The Gospel (I)
THE GOSPEL - WHAT IT IS
(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 9/3/00 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Please turn to Romans chapter 1 if you would. I'd like to start with verse 8 and go through verse 17:
Romans 1: (8) First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of in all the world. (9) For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of His Son, how without ceasing I make mention of you (10) always at my prayers, beseeching if by any means now at length I shall be blessed by the will of God to come to you. (11) For I long to see you, that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, for the establishing of you; (12) and this is to be comforted together among you, through the faith in one another, both yours and mine. (13) But I do not wish you to be ignorant, brothers, that often I purposed to come to you, and was kept back until the present, that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among the other nations. (14) I am a debtor both to Greeks and to foreigners, both to wise, and to foolish, (15) so as far as [lies] in me, I am eager to preach the gospel to you in Rome also. (16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is [the] power of God to salvation to everyone believing, both to Jew first, and to Greek; (17) for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; even as it has been written, "But the just shall live by faith."
Today I'm going to be talking to you about the gospel. It's the most important subject in the whole world - the whole universe! This is the most important subject you will ever hear. I'll be showing you, the Lord willing, why it's so important. Everybody needs to pay very close attention to what I'm about to say. In fact, it's so important, that every sermon that's preached needs to talk about the gospel. Now each sermon doesn't need to have the gospel as its subject, but each and every sermon needs to define the gospel and to be preached in light of the gospel. Because if the gospel's not there, the preaching may mislead people. For example, if I preached on the way Christians should conduct themselves in this world, and I didn't preach it in light of the gospel, then it could be misinterpreted to mean that the works a Christian does somehow form at least some part of the ground of acceptance before God. So the gospel MUST be presented in every sermon.
Let's look at one Scripture passage that show how serious this issue is. Let's look at Mark 16:15-16:
Mark 16: (15) And He said to them, Going into all the world, preach the gospel to all the creation. (16) The [one] believing and being baptized will be saved. And the [one] not believing will be condemned.
I'm just going to focus on the negative part of that verse for now. "And the [one] not believing will be condemned," or as the King James puts it, "he that believeth not shall be damned." So what is it that those who will be damned don't believe? Verse 15 - the gospel. Now think about this. Those who do not believe the gospel will be damned in everlasting torment in hell. Now, from this passage, just how important is believing the gospel? It's a matter of eternal life or eternal death. That's how important it is. Now, if it's that important, we'd better know exactly what the gospel is, don't you think? Because if we don't know what it is, we can't believe it.
Okay, let's get into what exactly the gospel is. I read Romans 1 right at the beginning, and I'd like for us to read verses 16 and 17 again:
Romans 1: (16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is [the] power of God to salvation to everyone believing, both to Jew first, and to Greek; (17) for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; even as it has been written, "But the just shall live by faith."
So let's look closely at what the Holy Spirit is saying here. What is the gospel?
Well, first we see the gospel's effects. It's the POWER OF GOD TO SALVATION. Now what does that mean - the power of God to salvation? Does it mean that the words of the gospel have some mystical power, so when anybody hears the words or chants the words or thinks of the words, they become saved? Of course not. We see many times in the Bible where the gospel was preached and some of those who heard it remained unsaved. In fact, look at verse 16 again: it is the power of God to salvation to whom? EVERYONE BELIEVING. That's important. It's not the power of God to salvation to everyone who hears the gospel. It's the power of God to everyone who hears it AND BELIEVES IT. Now, before we go on, I'd like to ask this: Can anyone believe what they've never heard? Can anyone believe what they don't know about? Can anyone believe what they don't understand? No. The gospel, in order to be believed, must be proclaimed and understood.
Okay, let's get back to the power of God to salvation. This means that God has chosen to display His power to save His people through His gospel. There is NO SALVATION apart from the gospel. Don't believe ANYBODY who tells you that they or others remained ignorant of the gospel after they were saved . This is a DENIAL of the gospel as the power of God to salvation. The Lord willing, I'll talk about what it means to be ignorant of the gospel in a little while. But here, the Bible plainly puts forth, that SALVATION and THE GOSPEL are INSEPARABLY CONNECTED.
