For the most part when we gather as a community of believers we tend to deal with issues of discipleship. By that I mean the practical realities of the outworking of the Christ life within relationship. As essential as that is there remains some real benefit to backing up and reminding ourselves of the simplicity of the gospel. If you doubt that just read the New Testament epistles. They were written to local churches – to believing communities, and yet at core thereis a constant contending for the purity of the gospel. So I thought that this morning it might be good to be reminded of the gospel.
When the apostle Paul introduced his letter to the church at Rome he immediately made reference to ‘the gospel of God….concerning His Son’. With that simple statement he communicated some very important facts concerning the gospel. First there is the meaning of the word itself: Gospel – ‘good news.’ We need not hurry past that because of an assumption that everybody knows that. The history of the church reveals that the gospel it presents is not always good news. And many of us can identify with that. But no matter what our personal historic experience has been with the gospel let us now determine that the Biblical gospel always was, presently is, and always shall be good news.
The second fact Paul tells us is that it’s the gospel of God. That is vital for several reasons.First, because it is God’s good news nothing in the entire universe both visible and invisible can change or alter it. It originated in God; it is kept and protected by God, and absolutely nothing can negatively impact upon it.
Secondly, it tells us that in a fallen world of endlessly bad news there really is good news.Thirdly, it reveals the heart, the attitude and disposition of God towards us: He comes to each of us with good news because the whole set of His heart regarding us is nothing but overflowing goodness.Fourthly, it is God’s gospelsingular – meaning it is alone in its reality and there is no saving gospel apart from it. Notice it is not a Baptist gospel, Pentecostal gospel, Methodist gospel, Presbyterian gospel, Catholic gospel; it’s not even a charismatic gospel. It is not my gospel, nor your gospel. It is exclusively God’s good news. But let me hurry to say that His gospel is not exclusive in its scope and acceptance. No matter how we try to categorize and label it, the truth remains there is only one gospel to go around – one gospel for all mankind.
The third fundamental fact Paul gives us is that God’s good news is about one person and that person is His Son. That is a point we often miss. We think it is all about us and want to read the text like this: ‘God’s good news concerning us.’ But it is not about us; it is all and entirely about Him.
To sum up:1) God has some very good news this morning. 2) It is all about His Son, Jesus Christ. 3) His entire passion is to share His good news with every single person on the planet – including all seated here. 4) Here is the final wonder in all of this – all who receive this good news of God concerning His Son immediately find themselves placed right into the story and actually become participants in that good news. 5) This happens because upon believing God’s good news concerning His Son actually places you in the very Son of Whom this good news is all about.
What is this good news of God concerning the Son? I fully expect that eternity will be about discovering the answer to that question – and I’m not kidding or speaking superficially. I am asking the question only in relation to a particular issue. It is the most important (and in a very real sense) the only issue in relation to the present reality of humankind.
Regarding this particular issue God’s good news concerning His Son is that He – in perfect submission to the Father and out of infinite love for the Father – completely obeyed (and obeyed willingly) the whole will of the Father in establishing this incredible mystery called redemption. And in 1 Cor. 15:1-5 Paul gave us a crisp and clear statement regarding that work of redemption.
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also youreceived, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
Right there is the good news of redemption. It is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ on behalf of sinful humanity without any hope of self-redemption. The work is done, and requires no additional works on our part to complete it. And that brings us back to theEphesians text where we find how this good news of redemption works itself out experientially.
Eph. 2: 8 – 9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
To begin with – three vital words: grace, saved, faith. I want to change the word saved to salvation. What is the relationship of grace and faith to the experience of salvation? This much I can tell you – the experience of salvation is absolutely dependant upon grace and faith.There is but one means into the experience of salvation and that is the finished work of the Redeemer which centres in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. How does grace relate to this work? How does faith relate to this same work?
In its simplest expression, grace relates to the free provision of the redemptive work of Christ. Faith relates to the experiential appropriation of all that grace has freely provided.Grace freely provides salvation. It is by faith and faith alone that this provision of salvation is appropriated experientially.
To underscore his point the apostle writes – ‘it is the gift of God.’ And let me just say thatboth the provision of salvation and the faith to appropriate that salvation is the gift of God. I say that because of what Paul referenced in this text. And this will be the final point in this message.
Consider these phrases: ‘not of yourselves’ and ‘not as a result of works’. None of this originated with us, nor is any of it dependant upon our works. With these words Paul is touching upon and exposing the number one enemy of the gospel - he is contrasting the good news of God with the bad news of religious flesh. This is the contention running through the letters of the New Testament – the constant battle to keep the gospel of God pure and free of the particular clutter of earned salvation on the basis of religious works.