Tag Archives: Gospel

The Gospel Message

Recently I had the privilege of teaching on the topic of “Evangelism and the Believer”, a subject addressed in chapter 11 of John MacArthur’s discipleship curriculum Fundamentals of the Faith.  Before beginning a discussion on the believer’s rights and responsibilities to share the Gospel, it’s critical to explicitly define the Gospel.  As J. Mack Stiles asserts in his book Marks of the Messenger, we can never assume the Gospel.

I remember being asked “What is the Gospel?” recently in an interview and my first reply was “Based on what definition?”  The reason I responded as such was because so often it seems we are confused with the term Gospel and I knew the question that was being asked was not really, “What is the Gospel?”, but instead “How would you share the ‘Plan of Salvation’ with an unbeliever?”  So where did this confusion over the Gospel come from?  Well, I have a hunch it’s rooted in “decisionism” or an attempt by man to seal a quick decision for Christ through a 5-miunute “Gospel” presentation.  It’s seems we’ve adopted this approach and made it into “Tract-theology” such that no one really needs to think biblically anymore about what the Gospel really is.  All we really need to know are 4-Spiritual Laws or how the bridge between God and man can be built.  Don’t get me wrong, tracts have their place, but they cannot be a substitute for the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the Bible, we see a progression of the Gospel, from the Old Testament proclamation of the promise for Good News to the 4 Gospels which proclaim that the Good News has come, to the Epistles which proclaim that the Good News is Jesus Christ.  But what is this Good News?  More specifically, if there is Good News, certainly there must also be bad news; otherwise the Gospel would just be ‘news’.  In other words, what makes it so good? 

This is where I think the helpful little book by Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel, is so beneficial.  Essentially, it summarizes the redemptive narrative found from Genesis to Revelation into 4 useful points, each of which the Bible speaks to exhaustively.  Below, I want to briefly take a look at each point, just loosely using Gilbert’s book as a guide. 

God

Any discussion on the Gospel must have its source in God.  This is true whether in a witnessing situation or just unpacking the realities of the Gospel from Scripture.  To this point Gilbert asks 2 questions” Who made you? and To Whom are you accountable?  The answer to each is God.  So who is God?  Genesis 1 says God is the Creator of the world (1:1) and man (1:26).  The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1:19-20 that God has revealed Himself, “namely His eternal power and divine nature” through His creation, such that man is without excuse for not knowing Him.  God is not only Creator, but Sustainer of His creation (Colossians 1:17, Hebrews 1:3).  He is not hands-off, as deists would like to think, but He is a very personal, interacting, God.  As such, this means His creation, namely man, is accountable to Him (Romans 9:21).

In addition to this “general revelation” of God through creation, God has also provided “special revelation” of Himself by way of Scripture.  1 John 1:5 tells us that “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” God’s character begins with His holiness, as all other attributes by way of this are likewise holy.  In Exodus 34:6-7 we read of God revealing additional attributes of His character to Moses, “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.’”  Summarizing the attributes God lists we see that He is:

  • Merciful
  • Gracious
  • Slow to anger
  • Abounding in steadfast love
  • Faithful
  • Forgiving
  • Just

But we’ve encountered a major problem here.  In verse 7 we see the following statement, “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.”  Which is it?  Forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin? Or not clearing the guilty, i.e. punishing the guilty?  It seems this is a paradoxical statement that contradicts itself.  Hang on to that thought; we’ll come back to it in a minute.

Man

Our next point, upon which Gilbert briefly summarizes the Gospel, is Man.  Here, we may ask What is the problem? Or perhaps more directly stated, What’s wrong with the world?  As we saw earlier, God created man in His image (Genesis 1:26) and called His creation good.  However, in Genesis 3, we read of the Fall of Man, the familiar story of the serpent, Satan, deceiving Eve to eat of fruit, which God had forbidden.  Eve, upon eating the fruit, subsequently shares it with her husband Adam.  In Genesis 3:15, we see a summary of man’s fall and a brief preview into our next point, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  Because of Adam’s sin, all of his posterity likewise fell with him.  In Romans 5:12 we read, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”  What is the problem or what’s wrong with the world?  You are!  And me too.  All of us are what’s wrong with the world because all of us have sinned.  Think what’s wrong with the world isn’t sin?  Just watch the evening news and you’ll see man’s depraved sinful nature being  put on display.

The second question is Am I in trouble?  If you and I are what’s wrong with the world because of sin and as we learned earlier we are created by God and are accountable to Him, then the obvious answer to the question of ‘are we in trouble’ is a resounding yes!  Sin is a violation of God’s law in act, attitude, or thought and all men have violated God’s law.  His law is the righteous standard by which He judges us and hold’s us accountable.  Romans 3:23 says that all of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.  What is the trouble that we’re in?  Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death….”  The wages of sin, i.e. what you and I have earned as a result of our sin, is death.  Not merely a physical death, but a spiritual death.  Cursed and cast into hell under the wrath of God.  Are we in trouble?  You better believe we are and it has eternal consequences.

