The Gospel (IV)
ESSENTIAL GOSPEL DOCTRINE (2)
(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 9/24/00 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Turn to Romans 6 if you will. I'm going to read 6:15 to 7:11:
Romans 6: (15) What then? Shall we sin because we are not under Law, but under grace? Let it not be! (16) Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves [as] slaves for obedience, you are slaves to whom you obey, whether of sin to death, or obedience to righteousness? (17) But thanks [be] to God that you were slaves of sin, but you obeyed from [the] heart the form of doctrine to which you were delivered. (18) And having been set free from sin, you were enslaved to righteousness. (19) I speak as a man on account of the weakness of your flesh. For as you presented your members [as] slaves to uncleanness and to lawless act unto lawless act, so now yield your members as slaves to righteousness unto sanctification.(20) For when you were slaves of sin, you were free as to righteousness. (21) Therefore what fruit did you have then [in the things] over which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things [is] death. (22) But now having been set free from sin, and having been enslaved to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end everlasting life. (23) For the wages of sin [is] death, but the gift of God [is] everlasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (7:1) Or are you ignorant, brothers, (for I speak to those knowing Law), that the Law lords it over the man for as long a time as he lives? (2) For the married woman was bound by Law to the living husband; but if the husband dies, she is set free from the Law of the husband. (3) So then, [if] the husband [is] living, she will be called an adulteress if she becomes another man's. But if the husband dies, she is free from the Law, [so as for] her not to be an adulteress [by] becoming another man's. (4) So that, my brothers, you also were made dead to the Law through the body of Christ, for you to become Another's, to [the One] raised from [the] dead, so that we may bear fruit to God. (5) For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sin were working in our members through the Law for the bearing of fruit unto death. (6) But now we have been set free from the Law, having died [to that] in which we were held, so as [for] us to serve in newness of spirit, and not [in] oldness of letter. (7) What shall we say then? [Is] the Law sin? Let it not be! But I did not know sin except through Law; for also I did not know lust except the Law said, "You shall not lust." (8) But sin taking occasion through the commandment worked every lust in me; for apart from Law, sin [is] dead. (9) And I was alive apart from Law once, but the commandment came, and sin came alive, and I died. (10) And the commandment which [was] to life, this was found [to be] death to me; (11) for sin taking occasion through the commandment deceived me, and through it killed [me].
Today I'm going to continue to preach on essential gospel doctrine. Let me again give the definition of the gospel: It is God's promise to save His people conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. Last week, we went over the first two words of the definition: GOD'S PROMISE. We went over some essential gospel doctrine that had to do with God and God's promises. God is the sovereign creator and controller of the universe. When God promises, He keeps His promises. The gospel would not be good news if it were a promise from a being who failed even one time to keep His promises.
Now let's go on to the next two words in the definition. In the gospel, what does God promise to do? He promises TO SAVE. Let us consider what it means TO SAVE.
Now, we hear a lot of religious phrases using various forms of this word. They say, "Jesus saves." They say, "I'm saved." They ask, "Are you saved?" But what does it mean to be saved? And what does it mean to SAVE? The Hebrew word that's usually translated "save" is YA-sha, and the Greek word that's usually translated "save" is SO-zo. One of the meanings of these words is to deliver or to rescue. So the gospel speaks of God's promise to deliver or rescue.
First of all, what is the necessary implication of deliverance or rescue? Well, if I'm going to RESCUE someone, does that mean that everything's okay with the person I'm going to rescue? No! It means that there's something terribly wrong. That person is in a situation in which he is in need of RESCUE. And if I'm going to DELIVER someone, it's because that person is BEING HELD or IS BOUND by someone or something. Since the gospel speaks of God saving certain PEOPLE, what is the terrible situation from which these people need to be RESCUED? What are they bound by from which they need to be DELIVERED?
The Bible clearly tells us the state of these people before they are rescued and delivered. In fact, it tells us that the state of THESE people - that is, the ones that are mentioned in the gospel - their state BEFORE salvation is no different than the state of EVERYONE WITHOUT EXCEPTION by nature. Let's turn to Ephesians 2:1-3:
Ephesians 2: (1) and you being dead in deviations and sins, (2) in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience, (3) among whom we also all conducted ourselves in times past in the lusts of our flesh, doing the things willed of the flesh and of the understanding, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as the rest.
