young carpenter boy, the preacher giving sermons on the fields of Galilee or even the empty tomb. While the gospel is about all such things as well, the essence of the gospel lies in the cross. In other words, the unique, everlasting truth of the gospel is Jesus Christ, as He had revealed Himself on the cross, and the event that occurred in the first century remains as an everlasting truth and gospel to this very day.

 

Receiving the gospel, on the other hand, involves a mutually complementary blessing in the name of Jesus Christ. The blessing is that receiving the gospel makes us justified while also giving us the gift of the Spirit (Galatians 3:1-8). In other words, he who receives the Spirit will be called righteous, and he who is righteous will receive the Spirit. The gospel does not ask us for anything, because there is nothing that we can “do” to receive the Spirit. Our responsibility lies in receiving the gospel by faith, and not in following any law. Obedience, therefore, is our mere effort to realise salvation, while believing, that is faith, comes when Christ becomes our Lord and we are able to rest in the completion of Christ’s work on earth.

 

This is the gospel in the old and new testaments, and this was the gospel that God announced to Abraham (Galatians 3:8). This was the gospel that the apostle Paul preached during his day to those who had witnessed Jesus himself, calling for faith so as to be justified and to receive the Spirit.

The gospel that one reaches salvation by faith is an everlasting truth that the bible presents to us: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) and His word too remains the same forever. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33). In other words, the world will continue to undergo changes but the kingdom of God is forever. “The city (=Kingdom of God) does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Revelation 21:23).

 

Many theologians and preachers today interpret their changing worldviews as if the gospel on which they stand is changing, or that the gospel is on shaky grounds. However, it should be noted that even Paul Tillich, who wrote the book entitled The Shaking of the Foundations (1948), pronounced God as the “Being itself” or the “Ground of being”…

 

The Constancy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ  

Hans Küng argued that the first “constant” of theology was the “reality of this world, viewed from a theological horizon.” In other words, the fact that the reality experienced by our two-sided, unplanned, variable nature will always change, will remain a constant, and never change.[1] And furthermore, Hans Küng’s second theological “constant” was the gospel of Jesus, the envoy sent by God. Hans Küng described it as the “Judeo-Christian tradition, i.e. the Christian envoy, the gospel of Jesus Christ.”[2] He stated that “the theological standard, that is the basic regulating principle, will have to be the Christian envoy (gospel), which is the basic foundation of all Christian theological studies.”[3] Now, it is important to note that all the witnesses and the writings in both the old and new testaments are God’s own revelations intended to appeal to the human faith. However, God’s revelations took place in and through the history of Israel as well as Jesus of Nazareth’s work. Therefore, all those who believe experience God’s revelations in a wide variety of ways. In that sense, the Christian gospel is not so much a universal law of human morals insomuch as it is about the historical individual of Jesus of Nazareth, and the gospel of Jesus Christ (Refer to Mark 1:1). To be more specific, the Christian gospel is about all that Jesus of Nazareth preached, all that Jesus did, and the life that Jesus lived, based on the witness’ testimonies. The gospel, in other words, is none other than the death of Jesus of Nazareth on the cross and the resurrection. (Acts 3:13-15)[1]

…To summarise, while God’s creatures, that is the heavens and the earth, and the universe itself, may change and even disappear, Jesus Christ and His word are eternally constant. That is, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my (=Jesus Christ’s) words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35; Also Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). Also, because Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), His gospel also remains constant forever. Even if the world is constantly in flux, Jesus Christ is forever everlasting and constant.

 

Conclusion

Nature, season, philosophies and paradigms, laws, scientific knowledge, families, friends, nationalities, names, and even one’s self are subject to change. Everything on this earth is subject to change. However, God and His word will never change. Jesus Christ’s character will never change. His love, His power, His purpose will never change.

 

So how do we live with the everlasting gospel in a world that is constantly in flux? “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). In other words, it is when one denies himself/herself that one is able to love others, practice moral purity, refuse the love of money and learn to be self-sufficient, as well as follow the faiths of others, witness the gospel and worship God in a manner that is pleasing to God (cf. Hebrews 13:1-19).

 

Just as the sick man who had lived 38 years suffering from his ailment, having lost all his will to live, complaining and blaming others for his suffering, was healed, there is hope that we, and the nations to which we each belong, may be changed, to become like Jesus, believing in the everlasting and never-changing gospel of Jesus Christ, and receive salvation. Let us all share this gospel as workers of the gospel, to the ends of time, and to the ends of the earth.


[1] The Shaking of the Foundations. 1948. (deutsch: In der Tiefe ist Warheit. 1952). Tillich posited the then current liberal theology, which he considered grounds for ‘shaking the foundation’ of truth.


[1] Hans Küng/ “Paradigm Shifts in Theology”, Theologie – wohin, hrsg. Hans Küng/ David Tracy, Trans. By Jaesoon Park, <Where is Contemporary Theology Headed?> (Seoul: Korea Theological Study Institute, 1989), 79-81.


[1] Acts 3:13-15: “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.

(Excerpts of Keynote speech at ALCOE VII held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Jun 2011. For full speech, please refer to “The Unchanging Gospel for a Changing Asia: Compendium of Seventh Asia Lausanne Conference on Evangelism” edited by Hwa Yung and Lawrence Ko, published by Asia Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization and Singapore Centre for Global Missions. For copies of the book which will be released in Dec 2012, please email lawrence@scgm.org.sg)

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1. Out of the 10 inspiring stories of missionaries sent from Singapore, which story do you like best? Why?
2. Do you agree that God has given children a sense of curiosity and a mind full of imagination? At play, they explore the world they live in. The school, the church and the home can provide wonderful opportunities for children to learn about different people and cultures in the wonderful world God has created.
3. How many types of occupations can you list from the 10 missionary stories? Have you started to think about what you would like to do when you grow up?
4. Can you match the missionaries with their occupations? Whether you are a medical doctor or a dental nurse, a pastor or a teacher, a business leader or a community worker, you can serve God in missions using your special interest, talent and training.
5. It is never too early to wonder about life. Many of the missionaries asked questions even when they were young. Some of them experienced bullying, disappointments, unhappiness and even family problems when they were young. They learnt about the purpose of their lives when they started talking to parents, pastors and teachers in church. Do you talk to your parents and teachers about your hopes and fears?
6. Do you realize that God can use your childhood interests, experiences and education to be a blessing to the people around you? Whether it is learning about science, geography, or enjoying the fishing at the beach or making music, it takes hard work to become good at what you like to do. So work hard, play hard and enjoy your childhood.
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