Christ

Here we ask, Did God provide a solution to the problem?  In other words, How can what is wrong with the world be made right?  We read of how God did this in that familiar passage from John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  In short, God provided the solution to the question, that only He could answer, in the person of His Son Jesus Christ.  Could the solution have simply been to destroy everyone and everything and start over?  Yes, but while this would have put the justice of God on display, it would not have put the full character of God on display.  What of His mercy?  His love?  His grace?  You may say, well what about the flood?  God destroyed everything except Noah, his family, and the animals on the ark.  Yes and while this certainly put His mercy on display  for them, justice was not fully satisfied because the sins of Noah and his family had not been punished, as well those sins “passed over” before and after (Romans 3:25).  The only way to make what is wrong with the world right, the only way that God could declare that He is a God that forgives “iniquity and transgression and sin” while “ by no means clear[ing] the guilty” was through the penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross.  The Apostle Paul wonderfully summarizes this in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.  3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”  

God’s standard of perfect obedience to His law could only be met in the person of Jesus.  Through His perfectly obedient and sinless life Jesus fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law.  While God’s justice could only be satisfied through the death of Christ on the cross in the place of guilty sinners.  This allowed God to be both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:26 Which brings us to our final point.

Response

What makes this good news for you?  As we’ve learned, the Gospel is good news.  It’s good news because it saves from the bad news which says every single one of us are guilty sinners deserving of death, hell, and the wrath of God.  This good news is that God sent His Son Jesus Christ to live among a sinful, rebellious people, to take the punishment of all who have faith in Him, and to reconcile the relationship between the sinner and God through the redemption that is in Christ’s shed blood.  What can you do right now to share in this good news?  Ask God for mercy.  God has commanded that everyone repent, or turn from their sin, and place their faith in Jesus Christ.  Unbeliever, your response is to obey that command, crying out in godly repentance for your sin and then trusting that Christ alone can save you because of who He is and what He has done.  Repent and believe the Gospel.

Believers, the good news of the Gospel didn’t end for you upon your salvation, even though you’re justification was complete.  The good news for you began there.  Because of the Gospel, God calls you to obedience also through worship, holiness, and a life given to your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  The Gospel isn’t a one shot deal, it’s a lifetime of understanding and a daily reflection on the facts that God made you and you are accountable to Him, that you are what’s wrong with the world, but in spite of that God sent His Son Jesus to live, die, and be raised again so that what is wrong could be made right for the one who repents and believes.  Keep repenting and believing the Gospel.

 

Sermon of the Week: 10/12/11 – The Essence of the Gospel

I’ve haven’t been able to post yet this week, but I’m working on a few new articles and have some others in the works.  Until then, this week’s sermon is from Dr. Joel Beeke, “The Essence of the Gospel”.  Dr. Beeke is professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary as well as pastor of Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation, Grand Rapids, MI

2002.03.03.E The Essence of the Gospel – Dr. Joel Beeke – 330221270

The Sinners Conversion: The Gospel Call

In the last post, we briefly examined God’s sovereignty in salvation.  This is quite a difficult subject, one that deserves more attention and space than I was able to devote in that post, but at the end of the day when we’ve searched the Scriptures for ourselves whether it’s something we like or hate, we must ask is it what God’s Word reveals?  As we examined, Scripture is not silent on this, but I want to make two statements regarding that post before we move into todays.  First, God’s plan of redemption is simply that, His plan (Ephesians 1:3-14).  This isn’t something that’s revealed outside of Scripture and it’s not man’s attempt to know the mind of God.  It is what the Bible teaches us about God’s character so that we may know Him, fear Him, and love Him.  Secondly, as men with finite minds we can know neither those who are chosen, nor those who are not.  That knowledge is reserved for God and God alone.  As we read in Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”  Since it’s not for us to know, we cannot walk through life pretending that we know who the elect of God are nor can we lazily and disobediently say it’s God’s Gospel, let Him take it where He will and do what He wants.  No doubt those who are saved have been saved by God’s gracious and merciful hand and those who are unbelievers, are so until the Holy Spirit draws them.  But as we’ll see today, this is why evangelism and preaching the Gospel is so important, so vital to the lost.  While, yes, this series is a look at how God is working His plan, we must similarly look at man’s involvement.  What role, if any, do we play?  If it is God’s sovereign choice, do we have any responsibility either in working the plan or responding to it?  That will be our focus for today.

Initially at the end of yesterday’s post, I mentioned we would be moving to part 2 of this series, Regeneration, but I mistakenly left out this post on the Gospel Call.  Before we look at the work of the Holy Spirit in our Ezekiel passage, we must ask what the Bible, specifically the New Testament, teaches on how God involves man in His plan of redemption. 

