The Jerusalem Declaration
The Gospel of God
We rejoice in the gospel of God through which we have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because God first loved us, we love him and as believers bring forth fruits of love, ongoing repentance, lively hope and thanksgiving to God in all things.
One of the things that I like about the Jerusalem Declaration is that it starts in the right place- with the Gospel, the Good News. And I think that this is where we have to start the work of re-building the church that I spoke of when I preached on Haggai in June2021. We have to start with the Gospel- that is both the foundation on which we build, and the means by which we build. We start with the Gospel, and we continue with the Gospel. I was thinking then in particular of the local work here at Christ Church- but of course Gafcon was also thinking of the work of re-building and reformation within the Anglican Communion worldwide- the two things go together. And what this article tells is very, very helpful in setting an agenda for that re-building work. It tells us several things about the Gospel.
1. The Gospel is a cause of joy- “we rejoice in the Gospel”. The Gospel is good news of great joy, as the angel said to the shepherds at Bethlehem. It would be wrong to think of the work of rebuilding as a grim chore we have to do. It should be joy in the Gospel that fires us for this work, and makes a Gospel-centred church attractive.
2. The Gospel is God’s Gospel. He spoke it, it is his message and belongs to him, and we have no right to adjust it, still less to make up own message, to make it more appealing to people
3. The Gospel is a message of salvation- we are “saved” or “rescued” through it. That is, the Gospel is not a message about live can become a bit better. It is a message that we are in terrible danger- the danger of God’s wrath and judgement, and need to be saved. But it isn’t a message about how we can save ourselves- it is a message that God has saved us.
4. The Gospel is not about what we do- it is about what God does through his Son Jesus Christ, and through his Spirit. The Jerusalem Declaration says that we are saved “by grace through faith in Jesus Christ”. If I had written it, I would have said “by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone”, but I think that those “alones” are implied later in the declaration. So this tells us that our salvation is a gift from God, not something we earn, that we receive it by faith, by trust and confidence that is directed away from ourselves, and that this faith is in Jesus Christ. And this all depends on the work of God’s Holy Spirit. We have no power to move towards Christ on our own, and we cannot make people Christians. The Holy Spirit must change our hearts, turn us to Christ, and give us faith in him.
5. The Gospel transforms people. It is a message about God’s love for sinful people, a love shown supremely at the cross, where Christ died for those who hated him. The way it works is that this love of God for us awakens love for God in us, and that love leads to a transformed life. As the the Jerusalem Declaration puts it, believers “bring forth the fruit of love”. Those fruit include repentance from known sin, hope, and thanksgiving- these are things that should shine out from us as we build. Notice that we don’t repent so that God will love us- we repent because God loves us.
What this article says then is that we are Evangelical. This comes from the Greek word “evangelion” which means to “good news, gospel”. On the banner by the church gate it says that we are “An Anglican Evangelical Church”- and the noun is more important than the adjective. Although there should be no conflict between the two- it should be the case that to be Anglican is to be Evangelical. To be evangelical is to be centred on the Gospel.
So as we build, and re-build, the church- I hope that we will keep our focus on this- the Gospel, the unchanging good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.