Friday, December 13, 2013

What Is the Gospel? Part 9

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,
2007), 2:307.

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,
2002), 1:362.

Friday, December 6, 2013

What Is The Gospel? Part 8

Jesus was buried

Not only did the sinless Son of God experience excruciating torment at the hands of sinful men, anguish both in body and soul, but he died. The humanity of the God Man expired; perished. Jesus died physically. This was the plan all along, to die in the place of his sheep. The wages of sin is death and Jesus received our payoff; he got our earnings.

This is fascinating for a number of reasons. Christ is God. The Son, the second Person in the Trinity, humbled himself, took on flesh, and died a horrendous death. He was tried and crucified as a criminal. Jesus, who obeyed the law perfectly, was found guilty. Who can fathom the infinite condescension of the Son? Oh, the humility; the shame and grief he endured. Who can know it? Also, after he died, Jesus was laid in a borrowed tomb. The King of all kings bled and died and then was placed in a hole. He was buried. This is what happens to men when they die. But, Jesus was different. He did not just die, he was sacrificed. He gave his life so sinners could live. His burial is likewise significant because it was a fulfillment of prophecy. It was all according to God’s sovereign plan.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve” (1 Cor. 15:3-5). “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit... And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own tomb, which he had cut in the rock” (Matt. 27:50, 59-60). “And they made his brave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth” (Is. 53:9).

Jesus was resurrected

The death of Christ is most remarkable because of who he is and where he came from and what he accomplished. But, if we were to stop with the death of Christ, as epochal as it was, and not proceed further then we are to be pitied. Why? His death was only one aspect of the salvation that he secured for us. We are saved by his life. If he remained dead then how can he save? What about his predictions to rise? What of God vindicating himself? What about his going to prepare a place and come again?

The resurrection of the crucified Savior is fundamental to the gospel; there can be no good news without it. Jesus was raised bodily from the dead on the third day. He conquered sin, Satan, death, and the grave. And now he lives to give life to his elect and intercede on their behalf. He died in our place to atone for sin and satisfy the righteous judgment of the Father. But, he was raised to life again because he is the Lord of Life. He could not stay dead.

Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). He “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Salvation hinges on Christ’s resurrection. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).

This was part of what Paul delivered which he described as “of first importance.” It was nothing less than, “Christ died for our sins... that he was buried, that he was raised on the third...” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24). “But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus” (Acts 13:30-33).

The resurrection of Christ proved that he paid the price for sin. His sacrifice was validated by him rising from the grave. It is in Christ that we “have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14). “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (Eph. 1:7). “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities” (Is. 53:5). “He himself bore our sins in his body” (1 Pet. 2:24). Christ was “offered once to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28). “If Christ has not been raised... you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17) The assumption is that since Christ has been raised those who trust him are no longer in their sins.

Sin, death, and Satan were defeated when Christ was resurrected. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). Jesus “abolished death and brought life” (2 Tim. 1:10). “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). This of course refers to Jesus conquering Satan with his death; the very thing Satan was instrumental in thinking that he vanquished Christ.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, he lives and intercedes on the behalf of his children. We serve a living Savior. He hears us, strengthens us, guides us, uses us, blesses us, chastises us, protects us, perfects us, represents us, loves us, etc. “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34). Jesus “always lives to make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25). And if we sin “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 Jn. 2:1).

The death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord was according to scripture. All of it was planned, orchestrated, and ordained by God for his glory. Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). “God foretold by the mouths of all the prophets that his Christ would suffer” (Acts 3:18). “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Lk. 24:46-47).

In everything he did, Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament. The rich history, all of the types and shadows, ceremonies, sacrifices- were accomplished in Christ. An episode in the life of Christ, after the his resurrection, illustrates this perfectly.

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, "What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see." And he said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Lk. 24:13-27).

