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WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Saturday, Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle, November 30, 2013
Rom. 10:9-18, Ps. 18, Matt. 4:18-22


"‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart' (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:8-10 NKJV).


This is the word of faith that we preach, namely that if you confess Jesus as Lord with your mouth and believe in him in your heart as risen from the dead, you will be saved. Salvation comes from Christ's death and resurrection, when we believe in him with saving faith. It is Christ's work on the cross, not our work, that forgives us our sins and puts God's new life into us.


Today is the feast of an apostle, St. Andrew, who was called to be a preacher of the gospel. The word "gospel" here means the good news of salvation (Rom. 1:16). Only later did it come to mean the four histories of Jesus, written by Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. So when we say that an apostle was called to preach the gospel, we mean that he was called to proclaim the message of God's salvation in Jesus Christ. And this message is that our Lord Jesus Christ "was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (Rom. 4:25).


The gospel message of salvation is that Jesus Christ saved us from our sins by his death on the cross (1 Cor. 15:3). He was put to death for our sins and was punished for them on the cross instead of us being punished for them, in order to satisfy the justice of God so that we could be forgiven for our sins in all justice, as is fitting for God, who is all just as well as all merciful.


In his infinite mercy God himself suffered on the cross the punishment due for our sins, and thus satisfied his own divine justice on our behalf, since he made reparation for them. Hence he could forgive us in all justice and in all mercy, as is fitting for an all-just, all-merciful God.


St. Paul tells us that God condemned and punished our sins in the flesh of his Son on the cross in order to fulfill the law of God for us, the law that says that a sinner should die in punishment for his sins (Gen. 2:17). "God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us" (Rom. 8:3-4).


In order for this salvation to be applied to us we have to invoke Christ with saving faith, "for ‘every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved'" (Rom. 10:13). If we confess Jesus as Lord with our mouth and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved. His merits on the cross are then applied to us, our sins are forgiven, and God puts his divine life and grace into our heart.


But for this to happen we need preachers of this saving gospel message, for how "shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Rom. 10:14 NKJV). Therefore Jesus sent preachers of the gospel, preachers of this message of salvation through faith in the death of Christ on the cross.


We who have believed in Jesus for our salvation are then sent to preach this saving message, this gospel, to others. We do not preach ourselves, "For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake" (2 Cor. 4:5).


We try to give good example and help others, especially the neediest, but we do not preach our good example as the gospel. Rather, the gospel is the good news that the Son of God died on the cross to make reparation for our sins to satisfy God's justice on our behalf so that God could forgive and save us in all justice and in all mercy, for he is an all-just, all-merciful God. We do not save ourselves through our good works, nor do we preach our good example, rather we preach the gospel about the forgiveness of our sins and a new life in God through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. We preach the importance of faith in Jesus Christ, not faith in ourselves. He is the lamb of sacrifice, "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).


"You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers ... with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot" (1 Pet. 1:18-19). "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed" (1 Pet. 2:24). "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God" (1 Pet. 3:18). "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Heb. 9:14). "We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10). "When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat at the right hand of God" (Heb. 10:12). "By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14). "He has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9:26).


This is the good news, the gospel, that we preach.

 

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