26 Dec 2022
The church of God must hold dearly and clearly to the Essence of the Gospel and the Implications of the Gospel.
God, in love – love that is as deep as His holiness and as strong as His wrath – has intervened on behalf of fallen humanity to reconcile sinners to HImself through His Son Jesus Christ. God saves sinners – this is the main storyline in the Bible from the Old Testament to the New. At the heart of God’s reconciling work is the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross and His glorious resurrection from the dead. The Gospel is the good news about the God who has acted in history to save us. It answers the very bad news about the fallen state of humanity, our alienation from God and from one another, and the declared and definite wrath of God that we must one day face.
The Gospel declares that God’s law demands nothing less than perfect obedience, and we have fallen short at all points (Rom. 3:23). Christ alone has met these demands in life and in death. It is by faith in Him, following Regeneration (which involves repentance), that we now begin to fulfil the demands of God’s law, with gratitude, love, and praise as our new motivation. We uphold the law by this faith (Rom. 3:31).
The depths of human depravity need to be highlighted in the Gospel. Humans are not simply sin-sick; we are dead in …transgressions and sins (Eph. 2:1) and by nature, objects of wrath (Eph. 2:3). God justifies the wicked (Rom. 4:5) and does so freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Rom.3:24).
The certainty and severity of divine wrath need to be emphasised in the Gospel. The substitutionary work of Christ on the cross and the doctrine of propitiation (Christ satisfying the wrath of God) must not be overlooked.
The Gospel is seriously diminished when, and where it is presented as something like a ticket to heaven; it is also diminished when we transfer any of the burden of our salvation away from Christ’s shoulders and onto our own. This may come in the form that it is our positive response and goodwill (as in our willingness to entertain God) to God’s invitation to take away our fears and predicament that saves us – the cross and the atoning work of Christ must be central and not marginalised. We cannot save ourselves – we are saved by God’s grace and mercy.
Having believed the Gospel, we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to begin obeying the requirements of God’s Law, that is, to love God and neighbour (Rom 8:1-4); 13:8-10; 1 John 4:10-19). The Gospel gives no license to ignore God’s law; rather, it imparts power (the gift of the Spirit) to start obeying it. Believers are obliged to obey God’s commands (1 John 5:3) not causally for our justification but in good works that flow gratefully from our justification, as our only “reasonable act of worship” in response to God’s sovereign and free saving mercies (Rom. 12:1). We have been saved apart from any works of our own but we are newly created in Christ in order that we may walk in the good works God has prepared for us (Eph. 2:8-10). Even our best works, however, are imperfect this side of glory and our obedience is not the basis of our final justification in God’s sight. It is only “through the obedience of the one man,” Jesus Christ, an obedience “even unto death,” that we are made righteous (Rom.5:9; Phil.2:8). We are to follow Christ who redeems us and justifies us, and so becomel people whose lives exhibit a graceful, God-honouring obedience.
In our ongoing obedience to God as to our initial obedience to the Gospel we are utterly dependent upon the grace of God, not just for continual power to desire and choose what is right and good, the best option and the least evil, but also for continual pardon as our very endeavours after righteousness open up to us the depths of sin still operative within our spiritual system (indwelling sin).
Our only hope at any and every stage of our life on earth is to look away from ourselves and to look to Christ alone.
The Gospel is God’s power to save. And salvation involves the entire process of our transformation, reaching from the eternal past and into the eternal future. Christ our crucified and risen Lord “is able to save completely those who come to God through Him” (Heb. 7:25). This full and complete salvation is accomplished by means of the mighty Gospel.
The church must not fail to preach and to teach God’s people the full and complete Implications and Applications of the wondrous Gospel of Salvation.
As we observe Christmas, let us not forget that Christ took on human nature to live in perfect obedience to the Father for us; He died on the cross in our place (for us who deserve this death); and He arose in resurrection to defeat death, the works of the devil, the guilt and power of sin on our behalf; and He ascended to the right hand of the Father, to rule sovereignly, to intercede for us and to live in us (through the Spirit); and He would return for us and to bring us to Himself to share His glory and inheritance forever. This is the wondrous story of salvation, the glorious Gospel, for God so loves fallen humanity that He decided from the beginning of creation to save us from damnation, to adopt us as His children, and to reconcile us to Him and to one another.