What does this say about us, before we were saved? We were DEAD in trespasses and in sins. Now when it says we were DEAD, does that mean that we didn't breathe, or that our heart wasn't beating, or that our brain wasn't working? Well, we can see from verses 2 and 3 that it doesn't mean that, because it says that we were DOING THINGS. So when we talk about unbelievers being DEAD, we don't mean that they don't do anything. This is a certain kind of death. As verse 1 says, it is a kind of death that is in TRESPASSES and SINS. We were dead IN OUR SINS. Colossians 2:13 says that we were dead in the offenses and the uncircumcision of our flesh. As John 3:19 says, unsaved people love darkness rather than light, because their works are evil. Romans 6:17 and 20 says that we were SLAVES of sin. So we were DEAD in sin and SLAVES to sin. This means that everything we did was evil, and we COULD NOT do ANYTHING good. We couldn't even understand the difference between good and evil. In the second part of Romans 6:20, it says that we were "free as to righteousness." This means that when we were slaves to sin, we were WITHOUT righteousness. We did not have a righteousness that answered the demands of God's law and justice.
Let's turn to several passages that illustrate the points I just made.
Romans 3: (9) What then? Do we excel? Not at all! For we have charged both Jews and Greeks before, all [with] being under sin; (10) according as it has been written, "[There is] not a righteous [one], not even one!" (11) "[There is] not [one] understanding; [there is] not [one] seeking God." (12) All turned away, [they] became worthless together, not [one is] doing goodness, not so much as one!"
1 Corinthians 2:14:
1 Corinthians 2: (14) But a natural man does not receive the things of [the] Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.
Romans 8: (5) For the ones that are according to flesh mind the things of the flesh. And the ones according to Spirit [mind] the things of the Spirit. (6) For the mind of the flesh [is] death, but the mind of the Spirit [is] life and peace; (7) because the mind of the flesh [is] enmity towards God; for it is not being subjected to the Law of God, for neither can it [be]. (8) And those being in the flesh are not able to please God.
Another essential doctrine comes from the answer to the following questions: "WHY were we dead in our sins before we were saved, and WHY is EVERYONE dead in their sins who is not saved?" For the answer to this question, we should look at Romans 5. Let's look at verses 12 and 19:
Romans 5: (12)Because of this, even as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, so also death passed to all men, inasmuch as all sinned. ... (19) For as through the one man's disobedience the many were constituted sinners, so also through the obedience of the One the many shall be constituted righteous.
Sin entered the world through ONE MAN. Through ONE MAN'S DISOBEDIENCE, the many were constituted sinners. Who is this ONE MAN? The first man ever to be created - Adam. What was this one man's sin? Disbelieving God's promise. What does that have to do with us? Adam's sin is imputed to all whom He represented. How many people did Adam represent? All of Adam's posterity. The doctrine of original sin is essential gospel doctrine.
So what is God's attitude toward those who are dead in their sins and who are void of righteousness? Look back at Ephesians 2, at the end of verse 3. What does it say we were by nature? CHILDREN OF WRATH. As we saw in the first message of this series, God will not fellowship with those who have no righteousness. And it goes even further than that. He can ONLY SHOW WRATH to those who have no righteousness. This is why, when we were dead in trespasses and sins, we were children of wrath. We were under God's wrath. And look at the very end of verse 3. It says, "even as the rest." This shows that everyone without exception by nature is a child of wrath. They are under God's curse. Everything they do is under a curse.
Now someone might ask, "Everything they do is cursed? Don't they do at least a little bit of good? Isn't God pleased with some of what unsaved people do? Are you saying that God doesn't bless them or have some kind of mercy upon them?" My answer is, This isn't just my opinion; it's revealed by GOD. And if you have a problem with it, you have a problem with God. Let's see what God says. Turn to Psalm 14:2-3:
Psalm 14: (2) Jehovah looked down from Heaven on the sons of mankind, to see if there were any discerning [and] seeking God: (3) they [have] all turned aside; together they have become filthy; [there is] none doing good, not even one!
Part of this is quoted in Romans 3. There is NONE doing good. Now let's turn to Matthew 7:18:
Matthew 7:(18) A good tree cannot produce evil fruits, nor a corrupt tree produce good fruits.
What does this say about a corrupt tree? It's very obvious - a corrupt tree CANNOT bring forth good fruit. It is an IMPOSSIBILITY. But someone might ask, "Isn't an unbeliever doing good when he is kind to others? What about if he's kind to the environment or to his animals?" Let's look at Proverbs 12:10:
Proverbs 12: (10) The righteous knows the life of his animal, but the mercies of the wicked [are] cruel.