So what do we find in the gospel? Verse 17 gives us the answer: "for in it (THE GOSPEL) the righteousness of God is revealed." Now sometimes we tend to skip over the "for's." But the "for's" are very important in understanding the Bible. "FOR in it the righteousness of God is revealed." Whenever you see a "for" in this way, it is saying, "for this reason." And what is the "for" pointing to? Is it pointing to something that's about to be said or something that's already been said? Something that's already been said. So let's look back at verse 16. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is [the] power of God to salvation to everyone believing, both to Jew first, and to Greek;" Now this verse also has two "For's" in it. "FOR I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ." Look back at verse 15. Paul was eager to preach the gospel to those in Rome; he was not ashamed of the gospel. The second "for" is this: "FOR it is the power of God to salvation to everyone believing." Why is Paul not ashamed of the gospel? Because it is the power of God to salvation! Why should anyone be ashamed of the very thing God uses to save His people? Now let's look at the "for" in verse 17. Why is the gospel the power of God to salvation? Because in the gospel the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD is revealed!
Now, if the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel, and those who do not believe the gospel are lost, then we'd better know what the righteousness of God is. Because if we don't know what the righteousness of God is, we don't know the gospel. Let's look at Romans 10:3:
Romans 10: (3) For being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to the righteousness of God.
Do you see that? Those who are ignorant of the righteousness of God - that is, those who don't know what the righteousness of God is - are seeking to establish their own righteousness and do not submit to the righteousness of God! They're lost! So this RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD is the key element of the gospel! If there's no knowledge of the righteousness of God, there's no belief of the gospel. If there's no belief of the gospel, there's no salvation. That's serious stuff here, isn't it? We'd better know what the righteousness of God is, or else we're lost!
Thank God that He has not left us in the dark as to what the righteousness of God is. God clearly reveals it in His Word. Even as Paul by inspiration of the Holy Spirit introduces the gospel in chapter 1 of Romans as the revelation of the righteousness of God, he goes on to tell us what the righteousness of God is. Let's turn to Romans 3, and we'll start reading with verse 9:
Romans 3: (9) What then? Do we excel? Not at all! For we have charged both Jews and Greeks before, all [with] being under sin; (10) according as it has been written, "[There is] not a righteous [one], not even one!" (11) "[There is] not [one] understanding; [there is] not [one] seeking God." (12) All turned away, [they] became worthless together, not [one is] doing goodness, not so much as one!" (13) "Their throat [is] a tomb being opened;" "they used deceit with their tongues; [the] poison of asps [is] under their lips; (14) whose mouth [is] full of cursing and bitterness. (15) Their feet [are] swift to shed blood; (16) ruin and misery [are] in their way; (17) and they did not know a way of peace; (18) there is no fear of God before their eyes." (19) But we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those within the Law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world be under judgment to God. (20) Because by works of Law not one of all flesh will be justified before Him, for through Law [is] full knowledge of sin. (21) But now a righteousness of God has been revealed apart from Law, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, (22) even the righteousness of God through faith of Jesus Christ toward all and upon all those believing; for there is no difference, (23) for all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (24) being justified freely by His grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus,
First, we see that every human being is unrighteous by nature; there is no difference between the pagan, immoral Gentiles and the religious, moral Jews. He had pointed this out in the previous chapters. He shows in verse 20 that righteousness does not even come from one's best efforts to keep the law. Then, in verses 21 and following, we see the righteousness of God revealed. In verse 21, we see that the righteousness of God is revealed apart from the law. This means that the righteousness of God has NOTHING TO DO with our law-keeping. It has NOTHING TO DO with our attempts at obedience and service.
So what does this righteousness have to do with? Well, let's read verses 22 through 26:
Romans 3: (22) even the righteousness of God through faith of Jesus Christ toward all and upon all those believing; for there is no difference, (23) for all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (24) being justified freely by His grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, (25) whom God set forth [as] a propitiation through faith in His blood, as a demonstration of His righteousness through the passing over of the sins that had taken place before, in the forbearance of God, (26) for a demonstration of His righteousness in the present time, for His being just and justifying the [one] that [is] of the faith of Jesus.
First, the righteousness of God is THROUGH the FAITH, or actually, the FAITHFULNESS, of Jesus Christ. The righteousness of God has to do with Christ's FAITHFULNESS. Faithfulness to do what? Verses 24 and 25 - "being JUSTIFIED freely by His grace through the REDEMPTION in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a PROPITIATION through faith in his blood." Jesus accomplished REDEMPTION, JUSTIFICATION, and PROPITIATION. And look at the next words in verse 25: "for a showing forth of His RIGHTEOUSNESS." We're on the right track here! Justification, Redemption, and Propitiation show forth the righteousness of God. I'd like to save JUSTIFICATION for last, because it is talked about further in verse 26.
