WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?
By Wayne Camp
INTRODUCTION TO PART II
In the last issue I pointed out that the gospel is much more than a simple statement of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I recall hearing a person witnessing to a lost person 25 or more years ago. He asked the lost person, "Do you believe that Jesus died, was buried and arose again?" When the person responded in the affirmative, the Preacher said, "Then you must be saved. Amen! You are saved! You have prayed the sinner's prayer; you believe the gospel; you are saved." He then spent several minutes trying to convince the person that she was save. Finally, he said, "I am convinced you are saved. Whether you believe it or not you are saved!"
First, let me assure you that is not what Paul had in mind in 1 Cor. 15:1-4. He declared that the gospel involves how Christ died "according to the Scriptures." The same is true of his resurrection. The Scriptures contain a good deal more about the death of Christ than the unadorned fact that he died. And, the Bible contains a good deal more about the resurrection than the plain fact that he rose again.
When we ran out of space last month, we were considering the names by which the gospel is called in Scripture and what the gospel is. We will now consider some other names and aspects of the gospel.
THE GOSPEL OF GOD'S GRACE
Paul declared that the ministry which he had received of the Lord Jesus was "to testify the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 26:24). A study of Paul's ministry and his proclamations will show that he was a great expounder on the grace of God. The first eleven chapters of his epistle to the Romans are given to an exposition of justification by grace. The first three chapters of Ephesians set forth the doctrines of grace. Paul fulfilled the ministry that God gave to him "to testify the gospel of the grace of God."
THE NEED OF GRACE
Paul's testimony of the gospel of the grace of God included establishing the fact that man's only hope of salvation lay in the sovereign grace of God. He declared that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of man" (Rom. 1:18). He also declared that "there is none righteous . . . for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:10-23). Paul charged men with being guilty of all kinds of evil (Rom. 1:18-32; 3:9-23).
Paul, in the testimony of gospel of grace, not only declared man to the sinful but also argued that man, in an unregenerate state, was incapable of coming to Jesus Christ. The natural man is without strength (Rom. 5:6). "The carnal (natural) mind is enmity against. God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God "(Rom. 8:7-8). Paul's preaching of grace showed that grace was needed because men are "dead in trespasses and sins." They "walk according to the course of this world and are children of disobedience." By nature all are "the children of wrath" (Eph. 2:1-3).
In all of his preaching and writing Paul sought to stop every mouth and make everyone see his guilt before God. When accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit, he sought to shut man up to only one avenue of hopethe sovereign, effectual, saving grace of God. No testimony of the gospel of grace would be complete if the need of grace is not established. "They that be whole need not a physician but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous (self-righteous as were the Pharisees), but sinners to repentance," declared Jesus (Matt. 9:11-13).
THE ELECTION OF GRACE
When Paul had fully established the sinfulness of man and his need of grace his testimony of the gospel of grace would also include the good news that there is an election unto salvation that is of grace. Even though all men deserve to go to hell, and none have any claim whatever upon God, Paul would declare that even among the Christ-rejecting nation of Israel "there is a remnant According to the election of grace" (Rom. 11:5).
Paul wrote of this election unto salvation in his letter to the Thessalonians. He said: "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning CHOSEN YOU TO SALVATION through the sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (II Thes. 2:13). Paul blessed and praised God in his epistle to that congregation at Ephesus and declared that "He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world . . . having predestinated us unto the adoption of children" (Eph. 1:4-5). When Paul preached at Antioch in Pisidia and the Gentiles heard him declare that God would visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name "they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48).
Jesus proclaimed the election that is of grace and the gospel of grace before large congregations of lost people. He did not try to hide the elective grace of God. To a large crowd of more than 5000 he declared, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me . . . and this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day" (Jn. 6:37-39). On another occasion Jesus was speaking to a congregation of people among whom were lost folk. He had said to some of them: "Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep" (Jn. 10:26). He then proceeded to say unto them: "My sheep hear my voice" (Jn. 10:27).
There are those among us who rebuke us for preaching the doctrine of election to the lost but it is one aspect of the gospel of grace and should be preached. He who would condemn us for preaching elective grace when the lost are present must also condemn the preaching of Jesus and the apostles for they never whispered the gospel of grace in a sanctified corner.
THE EFFECTUAL CALL OF GRACE
Another aspect of the testimony of the grace of God has to do with the calling of the elect out of their sins unto the salvation to which they have been chosen. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice" (Jn. 10:27). He said again, "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring and they shall hear my voice" (Jn. 10:16). He also alluded to this effectual call when he said, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me" but "no man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (Jn. 6:44). In an explanation and reference to, this statement in verse 44 Jesus later said, "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life . . . Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father" (Jn. 6:63, 65).
The success and effectiveness of God's purpose of grace rests in his ability to call those whom he has chosen in such a manner as to assure their coming to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith. "The purpose of God according to election" stands "not of works, but of his that calleth" (Rom. 9:11). All the glory for our coming to Christ belongs to God for he "hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (II Tim. 1:9). The good news is that this gracious calling of God is always successful. "Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:29).
