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What is the Gospel? The basics.

Immutability. While many do not know the word, it refers to the essence of God’s innate character from which all things expound, whereby He is never-changing in any aspect at any time. Scripture teaches that God is the same yesterday, today and forever and therein expressly defines immutability. Because God is never changing it stands to reason that His nature, mission, purpose, and decrees have also never changed. In a basic sense, this is true of all doctrine found in scripture, and while some things can be mysterious, eventually God has made known the mystery but has not changed the message. This is certainly true of God’s message of redemption that is found throughout the entirety of Scripture. This message of redemption is commonly known as The Gospel, which comes from the historical use of “God Speak.” Originally, the New Testament used the word “evangel” (transliterated) which means, good tidings, or good news. Combining this small argument produces the fact that God has a good message for His people and it has never changed. Why then does it seem as if there are many “gospels” continually before the sons of men?

BECAUSE OF MAN

Man’s nature has always been contrary to God. (Romans 3) Even in the best of days, humanity is looking for ways to make a good thing better and because the nature of mankind is that of a sinner, broken and fallen from the glory of God, he (man) is rightly condemned. So, the outcome of such things is that when a man is inclined to move nearer to God, he is always going to add to the gospel and in doing so, produce “another” gospel, which is no gospel at all. (Galatians 1)  Another reason so many gospels are in fresh supply is that man’s will is corrupted because of the sinfulness of his nature. He is unable to divide truth rightly, so he creates his own truth and works diligently to make this new truth work for his purposes. Man also has a desire to be in charge of his life and to be the god of his choices and future. Unbeknownst to him, this exercise is a result of the delusion given by Satan, (2 Cor 4) who blinds the eyes of unbelievers in order to keep them from seeing the glory of God. The works of Satan then, are always prominent, not just in the obvious evils of the world, but also among God’s people and in sometimes within the context of the local church. Jesus was not taking a ‘stab’ at sarcasm when called the Pharisees the sons of Satan. He said it because it was true. He wasn’t sarcastic, and He wasn’t trying to be rude but he was, teaching an unyielding theological doctrine found throughout Scripture. That doctrine is that many men who are religious and pious, with great fervor, are often the tools of the devil. Just as the Pharisees had twisted the use and instruction of God’s word, so do some this present day. The root of this activity is Satan, who produces the fruit of unbelief. I often refer to this unbelief as a “low view” of Scripture.

SOLA SCRIPTURA

The Holy Writ is the single court of mediation for all things Holy, Divine, Revealed, etc. In other words, the Bible has the final word relating to the knowledge of God. John 1 teaches that God is fully known in Jesus Christ, who is the living Word, and Hebrews 1 teaches that God speaks only through His Son. When the picture of  Scripture convenes on this matter, one can easily see that Paul (2 Tim 3:16) is in agreement with Jesus (John 17:3-8), who clearly teaches that eternal life is knowing God and His Son, through the Word that gives life, who is Jesus, who has left His Word for us. (long sentence) Without the word of God, and when the Scriptures are viewed as non-essential, another gospel is always birthed. And even with the text of Scripture, it is easy to conceive any variation of Good News pretextually. That is why the Bible must be read and understood collectively and within its context.  Eternal life is at stake and anyone who is to gain life in Jesus Christ must the gospel through the hearing of it. So, what is this Gospel? What is the true Gospel that is taught in Scripture?

ALL OF GOD, ALL OF CHRIST

What this article hopes to produce is a clear picture of how the gospel is taught through the lens of the Bible while partly revealing some small aspects of how easy it is to ‘reduce’ the gospel to one or ‘lesser’ parts of the whole. The gospel is not some opportunity for man to peek into or “try” to see if it fits his life or ideals. The gospel has nothing to do with what any person can do to merit or obtain salvation. If it were any combination of such things, it would not be good news at all because man is, as soon to be discussed, unable to merit escape from sin, death, and condemnation. Salvation and the good news therein,  is certainly and emphatically, all of God through all of Christ. This means that the purposes of God found in Scripture flow from His eternal decrees that have been set forth before the foundations of the world, namely, that God created the Heavens, Earth, and all that is in them for His glory. In turn, God receives glory when He redeems sinners, for whom Christ died, and the word of God’s Spirit through His word makes salvation effectual in the lives of lost men when they hear and then through hearing, they believe.

