God’s Love Proclaimed
By Patrick Badstibner
This is a three part series as we take a look at what the words law and gospel mean. In May, we looked at what the law is Starting with this post and over the next two months, we will take a good look at what the gospel is. One thing we need to remember, is that the gospel does not stop at making a decision to get our ticket to paradise, but carries us all the way through till we cash out that ticket in paradise.
The deeper we go into understanding the gospel and the riches of God’s grace, we discover that the gospel is not just any good news or the other words of God that are not law, but the words of God that lift the weight of the law from us, and gives us an answer for the law when it accuses us, and hope when it judges us and reminds us that we are sinners. It serves as a constant source of life, as it reminds us what has been done in order that we might be returned to our original purpose, which is to worship and glorify God.
All of mankind is searching for the answers to the questions of; “Surely there’s more?” “Who Am I?” “What is the meaning to all of this?” “What is my purpose?”
Within, the gospel is found the answers to these questions and more. In the midst, of the truth of the gospel we find rest for our striving to be somebody, to be noticed, to be important, to be significant as we find that “in Christ” we have been made, God’s beautiful ones (Song of Solomon 4:7), His excellent ones (Psalm 16:3), the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8), His prized and most desired treasure (Deuteronomy 7:6), and that He longs to reveal to us the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:18).
What Is The Gospel
The gospel should never be boring, dull, redundant or should it grow stale to us. When this becomes so, we need to stop and ask ourselves the following questions;
“What are the riches that God is giving us?” (Ephesians 1:18)
“What does it mean that we have been given all spiritual blessings?” (Ephesians 1:3)
“What does it mean that we have been made joint heirs with Christ?” (Romans 8:16-17)
“What does it mean to be united with Christ?” (1 Corinthians 6:17)
“What is the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21)?”
“What does it mean that we have been given all that we need to live this, what is the all?” (2 Peter 1:3)
“What transpired when we were delivered from death to life?” (Ephesians 2:5, Colossians 2:13)
“What does it mean that the body of sin has been brought to nothing?” (Romans 6:6)
Perhaps, along the way of discovering the answers to these questions, one may find what it really means to dive into the well of gospel truth. What it means to go deeper into the gospel, instead of moving outside the gospel, or moving beyond, or moving to other things, or moving past the gospel.
We can clarify the gospel as God’s plan through the Christ event (1 Corinthians 15:1-15), to showcase his glory, goodness, riches and grace to bring those he Holds dearest back to Himself (Ephesians 2:13), telling us how He is changing us into what He designed us to be (Titus 2:11-12). This is why a Christian should never tire or get bored of hearing the gospel, no more than a swimmer should get tired of breathing while swimming, lest he drown.
What The Gospel Is Not
Let us keep in mind that the gospel is not behaviour modification or a measuring stick for how we are living. The gospel is not about being a better person, though God is changing us through His Spirit (Romans 8:13-14). The gospel is not about using Jesus’ life as a model way to live.
For the gospel is in effect what Christ did for us, not what we are doing for him, that is important, but it is not the gospel. The gospel always brings good news, not instruction. The law instructs us in how we might say thank you and show gratitude for the good news or gospel. In fact, anytime that law is mixed with the gospel it turns the gospel into nothing more than a drink that has been sitting too long with ice in it and as a result has now lost its flavor.
The gospel is the power to life (Romans 1:16). One never finds within the gospel the message of, “let’s make sure that we get some action in the game in order to get the golden ticket.” Rather, it is an offering to all of those who are incapable of getting any action in the game, letting them know the golden ticket can still be theirs.
Does It Really Create Change
It is absolutely impossible for one to receive the gospel and not be changed and impacted by it. Such changes may not be immediately noticeable, but it is impossible to be brought near to encounter the Living God Almighty (Ephesians 2:13), accept Christ as your Saviour (Isaiah 45:21-22; 43:11; Habakkuk 3:18;1 Corinthians 1:30), no longer be God’s enemies (Romans 5:8-10), become the apple of God’s eye (Psalm 17:8) and have the Holy Spirit take up residence in oneself (1 Corinthians 8:19) and not be changed. Did you catch that last statement, the Holy Spirit resides within you, now that’s a significant change.
Due to these changes, your heart will reflect different desires (Romans 7:22). The Holy Spirit is working consistently to point to the truths of the gospel that Jesus taught (John 14:26). Which, as we grow in our knowledge and understanding of the gospel (Philippians 1:6-9), we will no longer seek our own but to love others as Christ loves us (Romans 12:10).
