The Gospel (III)
ESSENTIAL GOSPEL DOCTRINE (1)
(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 9/17/00 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Two weeks ago, I preached a message on THE GOSPEL - WHAT IT IS. We saw that the gospel reveals the righteousness of God. We saw that the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel involves two imputations - First, the sins of God's people were charged to Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ was punished in the place of God's people. Second, the righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to God's people. We saw that this is how God is just to justify the ungodly. We saw that the gospel is the good news of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness alone.
Last week, I preached a message on THE GOSPEL - WHAT IT'S NOT. We saw that the gospel is not the entire Bible, it is not an offer, it is not a command, and is not the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ considered apart from what the work of Christ accomplished. The gospel is a UNILATERAL, UNCONDITIONAL promise from God to save His people based on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. This promise is never thwarted.
This week, and in coming weeks, the Lord willing, the subject will be ESSENTIAL GOSPEL DOCTRINE. By "essential," I mean that if you do not have this doctrine, you do not have the gospel. I'm using the word "doctrine" instead of "doctrines," because this is how the Bible emphasizes the unity of all the necessary parts of the gospel. There are different doctrines of the gospel, but they all make up the doctrine.
Now, we shouldn't be intimidated by the word DOCTRINE. It simply means "teaching" or "instruction." The Greek words that are translated "doctrine" are didaskaleia (did-as-kal-EE-a) and didace (did-AH-kay), which both come from the same root. That root is also found in didaskalos (did-AS-kal-os), which means "teacher," and didasko (did-AS-ko), which means "to teach." In the context in which these words are used positively, it means "teaching the truth." So I'm going to be talking about ESSENTIAL GOSPEL TEACHING, or ESSENTIAL GOSPEL TRUTH.
Let's think about the definition of the gospel again. It is good news, and the only way it can be good news is if it is a unilateral, unconditional promise from God. So it is a PROMISE from God to save His people based on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone.
Now let's think about what are the necessary truths that are part of the gospel. Well, we've gone over some of them already. Imputation is a necessary truth; in fact, double imputation is a necessary truth. Justification, redemption, and propitiation are necessary truths. Substitution and satisfaction are necessary truths. And some of the truths that we're going to go into a little more detail on overlap with these truths, and this is necessarily so; because these truths are so intertwined, that you cannot destroy one without destroying all.
Now let's get into more of the necessary truths that come from the gospel. Again -- the gospel is God's promise to save His people based on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone.
So what do we see in the first word of this definition? We see GOD. The existence of God is an essential gospel doctrine. If you don't have God, you don't have the gospel. And if you don't have the gospel, you don't have salvation, as we've already seen. But the gospel doesn't just stop at God's existence. What does God do? God PROMISES. And the only way the gospel can be good news is if God HAS THE POWER TO KEEP ALL HIS PROMISES WITHOUT EVEN A SINGLE FAILURE.
What does the Bible say about the ability of God to keep His promises? Let's turn to some Scripture passages. We're going to be spending some time here. As I was preparing this message, I saw again how full the Scripture is not only of God's promises but His fulfilling of these promises. Let's spend some time in these verses and meditate on and rejoice in God's faithfulness to keep His promises. These are precious truths to God's people.
Deuteronomy 7: (8) But because Jehovah loved you, and because He kept the oath which He swore to your fathers, Jehovah has caused you to go out with a strong hand, and redeemed you from the house of slaves, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (9) Because of this, know that Jehovah your God, He [is] God, the faithful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to those who love Him, and to those who keep His commands, to a thousand generations; (10) and repaying to his face those that hate Him, to destroy him; He will not delay, He will repay him who hates Him, to his face.
Joshua 21: (44) And Jehovah gave them rest round about, according to all that He swore to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood before them. Jehovah delivered all their enemies into their hand. (45) Nor did fail a word from any good word which Jehovah had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.
Joshua 23: (14) And, behold! Today I [am] going in the way of all the earth, and you know with all your heart and with all your soul that there has not failed one thing of all the good things which Jehovah your God has spoken concerning you; all of it has come to you; there has not one thing failed of it.
