The Gospel of Our Salvation

Category: Bible Studies

Let’s pray. Father, we come before You this morning with only one great confidence – You are the God who heals us, who forgives all our iniquities. You remember them no more because of Christ. Where would we be, Father, if it hadn’t been for Him? If it hadn’t been for You and what You’ve done? Father, we praise You and we worship You and we thank You for this morning, this day, to be able to consider things that scribes and greater men than ourselves longed for but did not see. Father, help us to realize that the fullness of time has come to us to walk in everything You have done and everything You are and to live as men – stewards of God, carrying about in ourselves the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Lord, help us to live that Gospel out and help us to proclaim it to the world that all men might know that there is a Savior. Father, it’s early in the morning. Our minds are tired. But strengthen us according to Your good grace that we might understand, that we might know. In Jesus’ name, Amen. We went over 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 in our last class, and then we looked at a quote from Charles Spurgeon about the necessity to defend the Gospel, to study the Gospel. Now we’re going to begin something of an introduction into our workbook. It starts there on page 3. And at the beginning, in the beginning, paragraph, I say this: “Of all the endeavors to which man may give himself, there is none greater than to seek to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ and search out its glory – God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. It is a glory too deep for our intellect, too wide for our hearts, and beyond the power of any language to describe. Yet within so great a mystery, we find our salvation.” One of the great problems that I have with American Christianity today – or evangelicalism – is that the Gospel is almost treated as a baby step into Christianity. It’s reduced down to a little tract. If we agree with what’s said within the pages of that tract, we’re called Christian and then we go on to greater things. Then we go on to discipleship. And discipleship today consists oftentimes just of a to-do list or ten ways to do something. And we miss the entire point of everything that the Scripture’s teaching us in the New Testament – that the Gospel is it. It is not “a” message among many. It is “the” message overall. And in that Gospel, in that Gospel of Jesus Christ, we find strength, we find motivation. We find the meaning of everything that God has done. Many times joking, I’ll say something like this: So many people today are caught up in the Second Coming – the when, how, where of the Second Coming. But you’re going to know absolutely everything about the Second Coming on the day it occurs. (unintelligible) Now that is a thing to which a man ought to give his life. That is a noble pursuit – to know God and to know Him in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are the most privileged people on the face of the earth. Now, if you become a pragmatic business man type of minister, you may accomplish many things in the eyes of men, but it will all be hollow and wrought in vanity. You can even learn theology and miss the truth that I’m setting before you today – learn theology for the sake of knowledge and to be able to wrangle and use words against people. But if your passion is seeking out God, then everything else will fall in place – absolutely everything else will fall in place. Everything. And that’s why it’s so important. Now we go on just in this brief introduction to what I call the divine dilemma. The reason, the foundation of the Gospel. “A dilemma, according to Webster’s Dictionary is defined as ‘a situation involving a choice between equally unsatisfactory alternatives or problems seemingly incapable of a satisfactory solution.’ In the Scriptures, the greatest of all dilemmas set before us on almost every page: How can a just God pardon the wicked?” You know, I went through – I don’t know how many years – I went through seminary. I went through the mission field – always with this gnawing question in the back of my head. I know that He died. And I know He died for sin. And I know that sin is evil. But never really being able to put in words: What is this really all about? And it is all about this one thing we find in Romans 3. How can God be just and justify wicked men? That is the great question running through every page of Scripture. Now, we have here: “If God simply pardons the wicked, He’s no longer just.” How many people who’ve embraced the Gospel and been embraced by it – I mean true believers – have even ever heard such a concept today? That the great problem is if God is just, how can He declare unjust men to be right with Him? A text that I often use – Proverbs 17:15, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.” So he who justifies the wicked man is an abomination before the Lord which is an extremely strong term. So how can the Lord justify a wicked man without being an abomination? That’s what the Gospel is all about. If God simply pardons the wicked, He is not just, but then again, if God does not pardon the wicked, all will perish. Now, don’t get me wrong with this statement. If all men did perish, and God left all men to perish, He’d still be a good God. God does not owe man a thing. But the fact of the matter is God is love. He declares Himself to be love and He also declares that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He desires the salvation of men. So, this is the issue. How can God be just and the Justifier of wicked men? Now, in our next paragraph, it says, “One might ask why God simply cannot forgive sin and be done with it?” After all, Scripture commands us to forgive sin. So why can’t God simply forgive sin? Now there are several reasons. I’m just going to give you a few. First of all, God is a being of infinite worth. Even the slightest form of rebellion is a grotesque offense to His person, a crime of highest treason, a strike against the very order of creation. It is worthy of the strictest sentence. Now, I want you to think about something. We all know that a society – your first year in Political Science, at least it used to be, I don’t know what they teach anymore, but we know that a society cannot exist in anarchy. It’s impossible. Anarchy will lead to self-destruction. There must be laws. There must be purpose. There must be reason. There must be enforcement. If not, society runs into anarchy and eventually self-destruction. What would happen to the very fabric of creation if God being God just looked over every trespass against Himself? It would lead to a cosmic anarchy – a self-destruction of creation. God would, in a