The Gospel (V)
ESSENTIAL GOSPEL DOCTRINE (3)
(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 10/1/00 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Let's turn to Matthew chapter 1. I'll be reading verses 18 through 23:
Matthew 1: (18) And the birth of Jesus Christ was this way (for His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph) before the coming together of them, she was found having [babe] in womb by [the] Holy Spirit. (19) But her husband [to be], Joseph, being just, and not willing to make her a public example, he purposed to put her away secretly. (20) And [as] he [was] thinking about these things, behold, an angel of [the] Lord was seen by him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary [as] your wife. For that in her is generated by [the] Holy Spirit. (21) And she will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins. (22) And all this happened so that might be fulfilled that [which was] spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, (23) "Behold! The virgin will conceive in [her] womb and will bear a son, and they will call His name Emmanuel" (which translated is, God with us).
Today I'm going to continue preaching on the truths that are essential to the gospel. Without these truths, you do not have the gospel. The gospel is God's promise to save His people conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. Even though we can summarize the gospel in one sentence, there are a number of necessary truths that are part of this one sentence, and we're going through some of these truths. Last week, we looked at original sin, total depravity, and the wages of sin. We saw how these are necessary gospel truths, because the gospel is God's promise to SAVE. If the people whom God promises to save are in good shape already, then there is no need to save them. If the people whom God promises to save are able to save themselves, then there is no need for God. But the Bible says that Jesus came into the world to SAVE His people FROM THEIR SIN, which we just read in Matthew 1:21, and last week, we saw many verses that show that all whom God saves are, by nature, dead in their sins, slaves to sin, and bringing forth fruit unto death, and who cannot bring forth good fruit, cannot please God, and are under God's curse. We also saw that this is the state of everyone without exception by nature.
Today, we're going to see what this salvation entails, according to God's testimony. What happens to a dead sinner when he is saved?
First, let's get into our minds some of what we've already heard in this series of messages. First, God saves His people under the true gospel, and no other way. Second, those whom God saves are in rebellion against Him by nature and have no ability to come to Him. Third, God is sovereign and does whatever He pleases. So when God appoints a time to save one of His people, there is ABSOLUTELY NO STOPPING IT. And we saw in a previous message that God has appointed everything before the world was created. So - when God, before He created the world, appointed a time to save me, NOTHING could stop it. For every one of His people, God has appointed a specific place and a specific time and a specific circumstance to save each one. We've seen in so many Scriptures that when God decides to do something, it is done. Not even the rebellious person whom God chose to save can stop it from happening! God's saving power is IRRESISTIBLE. That means that NO MAN can RESIST God's intention to save when the appointed time comes. Let's turn to John 6:37:
John 6: (37) All that the Father gives to Me shall come to Me, and the [one] coming to Me I will in no way cast out.
Are there any exceptions there? Are there any whom God has given to Jesus who WILL NOT come to Him? Now look at verse 44:
John 6: (44) No one is able to come to Me (that's talking about the total inability of man to come to Christ by nature) unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up in the last day.
What does it mean when it says that God DRAWS a person? Does it mean that God draws a picture of them? No. Does it mean that God says, "Please, please, will you please come to me"? No. The word DRAW here means to DRAG BY FORCE. To show you what this word really means, let's see how it is used in other parts of the New Testament:
John 21: (11) Simon Peter went up and dragged the net onto the land, full of big fish, a hundred and fifty three. And [though] being so many, the net was not torn.
Was Peter PLEADING with the fish net to come ashore?
Acts 16: (19) And seeing that the hope of their gain went out, having seized Paul and Silas, her lords dragged them to the market before the rulers.
Did they PLEAD with Paul and Silas to come to the market?
Acts 21: (30) And the whole city was moved, and there was a running together of people. And laying hands on Paul, they drew him outside of the temple, and at once the doors were shut.
Did they PLEAD with Paul to come out of the Temple?
James 2: (6) But you dishonored the poor one. Do not the rich ones oppress you, and they drag you to judgment seats?
Did the rich ones PLEAD with them to come to the judgment seats?
As you can see, this word doesn't have anything to do with PLEADING or with PROFFERING or even with ASKING. It is a UNILATERAL, FORCEFUL DRAGGING. A better translation of John 6:44 would be, "No one is able to come to Me unless the Father who sent Me DRAGS him."
Does this mean that God DRAGS a person kicking and screaming? Does the person being DRAGGED say, "I don't wanna go! I don't wanna go!" No - God CHANGES their hearts so that they are willingly dragged to Him. Psalm 110:3 says, "Your people shall be WILLING in the day of Your power." John 10:27 says, "My sheep HEAR My voice, and I know them, and they FOLLOW me." I'll talk later in more detail about the change of heart that happens at salvation.