The good news of the gracious, effectual call which is extended to every one of God's elect is certain to be included when we "testify the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24). Our salvation and the calling thereunto is certainly "according to" God's "own purpose and GRACE which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (II Tim. 1:9).
PREDESTINATION TO ADOPTION OF GRACE
"Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace" (Eph. 1:5-6).
From this verse it is very obvious that to "testify of the gospel of the grace of God" must include the good news that God has predestinated those whom he has chosen unto the adoption of sons.
This predestination unto adoption as sons is as much a part of the gospel of God's grace as is the redemption that was accomplished by Christ. Christ came at God's appointed time "to redeem them that were under the law that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Gal. 4:5). Try as one may, the good news that God has predestinated an innumerable multitude unto the adoption of sons cannot be separated from "the, gospel of God's grace" of which Paul boldly testified before both saint and sinner.
REDEMPTION AND FORGIVENESS OF SINS IS OF GRACE
As Paul unfolds his testimony of the grace of God he mentions several different aspects of our graciously wrought salvation. In addition to the election unto salvation and predestination unto Sonship being part of God's good news of grace, Paul also declares that in Christ "we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his GRACE" (Eph. 1:7). When one tells us to leave off "the five points" and just preach the gospel, he is suggesting that the atonement that Christ accomplished on the cross is not a part of the gospel. Redemption by the blood of Christ and the resulting forgiveness of sins is included in what Christ accomplished by his atoning suffering and death. If one leaves out the atonement, as one has suggested, then he must not preach redemption by blood and the forgiveness of sins which is "according to the riches of his grace." A full exposition of the gospel of grace must include the glorious and good news that by his atoning death Christ has redeemed us by his blood and has "saved his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21).
When we gather at the feet of our blessed Saviour and join with all the saints of all the ages, we will sing of the atoning work of Christ saying, "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by they blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Rev. 5:9). Don't ask me to leave out of my preaching here that which will be the theme song of glory. If I "testify the gospel of the grace of God" I will testify of the accomplishments of his atoning death.
JUSTIFICATION BY GRACE
Paul wrote of our "being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24). From this verse it is clear that justification is included in the "gospel of the grace of God." Again it is seen that the gospel includes more than the three blessed facts that Christ died, was buried, and rose again. These are wonderful facts to be included in our declaration of the gospel but they are not the sum and total of the gospel of God's grace.
If one preaches the justifying grace of God as an aspect of the gospel he would surely inquire as to the identity of those who are the objects of justification. They are, according to Paul, the same folk who are the objects of God's electing love and predestinating grace (Rom. 8:29). Those who are justified are the elect of God. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth" (Rom. 8:33). Those who advocate that we can preach the gospel without preaching of God's gracious justification of the elect are doing nothing less than asking us to take the penknife to the gospel of the grace of God. They advocate a perverted, watered-down gospel with much of its good news left out. I beg to be excused from the penknife practices of Jehoiakim (Jer. 36:20-32). May God give his preachers the grace to so preach that they can say with Paul, "I take you to record this day, that I an pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:26-27).
Every aspect of our salvation, from election in eternity to glorification at the second coming, is included in the gospel of God's grace. Let us boldly proclaim it and ignore the proclamations of the penknife advocators who speak according to the spirit of Jehoiakim.
THE GOSPEL OF GOD
The gospel is also set forth in Scripture as "the gospel of' God." Paul said, "We were bold to speak unto you the gospel of God" (I Thes. 2:2). Again he wrote, "So being effectually desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us" (I Thes. 2:8).
When the gospel is called "the gospel of the grace of God" one is showing the motivating cause behind the gospelgrace. When Paul speaks of the gospel as "the gospel of God" he is seeking to magnify the all-sufficient source of the gospelGod. Every aspect of our salvation, and the good news about it has its origin in God.
God is the one who has chosen unto salvation the ones who are being saved. To the Thessalonians Paul wrote, "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God" (I Thes. 4:4). In his second letter to them he again makes reference to the source of the gospel of salvation. "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through the sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth; whereunto he [God] called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (II Thes. 2:13-14). Thus, both our "calling and election" (II Pet. 1:11) are seen to have their fountainhead in God. Those are two of the reasons the gospel is called "the gospel of God." The elect are "the called" of God (Rom. 8:28).
Predestination to be conformed to the image of Christ, justification, and glorification all have their source in God and are included in the gospel of God (Rom. 8:29-30). It is God who has predestinated us. It is God who justifies (Rom. 8:33). It is God who has already glorified us in his own mind and purpose. It is God who "hath set forth" Christ "to be a propitiation through faith in his blood" (Rom. 3:25). All those manifold blessings are sounded forth in the message of the man who faithfully proclaims the gospel of God.