sense, and I don’t like to use this language, but it would be wrong for God not to move against sin. He would be denying His own deity. There are reasons why I can say things jokingly against you and it not be a crime. But I say the same thing against the President of the United States and it is a crime and it ought to be. Well, then how much more, not the President of the United States – a country that was born yesterday and will be gone tomorrow – but the God of all creation? Now, there’s another reason here. “Secondly, God is righteous and His love is a righteous love. God cannot love unrighteously anymore than He can love unrighteousness. There is no contradiction in His character. He must be both loving and righteous and cannot be one at the expense of the other.” God is a just God. A lot of times we’ll hear evangelists say, instead of being just with you, God was loving. Now just think what he’s saying. God’s love is unjust. That’s what he’s saying. There are all forms of love in this world and many of them are unjust or wrong. They’re perversions. Because if it’s not a just love, it’s not love. But we need to be very careful here. I love “The Chronicles of Narnia” and my boys and I are reading them right now as a matter of fact. But in the movie, “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” there, Aslan is talking to Peter up on that high hill. They’re discussing Edmond and such. And Aslan says this: he says basically there is a law, there is justice. There’s this law over me, he seems to indicate, that not even I can violate. When we say that God is just and cannot forgive wicked men without satisfying justice, we’re not saying that there’s this law of justice over God that God Himself has to submit to. We’re not saying that. That part of the film is wrong. The justice that God must satisfy before He can pardon the wicked is His own justice – not some rule over Him. And I’ve heard well-meaning preachers say things like that. “Not even God can violate justice.” As though it were something independent of Him and over Him. That’s not the case. What the Bible is teaching us is that God is just. God is perfect. There are no inconsistencies in God’s nature. He can never be one thing – He can never manifest, let’s say, one attribute at the expense of another attribute. And so that’s why the cross is so very important. Thirdly, “God is the Judge of all the earth. It is His place to see that justice is done, that evil is punished, and that right is vindicated. It would not be appropriate for the Heavenly Judge to pardon the wicked anymore than it would be for an earthly judge to pardon the criminal who stands before him in a court of law.” Now, our frequent complaint in society, especially with regard to politicians and judges and those in authority is that of corruption. That they do not do justice. Even people who in the name of love, they refuse justice. That’s corruption. God is not corrupt. God is holy. God is righteous. He does what is right. He gives every man according to the measure he deserves – even hell. Sometimes because of wrong preaching and concepts like Dante’s Inferno, and middle-aged Catholic art portraying hell, and even some evangelical films portraying hell, we have this idea that hell is almost this perverted type of gleeful torture of men. That is not hell. In hell, men are not gleefully tortured. But men receive exactly the justice due them. Now that in no way diminishes the terror of hell, because when you think about the perfect blinding white justice of God coming against the evil of man, it’s a terrifying thing. But know this, every man in hell will receive exactly what he deserves – no more and no less – exactly. And even in hell, they will have to raise their hands and say that God has been just with them. He has been fair. And so these are some of the reasons why God just simply cannot turn away from sin and ignore sin. And this has to be pressed upon our generation. Why? Because our generation knows nothing of justice. It knows nothing of justice and the need for justice to be carried out so that society can remain intact. A man walks into a McDonald’s and kills 40 people with a machine gun, but he gets off, because when he was a child, his dad didn’t buy him a Happy Meal or something. That’s how ludicrous our ideas of justice have become. And so what is the divine answer? The divine answer is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Now, “the Gospel, properly translated, is good news. In ancient history, the word was given to any message of great joy.” Now, great joy, I can say, in one way is dependent upon the context, or at least great joy is heightened and given meaning by its context. What do I mean by that? Let’s say that we’re all out in Spring Park during the early part of the summer – a beautiful day. We’re having a picnic. And Brother Matt pulls up in his car, jumps out, runs across the park screaming. I mean, just screaming and doing cartwheels and his hands up in the air, screaming out, “We’re free! We’re free! We’re free! We’re no longer in bondage! We’re free! The captives are free!” We’re all going to look at him like what? What’s wrong with you? If we were all in a concentration camp, and in chains, and Matt came running across the field bringing news: “We’re free! We’re free! We’ve been liberated!” It would have an entirely new meaning, wouldn’t it? Gentlemen, that is why we preach about sin. I could walk up to someone here in our town and hand them a New Testament, and they might reject it. Or, they would simply receive it and say, “thanks.” But in other contexts, in South America among the mountain men, I’ve handed them a New Testament and had them break down in tears and kiss my hands. You see the context? Joy and the expression of it is often dependent upon a recognition of need, a recognition of need. (Incomplete thought) I think it was Billy Graham one time who was meeting with a group of very, very wealthy people. And he was there – I don’t know if it was a party or a dinner or what it was – and afterwards, they asked him to speak a little bit, just get up informally and speak. And he began to talk about how Jesus Christ can meet our need. And after he was done, a very wealthy lady came up to him and said, “But Billy, what about those of us who have no need?” Do you see? It wasn’t good news. “I’m full. I’m satisfied.” That is why you must learn to plow. They don’t teach preachers to plow anymore. Break up fallow ground. Expose. Use the Word of God that the Holy Spirit would use the Word of God as a sword to cut into the hearts of men that they would recognize their need, so that when in bondage, when seeing their captivity and seeing their chains, someone preaches the Gospel to them, they are utterly amazed. It is good news. It is good news.