Monday, March 30, 2009

The Gospel: God's Power to Save

Being ashamed of the gospel and altering both its content and intent substitutes the impotence and wisdom of man for the power and wisdom of God for salvation. A gospel that is void of the content and intent of the gospel and therefore void of the offense of the cross is also void of the power of God for salvation.

Geoffrey Wilson wrote, “The unpopularity of a crucified Christ has prompted many to present a message which is more palatable to the unbeliever, but the removal of the offense of the cross always renders the message ineffective. An inoffensive gospel is also an inoperative gospel” (Romans; A Digest of Reformed Comment [Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth, 1976], p.24).

A distorted gospel which is void of the offense of the cross is no gospel at all and does not have the power to transform undeserving, disobedient rebels into loving, loyal and obedient children of God. All that a distorted gospel can do is cause men to have a form of godliness void of the power of God for actual transformation.

The Apostle Paul warned Pastor Timothy about the many unconverted preachers and unconverted church members of the last days who would have a form of godliness void of the power of God for actual transformation. These unconverted preachers and church members would be the victims of a distorted gospel – “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

These are people who do not love the truth and do not want the truth. They are willing to accept a gospel where God is man-centered and making much of them and their worth but are in fierce opposition to a gospel that witnesses to man’s wretchedness and therefore witnesses to God’s worth. Most people in our day deny the depravity of man and his inability to please God in their flesh.

Most people seem to want to view the cross of Christ as a witness to their worth rather than own up to the truth that the cross of Christ proves their sinfulness but magnifies God’s goodness. This leads to pride rather than humility and engenders self-love and self-worth and self-esteem rather than genuine love for God and hatred of their own sinful nature. We are not to use the gospel as a means to view our own splendor or self-worth but we are to use the gospel as a means to view God’s splendor and His worth.

There is no power in a distorted and misused gospel. Men only go deeper into sin and deeper into deception when the offense of the gospel is replaced with an inoffensive gospel. If men are going to be ashamed of a gospel they ought to be ashamed of an inoffensive gospel which is an inoperative gospel. But men should never be ashamed of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (1:16).

As we look at this portion of Scripture I want us to notice two aspects of the gospel that is God’s power for salvation – its exclusiveness and its inclusiveness.

Its exclusivenessfor it is the power of God for salvation.... The gospel of Jesus Christ and it alone is the power of God for salvation. There is no other way that God saves sinners. Sinners are either saved through the gospel of Jesus Christ or they are not saved at all. God is not saving people apart from faith in Jesus Christ and He will not save people apart from Jesus Christ.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation….Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:9-10, 13-15, 17).

And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

The gospel is God’s gospel and it is the only means through which God gives the power for us to be saved. The word “power” is from dunamis which we get our words dynamite and dynamic. The gospel carries with it the omnipotence of God, whose power alone is sufficient to save men from sin and give them eternal life. Therefore the gospel gives glory to God alone.

The gospel is also exclusive because it is the only way that God can forgive sinners while He Himself remains just – “so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). If anyone believes that God will save some other way other than through the gospel of His Son then he or she doesn’t understand the holiness and righteousness of God and that He will not violate His own justness.

Its inclusiveness – “to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” The gospel includes everyone who believes. The word “believe” carries the basic idea of trusting in, relying on, having faith in. When used in the New Testament of salvation it is usually in the continuous form, which could be translated “is believing and keeps on believing.” This type of believing is not a type of belief that resides in man and can be worked up or produced by man – this type of belief is a supernatural belief, produced by God as a gift from God.

The type of belief that is saving belief is “faith” that is generated by God in the heart of man through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ – “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ (literally the word about Christ)".

To the person who has been granted the gift of salvation which includes the gift of faith, the gospel becomes both the power of God and the wisdom of God. As the eyes of our hearts are enlightened we know and understand that this gospel is the only one that has the power of God for salvation and contains the wisdom of God for salvation. We see that the gospel is both exclusive – there is no other way – and we see that the gospel is inclusive – for all who believe by being enabled to believe through the word about Christ.

Therefore we are not ashamed of the gospel and we do not distort it – we proclaim it as it is and leave the results to God.

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