The Simplicity that is in Christ

“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3

One of the outstanding aspects of the Gospel is its simplicity. To understand that salvation is simply a matter of acknowledging our need of Christ and looking to Him through faith alone to remove the penalty of sin and to make us citizens of Heaven is nothing short of amazing. Well can we sing the words of that enduring hymn, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!” Indeed it is amazing grace and the heart that is fully occupied with the Lord Jesus and His gracious work toward us will never tire of singing those glorious strains. It truly is “love divine, all loves excelling”. How grateful we are for our salvation and what a debt we owe! His love has been shed abroad in our hearts so that it can be shed abroad from our hearts. It fills us with praise and adoration making us instant in season to proclaim the Gospel to all around so that they too can enter into the same love and appreciation for the Savior. We do not rely on our own wisdom or elaborate explanation to win people to Christ, but strive to be like Paul who confessed to the Corinthians: “ And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. (1 Cor. 2:1) . False teachers had attempted to corrupt their thinking; we should be on guard lest our thinking (and preaching) is also corrupted through reliance upon our own wisdom and strength. The Gospel does not need to be propped up, nor does it need to rely upon our powers of persuasion or cleverly-packaged programming, but rather on the plain, unadulterated Word of God. We should preach with this in mind and leave the results with God. The apostles and other servants of the Lord did so; we should do the same. When the Apostle Paul traveled to Athens and stood on Mars Hill before an antagonistic crowd(Acts 17), he unabashedly presented the Person of the Christ and the exclusivity of the Gospel as the only means of salvation. In the midst of rampant idolatry, he boldly proclaimed, “ Him declare I unto you” (v. 23). It was a simple message that stood in contrast to the various religious and philosophical sophistries that resided atop the Areopagus and nearby vicinity. He did not map out a “seeker-sensitive” strategy before he preached but instead, swung the Gospel hammer (Jer. 23:29) and broke through stony hearts to the glory of God. Certainly we can do the same.

Not only is it important to emphasize the simplicity of the Gospel in our preaching, but we should stress it in our worship as well. We should be like that leper in Luke 17 who being healed of his dread disease, rushed back to thank the Lord for the miraculous work that God had done in his life. We too have been healed of a dread disease—sin and should return to give Him thanks regularly. The early disciples worshiped together on a weekly basis (Act 20:7) and were occupied with but one thing--the Lord Jesus. Peter and John’s boldness was recognized as a result of being with Jesus (Acts 4:13); when we are taken up with Him and not filling our meetings with other matters, people will also recognize that we too have been with Jesus. Moses face was radiant after being in the presence of the Lord (Ex. 34:29) and we will be radiant as we spend time in the Lord’s presence and realize afresh all that He has done for us. Simply, put the worship meeting is not about performing, but rather about prostrating ourselves in the sacrifice of praise. When the OT priests entered the Tabernacle to worship the Lord they saw themselves in the mirrors that made up the base of the brazen altar (Ex. 38:8). When we come to worship we cannot help but “see” ourselves in the light of Gospel truth--what we were and what we are now in Christ. Amazingly, we are what we are now despite of who we were then. Without reservation we can say: “we love Him, because He first loved us”. Not only do we love Him, but we look to Him because He is our Shepherd and we daily need His help and guidance. We also live for Him because we know that there are others who are watching our lives closely and could ask us at any time about the hope that lies within us (1 Peter 3:15). We love Him and look to Him and live for Him. Therefore it makes perfect sense that our gatherings should emphasize Him and not allow anything to dilute or distract from that emphasis. There is nothing that thrills our soul more than when we set our affections and focus our attention on the Lord. We are not like those who are taken up with religious trappings--ceremonies and rituals and traditions of man, but rather we are taken up with a Christ. We should be like Simeon of old who upon entering the temple where the Lord Jesus was being presented as a little child, (Luke 2:25-35) embraced Him and blessed Him proclaiming, “Mine eyes have seen thy salvation” (Luke 2:30). Simeon’s actions underscore the truth that salvation and heart-felt worship is not centered in a place or in performance, but in a Person.

When I first entered through the doors years ago where a NT assembly gathered to worship the Lord, one of the first things that stood out to me was the simplicity of the worship meeting. There were no stained glass windows, no relics, no icons, no special titles, no priestly vestments worn by those who addressed the audience, no candles, and no religious or cryptic-looking symbols on the wall. In many respects it was a regular looking room. There was a verse on the wall however which read: “For God so loved the world that He gave His begotten only Son…” Coming out of an unsaved background and not yet a believer, these words were easy to understand and in conjunction with the simplicity of the meeting were actually refreshing and far less intimidating than I had supposed it would be when I first walked through the doors. What also stood out to me was that there were no offerings taken. When I kept looking around trying to figure out who was in charge, I could only guess since all the men seemed quite normal from my vantage point and were dressed in suits, not in flowing robes. When the speaker got up to address the audience, he spoke in such a clear and simple way that I understood completely what he was saying, even though I knew nothing about the Bible. It was as though he was talking directly to me. As he spoke of Christ, tears trickled down his cheeks, though he remained calm and dignified. His voice did not quiver nor was there any histrionics in his manner. I had never heard nor had I ever seen such a thing in my life, which made quite an impression on me. No one ever cornered me as I left; but on the other hand, they did not have to since I was planning to return anyway. Like John Wesley, my heart was also “strangely warmed”. One thing was sure; more was “said” by what I saw. That was my first experience with a NT assembly and its simplicity truly made a difference to me.

As our world becomes more technologically advanced and we are “wowed” at every turn by new and eye-popping innovations, there will always be subtle pressure upon the Church to borrow from its store to make the Gospel message more impressive and less offensive and the Christian life more palatable to the natural man. But what will speak more powerfully to the world around us will be a changed life as a result of the simplicity that is in Christ that always needs to be protected. It will be demonstrated by a genuine relationship with the Lord Jesus, adorned not by ecclesiastical traditions, but by a transparent life manifested by simplicity in worship and the plain declaration of God’s Word and His great love for all the world.