So we have seen that God drags His people to Himself at the time He appointed through the preaching of the gospel. Now let's talk about the CHANGE that takes place at this time.
There is first a change of STATE before God. We have already seen in last week's message that God's people by nature are in a state of WRATH and CONDEMNATION. They are under God's CURSE. They do not have a righteousness that equals God's righteousness. What happens at salvation to a person's STATE before God? At salvation, the righteousness of Christ is IMPUTED to His people. This means that they are LEGALLY CONSTITUTED RIGHTEOUS - as righteous as God Himself. This is an amazing truth. God, because He is holy, only fellowships with those who are as righteous as He is. And He will admit no one to heaven who does not have a righteousness that equals His. Imputation is the only way that God can be just to justify sinners.
Because of imputation, there is a change from DEATH to LIFE. We, by nature, in our own righteousness, were dead in sins and could only bring forth fruit unto death. But what does the Scripture say about our state when we are saved?
Ephesians 2: (4) But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love [with] which He loved us, (5) even we being dead in deviations, [He] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are being saved),
Colossians 2: (13) And you, being dead in the deviations and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all the deviations,
We were dead once, but we were made alive. This making of a new life is sometimes called being born of God.
Let's read John 3:3-8:
John 3: (3) Jesus answered and said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, If one is not generated from above, he is not able to see the kingdom of God. (4) Nicodemus said to Him, How is a man able to be generated, being old? He is not able to enter into his mother's womb a second [time] and be born? (5) Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, If one is not generated out of water and Spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of God. (6) That having been generated out of the flesh is flesh, and that having been generated out of the Spirit is spirit.(7) Do not wonder because I said to you, You must be generated from above. (8) The Spirit breathes where He desires, and you hear His voice; but you do not know from where He comes, and where He goes; so is everyone having been generated from the Spirit.
1 Peter 1:23:
1 Peter 1: (23) being regenerated, not by corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through the living Word of God, and remaining forever.
Regenerate is another word for born again. Generate = born, and re = again. So when we talk about regeneration, we are talking about being born again.
As part of being born again, there is a change of HEART. Let's look at Ezekiel 11:19:
Ezekiel 11: (19) And I shall give to them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. And I will remove the stony heart out of their flesh, and I will give them a heart of flesh,
And Ezekiel 36:25-36:
Ezekiel 36: (25) Then I will sprinkle clean waters on you, and you shall be clean. I will cleanse you from all your defilement and from all your idols. (26) And I will also give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give to you a heart of flesh. (27) And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do [them]. (28) And you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers. And you shall be a people to Me, and I will be God to you. (29) I will also save you from all your defilements, and I will call for grain and increase it, and I will not put a famine on you. (30) And I will multiply the fruit of the tree and the produce of the field, in order that you will not any more receive the disgrace of famine among the nations. (31) And you will remember your evil ways and your doings that [were] not good, and you will despise yourselves in your own eyes for your iniquities and for your abominations. (32) Let it be known to you that I am not doing [this] for your sake, states the Lord Jehovah. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. (33) So says the Lord Jehovah: In the day I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities [to be] inhabited, and the wastes shall be built. (34) And the desolated land shall be cultivated, rather than being a ruin in the eyes of all passing by. (35) And they shall say, This land that was desolated has become like the garden of Eden. And the wasted and desolated and razed cities [are] fortified [and] inhabited. (36) And the nations left all around you shall know that I, Jehovah, built the razed places and planted that which was desolated. I, Jehovah have spoken it and will do it.
Before salvation, God's people have a heart of stone. After salvation, God's people have a heart of flesh. What does this change mean? Does it mean that the heart that's beating inside you used to be made out of stone, and now it's a human heart? No, that's not the way the Bible uses the word in these situations. Let's turn to some passages that show what the heart does. While I'm reading each of these passages, think about what the heart is DOING in each of these.
Genesis 6: (5) And Jehovah saw that the evil of man [was] great on the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart [was] only evil all the day long.
Genesis 24: (45) Before I had finished speaking within my heart, even behold, Rebekah was coming out, her pitcher on her shoulder. And she went down to the well and drew. And I said to her, Please let me drink.
Genesis 27: (41) And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him. And Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning [for] my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.
Exodus 35: (35) He has filled them [with] wisdom of heart, to do every work of a smith, and an artisan, and an embroiderer in blue, and in purple, and in crimson, and in bleached [linen], and a weaver; doers of every work and devisers of designs.