In fact, it can be said it is only as one dives further into the well of gospel truth that real change occurs. Real change happens not through some focused forced discipline we try to bring about a form of self-righteousness (Philippians 3:9), or through finding better instructions, better directions, better how to steps, but in the reality of how deeply we are loved by God. This is why John said, we will love God, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
The only real change that matters is one that stems from a heart whose affections have been grabbed by a God, whose love they discover overwhelming (Ezekiel 14:1-5). Only hearts that respond out of gratuitous affections towards God can it be said that they have truly changed. Often, such hearts are grabbed through dark nights and heart soaked days as one discovers the goodness of God in such times (Luke 21:9; 1 Peter 1:6-8; James 1:2-4) .
Comfort Gained From Walking
It is the purity of the gospel truth that awakens us to desire to repent (Romans 2:4; 1 John 1:8-9). Found within the gospel is the truth that there is deep comfort to be found in walking along the stepping stones of the law (2 Peter 1:3-7), although imperfectly. In doing so we do not gain assurance of our salvation, (such assurance is to be gained because the Bible says so (1 John 5:13), but we do gain deep comfort that we are in Christ, because before we would never say that we delight in God’s law (Psalm 40:8, Romans 7:22).
That same desire to do those things is simply the fruit, it is not the condition of or the necessitated action in order to be saved or necessary to reveal that we are. Paul, described the process of our salvation in Ephesians 2, coming to verse 10 that we have been brought to this new life in Christ, for the purpose of good works. So, it is good news indeed that we have been created unto good works, for in them we find life, joy and what it is to worship God.
Gospel, Tells One That Christ Is Not Made Lord, But Is Lord
This is an important fact to comes to terms with, for perhaps no other misunderstood truth about the gospel has led to more error, than this one. A gospel that only tells one how to come to know Jesus as your Savior, only tells part of the beautiful good news, God has for those He has brought near, set apart and declared holy (Hebrews 10:10-12).
While it is important to be clear, precise and short when presenting the gospel to someone for the first time, it is wrong to not continue with telling the rest of the good news story. It should be noted that while “make Jesus Lord and Saviour” is a command, and not gospel, it is impossible for one to come to Christ and Christ not be Lord of one’s life.
When, Paul addresses the saints at the church of Corinth, he addresses them as “all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians:2). Peter tells his readers to revere Christ as Lord (1 Peter 3:15). Quite possibly one of the clearest gospel statements in the New Testament is Acts 16:31 and even it says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.”
Our Actions Do Not Change Christ’s Identity
There will always be a continual need to remind oneself of the journey to beyond the horizon, of the truths of the gospel message, along with how the gospel declares that we have been changed, what the gospel declares our new identities to be and what the gospel states occurred when we were brought near to God, are always true. It is only as these truths become a greater reality, that we go further into the well of gospel truth that the Holy Spirit takes those same truths and transforms us (2 Corinthians 3:18). As this transpires, our new identities, the beauty of being united to Christ (Ephesians 1:5), and everything that happened when we were drawn near (Ephesians 2:13), through the means of God’s Word become fully realized in our life.
The biggest example of this is recognizing Christ as our Lord. Sometimes, this will be a lot truer than other days, but it never changes that He is. Nevertheless, whether we recognize Him or not does not change the fact that He is (Acts 10:36). Paul showed no hesitation that Christ is Lord, when he said that all things are created by him (Colossians 1:15-20). We do not walk into work tomorrow and make the boss, the boss.
Why The Gospel Is Powerful
Any gospel that does not preach Christ and Christ alone is false. A gospel that does not rip away any pretense of goodness, hope in oneself, trust in one’s ability to merit will never lead to life change. A gospel that does not hack away at the believers attempt to still try to merit grace, love, favor or any other merit from God is one that will be unable to break the heart chains that keep us attached to former idols and affections.
Gospel truth that does not push us deeper into the well of the gospel of grace will be unable to kill the narcissist, self-reliant, rugged independent individualism that lies within all of us. Any gospel that is not powerful and demanding enough to stir the affections of hearts that too easily settle, will always leave its intended recipient believing and trying to go back to the law in order to be given credit for what they are doing, have done or could do.
A view of the law that does not push us deeper into the well of gospel truth will always leave us believing that life change comes through what we are doing, or it’s up to us, or it’s about us, or always looking for better instructions, better disciplines, different habits or an improved understanding of how one can improve (Galatians 2:21). Only a gospel that tells us again and again of our utter hopelessness, our utter repulsiveness, our continued inability to please God through our acts of holiness is powerful enough to leave us gasping for the good news that it is not about us, but Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
It’s Not About Our Claims
It is not about what we are claiming, but three words He uttered when He said, “It Is Finished” (John 19:30). Only a gospel that delivers this message in a thousand different ways will be enough to awaken, create and continuously stir affections Godward, that lead to total surrender of our lives as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), doing all things for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31) and preferring others well-being, above our own (Romans 12:10), along with creating hearts that respond in gratitude for what God has done (Colossians 2:6-7).
Stay tuned for part two next month, as we look further at the fact that God wants hearts.