The Gospel (VII)


(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 10/15/00 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)

Thus far in our series on Essential Gospel Doctrine, we have seen that God keeps his promises and that He promises to save. There's been a lot of essential gospel doctrine in these areas, and NONE of them can be missing, or else there's no gospel. Let's remember again what the gospel is. It is God's promise to save ... who? The gospel is God's promise to save HIS PEOPLE based on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. This morning, the Lord willing, we'll be looking at those whom God promises to save.

Let's turn to Matthew 1:21, which is a passage we read a couple sermons ago:

Matthew 1: (21) And she will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.

We see here that the angel of God promises that Jesus will save a group of people called "His people." "His" obviously refers to Jesus Christ -- so who are Christ's people? In John 10, Jesus Christ puts himself forward as the Good Shepherd. Now see how he talks about the sheep. As I read through verses 1 through 30, notice how possessive Jesus is:

John 10: (1) Truly, truly, I say to you, The [one] not entering through the door into the sheepfold, but going up by another way, that one is a thief and a plunderer. (2) But the [one] entering through the door is the shepherd of the sheep. (3) The doorkeeper opens to him, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls [his] own sheep by name, and leads them out. (4) And when he puts forth his own sheep, he goes in front of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. (5) But they will not follow a stranger, never! But [they] will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of the strangers. (6) Jesus spoke this allegory to them, but they did not know what it was which He spoke to them. (7) Then Jesus again said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you that I am the door of the sheep.(8) All who came before Me are thieves and plunderers, but the sheep did not hear them. (9) I am the door. If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in, and will go out, and will find pasture. (10) The thief does not come except that he may steal, and kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life and may have [it] abundantly. (11) I am the Good Shepherd! The Good Shepherd lays down His life on behalf of the sheep. (12) But the hireling, not even being a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and forsakes the sheep and flees. And the wolf seizes them, and scatters the sheep. (13) But the hireling flees because he is a hireling, and there is not a care to him concerning the sheep. (14) I am the Good Shepherd, and I know those that [are] Mine, and I am known by the [ones that are] Mine. (15) Even as the Father knows Me, I also know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. (16) And I have other sheep which are not of this fold. I must also lead those, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock, one Shepherd. (17) For this reason My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life, that I may take it again. (18) No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down from Myself. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it again. I received this commandment from My Father. (19) Then a division occurred again among the Jews, because of these words. (20) And many of them said, He has a demon and is insane. Why do you hear Him? (21) Others said, These are not words of one having been possessed by a demon. A demon is not able to open [the] eyes of blind ones. (22) And [the Feast] of Dedication took place in Jerusalem, and it was winter. (23) And Jesus was walking in the temple, in Solomon's Porch. (24) Then the Jews encircled Him, and said to Him, Until when do You lift up our soul? If You are the Christ, tell us publicly. (25) Jesus answered them, I told you, and you did not believe. The works which I do in the name of My Father, these bear witness about Me. (26) But you do not believe for you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. (27) My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. (28) And I give eternal life to them, and they shall not perish to the age, never! And not anyone shall pluck them out of My hand. (29) My Father who has given [them] to Me is greater than all, and no one is able to pluck out of My Father's hand. (30) I and the Father are One!

Jesus says here that these sheep are HIS sheep, that He calls His own sheep by name, that He lays down His life for the sheep, He knows them that are His, He gives eternal life to His sheep, His father has given the sheep to Him, and His sheep shall never perish. So is Jesus saying that everyone without exception are His sheep? Well, if that were the case, then everyone without exception will be given eternal life and will never perish. We know that's not the case. But just to make it as plain and as clear as your own hand right in front of you, Jesus says something in verse 26 that most of religion that comes in the name of Christianity absolutely HATES. Let's start with verse 24:

John 10: (24) Then the Jews encircled Him, and said to Him, Until when do You lift up our soul? If You are the Christ, tell us publicly. (25) Jesus answered them, I told you, and you did not believe. The works which I do in the name of My Father, these bear witness about Me. (26) But you do not believe for you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.

Jesus first tells the Jews that He already told them He was the Christ, and they didn't believe. But JESUS DID NOT STOP THERE. Think about it. He told them WHY they did not believe! He said that THE REASON they did not believe was because they were NOT OF HIS SHEEP. It can't get any plainer than this. He didn't say, "You are not of My sheep because you don't believe." He said, "You don't believe because you are not of My sheep." Look at verse 15 again in light of what we just read:

John 10: (15) Even as the Father knows Me, I also know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

Jesus said that He lays down His life for the SHEEP. Okay - clear enough? Now in verse 26, Jesus said that these Jews were NOT of His sheep. Got that? So - did Jesus lay down His life for these Jews? Can there be any doubt in the mind of ANYONE who really believes in the Jesus of the Bible? There can't be. Jesus did NOT lay down His life for these Jews. So, even if there were NO OTHER PLACE in Scripture that talked about this, we would have to conclude that there were at least a FEW for whom Christ did not die.