Even the MERCIES of the wicked are CRUEL! His so-called goodness to others is actually CRUELTY in God's sight! Again, there is NONE doing good, and a corrupt tree CANNOT bring forth good fruit. Let's turn to Hebrews 11:6:
Hebrews 11: (6) But without faith [it is] impossible to please [God]. For it is right [that] the [one] drawing near to God should believe that He is, and [that] He becomes a rewarder to the [ones] seeking Him out.
It is IMPOSSIBLE for unbelievers to please God. Do you see any exceptions in here? Does an unbeliever's so-called good deeds or acts of kindness please God? God says that is an IMPOSSIBILITY. And if it is impossible for an unbeliever to ever please God, what is God's attitude toward those who do not please Him? ONLY A CURSE. NEVER a blessing. Let's turn to Proverbs 3:33:
Proverbs 3: (3) The curse of Jehovah [is] in the house of the wicked, but He blesses the abode of the just.
The house of the wicked is CURSED. Is everything he does CURSED? Let's turn to Deuteronomy 28:15-19:
Deuteronomy 28: (15) And it shall be, if you will not heed the voice of your God, to take heed to do all His commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today, even all these curses shall come on you and overtake you: (16) You [shall be] cursed in the city, and you shall be cursed in the field. (17) Your basket and your kneading-trough [shall be] cursed. (18) The fruit of your body [shall be] cursed, and the fruit of your land, the offspring of your oxen, and the young ones of your sheep. (19) You shall be cursed when you come in, and you shall be cursed when you go out.
Sounds pretty comprehensive, doesn't it?
Now remember - The Bible isn't just talking just about the immoral pervert when it talks about those who are dead in their sins, who are slaves to sin, who are bringing forth fruit unto death, who cannot bring forth good fruit, who cannot please God, and who are under God's curse. It is ALSO talking about the one who is doing his best to obey God and to be moral and dedicated and sincere but who does not believe the gospel. Paul's testimony about himself is the most vivid example. In Philippians 3, he shows that he was not an immoral pervert when he was lost; in fact, he was just the opposite. He was a moral, sincere, zealous, religious person. Yet because he did not believe the gospel then, Paul counted all that but loss. And look what he says in Romans 7:5: "For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sin were working in our members THROUGH THE LAW for the bearing of fruit unto death." What was Paul's fruit unto death before he was saved? It was his LAW-KEEPING. Paul, although he was moral and religious, was dead in his sins, was a slave to sin, was bringing forth fruit unto death, could not bring forth good fruit, could not please God, and was under God's curse. Proverbs 15:8 says that the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to God. It's all an abomination, even if it comes in the name of Christ. The so-called "Christians" of our day who claim to love and worship God but who do not believe the gospel are bringing forth fruit unto death. All of their prayers, all of their preaching, all of their giving, all of their singing, all of their hard work, all of their zeal, all of their outreach to the poor, all of their evangelism, all of their witnessing, all of their pro-life work, all of their anti-homosexual work, all of their morality, all of their dedication, all of their supposed kindnesses to their spouses and their children and their neighbors, all of their religious education, all of their decrying of sex and violence in the media, all of their decrying liberalism, all of their letters to the editor, all of their volunteering, all of their modesty, all of their abstaining from foul language and fornication and drunkenness and gluttony, all of their tears of joy, all of their tears of remorse, all of their happiness, all of their sadness, all of their home-schooling, all of their home-churching, all of their stands against Roman Catholicism and Mormonism and Buddhism and Islam and the New Age Movement, all of their separating from corrupt churches, all of their proclamations of the doctrines of grace, all of their ENTIRE LIVES are an ABOMINATION to God. They have a zeal, alright, but it is not according to knowledge. They are ever learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. The state of the religious unbeliever who comes in the name of conservative Christianity, even in the name of the doctrines of grace, is the same as the state of the irreligious, unconcerned, immoral liberal homosexual. In fact, Jesus Christ said that it would be more tolerable in the day of judgment for the sodomite than it would be for the moral religionist who does not believe the gospel.
And speaking of the judgment, I'd like to briefly talk about what sin earns. We've already seen that those who are dead in their sins are under the curse of God, even God's people before they're saved. But what about those who remain under the curse of God until their death? Here we come to another essential gospel doctrine. For if certain people are saved from their sin, they are also saved from the consequence of their sin. Let's look at what the consequence of sin is. Romans 6:23 is something we already read at the beginning, but let's read it again:
Romans 6: (23) For the wages of sin [is] death, but the gift of God [is] everlasting life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Sin earns death. Sin DEMANDS death. Verse 16 talks about "sin to death." Verse 21 says that "the end of those things is death." And back in chapter 5, when it speaks of Adam, it speaks of condemnation and death as a result of sin.