2 Samuel 23:3-5:
2 Samuel 23: (3) The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me: One ruling over man righteously, who rules [in] the fear of God, (4) is as the light of the morning, as the sun shines; a morning without clouds; through shining after rain the tender grass [sprouts] from the earth. (5) For [is] not my house so with God? For He has made an everlasting covenant with me, ordered in all things, and sure; for all my salvation, and all my desire, will He not make it grow?
Psalm 89: (24) But My faithfulness and My mercy [is] with him; and his horn shall be exalted in My name. (25) And I will set his hand in the sea, and his right hand in the rivers. (26) He shall cry to Me, My Father, You [are] my God, and the rock of my salvation. (27) And I will make Him [My] first-born, higher than the kings of the earth. (28) I will keep My mercy for him forever, and My covenant shall hold fast with him. (29) And I have established his Seed forever, and His throne as the days of the heavens. (30) If his sons forsake My Law, and do not walk in My judgments; (31) if they profane My statutes and do not keep My commandments; (32) then I will visit their transgressions with the rod, and their sins with stripes. (33) But I will not annul My mercy from him, and I will not be false in My faithfulness. (34) I will not profane My covenant, nor change what goes from My lips. (35) Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David. (36) His Seed shall be forever, and his throne as the sun before Me. (37) Like the moon, it shall be forever; and a faithful witness in the sky.
Psalm 132: (11) Jehovah has sworn to David [in] truth; He will not turn from it; I will set [one] of the fruit of your body on the throne for you.
Isaiah 45: (23) I have sworn by Myself, the Word has gone out of My mouth [in] righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.
Isaiah 46: (9) Remember former things from forever, for I [am] God, and no one else [is] God, even none like Me, (10) declaring the end from the beginning, and from the past those things which were not done, saying, My counsel shall rise; and, I will do all My desire; (11) calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My counsel from a far off land. Yes, I have spoken; yes, I will cause it to come; I have formed; yes, I will do it.
Isaiah 54: (9) For this [is] the waters of Noah to Me; [for as] I swore [to refrain] from passing over the waters of Noah over the earth again, so I have sworn from being angry with you and rebuking you. (10) For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My mercy shall not depart from you; nor shall the covenant of My peace be removed, says Jehovah who has pity on you.
Jeremiah 33: (20) So says Jehovah, If you can break My covenant of the day, and My covenant of the night, and there should not be day and night in their time, (21) [then] My covenant with My servant David may also be broken, that he should not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levitical priests, My ministers. ... (25) So says Jehovah, If My covenant [is] not with day and night, [and if] I have not appointed the ordinances of the heavens and earth, (26) then I also will reject the seed of Jacob, and My servant David, not to take of his seed [to be] rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For I will bring back their captivity and have pity on them.
Acts 13: (32) And we preach the gospel to you, the promise made to the fathers, (33) that this God has fulfilled to us, their children, raising up Jesus; as also it has been written in the second Psalm, "You are My Son, today I have begotten You."
Romans 15: (8) And I say, Jesus Christ has become a minister of circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises of the fathers, (9) and for the nations to glorify God for mercy, even as it has been written, "Because of this I will confess to You in the nations, and I will give praise to Your name."
2 Corinthians 1:19-20:
2 Corinthians 1: (19) For Jesus Christ the Son of God, the [One] proclaimed among you by us, through me and Silvanus and Timothy, did not become Yes and No, but has been Yes in Him. (20) For as many promises as [are] of God, in Him [they are] yes, and in Him [are] Amen, for glory to God through us.
1 Thessalonians 5:24:
1 Thessalonians 5: (24) Faithful is the [One] calling you, who also will perform [it].
Titus 1: (1) Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ according to [the] faith of [the] elect of God and full knowledge of [the] truth according to godliness, (2) on hope of eternal life which the God who does not lie promised before [the] eternal times, (3) but revealed in its own times in a proclamation of His Word, with which I was entrusted by [the] command of our Savior God;
2 Peter 3:9-13:
2 Peter 3: (9) The Lord of the promise is not slow, as some deem slowness, but is long-suffering toward us, not having purposed any [of us] to perish, but all [of us] to come to repentance. (10) But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in [the] night, in which the heavens will pass away with rushing sound, and having burned [the] elements will be dissolved, and earth and the works in it will be burned up. (11) Then all these being [about] to be dissolved, [of] what sort ought you to be in holy behavior and godliness, (12) looking for and hastening the coming of the Day of God, through which [the] heavens having been set afire will be dissolved; and burning, [the] elements will melt? (13) But according to His promise, we look for "new heavens and a new earth," in which righteousness dwells.