Before we get away from John 10, I'd like to point out verse 30. After Jesus goes through the whole discourse of who His sheep are and what He does for His sheep, He says that He is God. He connects His deity to His saving work on behalf of His sheep. Here is another essential gospel doctrine: Jesus is God. I won't go into detail on this or go over all the Scripture references regarding this; that's the topic for another sermon. But we need to realize that this is vitally important. Those who deny that Jesus is God are lost. And on the other side, those who deny that Jesus is man are lost. In order for Jesus to fulfill His mediatorial work, He must be BOTH God AND man.

Okay, let's get back to the topic of Christ's people. Let's look at Ephesians 5:25:

Ephesians 5: (25) Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly and gave Himself up on its behalf,

For whom did Christ give Himself up? For the CHURCH.

Turn to Acts 20:28:

Acts 20: (28) Then take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit placed you [as] overseers, to shepherd the assembly of God which He purchased through [His] own blood.

Whom did Christ purchase with His own blood? Again, it is the CHURCH.

So Christ's people are the ones for whom Christ died. And we have already seen in past messages that Christ's work DEMANDS and ENSURES the salvation of ALL whom Christ represented, because it fully satisfied the demands of God's law and justice on their behalf. Those who believe in universal atonement DO NOT believe that Christ's work demands and ensures the salvation of all whom Christ represented. They DO NOT believe that it is Christ's work alone that makes the difference between heaven and hell. Instead, they believe that it is the work of the SINNER that makes the difference between heaven and hell. This is damnable heresy.

Remember back in John 10 where Jesus said that His Father gave the Sheep to Him? When did that GIVING take place? Well, if you remember, a few sermons ago, I talked about PREDESTINATION. I showed that God determined ALL THINGS before He created the world. If He determines ANYTHING in REACTION to what His creation does, then His promises would not be sure an certain, because they could be changed by the will of man. This is most strongly shown in God's PREDESTINATING a certain number of people to be given to Christ and saved based on Christ's work alone. This kind of PREDESTINATING is sometimes called ELECTION. And the people whom God ELECTED are sometimes called the ELECT.

Let's first turn to Ephesians 1. Let's read verses 3 through 14:

Ephesians 1: (3) Blessed [is] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies with Christ, (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, (6) to [the] praise of [the] glory of His grace in which He favored us in the [One] having been loved, (7) in whom we have redemption through His blood, the remission of deviations, according to the riches of His grace (8) which He caused to abound toward us in all wisdom and understanding, (9) making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, (10) for the administration of the fullness of the times to head up all things in Christ, both the things in the heavens, and the things on earth, in Him, (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, (12) for us to be to [the] praise of His glory, the ones who had previously trusted in Christ; (13) in whom also you, hearing the Word of Truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also believing you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, (14) who is an earnest of our inheritance, to [the] redemption of the purchased possession, to [the] praise of His glory.

We see that God chose His people before the foundation of the world. But we also see that bare election is not enough. God chose His people before the foundation of the world TO BE REDEEMED AND ADOPTED IN CHRIST! God chose His people before the foundation of the world TO MAKE US UNDERSTAND THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL AND TO BE TO THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORY! God chose His people before the foundation of the world TO BE SEALED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT that is the earnest of our inheritance! God did not just choose to save a people without His law and justice being satisfied! There have been debates down through the centuries as to whether God could have chosen to save His people without sending Christ to die for them. Well, I can tell you this: those who were of the view that God could have chosen His people without Christ did not know God. God CANNOT save apart from His law and justice being satisfied. So the true doctrine of election MUST take all this into consideration.

Now let's turn to 1 Peter 2. Let's read verses 1 through 10:

1 Peter 2: (1) Then laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil words, (2) as newborn babes desire the pure soul-nourishing milk, that you may grow by it; (3) if indeed you "tasted" "that the Lord is good;" (4) to whom having drawn near, a living Stone, indeed having been rejected by men, but chosen by God, precious; (5) you also as living stones are being built a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (6) Because of this, it is also contained in the Scripture: "Behold," I lay in Zion" an elect, "precious Stone," "a Corner-foundation;" "and the [one] believing in Him shall not be ashamed, never!" (7) Then to you who believe [belongs] the preciousness. But to disobeying ones, [He is the] "Stone which those building rejected; this One became [the] Head of the Corner," (8) and a Stone-of-stumbling, and a Rock-of-offense" to the [ones] stumbling, being disobedient to the Word, to which they were also appointed. (9) But you [are] "an elect race," "a royal priesthood," "a holy nation," "a people for possession," so that "you may openly speak of the virtues" of the [One] who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (10) [you] who then were "not a people, but now [are] the people" of God; "the one not pitied [then] but now pitied."