MAN’S DILEMMA

Humanity is unable to be saved apart from Divine intervention and restoration. This idea is not just some human idea, scripture teaches clearly that it is impossible for man to be saved in himself. In Acts 16:30-31 the Apostles respond to the question of, “What must I do to be saved?” by saying, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ…”  Notice that belief isn’t the savior, Jesus is the savior. This glorious truth is good news because it eliminates pride and control when one is confronted with the reality that there is nothing he can do to merit or establish eternal life on his own. The GOOD NEWS is that God has done the work and has made it certain and sure. Because of the fall of Adam and Eve, all humanity is now guilty and condemned under God’s righteousness (Justice), and without a miracle of redemption, all humanity will remain under wrath. Think about the following truths:

  • Romans 1:18 teaches that God will pour His wrath out on ALL ungodliness.
  • If anyone does not believe on Jesus Christ for salvation from sin (John 3:36), the wrath of God abides or remains on him.
  • Sin is worthy of such judgment. This is right. In the garden of Eden, God declared death was the penalty of sin and this truth is clearly confirmed throughout the narrative of Scripture and even more so, by the teaching of the Apostles. (Romans 6:23)
  • Without a supernatural rescue, all mankind is doomed to just condemnation because they love the darkness of sin and the darkness of self-reliance. (John 3:17-20) Man’s dilemma is grave and inescapable.

THE LOVE AND GRACE OF GOD

So now it can be clearly seen that man is in a very bad position. He is utterly dead in his sin. Some could argue that God could just remove many from the place of guilt, but righteousness requires penalty against sin. It is right for God to bring justice against sinners because to sin against God is evil. Remember the thought about salvation being “all of God?” This is where the reality of God’s work for the sake of sinners is clearly revealed. God’s love and grace toward sinners are the effectual agents in redemption. His desire and decree to save lost souls is the birthplace of salvation. From this point, the Genesis of the purposes of Christ’s advent, life, death, and resurrection secure the purchase of His people which is their redemption.

The grace of God holds a divine efficacy that does more than enables salvation; it also fully secures salvation for dead sinners. Grace secures the believer from the wrath of God, the consequences of sin, that is death, and rescues him from certain and just condemnation while placing the believer squarely within the gaze of God as if he had never sinned. Jesus delivers us from the wrath of God completely, and no purpose under heaven will prevail against the work of Jesus Christ in redemption. God is mighty to save! (1 Thess 1:10).  Romans 5:12 and Romans 6:23 both reveal that while all men are dead in sin through Adam, many are made alive only through Jesus Christ, which is a gift of God alone. (See also Romans 5:16, 18)

ALONE MEANS ALONE

For many seasons, the gospel has been wrongly preached and compounded resulting in a very distorted view of the good news of God. There are some who would preclude salvation without works and others who restrict the grace of God and make it vain. There are several clarifying points, taught in scripture, that are not mutually exclusive:

  • One must believe on Christ Alone for salvation.  There is no salvation apart from saving faith in Jesus Christ alone. One must believe on Christ, fully and willfully, in order to experience salvation. Salvation does not come through any other means than faith alone in Jesus Christ. There is no work, no effort, no right living and no action that captures the eyes of God and causes His gaze to justify a sinner. Believing in and on Jesus Christ results in the often common phrase of “repenting and believing” the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All men who are saved from sin are so because they have no longer loved sin, but loved Christ; which is the point of faith.
  • All who believe in Jesus Christ alone will be saved. This is not up for discussion and yes, while Scripture shows there is such a thing as “false belief”, that is not the point. All of those who believe are saved and only those who believe in Christ are saved.
  • Belief is the action of man. Those who believe, and likewise repent, are actually the ones doing the believing and repenting. God does not believe for humanity, Jesus has never repented of sin, nor will He do so for an unbeliever. Vicarious faith is a heresy, God is not the one who believes, man is the one who believes God for salvation. Any man who desires to be forgiven must believe in the final and finished work of Jesus Christ. He must believe on his own, not through his parents, teachers, friends or congregation. All condemned souls will remain condemned if they do not believe in Jesus Christ. (See John 3 & Romans 3)
  • Man is unable to believe. Those who believe are unable to do so in the mire of their sin. No human being who ever lives on this Earth will ever have the capacity or desire to trust in Jesus Christ. While this seems contradictory to the previous sound and biblical statements, in like manner, scripture teaches all four of these things simultaneously. To deny either of them is to make a false premise and lead some to a false pretense of what the gospel teaches.  Humanity is opposed to God, hates Him and is unable to comprehend His righteousness without a divine intervention. Unbelief is a willful act of the natural state of man. It is a desire that flows from the center of man’s heart and mind. He hates God and does not submit to Him. (John 3 & Romans 3)

