Saturday, July 14, 2012

What marks the True Gospel

Galatians 1:11-12 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

The battle for the Gospel
Every age and every generation must never cease in defining, communicating and defending the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:27) The Gospel of Jesus Christ speaks of both an event that had to occur and an experience that must take place for men, women, boys and girls to be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:15-21)

The Gospel communicates both an Event and Experience
The event of the Gospel is defined most clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, which states: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures".  It is in Christ's death, burial and resurrection that we discover the supreme event of salvation.  In the Gospel we find the event of salvation from the Bible Alone, in Christ alone.  The experience that must occur is described in Ephesians 2:8-9  "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."  This experience of salvation is received by faith alone as a result of God's Grace working in the heart of a person. (John 3:16; Romans 10:8-10)

The Essence of the True Gospel is captured by it being Necessary, Sufficient and Exclusive in all of its parts and the sum of its whole
When we say that this event and experience must occur in order for people to be right with God, we are speaking of the necessity of Christ's accomplished work and the reception of such work by grace alone through faith alone.  Secondly, when we use the word "alone" we are pointing to the sufficiency of Grace, Faith, Christ, the Bible and God's Glory in rendering a person right with God.  Thirdly, when we specify the event and experience of salvation by Grace, from Christ, the Bible and for God's glory and reception of such by faith, we are indicating the exclusive nature of salvation. 

Thus the Gospel message advocated by the Apostle Paul and the nearly 40 biblical authors bears forth these three marks in all its elements: Necessity, Sufficiency and Exclusivity.  In breaking down this three-fold description of the essence of the true Gospel, we can see these essential marks threading their way through five Gospel truths:

1. By Grace Alone.  God's choice to freely reveal and act on and in the sinner's life (i.e Grace) reveals it's necessity for salvation.  Grace by itself is the sufficient starting point, being that God, not man is the author of salvation.  Then of course it is exclusively Grace, not man's effort, nor nothing with man, that motivates God toward the sinner.  (John 1:12-13; Ephesians 2:8; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:3)

2. Through Faith Alone    Faith is necessary in order to receive Christ's act and accomplishment of salvation.  As a result of Grace, faith alone is deemed the sufficient means of experiencing the saving benefits of Christ's event of salvation applied by the Holy Spirit.  Faith by itself being necessary and sufficient is also the exclusive means by which the experience of salvation in Jesus Christ is received.  (John 1:12; Romans 3:23-24, 5:1; Ephesians 2:9; Titus 3:5)

3. In Christ Alone    Christ's coming to earth to take upon himself humanity, live a perfect life, die a substitutionary death, be buried and rise from the dead was necessary for the grounds of salvation.  All that Christ acted and accomplished is sufficient apart from human effort.  Then of course Christ alone is the exclusive way to God, with no other religion or merit of human goodness being accepted by God.  (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5)

4. As revealed by the Bible Alone Without ignoring the importance of insights from Christians of all ages who have relied on its words, The Bible alone is necessary to reveal the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Bible is the sufficient source for binding men and women to the necessity of repentance and converted men and women to pursuit of Christ-likeness. Then of course the Bible, over against all other books, creeds or human opinion is the exclusive Book of God, without error, rightly entitled "The Word of God". (Psalm 19:7-14; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:21)

5. For the Glory of God alone    The Gospel necessarily reveals the wonderful purpose of salvation - God's visible and uncontested display of His goodness (i.e His glory).  God's glory is the sufficient goal of both creation, providence, salvation and the end of history.  Then of course God's glory is the exclusive reason for which God created the world, works forth salvation and the soon return of Jesus Christ.  (Romans 11:33-36; Revelation 19:5-6, 21-22)