Christianity. The answering of the call of Jesus to, "Follow me". The turning away from the old and living the new. The changing of allegiance to the kingdom of this world to the kingdom of God. The no longer living by one's own expectations in life, but the living by the indwelling life of Christ. These statements embody, in our lived out lives, the essence of being a Christian.
In the times of Christ, during the reign of the Roman Empire, to be affiliated with Christ and his followers was dangerous. To be baptized and be a follower of Christ meant to take your life into your own hands for to do so was not just a statement about your religious affiliation, but a proclamation that the government, the system, the ruling authorities and even the emperor himself and all that came with them, were no longer what you were loyal to. You were dead to all of it.
So what's the big deal?
Rome was huge. During the time of Christ she was drunk with her own power and wealth. Her emperors were considered gods. Julius Cesar was the first to be deified as 'god' and then along comes Augustus. Julius was deified after his death. Augustus was deified while he was still alive. One was god and the other referred to as the son of god. The succession of Roman emperors as gods was a continued tradition as New Testament scholar N.T. Wright concludes in "Paul: In Fresh Perspective".
To add to all of this earthly claims to divinity, the very proclamation that was used for the emperor righting all the wrongs, bringing the peace to the empire and providing for its subjects was heralded throughout the land. As Kurt Willems writes in his Pangea Blog, "Whenever the great deeds of Augustus were proclaimed, they were presented with the Greek term euangelion, which is translated, “good news” or, “gospel”. " Now add to that what Frank Viola said in an interview with Jamal Jivanjee, "In the first-century Roman world, “gospel” was used to describe the announcement that a new emperor had taken the throne. “Heralds” would be “sent” throughout the Roman Empire to announce this “good news.” Interestingly, the Roman emperor was also called “Savior” and “Lord” and was regarded as the one who would establish “peace” in the Empire." (jamaljivanjee.com)
Fast forward a few years and you have John the Baptist, the disciples and the apostle Paul with countless others, in the face of the Roman Empire with the same message.....but about another king. The herald announcement that there was a new king rang throughout the empire. There was a new king, with new authority. He brought a new peace and this good news was not referring to Caesar, but to Jesus Christ. When a person was baptized in public as a follower of Jesus Christ, he was saying to everyone, I died to the old empire - I rise into a new kingdom. I died to the old emperor - I rise to follow a new Lord. I died to the old system of false peace and earthly prosperity - I rise to follow the Prince of Peace. Political allegiances are dead. Imperial ties are broken. Kingdom loyalties are reassigned to a new one.
This, to the Roman Empire, was a declaration of war. This was an affront to Roman rule.
There is a price tag associated with the gospel. It's more than Four Spiritual Laws. It's more than The Romans Road. It's far more than saying a prayer in Sunday School. It's more than being on the correct side of the political aisle. It's more than your patriotism. It's more than being a member of the right church in the right denomination. The gospel of Jesus Christ demands, by its very nature, that all socio-political and national allegiances die at the feet of Jesus Christ. There is no other allegiance to be had.
The gospel of Jesus Christ demands, by it's very nature, that all socio-political and national allegiances die at the feet of Jesus Christ.
We are part of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. To cloud the gospel with celebrations of our own earthly kingdoms does injustice to the cross of Christ. To proclaim an incomplete gospel does a disservice to those that hear it and may want to respond to it. To associate our national interests on days of celebration with the gospel of Christ is to taint the message of its purity. To relegate the gospel to a preacher's plea to "just pray these words" in the closing seconds of a broadcast isn't the gospel. To preach a topical sermon on a Sunday morning and close with a 'sinners prayer' is not the gospel.
The centerpiece and implications of the gospel have not changed. We would all be wise to examine what they are and ask ourselves, have we really heard the gospel?