Who wouldn’t want to be in that Bible study? Jesus interpreted the Old Testament scriptures that spoke of him. Surely, Jesus told them how he fulfilled:

  • the promise made to Adam and Eve of bruising the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15).
  • the promise of blessing the entire earth through Abram and his offspring (Gen. 12:3 & 22:18).
  • the Passover (Ex. 12).
  • the water from the rock (Ex. 17:5-7).
  • the bronze serpent (Num. 21:4-9).
  • the Davidic covenant (2 Sam. 7:12-16).
  • the virgin birth, his awe-inspiring names, his suffering, and mission (Is. 7:14; 9:6; 50:6; 52:13-53:12; 61:1).
  • there are many, many others that could be listed. See: Psalm 22; 110; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Daniel 7:13-14, 9:24-27; Micah 5:2; Zechariah 6:12, 9:9, 12:10, 13:7.

Joseph Bellamy has written,

The goodness comes from heaven; from God, the great King of the universe. It was first more darkly hinted at to Adam, immediately after the fall; and afterwards to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, by God himself; and by Moses and all the prophets in God’s name, to Israel of old. But last of all, the whole glorious plan was fully brought to light, and published to the world, by Jesus Christ and his apostles.1

Truly, Jesus is astonishing. He fulfilled hundreds of types and prophecies. It is astronomical to attempt to calculate the odds of one man fulfilling all of this. He is remarkable. He deserves all honor and praise. Bow down before him, worship and adore him. Glorify him in life and death. Trust him. Love him. Seek him. Know him. Treasure him. Serve him. Obey him. Cherish him. Extol him. Just do not ignore him. This is the good news- it is Jesus!

The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity stepped down from heaven, veiled himself in the flesh of man, lived a perfect life of obedience free of all sin, bore the curse and wrath of the Father in the place of sinners, bled, suffered, died, was buried, rose on the third day, ascended into the heavens, is seated on the right hand of God, intercedes for his own, sent the Holy Spirit, and is coming again to judge. This isn’t just good news, it’s great news. This is earth shattering news. This changes everything. Christ paid the price for sin, now there is forgiveness in his name. Repentant sinners can be pardoned; they can enter into the presence of holy God through the God Man, Jesus the Christ.

Christ is our all. He is our Rock upon which we build, Shield that defends, Strength that empowers, Peace that frees, Hope that encourages, Shepherd that leads, King who rules, Priest who atones, Prophet that teaches. He is the Lamb that died, Passover that spares, Bread that nourishes, Life that quickens, Way that delivers, Light that illumines, Resurrection that awakens, Gate that separates. Jesus is the Bridegroom, Sin-bearer, Branch, Door, Cornerstone, Vine, Truth, Mediator, Advocate, Messiah, Son of Man. Jesus is God, the Lord, Almighty, Alpha and Omega, the Author and Finisher of our faith, the Fountain, Gift, the End of the Law, River of Water. Jesus is our all. With him we have everything. Without him we have nothing.

We pray to him and through him. He is the Creator and Sustainer. All things were made by him and for him. Christ’s supremacy is all-encompassing; his splendor grandiose. He is beyond words. He is beyond comparison. To what could we compare him? What fool would dare to liken him to his creation? Christ is ineffable, resplendent, magnificent, glorious, sovereign, beautiful. Christ is our all in all. With him we need nothing. Without him nothing is everything.

Jesus Christ,” wrote Thomas Watson, “ is the sum and quintessence of the gospel; the wonder of angels; the joy and triumph of saints. The name of Christ is sweet, it is as music in the ear, honey in the mouth, and a cordial at the heart.”2

Jonathan Edwards, in his brilliant and scholarly language, wrote,

Christ, as he is God, is infinitely great and high above all. He is higher than the kings of the earth; for he is King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is higher than the heavens, and higher than the highest angels of heaven. So great is he, that all men, all kings and princes, are as worms of the dust before him; all nations are as the drop of the bucket, and the light dust of the balance; yea, and angels themselves are as nothing before him. He is so high, that he is infinitely above any need of us; above our reach, that we cannot be profitable to him; and above our conceptions, that we cannot comprehend him... Christ is the Creator and great Possessor of heaven and earth. He is sovereign Lord of all. He rules over the whole universe, and doth whatsoever pleaseth him. His knowledge is without bound. His wisdom is perfect, and what none can circumvent. His power is infinite, and none can resist him. His riches are immense and inexhaustible. His majesty is infinitely awful.3

