WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?
By Wayne Camp
INTRODUCTION TO PART III
In the first of this three part series on the question, "What Is the Gospel?" I pointed out that the gospel is much more than a simple declaration that Christ died, was buried and rose again. Last time we saw some of the names by which the gospel is called in Scripture. This reveals that the gospel is much more than the simple declaration some make it.
In this part of the message, I wish to set forth an explanation of the gospel as set forth in Paul's first epistle to the Corinthian church.
THE EXPLANATION OF THE GOSPEL
In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul explains the gospel. He says that it is "HOW that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (I Cor. 15:3-4).
The gospel is not the mere preaching of three simple facts, as glorious as they are. It includes HOW these things occurred according to the Scriptures. It is the good news that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried and rose again according to the Scriptures. To explain the gospel, we must therefore see what is revealed in Scripture about his death, his burial, and his resurrection.
HOW CHRIST DIED
We must now inquire as to what the Scriptures reveal as to the HOW of Christ's death.
According to the Scriptures Christ died a death that was foreordained before the foundation of the world. He was "delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). When they gathered together and crucified Christ they were there "For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done" (Acts 4:2728). When Christ died he shed the blood of the Lamb of God "who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world" (I Pet. 1:18-20).
He is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). His death was a part of that "hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world for our glory" (I Cor. 2:7). When we preach the gospel let us proclaim the good news that our salvation was no after-thought with God but was planned in the counsel halls of eternity before the foundation of the world! That is good news and gospel truth!
According to the Scriptures Christ died for a specific people. He was sent to "save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). He came to "give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him" (Jn. 17:2). He declared, "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep" (Jn. 10:11). Again he said, "I lay down my life for the sheep" (Jn. 10:15). To some he said, "Ye are not of my sheep," yet he only laid down his life for the Sheep (Jn. 10:26). Jesus Christ paid a price that was of such infinite worth and value he could purchase the field, but it was the joy of the treasure of his elect that led him to the cross (Matt. 13:44). The limit of the atonement is not in its worth or value, it is in its purpose. In his high priestly, mediatorial prayer Christ prayed only for the welfare of those whom the Father had given him. "I pray not for the world; but for them which thou hast given me" (Jn. 17:9). He prayed for those who had already come to him and for all "which shall believe"' (Jn. 17:20). As to eternal glorification he prayed only "that they also, whom thou hast. given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory" (Jn. 17:24). In this mediatorial, high-priestly prayer of Jesus he did not pray that every last person in the human race be with him in glory. Rather, he prayed only that those given to him be with him where he is. Did Christ die for some for whom he would not pray? "I pray not for the world; but for them which thou hast given me" (Jn. 17:9).
Dr. J. R. Graves wrote, "Christ took hold of a special class, and a definite number, known by the Father, to succor and to save, and whom he calls the 'Seed of Abraham;' 'His Seed;' 'His Sheep;' 'The lost sheep of the house of Israel.' To save none others was he especially sent into the world. 'I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel' (Matt. 15:24)."
Dr. Alvah Hovey wrote, "It is plain that God purposed from the first to save certain persons of our race; that these persons were given to Christ, in a special sense to be his flock, and that he had particularly in view their actual salvation when he laid down his life."
In commenting upon John 10:11, 15, 26-28, another great Baptist, Dr. J. P. Boyce, wrote,
The sheep here are those to whom he will give eternal life.
They are those for whom he lays down his life.
They are not all because he tells those who are rejecting him that they are not his sheep.
The whole language used implies that the salvation of the sheep alone is the object for which his life is laid down."
These three Bible scholars held and the Scriptures clearly reveal that Christ laid hold of a specific people when he shed the blood of the everlasting covenant. He did not lay hold of the fallen angels. Nor did he lay hold of all the fallen seed of Adam. Rather, "He took on him the seed of Abraham" (Heb. 2:16).
According to the Scriptures Christ died for totally depraved sinners. He "died for our sins according to the Scripture" (I Cor. 15:3). These for whom Christ died were helpless and ungodly just as others who never come to Christ. "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly" (Rom. 5:6). While we were yet in our sins, walking according to the course of this world, and by nature the children of wrath, God commended his love toward us by having his own begotten and beloved Son endure the gory ordeal of the death of the cross so that "we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (Rom. 5:8; Eph. 2:1-3; 11 Cor. 5:19).
