The Gospel (VIII)


(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 10/22/00 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)

Last week, in our continuing series on Essential Gospel Doctrine, we saw who God's people are. They are the ones whom God had chosen before the foundation of the world and for whom Christ died. They, and they ALONE, are the ones to whom the gospel promise is made. God does NOT promise EVERY sinner or ANY sinner that He will save them. God promises HIS PEOPLE that He will save them. And EVERY ONE whom God chose and for whom Christ died SHALL BE SAVED, NO EXCEPTIONS.

We also touched on the WAY in which God's people are saved. God chose His people to be saved in a SPECIFIC way. It's a way that manifests all of God's attributes and gives God all the glory. This way is through the work of Christ alone. And God does not keep His people ignorant of that work when He saves them. The Bible shows in many passages that ALL whom God saves are given a knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, which is revealed in the gospel.

Today, we're going to get into more detail about this work of Christ. God saves His people in a way that is consistent with His character. God does not go against one attribute in order to manifest another. Thus, His plan of salvation is a PERFECT plan. It could be NO OTHER WAY. The only way that God can be just to justify the ungodly is through the work of Christ alone.

Let's again remind ourselves of the definition of the gospel that is the basis of these studies of essential gospel doctrine. The gospel is God's promise to save His people conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. In past sermons, we have gone over "God's promise to save His people." Now we will focus on the last part of the definition: "conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone."

I first want to define what "conditioned" means. We say that God saves His people CONDITIONED on the work of Christ alone. What does it mean to CONDITION something on something else? "Condition" as a noun means "an essential requirement of." So if A is CONDITIONED on B, then A cannot happen until the requirement of B is met. In the gospel, SALVATION cannot happen unless the requirement of Christ's obedience and death is met. When we talk of those who believe in salvation CONDITIONED on the sinner, we are saying that these people believe that SALVATION cannot happen unless the requirement of the WORK OF THE SINNER is met. Are we clear on what CONDITIONED means? Okay.

So the last part of the definition of the gospel goes into WHAT is the requirement for the salvation of God's people. We've already seen that God is so holy that He will not enter into communion with anyone who is not as righteous as He is. And He is so holy that He must punish everyone who does not meet up to this standard. And He is so holy that He must punish in proportion to how much offense He takes at the sin. And because of His infinite righteousness, all sin is an infinite offense to God, so all who are void of a righteousness that answers the demands of God's law and justice MUST be punished with eternal torment in hell.

We've also seen that God's people before salvation are sinners. They deserve eternal punishment. They are void of a righteousness that answers God's demand of perfect holiness. They are dead in their sins, slaves to sin, bringing forth fruit unto death, at enmity with God, unable to please God, and under God's curse. How is it, then, that God, who is absolutely holy, can bring these vile sinners into communion with Him? Some would say, "He can do it because He can do whatever He wants." But does God ever WANT to bring sinners into communion with Him at the expense of His law and justice? The answer is "NO". There are certain things that God CANNOT do. God CANNOT deny Himself. God CANNOT lie. God CANNOT do ANYTHING that is contrary to His perfect holiness and justice. How, then, does God remain perfectly holy and perfectly just when He brings sinners into communion with Him? This is where the great gospel of grace is manifested. This is where the heart of the gospel is revealed. God remains perfectly holy and perfectly just when He brings sinners into communion with him because the salvation of these sinners is conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. There is no other way. All other ways are false ways, and they only lead to death. The way of life is through Jesus Christ.

If you've heard me even for a short period of time, you know that I say "the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ" a lot. The reason I say this so much is that it is the very heart of the gospel. I'd like to separate out the two aspects of Christ's work and go over each of them separately.

First, let's go over the ATONING BLOOD of Christ. But before we go into what Christ's blood accomplished, we must first go over the concept of IMPUTATION. To IMPUTE means to LEGALLY CHARGE TO THE ACCOUNT OF. Another word for impute is COUNT. The sins of all God's people were IMPUTED or COUNTED to Jesus Christ. This was typified in the Old Testament in the sacrifice of atonement. Let's turn to Leviticus chapter 16. Let's read verses 2 through 22. Pay attention to how imputation and atonement are connected:

Leviticus 16: (2) And Jehovah said to Moses, Speak to your brother Aaron, and he shall not come in at all times to the sanctuary within the veil, to the front of the mercy-seat. (3) With this Aaron shall come into the sanctuary: with a bull, a son of the herd, for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering. (4) He shall put on a holy linen coat, and linen underpants shall be on his flesh, and he shall gird himself with a linen girdle, and he shall wrap himself in a linen miter; they [are] holy garments. And he shall bathe his flesh with water and shall put them on. (5) And he shall take from the congregation of the sons of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. (6) And Aaron shall bring near the bull of the sin offering which [is] his own, and shall make atonement for himself, and for his house. (7) And he shall take the two he-goats and shall cause them to stand before Jehovah, [at] the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. (8) And Aaron shall give lots over the two he-goats, one lot for Jehovah, and one lot for a complete removal. (9) And Aaron shall bring the goat on which the lot of Jehovah fell and shall make it a sin offering. (10) And the goat on which the lot fell for a complete removal shall be made to stand living before Jehovah to atone by it, to send it away for a complete removal into the wilderness. (11) And Aaron shall bring the bull of the sin offering which [is] his own, and shall atone for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bull of the sin offering which [is] his own. (12) And he shall take a censer full of coals of the fire from off the altar before Jehovah, and his hands full of fragrant perfumes beaten small, and bring [it] within the veil. (13) And he shall put the incense on the fire before Jehovah, and the cloud of the incense shall cover the mercy-seat on the testimony; and he shall not die. (14) And he shall take [some] of the blood of the bull, and shall sprinkle with his finger on the front of the mercy-seat eastward. And he shall sprinkle at the front of the mercy-seat seven times from the blood with his finger. (15) And he shall kill the goat of the sin offering which [is] the people's, and shall bring in its blood to the inside of the veil, and shall do with its blood as he has done with the blood of the bull, and shall sprinkle it on the mercy-seat, and at the front of the mercy-seat. (16) And he shall atone for the sanctuary because of the pollutions of the sons of Israel, and because of their transgressions for all their sins. And so he shall do for the tabernacle of the congregation dwelling in the midst of their pollutions. (17) And not any man shall be in the tabernacle of the congregation as he goes in to atone in the sanctuary, until he comes out. And he shall atone for himself, and for his house, and for all the congregation of Israel. (18) And he shall go out to the altar before Jehovah, and shall atone for it. And he shall take [some] of the blood of the bull, and [some] of the blood of the goat, and shall put [it] on the horns of the altar all around. (19) And he shall sprinkle on it from the blood with his finger seven times, and shall cleanse it, and shall purify it from the uncleannesses of the sons of Israel. (20) And when he has finished atoning [for] the sanctuary, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, and has brought near the living goat; (21) then Aaron shall lay his two hands on the head of the living goat, and shall confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel, and all their transgressions, and all their sins, and shall put them on the head of the goat, and shall send [it] by the hand of a chosen man into the wilderness. (22) And the goat shall bear on him all their iniquities to a land cut off. And he shall send the goat away into the wilderness.

Now this is a rich passage of Scripture, and I can't go into it all right now. I'd love to preach on this chapter some time. But for now, let's look at one aspect of this passage. We see that there were two goats. In verses 15 and 16, one of the goats is killed as a sin offering for the people of Israel. You see - it is FOR the people of Israel. The goat was killed FOR the sins of Israel. This is a picture of IMPUTATION. And it is even clearer when it talks about the second goat in verses 21 and 22. Aaron put his hands on the head of the goat and confessed the sins of Israel. This confession of sins with the laying on of hands typifies the sins of God's people being charged to the account of Jesus Christ. Let's read verse 22 again:

Leviticus 16: (22) And the goat shall bear on him all their iniquities to a land cut off. And he shall send the goat away into the wilderness.

The goat BEARS all the sins of Israel. This is imputation. We even see in the Old Testament how this is a direct picture of Christ BEARING the sins of His people. Let's turn to Isaiah 53 and read verses 4 and 5 and 10 through 12:

Isaiah 53: (4) Surely He has borne our sicknesses, and He carried our pain; yet we esteemed Him plagued, smitten by God, and afflicted. (5) But He was wounded for our transgressions; [He was] bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His wounds we ourselves are healed. ... (10) But Jehovah pleased to crush Him, to make Him sick, [so that] If He should put His soul as a guilt offering, He shall see [His] seed; He shall prolong [His] days; and the will of Jehovah shall prosper in His hand. (11) He shall see [the fruit] of the travail of His soul; He shall be fully satisfied. By His knowledge the righteous One, My Servant, shall justify for many, and He shall bear their iniquities. (12) Because of this I will divide to Him with the great, and with the strong He shall divide the spoil; because He poured out His soul to death; and [He] was counted with those transgressing; and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for those transgressing.