Who is Jesus? Well, he is God, and as Thomas Brooks tells us,

God hath in himself all the good of angels, of men, of universal nature; he hath all glories, all dignities, all riches, all treasures, all pleasures, all comforts, all delights, all joys, all beatitudes. God is that one infinite perfection in himself, which is eminently and virtually all perfections of the creatures, and therefore he is firstly to be sought. Abstracts do better express him than concretes and adjectives; he is being, bonity, power, wisdom, justice, mercy, goodness and love itself, and therefore worthy to be sought before all other things... God is Alpha, the fountain from whence all grace springs, and Omega, the sea to which all glory runs... God is a perfect good, a solid good... That is a perfect good, to which nothing can be added; that a solid, from which nothing can be spared. God is a pure and simple good; he is light in whom there is no darkness, a good in whom there is no evil... God is an all-sufficient good... God hath in himself all power to defend you, all wisdom to direct you, all mercy to pardon you, all grace to enrich you, all righteousness to clothe you, all goodness to supply you, and all happiness to crown you. God is a satisfying good, a good that fills the heart and quiets the soul... seek early, seek earnestly, seek affectionately, seek diligently, seek primarily, and seek unweariedly this God, who is the greatest good, the best good, the most desirable good; who is a suitable good, a pure good, a satisfying good, a total good, and an eternal good.4

I say it again, it cannot be spoken enough, Jesus is the believer’s all; their everything. The scriptures are full of Christ, he is on every page. They speak of him. Some of Christ’s names and titles have been referred to. They bare repeating. This is rich soil that will yield a most bountiful crop. Oh, let us tarry here as long as we can and meditate on our Savior. Come, let us adore him, sit at his feet, bask in his glory, sing praises with the heavenly choir, grow in his grace, and learn of his excellent greatness. After all, isn’t this what we will do for eternity when we see him face to face? What saith the scriptures?

Jesus is: Advocate (1 Jn. 1:21), Almighty (Rev. 1:8), Alpha and Omega (Rev. 22:13), Amen (Rev. 3:14), Apostle (Heb. 3:1), Author of salvation (Heb. 2:10), Branch (Jer. 23:5), Bread of life (Jn. 6:35), Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4), Cornerstone (Eph. 2:20), Deliverer (Rom. 11:26), Door (Jn. 10:7), Eternal life (1 Jn. 1:2), Glory of the Lord (Is. 40:5), Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:14), Great High Priest (Heb. 4:14), Head of the church (Eph. 5:23), Heir of all things (Heb. 1:2), Holy One (Ps. 16:10), I Am (Jn. 8:58), Immanuel (Matt. 1:23), King (Matt. 21:5), King of kings (1 Tim. 6:15), King of the nations (Rev. 15:3), Lamb (Rev. 5:6), Lat Adam (1 Cor. 15:45), Life (Jn. 14:6), Light of the world (Jn. 18:12), Lion from the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5), Lord of Glory (1 Cor. 2:8), Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5), Messiah (Jn. 1:41), Mighty God (Is. 9:6), Passover (1 Cor. 5:7), Prince of peace (Is. 9:6), Prophet (Lk. 24:19), Ransom (1 Tim. 2:6), Resurrection (Jn. 11:25), Rock (1 Cor. 10:4), Son of David (Matt. 9:27), Son of God (Lk. 1:35), Son of Man (Jn. 5:27), True God (1 Jn. 5:20), True Vine (Jn. 15:1), Truth (Jn. 14:6), Way (Jn. 14:6), Word (Jn. 1:1), and Word of Life (1 Jn. 1:1).

1Joseph Bellamy, Sin, the Law, and The Glory of the Gospel (Ames, Iw: International Outreach, 1998), 11.

2Thomas Watson, A Body Of Divinity (Banner of Truth, 2000), 161.

3Jonathan Edwards, “The Excellency Of Christ” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 2 vols. (Peabody, Mass.:Hendrickson, 2004), 1:680-681.

4Thomas Brooks, “Apples of Gold” in The Works of Thomas Brooks, 6 vols. (Banner of Truth, 1980), 1:185-187.