Monday, March 9, 2009

The Goal of the Gospel

Romans 1:5.

The Gospel has as its goal the glory of God in the salvation of self-centered, self-ruled, and self-loving sinners which transforms them into God-centered, God-ruled, and God-loving saints – for His name’s sake. Many have wrongly and tragically confused the goal of the Gospel as an endorsement of self-admiration and self-esteem in which the cross is viewed as a witness to man’s worth. However the Gospel does not witness to man’s worth but witnesses to God’s worth – His greatness and His goodness. It is in the salvation of undeserving sinners that God’s grace is magnified to the praise of His glory.

I’m not belittling God’s love for man – I am magnifying it! I am not saying that God doesn’t love man but I am saying that man doesn’t deserve to be loved by God. When you understand this then you will understand that the Gospel is a witness to God’s worth and God’s grace and God’s glory and not to man’s worth or his value. God doesn’t love us because we are worthy of His love, He loves us even though we are unworthy (Romans 5:8).

God’s love is an “out of this world” kind of love. He loves those who are unlovely. He loves those who are His enemies. And it is through His love that He is rich in mercy to those who are dead in their transgressions and makes them alive together with Christ (by grace they are saved). “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God; and such we are” (1 John 3:1). So it is by God’s grace that we are saved and by God’s grace that we serve Him because the grace of God as demonstrated in the Gospel causes us to love and obey God and not just desire His gifts. So then at the heart of the goal of the Gospel is God – the Gospel causes God to become to us our reward; the gospel causes God to become to us our pleasure and satisfaction and then we do not seek to “use” God for selfish and ulterior motives.

So the goal of the Gospel is not to make us choose heaven rather than hell – the goal of the Gospel is to make us enthralled with the One who saved us from sin and hell and promises us eternal life with Him in heaven. Why do you want to go to heaven? If it is not to worship God the Father and His Son the Lord Jesus Christ then the Gospel has not transformed you into a loving and loyal subject of the King of kings.

Consider with me how God gets glory through the Gospel which transforms men into obedient, God adoring saints:

Through whom we have received grace (1:5a) – grace is unmerited, unearned, and undeserving kindness or favor. Therefore grace is rich in mercy because it is rich in love – an out of this world kind of love. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:4-5). Since grace is unmerited, unearned, and undeserving favor, then no one is saved based on his or her goodness – “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” (Ephesians 2:8-9). “But when the kindness of God our Savior, and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy…” (Titus 3:4-5). No man gets glory for his salvation – God does!

And apostleship (1:5b) – Here the apostle Paul includes all the saints – through whom we have received grace and apostleship – the word apostle means one who is sent by authority as a messenger. All Christians have been sent with a message by the Lord Jesus Christ who has all authority. However, all Christians do not hold the office of Apostle. There were only thirteen men who held the office of Apostle but all Christians are expected to carry the message of the Gospel and in that sense all Christians have an apostleship. Just like the office of deacon – a deacon is one who serves – all Christians do not hold the office of deacon but all Christians are to serve others. Notice that it is through Jesus Christ that we receive grace and apostleship – not only does no man get glory for his salvation; no man gets glory for his service – God does! “For we are His [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

To bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles (1:5c) – the Gospel restores that which was lost – our obedience to God. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden they disobeyed God and stepped out from under His lordship and turned to their own way – and so does every person – “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). Instead of trusting God with all their hearts, Adam and Eve leaned on their own understanding, and loving and loyal obedience was replaced with wicked disobedience. This is now the state of all men everywhere – we are born with a nature that cannot and will not obey God.

So if man is to be saved then obedience to God must be restored. Man’s disobedience (sin is lawlessness) must be paid for and must be removed and loving, loyal obedience must come in its place – salvation is a matter of lordship!

To belong to God in a saving relationship is to be restored into an obedient relationship which is submission to His lordship. As John Macarthur said, “A theology that refuses to recognize the lordship of Jesus Christ is a theology that contradicts the very essence of biblical Christianity” (Romans 1-8, page 25). There is no such thing as Jesus being one’s Savior if He is not his or her Lord. If one’s loving, loyal obedience has not been restored then that which was lost hasn’t been restored and therefore salvation hasn’t taken place (Luke 23:39-43).

I want you to think about and understand this truth – obedience of faith is obedience from the heart based on trust which is based on love. The claim to obey without trusting is legalism! The claim to trust without obeying is libertinism! To trust and obey based on love is loyalty! One is works of the law – legalism! One is words of the lips – libertinism! One is worship of the Lord – loyalty!

Therefore the goal of the gospel of God’s grace is to bring about the obedience of faith but in order to do that the Gospel must bring about love for God and trust in God. So if we are going to trust and obey God then we are going to have to love God and if we are going to have to love God then the Gospel must bring us to that place – and it does – we love Him because He first loved us!

For His name’s sake (1:5d) – would the Lord’s name be great and would He receive any glory if He allowed men into heaven and yet they stayed the same wicked rebels that they had always been?

Here is the heart of the goal of the Gospel – the glory of God in the transformation of undeserving, disobedient, rebels into loving, loyal, and obedient children! The Gospel brings us to God as His children who love and adore Him and find the satisfaction of our souls in Him – “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Until the Gospel is used to bring about the obedience of faith for His name’s sake – until the Gospel is used to cause us to be enthralled with God Himself rather than self and sin, then it is used wrongly.

Christ did not die to forgive sinners who go on loving their sin. Christ did not die to forgive sinners who go on loving self, money, and pleasure – “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money…and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-4). Christ died to forgive sinners who through the Gospel, hate sin and are transformed into lovers of God. The Gospel is not a way to get people to enjoy and treasure God’s gifts; it is a way to get people to enjoy and treasure God!

Why do you want to go to heaven? People who want to go to heaven because they don’t want to go to hell love the idea of God’s gift but not God Himself. Why do you want to go to heaven? People who want to go to heaven because of its beauty and its majesty love the idea of God’s gift but not God Himself. Why do you want to go to heaven? People who want to go to heaven because in heaven God is going to supply whatever makes men happy do not love God but love the idea of His gifts. Why do you want to go to heaven? People who could be happy in heaven if Christ we not there, will not be there! Why do I want to go to heaven? I want to see Jesus – He’s the One who died for me!

The Gospel has as its goal the glory of God in the salvation of self-centered, self-ruled, and self-loving sinners which transforms them into God-centered, God-ruled, and God-loving saints – for His name’s sake.

4 comments:

justinroy said...

Wow, Olan, your posts are always encouraging. In ez, describing the new covenant.. "it is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name"

I am encouraged.."The Gospel has as its goal the glory of God in the salvation of self-centered, self-ruled, and self-loving sinners which transforms them into God-centered, God-ruled, and God-loving saints – for His name’s sake"

olan strickland said...

Thanks Justin, and amen! This truth about the goal of the gospel - to bring about the obedience of faith...for His name's sake - crushes the false notion of "easy-believism" or "no-lordship" salvation. The gospel does not and will not turn the grace of God into licentiousness - if it did then God wouldn't get any glory.

Drew Miles said...

I was just about to leave a reference and comment about the same sentence that Justin quoted. It doesn't get any better than that. I will never get tired of reading such statements.

olan strickland said...

Thanks Drew! I'm always encouraged when people understand the intent (goal) of the Gospel. It isn't about us (although it is the power of God for salvation for us, that is, for everyone who believes), it's about God's praise to the glory of His grace in pardoning and transforming undeserving sinners.