Exodus 36: (2) And Moses called to Bezaleel, and to Aholiab, and to everyone wise of heart, to whom Jehovah had given a heart of wisdom, everyone whose heart had lifted him up to come near the work, to do it.
Deuteronomy 15: (9) Beware that there is no evil thought in your heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release draws near; and your eye [be] evil against your needy brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to Jehovah against you and it be sin to you.
1 Kings 3:9:
1 Kings 3: (9) Also give to Your servant an understanding heart, to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this, Your great people?
Psalm 14: (1) The fool has said in his heart, [There is] no God! They acted corruptly; they did hatefully in deeds; there is none doing good.
Psalm 15: (2) He who walks uprightly and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart.
Psalm 49: (3) My mouth shall speak wisdom, and the thoughts of my heart [shall be] of understanding.
Proverbs 14:(10) The heart knows the bitterness of its soul, and a stranger does not mix in its joy.
Ecclesiastes 7: (22) For also your own heart knows that you yourself have also cursed others many times.
Isaiah 33: (18) Your heart shall ponder terror: Where is he counting? Where [is] he weighing? Where [is] he counting the towers?
Matthew 13: (15) For the heart of this people has grown fat, and they heard heavily with the ears, and they have closed their eyes, that they not see with the eyes, or hear with the ears, and understand with the heart, and be converted, and I heal them.
Luke 2: (19) And Mary kept all these words, meditating in her heart.
Acts 8: (22) Repent, then, from this wickedness of yours, and petition God if perhaps you will be forgiven the thought of your heart.
Romans 10: (9) Because if you confess [the] Lord Jesus with your mouth, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from [the] dead, you will be saved. (10) For with [the] heart [one] believes unto righteousness, and with [the] mouth [one] confesses unto salvation.
Hebrews 4: (12) For the Word of God [is] living, and powerfully working, and sharper than every two-edged sword, and piercing as far as [the] division of both soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge of the thoughts and intentions of the heart;
Do you know how many verses I skipped over? There are a TON of verses like this in the Bible. They clearly show that the HEART is what THINKS, UNDERSTANDS, KNOWS, and BELIEVES. So a change of HEART is a change of THINKING, UNDERSTANDING, KNOWLEDGE, and BELIEF.
Those who are NOT saved are lacking knowledge and understanding. Let's turn to Isaiah 45:20:
Isaiah 45: (20) Gather yourselves and come; draw near together, escaped ones of the nations; the ones who set up the wood of their carved image, and the ones who pray to a god who cannot save; they know nothing.
The KJV reads, "they have no knowledge." What knowledge are these idolaters lacking? Look at verses 21-25:
Isaiah 45: (21) Declare and bring near; yea, let them consult together. Who has revealed this of old; [who] has told it from then? Is it not I, Jehovah? And there [is] no God other than Me; a just God and a Savior; [there is] none except Me. (22) Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I [am] God, and there [is] no other. (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. (24) He shall say, Only in Jehovah do I have righteousness and strength; to Him he comes; and they are ashamed, all who are angry with Him. (25) In Jehovah all of the seed of Israel shall be justified, and shall glory.
These idolaters were lacking the knowledge of the true God, the one who is both a just God and a Savior. They were lacking the knowledge that only in God is there righteousness and strength. They were lacking the knowledge that God is a justifier of His people. Let's turn to Romans 10:2:
Romans 10: (2) For I testify to them that they have zeal to God, but not according to knowledge.
What is this knowledge that they were lacking? Look at verses 3 and 4:
Romans 10: (3) For being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to the righteousness of God. (4) For Christ [is] the end of Law for righteousness to everyone that believes.
They did not know about the righteousness of God, which is the imputed righteousness of Christ. Let's turn to 2 Corinthians 4:3-4:
2 Corinthians 4: (3) But also if our gospel is being hidden, it has been hidden in those being lost, (4) in whom the god of this age has blinded the thoughts of the unbelieving, [so that] the brightness of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God, [should] not dawn on them.
What are these unregenerate people blind to? The brightness of the gospel of the glory of Christ. So we see that those who do not have a knowledge and understanding of the GOSPEL have not been SAVED.
Now let's look at descriptions of those who are saved. John 17:3:
John 17: (3) And this is everlasting life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.
What is everlasting life? It is KNOWLEDGE of God and of Jesus Christ.
John 8: (32) And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
What is the TRUTH that God's people KNOW that sets them free? It's that same TRUTH that those who do not believe are IGNORANT OF! It is the truth of the righteousness of God revealed in the Gospel; the truth of the person and work of Jesus Christ!