GOSPEL ALONE

See how desperately lost humanity needs the good news of God? In order to be saved, a sinner must do what he is unable to do. He must place faith in Jesus Christ alone and must be empowered, no, created to believe. Man CANNOT come to faith in Jesus Christ except the Lord bring Him to life. Consider these verses:

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
John 3:19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. [20] For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
1 Cor 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

NEW BIRTH

Hearing the words of Christ is the vehicle through which the Spirit of God gives ears to hear and believe. (Romans 10:17) Jesus in John 3 makes it very clear that one cannot see or enter the kingdom unless that one is born again. “You must be born again.” How is this good news you may ask? It is good news because God has not only provided the ultimate end of salvation in His power, but He has also provided the means through His power.  This is good news!  When one hears the gospel, as the Spirit gives understanding, he is brought to life!  He believes, he sees, he loves, he repents, he holds, he strives, he comes to Christ, he longs for prayer and fellowship… because God has made him alive!  This is such a great salvation! God has never told a man to meet Him half way.  God has never said, “I will come to you if you first come to me?”  God has never provided a possible “good news” through Jesus Christ, the possible savior. No, God the Son is the author and finisher of “our” faith. He started it and He will finish it.  Crying out to God for eternal life is a manifestation of the glorious work of God from eternity past and it will be sealed until the day of the Lord Jesus for all eternity future.

Believing and repenting and all that comes from trusting in Christ, including the faith, is a work of God. Ephesians 2:8-9 reveals this very explicitly. You are saved by grace, through faith and this (faith/grace) is not of your own doing. If it were, one could boast, but here all boasting is in Christ. So often many stand argumentatively on these things as they stand their ground to defend their pleasure and pride in knowing they did what is right in the eyes of the Lord by believing.  Beloved, be very careful. FEW if ANY of these who would stand against the word of God and place their faith in the traditions of men are in Christ, and if God does not do a work in them, they never will be.

Historically, this truth has always been part of the protestant faith. Of course, Jesus and Paul passionately teach this as “THE GOSPEL” of God, but so have countless many. The Baptist faith from antiquity to date continue to hold such truths as foundations of the gospel:

  • A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour. (BFM2000, Article IV. Salvation subsection A. Regeneration.
  • Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, He is pleased in His appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving to them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by His almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.Although the gospel be the only outward means of revealing Christ and saving grace, and is, as such, abundantly sufficient thereunto; yet that men who are dead in trespasses may be born again, quickened or regenerated, there is moreover necessary an effectual insuperable work of the Holy Spirit upon the whole soul, for the producing in them a new spiritual life;8 without which no other means will effect their conversion unto God.9
    8 Ps. 110:3; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 1:19,20
    9 John 6:44; 2 Cor. 4:4,6 (SLBC1689)

FAITH NOT ALONE

The grand gesture of God’s sovereign grace produces that which He has decreed before the foundations of the world. Namely, the salvation of a lost people for whom Christ died and all the works that flow from such gracious affection. These occasionally are called good works, or evidences of regeneration. As John writes his gospel, he points the apex of his pen toward the proclamation that “these things were written” in order that you would “believe” and so believing, “have eternal life.”  (John 20:31) His first epistle (1 John 1) reveals the work of God (John 3, Ephesians 2:10) as the fruits of the light of Jesus Christ in the life of those who profess faith in Him. Faith is never to be believed ‘in’. Faith can never be the object of faith nor can the fruit of faith be a guarantee of salvation. Jesus Christ alone is the guarantee of salvation and He alone will produce the fruits of His work in His people. (Galatians 5:22)

If there is a BETTER news that this, it would be difficult to establish such a claim. God is sovereign and omnipotent!  Be glad that He has saved you in His way and through His means: through the life, holiness, death, resurrection and glory of Jesus Christ the Lord!

What a savior.

Pastor James

 

 

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