And then let's go to Hebrews 6:13-20:
Hebrews 6: (13) For God having made promise to Abraham, since He had no [one] greater to swear by, "[He] swore by Himself," (14) saying, "Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you." (15) And so, being long-suffering, he obtained the promise. (16) For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath to make things sure [is] to them the end of all gainsaying. (17) In which way, desiring to more fully declare to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His counsel, God interposed by an oath, (18) that through two unchangeable things, in which [it was] not possible [for] God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, those having fled to lay hold on the hope set before [us], (19) which we have as an anchor of the soul, both certain and sure, and entering into the inner [side] of the veil, (20) where Jesus entered as forerunner for us, having become a High Priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.
Aren't these precious? We haven't even covered a small percentage of the passages in God's Word that talk of His faithfulness to keep his promises. But I hope this has given you a glimpse into the sure promises of God. If God's promises were not sure to be fulfilled, then all is in vain.
Now how can we be sure that God is able to keep all His promises? Some of the verses we just read mentioned this, and there are a ton of other verses that mention it as well. The reason we can be sure that God is able to keep all His promises is because God is SOVEREIGN. That means he is in total control of all things. He CREATED all things, and He ORDERS all things. There is not a single thing in the universe that is not CONTROLLED by God. If there is anything that is not under God's control, then whatever it is that's not under God's control can get in the way of God's fulfilling His promise. If God promises to do something, yet there are some people around who are not controlled by God, then those people could thwart God's promise. God MUST be in control of EVERY SINGLE THING. And we have so many Scriptures that say this. Let's just turn to a few.
Job 23: (13) But He [is] in one [mind], and who can turn Him? Yea, His soul desires, and He does [it]. (14) For He fulfilled my lot, and many like these are with Him.
Psalm 115: (3) But our God [is] in Heaven; He has done all that He has pleased.
Psalm 135: (5) For I know that Jehovah [is] great, and our Lord [is] above all gods. (6 )Every [thing] which Jehovah [was] pleased to do, He did, in the heavens and in the earth, and in the seas and all deep places. (7) He causes the vapors to rise from the end of the earth; He makes lightnings for the rain; He brings the wind out of His storehouses;
Proverbs 16: (33) The lot is cast into the lap, but all ordering of it [is] from Jehovah.
Proverbs 21: (1) [As] streams of waters, the king's heart [is] in the hand of Jehovah; He turns it wherever He desires.
Isaiah 45: (6) that they may know from the rising of the sun, and to its going down, that [there is] none besides Me; I [am] Jehovah, and there is none else; (7) forming light, and creating darkness; making peace, and creating evil. I, Jehovah, do all these things.
Thus, those who believe the gospel believe that God is SOVEREIGN over all things and is thus able and faithful to keep all His promises. If you don't believe that God is sovereign, you don't believe that His promises are sure and certain. If you don't believe that His promises are sure and certain, you don't believe the gospel.
Inseparably connected with the doctrine of God's sovereignty and faithfulness to keep His promises is the doctrine of PREDESTINATION. To "predestinate" means to "determine beforehand." We've already seen that God is in control of everything, meaning that he determines everything. Now the question is, WHEN did He determine everything? Does He determine things based on what His creation does? If He did that, His promises would not be sure and certain, because they could be changed by the will of man. So - if God does not determine things in reaction to His creation, He must have determined things BEFORE creation. God is an infinite God - that means He has no beginning and no end. So when we talk about God determining things BEFORE creation, we're not saying that it is possible to pinpoint a particular TIME before creation , because time did not exist before creation, and because God's determination of all things was in His mind from eternity past. It is enough to say that he determined all things before He created all things. (Just as a side note, we see that the doctrine of God as creator of all things is essential gospel doctrine, because God cannot be in control of that which He did not create, unless some higher being is the one that created and then designated God to be in control. But a God who is in subjection to another being cannot be God. Many Scriptures, when they talk of God's sovereignty, link God's sovereignty with God as creator.)