Let's first talk about PROPITIATION. To propitiate means to appease or to pacify. Christ appeased or pacified God's wrath when the sins of His people were imputed to Jesus Christ, when Jesus Christ became sin for His people, and He incurred the judgment for that sin. There is no fellowship with God when there is sin. Why is that? It is because God is RIGHTEOUS. RIGHTEOUSNESS is the opposite of SIN. So in order for God to fellowship with sinners, the sin of those sinners MUST BE PUNISHED in a substitute who is a man who is totally without sin. The only one who qualifies for that is Jesus Christ. Christ took on the sins of His people, and God punished Christ for those sins, and God was pacified. God was at peace, not at war.
The next is REDEMPTION. To redeem means to pay the price for a possession so as to rescue or deliver that possession. Ransom is another word that is used. Christ's blood paid the price for His people's sins and bought them as his very own. What did His people do to make themselves into God's own possession? Absolutely nothing. It is CHRIST ALONE who paid the price. We had nothing to pay. Nothing that we ever did or were enabled to do would pay the price. It is only through the blood of Christ.
Now let's talk about JUSTIFICATION. Let's read verse 26. "For the showing forth of His righteousness in the present time" - there's the mention of the righteousness of God again. How does God show forth His righteousness? Let's read on: "for His being just and justifying the one that is of the faith of Jesus." Here he talks about JUSTIFICATION. But if you notice, he doesn't just talk about justification of His people. He talks about His own JUSTICE. God is a JUST God. This means that He is faithful to BLESS those who are righteous and CURSE those who are wicked. His justice demands that all who are not righteous MUST be punished. Now to JUSTIFY someone means to declare that the person is RIGHTEOUS, NOT GUILTY. But we read further up in chapter 3 that there's NO ONE who is righteous! We read that no one will be justified by his best efforts to keep the law! So how can it be true that God declares some to be RIGHTEOUS who have no RIGHTEOUSNESS in themselves? It can only be through the perfect righteousness of a substitute! And that substitute is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life. He obeyed the law perfectly for his entire life.
So how does God declare US to be righteous, when it is only Jesus Christ who lived a perfect life? The answer is in Chapter 4. Paul first shows that Abraham could not have been justified by his works. He says that justification is not by works; instead, God JUSTIFIES the UNGODLY. And how does God justify the ungodly? The Holy Spirit through Paul goes to the Psalms for the answer. Look at verses 6-8:
Romans 4: (6) Even as also David says of the blessedness of the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: (7) "Blessed [are those] whose lawlessnesses are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; (8) blessed [the] man to whom [the] Lord will in no way charge sin."
What does it mean that God COUNTS righteousness apart from works? It means that God justifies the ungodly based on a righteousness that is COUNTED to him. Another word for this is IMPUTED. It means LEGALLY CHARGED TO THE ACCOUNT OF. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and was perfectly obedient, even unto death. This righteousness of Christ is IMPUTED to, or COUNTED to, or CHARGED to God's people. Even though God's people are not righteous in their own character and conduct, they are COUNTED righteous because the righteousness of Christ is IMPUTED to them.
Let's look at Romans 10:4 for a minute. Remember when we read verse 3 to show that those who do not know about the righteousness of God are lost? The Holy Spirit then goes on to define what the righteousness of God IS in this verse:
Romans 10: (4) For Christ [is] the end of Law for righteousness to everyone that believes.
This means that righteousness does not come through our law-keeping but through the righteousness of Christ!
We can see how God remains JUST to JUSTIFY those who are not righteous in and of themselves. Look at Isaiah 45:21:
Isaiah 45: (21) Declare and bring near; yea, let them consult together. Who has revealed this of old; [who] has told it from then? Is it not I, Jehovah? And there [is] no God other than Me; a just God and a Savior; [there is] none except Me.
How is God both a JUST God AND a Savior? Because the sins of God's people were imputed to Christ, and Christ bore the punishment that our sins deserved, and because the righteousness of Christ is imputed to God's people, and God declares His people righteous. Two imputations - sin imputed to Christ, and righteousness imputed to God's people. As Paul said way back in Romans 1, the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel. The gospel means "good news." What is this good news that reveals the righteousness of God? It is the good news that God saves His people based on these two imputations! When the sins of God's people were imputed to Christ, Christ endured the wrath of God for those sins and paid the price in full. When the righteousness of Christ is imputed to His people, God declares His people not guilty. This is good news! This is the righteousness of God that is revealed in the gospel!
2 Corinthians 5:21 is a good summary of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel. Let's read it to close:
2 Corinthians 5: (21) For He (that's God the Father) made Him who knew no sin (that's Jesus Christ the perfectly righteous one) to be sin for us (that's our sin imputed to Him), that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (that's Christ's righteousness imputed to us).
Praise God for this good news of the gospel, wherein His righteousness is revealed. It is the power of God to salvation to everyone believing. Amen.