We see in verse 4 that Jesus Christ was chosen by God. We see in verse 5 that Jesus Christ is called "an elect, precious Stone." And we see in verse 9 that God's people are called "an elect race." Notice two other things in verse 9. First, God's people are also called "a people for possession." This has to do with what I mentioned a little while ago, which is that Jesus Christ is POSSESSIVE of His people. He calls them "MY sheep" and says that they are "MINE." These are people who are Christ's own possession. Second, notice that at the end of this verse, it talks about the CALLING out of darkness into light. As we saw in a previous sermon, this darkness is the darkness of IGNORANCE, and this light is the light of the KNOWLEDGE of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. God does not ELECT someone and then SAVE that person and leave that person IGNORANT of the person and work of Christ. Now look at verse 8. Those whom God did NOT choose to salvation were APPOINTED to disobey and stumble at the word. This is no mere "passing by." This was an APPOINTMENT. Compare this with Acts 13:48:

Acts 13: (48) And hearing, the nations rejoiced and glorified the Word of the Lord. And as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

These people believed because they were APPOINTED to believe, just as the reprobate do not believe because they were APPOINTED not to believe. Notice that the Bible does not say, "as many as believed were appointed to eternal life." It says, "as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." Remember what Jesus said about those Jews in John 10? They did not believe BECAUSE they were not of Christ's sheep. Again, notice that election and belief are connected. What is this BELIEF to which the elect are predestinated? Belief of the TRUTH. What is this UNBELIEF to which the reprobate are predestinated? Unbelief of the TRUTH. And the truth is the gospel.

Now let's turn to Romans 9. Let's start with verse 9 and go through verse 24:

Romans 9: (9) For the Word of promise [is] this, "According to this time I will come, and a son will be to Sarah." (10) And not only so, but also Rebekah conceiving of one, our father Isaac, (11) for [the children] not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of the [One] calling, (12) it was said to her, "The greater shall serve the lesser;" (13) even as it has been written, "I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau." (14) What then shall we say? [Is there] not unrighteousness with God? Let it not be! (15) For He said to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will pity whomever I will pity." (16) So, then, [it is] not of the [one] willing, nor of the [one] running, but of the [One] showing mercy, of God. (17) For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very thing I raised you up, so that I might display My power in you, and so that My name might be publicized in all the earth." (18) So, then, to whom He desires, He shows mercy. And to whom He desires, He hardens. (19) You will then say to me, Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will? (20) Yes, rather, O man, who are you answering against God? Shall the thing formed say to the [One] forming [it], Why did You make me like this? (21) Or does not the potter have authority over the clay, out of the one lump to make one vessel to honor, and one to dishonor? (22) But if God, desiring to demonstrate His wrath, and to make His power known, endured in much long-suffering vessels of wrath having been fitted out for destruction, (23) and that He make known the riches of His glory on vessels of mercy which He before prepared for glory, (24) whom He also called, not only us, of Jews, but also out of nations.

Here is a great example of unconditional election. God chooses to have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and He chose the objects of mercy before they were even born, even before they had done anything good or bad. Verse 23 says that God PREPARED the vessels of mercy beforehand. Notice also in verse 11, it says, "that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works." The Holy Spirit through Paul presents two opposing views. The doctrine of election is totally contrary to salvation by works. If one does not believe in the biblical doctrine of unconditional election, he automatically believes in salvation conditioned on the sinner. If one believes in salvation conditioned on the sinner, he automatically opposes unconditional election.

Turn back a page to Romans 8, verses 29 to 30:

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. (30) But whom He predestinated, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

In verse 29, when it says, "foreknew," it means "loved beforehand." God loved His people before the foundation of the world, and He predestinated out of love. Notice that he again does not talk about bare election but says that God predestinated His people to be conformed to the image of Christ. And as we see the chain of grace in this passage, we see that there are no broken links. ALL whom God foreknew, He predestined. ALL whom God predestined, He called. ALL whom God called, He justified. ALL whom God justified, He glorified. It goes all the way from eternity past to eternity future. It's all sure and certain. ALL whom God predestined will be called, justified, and glorified. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Let's look at 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14:

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, (14) to which He called you through our gospel, to obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God chose His people from the beginning, and not only that, He chose them to SALVATION in sanctification of the spirit and BELIEF OF THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL. There are some so-called "High Calvinists" who would say that they believe in absolute predestination but who also claim that not all who are saved believe the truth of the gospel. Let me tell you, these people know NOTHING of true, Biblical predestination and election. God predestinates His people to be called by the gospel, to be saved based on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone, and to KNOW that they have been saved based on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. Without this, predestination and election are empty doctrines of self-righteous religionists.

Lastly, let's turn to 2 Timothy 1:8-11:

2 Timothy 1: (8) Then do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor [of] me, His prisoner. But suffer hardship with the gospel, according to [the] power of God, (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, (10) but now revealed through the appearance of our Savior, Jesus Christ, indeed making death of no effect, bringing life and incorruptibility to light through the gospel, (11) for which I was appointed a herald and apostle and a teacher of nations.

Again, we see that God's people were chosen in eternity past. And again, we see that this choosing is in direct opposition to salvation by works. And we see that this choosing was to salvation by means of the calling of the gospel, which brings life and incorruptibility to light. As we meditate and rejoice in the precious truths of election and Christ's possession of His people, let us also rejoice that God predestines us and Christ possesses us unto knowledge and belief of the truth, so that we might glorify Him as the One who came to establish a righteousness that demands and ensures our entire salvation. Amen.