Now what is this condemnation and death, which is also spoken of as damnation? Well, the Bible clearly states that it is the state of the wicked after they die in which they are eternally punished for their sins. The place in which they are eternally punished for their sins is called HELL. Let's look at some Scriptures that tell us of the horrible state and place of those who die in their sins.
Isaiah 33: (14) The sinners of Zion are afraid; terror has seized profane ones; who of us shall tarry [with] consuming fire? Who of us shall tarry with everlasting burnings?
Matthew 3: (12) whose fan [is] in His hand, and He will cleanse His floor and will gather His wheat into the storehouse. But He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Matthew 13: (40) Then as the darnel is gathered and is consumed in the fire, so it will be in the completion of this age. (41) The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all the offenses, and those who practice lawlessness. (42) And they will throw them into the furnace of fire; there will be weeping and gnashing of the teeth.
Mark 9: (43) And if your hand offend you, cut it off. For it is profitable for you to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go away into Hell, into the unquenchable fire, (44) where their worm does not die, and the fire is not put out. (45) And if your foot causes you to offend, cut it off, for it is profitable for you to enter into life lame, than having two feet to be thrown into Hell, into the unquenchable fire, (46) where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. (47) And if your eye offends you, cast it out. For it is profitable for you to enter into the kingdom of God one-eyed, than having two eyes to be thrown into the Hell of fire, (48) "where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched."
2 Thessalonians 1:8-9:
2 Thessalonians 1: (8) in flaming fire giving full vengeance to those not knowing God, and to those not obeying the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, (9) who will pay the penalty: everlasting destruction from the face of the Lord, "and from the glory of His strength,"
Revelation 14: (9) And a third angel followed them, saying in a great voice, If anyone worships the beast and its image, and receives a mark on his forehead, or in his hand, (10) he also shall drink of the wine of the anger of God having been mixed undiluted in the cup of His wrath. And he will be tormented by fire and brimstone before the holy angels and before the Lamb. (11) And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. And those worshiping the beast and its image have no rest night and day, even if anyone receives the mark of its name.
Revelation 21: (8) But for the cowardly and unbelieving, and those having become foul, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all the lying ones, their part will be in the Lake burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
We see from these passages two main truths about hell. First, it is a burning with fire that causes unimaginable pain and agony and torment to all who are there. Second, this burning fire and torment will last for eternity. The fire will never go out, and the pain and agony will never end. What a sobering thought. I cannot imagine hell. Even the worst suffering on earth can't even begin to compare with the torment of hell.
But why does hell exist? And why are its occupants tormented forever? Some people say that this is too harsh and that God wouldn't do such a thing. Some people say that God doesn't torment the wicked forever. The reason people say these things is because they don't know who God is. Hell is what it is because God is who He is. God, first and foremost, is HOLY. He is TOTALLY, EVERLASTINGLY, PERFECTLY PURE. God's Holiness means that God is Just. Because of His HOLY and UNCHANGEABLE JUSTICE, all transgressions against His Holy Commandments, which are TOTAL affronts to His infinite Holiness, MUST be punished in proportion to His Holiness. Those who die not having a righteousness that equals the holiness of God CANNOT EVEN BEGIN TO PAY for their sins. Sin against an eternally Holy God must be punished with eternal punishment. Those who do not believe in the eternal punishment of the wicked do not believe in the utter sinfulness of sin. They do not believe that sin is that much of an offense to God. And the reason they do not believe that sin is such an offense to the eternal God that the wicked must be punished eternally is because they do not believe the God of the Bible.
In conclusion, we have seen that the doctrines of original sin, total depravity, and the wages of sin are all part of essential gospel doctrine. In John 16:8, Jesus Christ says that the Holy Spirit convicts His people concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. If one does not believe that by Adam's sin, all humans are constituted sinners; if one does not believe that the unregenerate have no ability nor desire to come to the true and living God and are void of a righteousness that answers the demands of God's law and justice, and if one does not believe that sin demands everlasting punishment in hell, we can be sure that the Holy Spirit has not wrought a saving work in that person.
But thank God that He HAS revealed the truth to His people through His Word and His Spirit, so we know not only that sin demands everlasting death, but righteousness demands everlasting life. And we know that we, in our character and conduct, can never meet up to God's standard of perfect holiness, and self-generated righteousness demands everlasting death, but the righteousness of Christ, freely imputed to His people, demands their everlasting life in heaven with our Sovereign Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.