According to the Scriptures Christ died a voluntary death. There were not enough demons in hell and reprobates on earth to take the life of our Lord. He came "to give his life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28). Jesus said, "I lay down my life, that I might take it up again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself" (Jn. 10:17-18). When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, Pilate asked him, "Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given to you from above" (Jn. 19:10-11).
According to the Scriptures Christ died for a called people. "I lay down my life for the sheep . . . other sheep I have . . . them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice . . . my sheep hear my voice" (Jn. 10:15, 16, 27). To those who are called Christ is the power and wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
According to the Scriptures Christ died for a people who will be saved and eternally preserved. They will be preserved because he gives them eternal, unending, spiritual life. They can never perish and no one is able to pluck them out of the hands of the Son and the Father (Jn. 10:27-29). They will be preserved because they are his people and he has saved them from all their sinspast, present, and future (Matt. 1:21). They will be preserved because Jesus has obtained eternal redemption for them and has sanctified them "once for all," and has perfected them forever (Heb. 9:12; 10:10, 14). They will be preserved because he will never cast them out or down, but will save them to the uttermost and one day present them faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy (Jn. 6:37; Psa. 37:24; Heb. 7:26; Jude 24). They are preserved forever because God has made an unchangeable, unconditional covenant with Christ that his seed will endure forever (Psa. 89:27-36).
According to the Scriptures Jesus died a God-pleasing and God-satisfying death. "It pleased the Lord to bruise him . . ." and "the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand" (Isa. 53:10). When God beheld his Son suspended on the cross that he had determined for him, he saw "his seed," he saw "the travail of his soul," and he was "satisfied" (Isa. 53:10-11).
We can safely declare that everything the Scriptures have to say about the death of Christ is a part of the gospel. The gospel is not the fact that he died only, but it includes everything that is revealed in God's word about the manner and accomplishments of his death. It involves all that is revealed in "how Christ died according to the Scriptures."HOW CHRIST WAS BURIED
Again it should be emphasized that the gospel is not a mere statement of three facts. Paul explains this aspect of the gospel, the burial of Jesus Christ, as the burial of Christ "according to the Scriptures." The burial was set forth in some detail in God's Word.
According to the Scriptures he made his grave with the wicked and the rich in his death. Isaiah prophesied, "And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth" (Isa. 53:7). He died between two thieves but had done no sin. A rich man named Joseph, who was of Arimathaea and had become a disciple of the Lord, begged the body of Jesus and "wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock" (Matt. 27:57-60).
According to the Scriptures the tomb of Jesus was closed with a great stone. When Joseph had carefully laid the body of our Lord in the grave that he had hewn out of the rock he then closed the tomb by rolling a great stone across the entrance. This was the first step in a series of events that would enhance the credibility of those who would later declare Christ's resurrection (Matt. 27:60).
According to the Scriptures the tomb of Jesus was sealed with an official Roman seal and a guard was set. The chief priests and Pharisees were afraid that the disciples would steal the body of Christ and claim that he had risen. They thought to assure that such could not be told. Matthew 27:62-66 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, 63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. 64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. 65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. 66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.
One is amazed at how the wicked acts of unbelieving men are used to authenticate and enhance the good news of the gospel. It is good news that such precautions were taken by our Lord's enemies for it gives us the blessed assurance that Jesus did truly rise from the dead and that according to the Scriptures.
According to the Scriptures Christ would be in the grave three days and three nights. The three days and three nights that Jonah was in the belly of the whale compose a prophetic picture of Christ's time in his burial place. Jesus often spoke of the fact that he would "be killed, and after three days rise again" (Matt. 8:31). Of his time in the grave he declared: "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matt. 12:42).
HOW CHRIST ROSE AGAIN THE THIRD DAY
It has already been shown that Christ had declared his resurrection would take place on the third day after three days and three nights had elapsed. His resurrection was set forth in the Old Testament in a number of ways.
According to the Scriptures Christ must rise from the dead. The Psalmist gave this assurance in the gospel as he declared it in joyous song, "Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption" (Psa. 16:9-10). He who did no sin must not see his body corrupted in the grave so "God hath raised" him "up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it" (Acts 2:24). Death had no rightful claim on Christ. It was therefore necessary that his sinlessness be established by his escaping the usual corruption that follows death.