Jesus Christ BORE the transgression of His people. The sins of His people were IMPUTED to Him. Jesus Christ actually became GUILTY by imputation. He remained perfect in His character and conduct, but He was counted guilty because sin was imputed to Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that Jesus Christ was actually MADE SIN for us.

Now let's get into the atonement. You can already see by the passages in Leviticus and Isaiah how imputation and atonement are connected. If Christ atoned without imputation, then he must have either atoned for no one or atoned for Himself. We know that both of these are impossible. In order to make atonement, Christ must be the SUBSTITUTE and REPRESENTATIVE of a certain number of people.

What is ATONEMENT? It is reconciliation. What does it mean to RECONCILE? To RECONCILE means "to restore to friendship or harmony." Jesus Christ, when He suffered, bled, and died, restored friendship between God and those for whom Christ died. How was this friendship restored? Jesus suffered the just punishment for the sins of all His people; God's wrath was poured out on Jesus; and God's wrath was appeased. Let's turn to Romans 5:10-11:

Romans 5: (10) For if [while] being enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life; (11) and not only [so], but also glorying in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we now received the reconciliation.

This reconciliation is atonement. Let's now turn to 2 Corinthians 5:18-19:

2 Corinthians 5: (18) And all things [are] from God, the [One] having reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and having given to us the ministry of reconciliation, (19) as, that God was in Christ reconciling [the] world to Himself, not charging their deviations to them, and having put the Word of reconciliation in us.

God restored friendship between His people and Himself through Jesus Christ, not charging their trespasses to His people, but instead charging their trespasses to Christ, who suffered the just punishment that their sins deserved. Let's turn to Ephesians 2:14-16:

Ephesians 2: (14) For He is our peace, He making us both one, and breaking down the middle wall of partition, (15) in His flesh causing to cease the enmity, the Law of the commandments in decrees, that He might in Himself create the two into one new man, making peace, (16) and might reconcile both in one body to God through the cross, slaying the enmity in Himself.

Jesus Christ stopped the enmity and made peace between us and God. He killed the enmity between us and God through Himself, who took all the wrath that we deserved and suffered the torment that we deserved in order to reconcile us to God.

The Bible uses other words to describe what Christ accomplished on the cross. In the first sermon in this series on the gospel, I went over PROPITIATION, REDEMPTION, and JUSTIFICATION. All are tied into atonement. One can't be present without the other.

Let's consider the BLOOD for a little while. It is the atoning BLOOD of Christ. We hear about the BLOOD from every religionist who comes in the name of Christianity. But why is BLOOD a necessary part of the gospel?

Let's first turn to Leviticus 17:11:

Leviticus 17: (11) For the life of the flesh [is] in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar, to atone for your souls; for it [is] the blood which makes atonement for the soul.

The LIFE is in the blood, and it is the BLOOD that makes atonement. Let's now turn to Hebrews 9:22:

Hebrews 9: (22) And almost all things are purified by blood according to the Law; and apart from shedding of blood no remission occurs.

This is a powerful statement. There is NO REMISSION without the shedding of blood. REMISSION means "a releasing of the guilt or penalty of." Notice here that it does not just say "blood"; it says "SHEDDING of blood." This blood actually has to be SHED for remission. Why? Well, first, let's think about what Leviticus 17:11 said. The LIFE is in the blood. Thus, the SHEDDING of blood is the pouring out of one's life. We know that if someone loses too much blood, he will die. Christ's shed blood means that Christ died. But is that all it means? Well, we know that people die of things other than shedding too much blood. So why did Christ have to die a bloody death? Why did blood have to come out of His body? Let's look up at verses 12 through 21 of Hebrews 9:

Hebrews 9: (12) nor through the blood of goats and of calves, but through [His] own blood, [He] entered once for all into the [Holy of] Holies, having procured everlasting redemption. (13) For if the blood of bulls and goats, and ashes of a heifer sprinkling those having been defiled, sanctifies to the purity of the flesh, (14) by how much more the blood of Christ (who through [the] eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God), will purify your conscience from dead works, to serve [the] living God! (15) And because of this He is Mediator of a new covenant, so that, death having occurred for redemption of transgressions under the first covenant, those being called might receive the promise of the everlasting inheritance. (16) For where a covenant [is], the death of him having covenanted must be offered. (17) For a covenant [is] affirmed over [those] dead, since it never has force when he who has covenanted [is] living. (18) From which neither the first [covenant] was dedicated without blood. (19) For [when] every command had been spoken according to Law by Moses to all the people, having taken the blood of the calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and he sprinkled both the scroll and all the people, (20) saying, "This [is] the blood of the covenant which God enjoined to you." (21) And he likewise sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the service vessels with the blood.