Let's turn to some Scriptures on God's predetermination of things. Some of these are going to overlap with election, which I will talk about later, the Lord willing. Let's first turn to Isaiah 42:9. This is God speaking:
Isaiah 42: (9) Behold, the former things have come to pass, and I declare new things before they happen, I cause you to hear.
Now let's turn to Isaiah 46:9-10:
Isaiah 46: (9) Remember former things from forever, for I [am] God, and no one else [is] God, even none like Me, (10) declaring the end from the beginning, and from the past those things which were not done, saying, My counsel shall rise; and, I will do all My desire;
Now we'll go to the New Testament. Matthew 25:34:
Matthew 25: (34) Then the King will say to those on His right, Come, the blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from [the] foundation of the world.
Acts 13: (9) And hearing, the nations rejoiced and glorified the Word of the Lord. And as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
Acts 17: (26) And He made every nation of men of one blood, to live on all the face of the earth, ordaining fore-appointed seasons and boundaries of their dwelling,
Romans 8: (29) because whom He foreknew, He also predestinated [to be] conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be [the] First-born among many brothers.
1 Corinthians 2:7:
1 Corinthians 2: (7) But we speak [the] wisdom of God in a mystery, having been hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory,
Ephesians 1: (4) even as He elected us in Him before [the] foundation of [the] world, for us to be holy and without blemish before Him in love, (5) predestinating us to adoption through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, ... (11) in whom we also have been chosen to an inheritance, being predestinated according to [the] purpose of the [One] working all things according to the counsel of His [own] will,
Ephesians 3: (11) according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,
2 Thessalonians 2:13:
2 Thessalonians 2: (13) But we ought to thank God always concerning you, brothers, beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to salvation in sanctification of [the] Spirit and belief of [the] truth,
2 Timothy 1:9:
2 Timothy 1: (9) the [One] having saved us and having called [us] with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to [His] own purpose and grace given to us in Christ Jesus before eternal times,
Titus 1: (2) on hope of eternal life which the God who does not lie promised before [the] eternal times,
1 Peter 1:20:
1 Peter 1: (20) indeed having been foreknown before [the] foundation of [the] world, but revealed in [the] last times because of you,
Revelation 13: (8) And all those dwelling in the earth will worship it, those of whom the names had not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb having been slain from the foundation of the world.
And the Bible says that the most important event in history, even though it was carried out by evil men, was pre-determined.
Luke 22: (23) And he said to Him, Lord, I am ready to go both to prison and to death with You.
Acts 2: (23) this One given [to you] by the before-determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, [you] having taken by lawless hands, having crucified [Him], you killed [Him].
Acts 4: (27) For truly both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the nations and [the] peoples of Israel, were assembled against Your holy child Jesus, whom You anointed, (28) to do whatever Your hand and Your counsel before-determined to be done.
And as we'll see in a later message, the Lord willing, God chose a certain number of people before the foundation of the world and predestined that they would be saved by the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ. This is called ELECTION, and the people God chose are called the ELECT.
What we have seen today are some of the truths that are revealed in the gospel. We've seen that God is a promise-keeper. He CANNOT, because of His nature, fail to keep even ONE of his promises. God is a sovereign God, one who is in control of everything, one who determined everything before He created the world. He determined the promises, and He determined how, when, and where these promises would be fulfilled. He is true to Himself; He is true to His Word. When God says that something will happen, it will happen. When God promises salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ, that promise is as SURE and as CERTAIN as God Himself. Everyone to whom this promise is given SHALL be saved.
Let's close with Psalm 111:
Psalm 111: (1) Praise Jehovah! I will thank Jehovah with all [my] heart; in the council of the upright, and of the assembly. (2) The works of Jehovah [are] great, sought out by all those desiring them. (3) His work [is] honorable and glorious; and His righteousness [is] standing forever. (4) He has made a memorial for His wonders; Jehovah is gracious and full of pity. (5) He has given food to those who fear Him; He will always remember His covenant. (6) He has shown to His people the power of His works, to give to them [the] inheritance of the nations. (7) The works of His hands [are] truth and all His commandments [are] true, (8) standing firm forever and ever; [they are] done in truth and uprightness. (9) He sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever; holy and awesome [is] His name. (10) The fear of Jehovah [is] the beginning of wisdom; all who do them [have] a good understanding; His praise is standing forever!