THE GOSPEL OF PEACE
Man by nature is alienated from God and is at enmity with him. "The carnal mind is enmity against God" (Rom. 8:7). "The way of peace have they not known" (Rom. 3:17).
Out of these alienated men and women God has chosen a great number whom he would reconcile unto himself. When we preach to these people about their enmity and about their reconciliation to God, the gospel we preach becomes the "gospel of peace." "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things." One aspect of the atoning work of Jesus Christ is the reconciliation that God accomplished when Christ made atonement for his people. It is "the gospel of peace" that brings the good news to sinners "that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them" (II Cor. 5:19). If we abandon the "five points" we cannot preach on the atonement and the peace and reconciliation therein accomplished. In short, abandon the atonement and you must abandon the gospel of peace.
THE GOSPEL OF SALVATION
The gospel is called, in some places, "the gospel of salvation." In that chapter in Ephesians that so clearly sets forth election, etc., Paul writes, "Ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation" (Eph. 1:13). Here Paul advocates that the "Word of truth" and "the gospel of your salvation" are the same. Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth" (Jn. 17:17).
In previous paragraphs we have considered many different aspects of salvation. For the sake of space I want to list as many aspects of our salvation as possible without a discussion of each again. All have a place in the "gospel" or good news "of salvation."
Election unto salvation. Eph. 1:4; II Thes. 2:13.
Foreordination to eternal life. Acts 13:48.
Predestination to adoption as sons. Eph. 1:5; Rom. 8:29.
Justification by the Father. Rom. 8:33.
Imputation of Christ's righteousness saving from unrighteousness. Rom. 4:1-8.
Adoption as sons and legal heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Rom. 8:14-17; 11 Cor. 6:18; Gal. 4:5-6.
Redemption by the blood of Christ delivering from the bondage of sin. Rev. 5:9; Col. 1:14.
Reconciliation which saves from the enmity of sin and is accomplished by the atonement. Col. 1:20-22; 11 Cor. 5:19.
Propitiation which saves from the wrath of God. I Jn. 2:1-2; Rom. 3:25; Isa. 53:10-11.
Substitution which saves form the judgment on sin by Christ having endured it for us., I Pet. 3:18; Isa. 53:3-6.
The effectual call to salvation which saves from the inability and unwillingness of sin. Jn. 6:44; 63-65; Rom. 8:29-30; Psa. 110:3, 65:4; 1 Cor. 1:23-24.
Regeneration saving from the deadness of the old nature and making its objects fit for heaven. Eph. 2:1, Jn. 1:13.
The granting of repentance in regeneration saving from the natural impenitence of the sinner. Zech. 12:10; Acts 5:31; 11:18; Rom. 2-.4; 11 Cor. 7: 16.
The granting or giving of faith saving the sinner from unbelief and causing him to lay hold of Christ. I Cor. 13:3; Phil. 1:29.
Conversion which changes the outward life to manifest the inward work of regeneration. Jer. 31:18.
Sanctification which saves from identification with the world. Phil. 2:13; Jn. 17:17.
Perseverance saves from the domination and habitual practice of sin. Phil. 2:13; 1 Jn. 3:7-10.
Preservation saves from being cast off forever when we sin. Jn. 6:37; Jn. 10:27-30.
Glorification which saves us from the very presence of sin. Rom. 8:29-30; Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Cor. 15:51-57; Col. 3:1-4.
The "gospel of salvation" which we preach should include every Divine undertaking of the Trinity to secure the salvation of those people whom God gave to Christ. It should include everything from eternity past to eternity future. It should include everything from God's eternal purpose to lift undeserving sinners from the mire and corruption of their fallen condition to their being presented "faultless before the presence of his glory." This, is the gospel of salvation!
I am not suggesting that all these things must be included in every gospel message that we preach. I am suggesting they should not be excluded from any gospel message we preach under the notion that they are not part of the gospel.
THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL
"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel, to preach unto them that dwell on the earth and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (Rev. 14:6). For any who are tempted to declare that this is a different gospel than has been preached down through the ages, I remind you of the solemn words of Paul, "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach ANY OTHER GOSPEL unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed' (Gal. 1:8). Surely, the Holy Spirit would not have inspired Paul to write such words if, in fact, an angel would one day declare another gospel called "the everlasting gospel." It is the everlasting gospel because it is the good news of the eternal purpose of God in Christ which was purposed before the world for our glory (I Cor. 2:7). It is the gospel which was preached to Abraham and which was proclaimed by all the prophets (Acts 10:43)! It is the gospel that the angel declared to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds! It is the gospel, the gospel of the kingdom, the gospel of Christ, the gospel of God and grace! It is the gospel of peace and salvation! It is the everlasting gospel and will be the subject of the new song that we shall sing in glory!
(TO BE CONCLUDED NEXT TIME, THE LORD WILLING)
|Click here to return to index of The Grace Proclamator and Promulgator|
Friday, March 04, 2011