According to the Scriptures Jesus must be highly exalted after his death. There is no way that this exaltation could or would take place unless he did arise according to the Scriptures. "Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong: because he hath poured out his soul unto death" (Isa. 53:12). After his death and resurrection Christ "was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God" (Mk. 16:19). When the leaders of Israel called him before the council Christ declared, "Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God" (Luke 22:69). On Pentecost Peter preached, "Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, who ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36).
Much more could be said about the scriptural "how" of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ but enough has been given to prove that the gospel consists of much, much more than the declaration that he died, was buried and rose again the third day. This is much too lean to be the rich gospel of Christ that is set forth in the holy record.
SOME DECLARATIONS CONCERNING THE GOSPEL
There are a number of things that have already been touched upon of which I would remind our readers before concluding this study. The gospel that we have discussed is the gospel by which men are saved (I Cor. 15:1-4). It is the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).
The gospel that is to be preached into the entire world is the eternal, everlasting, unchangeable good news of the way of salvation. It is as unchangeable as the Lord himself is unchangeable (Heb. 13:8). It is the gospel that has been preached to and by both Jew and Gentilethe gospel of the circumcision and the uncircumcision (Gal. 2:7).
The gospel that we here declare and defend is the gospel that was preached by all the prophets for the remission of sins (Acts 10:43). It is the gospel which was preached to and believed by Abraham (Gal. 3:8). It is the everlasting gospel. "But the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you" (I Pet. 1:25). It is the everlasting gospel which the angel will declare at a season yet to come (Rev. 14:6).
The gospel which we are to preach is the glorious gospel of Christ which Satan would like to destroy by perverting it and by blinding men's hearts to it (II Cor. 4:4); Gal. 1:6-9). It is the gospel which was ordained before the world for our glory (I Cor. 2:7).
One may not know all that there is to know about the gospel when he lays hold of Christ through God-given faith. Only eternity will reveal the fullness and true extent of the exceeding riches of God's grace. Eph. 2:7. But let me say to any unsaved reading this,
If you are feeling unworthy of salvation I have good news: God has chosen an innumerable multitude of unworthy sinners to be the objects of his saving grace.
If you are seeing the deadness of your sinful nature I have good news for you: God can quicken and regenerate all whom he will even though they are dead in sin. Eph. 2:1-3; Jn. 5:21.
If you are seeing the bondage of sin in which you are enslaved I have good news: Christ has redeemed by his blood every one who will ever come to him.
If you are feeling the guilt and fearing the penalty of sin I have good news: God justifies the ungodly who believe on Jesus Christ.
If you feel your enmity against God will cast you into hell, I have good news: Come to Christ for God was in Christ reconciling a world unto himself.
If you feel your unrighteousness will exclude you from God's presence I have good news: Believe on Christ and you will be made the righteousness of God in him.
If you fear that you cannot be enough like Christ to be accepted by the Father I have good news: God has made an innumerable multitude accepted in the beloved and has predestinated them to be conformed to the image of his Son.
If you fear that you cannot be a son of God I have good news for or you: God has predestinated a great number to the adoption of sons and if you will come to Christ, God will send forth the Spirit of adoption into your heart causing you to cry "Abba Father."
If you see your inability to come to Christ, I have good news for you: When Christ calls one of his lost sheep they hear his voice and since they have been given to him they will be drawn to him by the Father.
You fear that you cannot live for Christ after salvation, I have good news for you: God will work in you both to will and to do his good pleasure and, will cause you to persevere and he will sanctify you.
You fear that you might fall away and be lost again, I have good news for you: If you do fall you will not be utterly cast down for the Lord will uphold you with his hand.
You fear that you may not repent enough, I have good news for you: When God grants you repentance it will be sufficient.
You fear you may not have enough faith, I have good news for you: "When God gives you faith he will give you all that is needed to lay hold of Jesus Christ and receive everlasting life.
You fear that after you are saved you will sin, I have good news for you: We have an advocate with the Father who ever lives to make intercession for his people. He has saved his people from their sins and his blood cleanses from all unrighteousness.
That is the gospel! That is the good news! That is good tidings of great joy! I pray that God may open your heart so that you can gladly receive it. I pray that he may grant you repentance and faith so that you may repent and believe the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth!
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Friday, March 04, 2011