The Gospel is a proclamation which demands a response. If the delivery is properly made, either the listener will repent, become angry, or, worst of all, ignore it. The Gospel is the announcement that Jesus is LORD of LORDS and King of Kings, the Messiah of Israel, who came to reconcile his people to Father God through his death and resurrection, and who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. It is a command to repent and bow the knee this Lord and an invitation to be forgiven and reconciled to God. If it is not both, it is not the true Gospel. Unfortunately, in many cases people have heard it shared as if it were only an invitation and not a command. The result is that many have made decisions for Christ in order to be “saved,” but have not firmly committed themselves to serve the Lord for the rest of their lives.
The first time the post-Pentecost Gospel was preached, the people were cut to the heart and said, “What must we do?” The hearers realized that they were guilty of having recently put the Messiah King of Israel to death. No wonder they were distraught! When they repented, they acknowledged Jesus’ Lordship over their lives. They were blessedly forgiven of their sins and reconciled to God, but the preeminent part of their response to the Gospel, the acknowledgement of Jesus’ Lordship, can be summed up by Paul’s words to the church at Philippi.
For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:9-13 (NASB)
The bowing of the knee is an evidence of surrender, which is to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. This bowing of the knee (which is mainly in the heart) should manifest itself by submitting to water baptism and seeking to live as an obedient follower of Christ and his teachings. It should eventually result in our becoming fishers of men and disciple makers. The working out of our salvation is the natural result of a deep repentance which seeks to submit all of life to Jesus.
If we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, it is a response to the heart of the Gospel, which is the proclamation of Jesus’ Lordship. If we believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, our faith in the authority of his Lordship sets us free or “saves” us. God’s power is released in our lives when our faith couples with His promises. When faith connects with the resurrection of Christ in a heart surrendered to his Lordship, the power of the Gospel is released in our lives. The proper response to the heart of the Gospel is to surrender in faith to Jesus’ Lordship and to spend the rest of our lives living that out.