This is a four part series seeking to show four very important elements of the gospel. I will seek to show you each on of this integral elements that, if one is repudiated, the rest fail to hold what remains as the gospel.
All of you would say that you are not ashamed of the gospel. But do you know what it is? It is my hope to educate you on the content and substance of the gospel in the next few minutes. So what is the Gospel?
The word means good news. This the one word that faithfully summarizes the message of the Bible and it is the power of God that we must not be ashamed of at any time. May I unpack what exactly is the gospel and what it is all about:
The Gospel, though simple to understand, does require a comprehension and acceptance of what the Bible teaches first, about a Holy God, who is sovereign in creation, providence and salvation; and His judgement against sin. Secondly, it is man and sin, Thirdly and most importantly is Christ and His redemption, and it must be received in a manner that does not minimize or obliterate the human responsibility of (fourthly) repentance toward God and faith in Christ. Without a basic understanding of these four, the gospel can neither be grasped, embraced or believed, nor can it’s saving and redeeming power be experienced by sinners. If these tenets are blurred, God’s glory in salvation would be marred. We shall consider each one of them in the next four days:
1. THE INFINITE HOLINESS OF GOD ().
We do not need to speculate, wonder or hypothesize about who God is or what God is like. He has truly revealed Himself in the Bible – His nature, character, works, and plan are all explained to us in His written Word. God is the Creator of all things. He is the true and living God, the one and only God who exists from all eternity in three Persons:
He is perfectly just, holy, and good. He is loving, merciful and gracious towards His creatures. He hates all that is evil with a perfect hatred and loves all that is good with a perfect love. He is infinitely higher than man in His nature, character, and thoughts. He does not answer to man nor does He owe man anything. He is utterly independent of His creation, yet He is intimately involved in the movement of every molecule, every atom, everything and controls them so that there is not a single stray molecule before Him. In one word GOD IS SOVEREIGN!
God is sovereign over His creation – all the creatures and all their actions! God brings about His purposes to pass regardless of man’s will or efforts. God accomplishes all His purposes and none can be thwarted even by the devil (Job 42:2). All things are for His glory. .
God is also sovereign in salvation - In the eternity past, before God put in place the foundations of the world (Eph. 1:4), He elected or chose or predestined some people for salvation, out of His mere good pleasure in order to show the richness of His grace.
Romans 9:6-24 is the most detailed passage about the sovereignty of God in election. Paul is answering the objection that salvation is not certain because so many of God’s people, the Jews, refused to believe in Christ. The passage teaches that it was God’s purpose to save some and not all. One of his examples is Jacob and Esau. God chose to love Jacob before either child was born, so His choice was not because of (their) works, but because He already had a purpose of election (v.11). This calling to salvation does not depend upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy (v.16).
The doctrine of election not only fits in with God’s sovereignty, but also with the fact that because of sin man is totally unable to do anything to save himself. Unless God saves, all men will continue in their sins and go to hell. We are like a drowning man totally dependent upon another to choose to rescue us from certain death. Therefore, the sinner being enslaved to sin (as we shall shortly see in point 2. Below), is not able to make any choice, rather God who is sovereign makes the choice to save sinners.
“Predestination” is another word that is used, and it emphasizes the purpose (or goal) for which God has chosen us (see Romans 8:29, Ephesians 1:5). “Foreknowledge” is a word used to emphasize that it is God who first enters into a close relationship with men with the purpose of saving them from their utter helplessness of sin (Romans 8:29, 1 Peter 1:2).
There are those who wrongfully suppose that election destroys human responsibility. This is not true, as the Bible teaches both God’s sovereignty in election, and man’s responsibility to believe and be saved (this is not the same as free-will). Throughout the Bible God addresses men as fully responsible for their own actions, yet they are unable to do anything spiritually good by their own efforts (for example, Jeremiah 13:23). An evil man unable to do any good (Matthew 12:34).
The doctrine of election is very practical, and is not only for special students of the Bible but all, so that the gospel presented is the gospel of God and not of men. These are the practical benefits of understanding the gospel in terms of the sovereignty of God in salvation:
· It brings praise to God. What does Paul do to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as he thinks about being chosen? he blessed Him (Ephesians 1:3). What does Paul do to God because He chose the Thessalonians? Thanked Him (2 Thessalonians 2:13). If I am chosen by God, it is by grace (Romans 11:5), and not because I have done anything to deserve it (Romans 11:6). If the only reason I am saved is because of God’s eternal choice then I must eternally praise Him.
· It gives assurance to the Christian. What three other blessings does God guarantee to the one He has predestinated? Called, justified and glorified (Romans 8:30). If I am saved because of God’s gracious choice, there is nothing that can make God change His mind. This is how I can be sure that in my life God works everything for my good (Romans 8:28).
· It makes us sinners humble. The key of the door of salvation is in God’s hand and not in mine! It is impossible to know the Father unless the Son reveals Him (Matthew 11:27). I can do nothing to save myself; I deserve nothing but condemnation.