Romans 6: (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.
What is that DOCTRINE that believers believed when they were made free from sin? Again, it is the same DOCTRINE that unbelievers are ignorant of! 2 John 9 says that those who do not stay in the DOCTRINE of Christ do not have God. It is the DOCTRINE of Christ's PERSON and His WORK. It is the DOCTRINE that I have been preaching on.
So we see that upon regeneration, God gives His people KNOWLEDGE. There is not a single regenerate person who does not have KNOWLEDGE. And this KNOWLEDGE is a SPECIFIC knowledge. It is not just ANY knowledge. It is KNOWLEDGE of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel. It is knowledge of what I've been preaching and am going to be preaching, the Lord willing. Without this KNOWLEDGE, there is no salvation. Are we making knowledge a condition of salvation? By no means. If we were doing that, we would be lost. We are saying that God UNCONDITIONALLY saves His people based on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness alone and UNCONDITIONALLY gives His people a knowledge of the gospel upon regeneration. Those who say that God saves people and leaves them ignorant of the gospel do not believe in the God of the Bible, because the God of the Bible says that all who do not believe the gospel are lost and all who are ignorant of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel are lost. IGNORANCE of DOCTRINE, in this case, is a SURE SIGN OF LOSTNESS.
Another effect of the change of heart is REPENTANCE. When God's people are given knowledge of the true gospel, they REPENT of believing a false gospel. This means that they turn TOTALLY away from the false gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner and submit to the righteousness of God revealed in the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. They count all their works while believing a false gospel as dung, as dead works, as evil deeds, as fruit unto death. They realize that their belief of a false gospel showed that they were lost. They will NEVER speak peace to their former selves. The Lord willing, I'll be preaching a sermon on judgments based on the gospel, so I won't go into detail on speaking peace at this point. But repentance and judging go hand-in-hand. If one believes that he was lost while believing a false gospel, then he obviously will not think that someone else is saved who believes that same false gospel.
It is important to note the passages in which repentance and belief of the gospel are mentioned together. For example, Mark 1:14-15:
Mark 1: (14) And after John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom of God, (15) and saying, The time has been fulfilled, and the kingdom of God draws near. Repent and believe in the gospel.
Acts 20: (21) earnestly testifying both to Jews and to Greeks repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now if repentance is connected with belief, of what does this repentance consist? We are given an example in Philippians 3:4-9:
Philippians 3: (4 ) Even though I [might] have trust in flesh; if any other thinks to trust in flesh, I more; (5) in circumcision, [the] eighth day, of [the] race of Israel, [the] tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; according to Law, a Pharisee; (6) according to zeal, persecuting the assembly; according to righteousness in Law, being blameless. (7) But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss because of Christ. (8) But, no, rather I also count all things to be loss because of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count [them to be] trash, that I might gain Christ (9) and be found in Him; not having my own righteousness of Law, but through the faith of Christ, [having] the righteousness of God on faith,
When Paul believed in the true gospel of the righteousness of God, he counted his former religion as loss and as trash. He realized that when he believed in salvation conditioned on the sinner, he was bringing forth evil deeds, dead works, and fruit unto death. He realized that now that God has changed his heart to believe the gospel, he would never go back to bringing forth evil deeds, dead works, and fruit unto death. They were on the dung heap. THIS is true gospel repentance. If somebody says that he repented of a false gospel at conversion and then needs to continue to repent of a false gospel as a Christian, then that person is still dead in his sins, because he HAS NO IDEA what true gospel repentance is. True gospel repentance is a one-time occurrence, just as regeneration is a one-time occurrence.
This morning we've seen some of the aspects of salvation. We have seen that when God chooses to save someone, that one will be saved. God's people are irresistibly dragged to him at the appointed time by means of the gospel. We've seen that when God saves a sinner, that sinner's state is changed from wickedness to righteousness by imputation. We've seen that God gives new life to the one who used to be dead in trespasses and sins. He gives a new heart, which includes giving knowledge and understanding of the true gospel. We've seen that when God gives a new heart to His people, he gives them repentance, which includes the knowledge that they were lost while believing in salvation conditioned on the sinner and that everything they did during this time was dung; and includes turning from dead works to serve the true and living God, never to return to the false gospel.
Praise God for His irresistible saving grace by which we are made partakers of Christ and all heavenly blessings. Praise God that He has given us a knowledge of Him, whereby He is glorified in our hearts. Praise God that He has purged our consciences of dead works and has caused us to turn away from believing a false gospel to being constantly submitted to Christ's righteousness. May we do good works out of a love for Him who first loved us. Amen.