First, what was done in the Old Testament with the blood of the sacrifice? It was sprinkled and poured -- mostly sprinkled. So Christ's shed blood is one of the evidences that He was sacrificed. But there's more. What did this sprinkling signify? Verses 19 and 20 refer to Exodus 24:8. Let's turn there. Let's begin with verse 6 and go through verse 8:

Exodus 24: (6 )And Moses took half of the blood, and he put it in basins. And he sprinkled half of the blood on the altar. (7 )And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the ears of the people. And they said, We will do all that Jehovah has spoken, and we will hear. (8 )And Moses took the blood and sprinkled on the people, and said, Behold, the blood of the covenant which Jehovah has cut with you concerning these words.

This blood was sprinkled as an outward, visible seal to the people. It was an outward, visible seal of God's promise. The shed blood of Christ is an outward, visible seal of God's promise to save His people. Hebrews 13:20 says that Christ's blood is the "blood of the everlasting covenant." And 1 Corinthians 11:25 says that the cup in the Lord's Supper is the New Covenant in Christ's blood.

Another reason that the blood of Christ must be shed is because it is a GIVING from one to another. Christ GAVE His blood, which was His life, TO His people. Blood that stays inside a human cannot be GIVEN to another. It cannot be SPRINKLED onto another. Christ did not keep His blood to Himself. He SPRINKLED our hearts from an evil conscience, as Hebrews 10:22 says. He WASHED our sins by His blood, as Revelation 1:5 says. His blood cleanses us from all sin, as 1 John 1:7 says. This SPRINKLING is a PURGING; it is a CLEANSING. Christ gave up His own blood - His own life - so that we might be cleansed by that blood. Praise God!

We saw in the Old Testament how the blood and reconciliation (or atonement) were tied together. Let's look at some verses in the New Testament that tie these together.

Ephesians 2:13:

Ephesians 2: (13) But now, in Christ Jesus you who then were afar off, came to be near by the BLOOD of Christ.

Earlier on in this sermon, I read verses 14 through 16, which talk about making peace and causing to cease the enmity. And verse 13 says that Christ's blood made us COME TO BE NEAR because of that reconciliation.

Colossians 1:20:

Colossians 1: (20) and through Him making peace by the BLOOD of His cross, to reconcile all things to Himself; through Him, whether the things on the earth, or the things in the heavens.

Again, we see that Christ's blood makes PEACE and RECONCILES.

The Bible also talks about REDEMPTION through Christ's blood. To redeem means to pay the price for a possession so as to rescue or deliver that possession.

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.

Ephesians 1:7:

Ephesians 1: (7) in whom we have redemption through His BLOOD, the remission of deviations, according to the riches of His grace

Colossians 1:14:

Colossians 1: (14) in whom we have redemption through His BLOOD, the remission of sins;

1 Peter 1:18-19:

1 Peter 1: (18) knowing that not with corruptible things, silver or gold, were you redeemed from your worthless way of life handed down from [your] fathers, (19) but with precious BLOOD of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot,

Revelation 5:9:

Revelation 5: (9) And they sing a new song, saying, Worthy are You to receive the scroll, and to open its seals, because You were slain, and by Your blood purchased us to God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,

The Bible also speaks of JUSTIFICATION by Christ's blood in Romans 5:9 and of SANCTIFICATION by His blood in Hebrews 13:12.

So the BLOOD of Christ that MAKES ATONEMENT between God and His people. It is a seal of the everlasting covenant of grace. None of these verses we read say that the blood of Christ makes salvation possible for everyone. In fact, these verses clearly show that the blood of Christ ACTUALLY ACCOMPLISHED reconciliation, redemption, justification, and sanctification. And remember - atonement means nothing without the doctrine of IMPUTATION. Christ, as a representative and substitute, bore our sins and was made sin for us. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Praise the Lamb of God who was sacrificed, who poured out His precious blood, so that we might live. Amen.