The gospel is a boundless ocean. It is without shores and its depths cannot be fathomed. This is so because we are talking about the good news which centers on the infinite God. The redeemed in glory will spend all eternity wondering in astonishment at the profundity of sin and magnificent grace and love of God demonstrated in the gospel. We will ever be worshiping and learning of the inexhaustible gospel of the glory of Christ.
The gospel. It is the good news that God saves repentant sinners through faith in Jesus Christ. The gospel is proclaimed. The message is- repent and believe. These are the very words that Jesus preached early in his ministry. “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel’” (Mk. 1:14-15). We need to look more closely at faith and repentance.
Salvation is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a trusting in him alone for deliverance from the penalty of sin and the wrath of God. Notice that it is in Christ alone. We have nothing to offer. Our works are insufficient, not to mention, contaminated by sin and polluted throughout. It is by faith period. This is important to know and understand at the onset. If a mistake is made here the consequences are eternal and catastrophic. “Faith is the soul of Christianity; whoever is in error here, errs unto his eternal damnation.”1
“Whoever believes in him [Jesus] may have eternal life” (Jn. 3:15). “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (Jn. 3:36). “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
Saving faith begins with God’s word
If faith is a believing in and a trusting of the Lord Jesus, then the gospel must be heard or read. The gospel, of course, is found in the Bible. John Bunyan began his magisterial work The Pilgrim’s Progress with his character deep in the study of the God’s word. He wrote,
I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back... I looked, and saw him open the book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled; and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry, saying, ‘What shall I do?’2
The word of God is the beginning of faith. It is the river of delights which feeds the fountain of life from which we drink and live (Ps. 36:8). Paul wrote to the Romans,
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? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Rom. 10:14-17).
Observe the emphasis placed on hearing and preaching the word of Christ. Faith comes from hearing God’s words. In the Old Testament there is a striking example of this. The young Samuel is serving the Lord under Eli. Yet, Samuel did not know God. “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him” (1 Sam. 3:7). He did not know God because he did not hear the words of the Lord. The same must happen today; we must hear the word of God in order to have faith in Christ of whom they testify.
“Saving faith,” wrote Thomas Boston, “which unites to Christ, is the faith of the gospel.” He went on to say,
That is the word which gives the sinner the only notice of a Saviour, of the atoning blood, and the new covenant in that blood. And hence it is that it is the only word by which saving faith is begotten in the hearts of lost sinners... In this word of the gospel the Lord Jesus, with all his benefits and covenants, is to be believed on and embraced by faith... And the word of the gospel being received by believing, we have Christ and his covenant, with all the benefits of it; faith being indeed the echo of the quickened soul to the word of grace that bringeth salvation... a trusting of the word of the gospel, the person, viz. the Saviour, and the thing therein held forth to us to be believed on for salvation.3
1Wilhelmus a’ Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books,
2John Bunyan, “The Pilgrim’s Progress” in The Works of John Bunyan, 3 vols. (Banner of Truth, 1999), 3:89.
3Thomas Boston, “Of The Covenant Of Grace” in The Complete Works of Thomas Boston, 12 vols. (Tentmaker,