In Romans 10:13-14 we read:

13 For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ 14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” 

In this passage from the Apostle Paul we see that 1) It is necessary for the sinner to “call on the name of the Lord” for salvation, which we’ll define later and 2) Preaching is the necessary instrument which God has chosen for man to reveal His Son to other men.  Remember above that I stressed the importance of evangelism and preaching?  This is one reason why.  Paul, who is right in the middle of his doctrinal statement on the sovereignty of God in salvation, as we read in Romans chapter 9, strongly emphasizes here that it is absolutely necessary that everyone hear the Word of God preached in order to be saved.  Think about what that says about missionary work, think of the responsibility that places on each one of us to share the Gospel with not only strangers, but co-workers, friends, and family.  “And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” 

Some might be asking, if God has already “chosen” then why this silliness of preaching?  Why not just save or damn everyone and get it over with?  The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:21 NKJV, “it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”  It pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.  Why?  Because it gives God great pleasure and glorifies Him when He sees His creation preaching and teaching His Gospel message.  For God’s good pleasure and for His glory is why there have been martyrs for the Gospel throughout history.  It’s why prophets like Jeremiah were thrown in a pit and others like John the Baptist were beheaded.  It’s why, as we learned in Justin’s post Ashamed of the Gospel, that of the apostles only John was not martyred, yet he was boiled alive and exiled to the island of Patmos.  It was for the preaching of the Gospel that the Apostle Paul himself, who as we’ve read embraced and taught the sovereignty of God in salvation, faced “imprisonments…countless beatings…often near death…five times [he] received…forty lashes less one…three times beaten with rods…once stoned…three times shipwrecked.”  Facing dangers from “rivers, robbers, [his] own people, Gentiles” danger in the “city, wilderness, sea, from false brothers, in toil and hardship, through many sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”  2 Corinthians 11:23-28 Why did he go through all of this?  In his own words, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” 2 Timothy 2:10 Paul realized it was God’s plan.  He neither knew who the elect were nor cared, but preached the Gospel indiscriminately to all and we should do the same.

Do you think any of these men doubted God’s sovereignty?  Do you think that any of them thought, ‘hey this is your plan God, why don’t you just save them all?’  No dear friends, they willingly suffered and died (and many still do today!) for the Gospel so that their Lord might be pleased and glorified to see His creation take His plan to the ends of the earth.  The folly of preaching you say?  For the glory of God I answer.   

When faithful men stand up and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is known as the general Gospel call.  We can see the delineation between this Gospel call and the chosen of God at the conclusion of the Wedding Feast parable in Matthew 22:14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”  Through God’s common grace and love for His creation, that Gospel call has gone out to the entire world.  Similarly, in Matthew 13:47-50 we read of this same call in Jesus’ Parable of the Net.

47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The net here is the Gospel.  It’s cast out into the sea which is the world.  So we have the Gospel, by way of the preacher (some would argue its implied in this passage), being spread like a net into the whole world.  In verse 48 Jesus says, “when it was full” meaning at the close of this age (vs. 49) at a time when the Gospel is no longer going out, it’s net is drawn back in and all that’s been caught in the net will be sorted, the good from bad, the righteous from the evil.  Dear friends, this is the Gospel.  It goes out, yet not everyone who has been exposed to it, who is caught in its net, is saved.  Those who aren’t saved are thrown into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  The call goes out to all, but few are saved.  How is it that one person hears and believes and the person next to them hears and doesn’t believe?  Is it because one is better or smarter or more theologically adept than the other?

In Romans 10:17 we read, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”  So we can conclude from our earlier passages and here that faith is necessary for the sinner to believe in Christ and faith is something that comes through hearing the Word of God preached, also known as the ‘external call’ or ‘general gospel call’.  If, as we concluded, faith comes by hearing the Word preached, then obviously it comes from an external source and is somehow applied internally to the heart.  Yet two people hear the same message, the net is cast to both, still one believes and one doesn’t.  There must be some additional action taking place that resolves this issue. 

Our focus so far has been on man’s responsibility to proclaim the Gospel and we’ll continue to focus on man’s response in this series, but we must pause to look at how God’s sovereign plan is connected to man, via the Gospel.  In John 1:12-13, we get a look at both the responsibility of man and the sovereignty of God.   “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  Again, faith, or believing, is required, which as we just read comes from hearing the Word.  But notice in verse 13 that those who believe are not those born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but are born of God.  Remember in John 3, a passage familiar to us from the post The Sinner’s Prayer, Jesus is speaking to Nicodemas in the context of being born again by the Holy Spirit.  He likens this rebirth of the Spirit to the wind, it “blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.” John 3:8  Faith is necessary and being born of the Spirit is necessary, but which comes first?  Does faith trigger rebirth or does being born again instill faith?  This is where we will pick this series up next, if the Lord so wills, with The Sinner’s Conversion: Regeneration.