The Gospel (IX)
ESSENTIAL GOSPEL DOCTRINE (7)
(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 10/29/00 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Turn in your Bibles to Psalm 32. Let's read the whole Psalm:
Psalm 32: (1) Blessed [is] he whose transgression is lifted, whose sin [is] covered. (2) Blessed [is] the man to whom Jehovah does not charge iniquity, and in whose spirit there [is] no guile. (3) When I kept silence, then my bones became old, through my howling all day. (4) For by day and by night Your hand [was] heavy on me; my sap was turned into the droughts of summer. Selah. (5) I confessed my sin to You, and I have not hidden my iniquity; I said, I will confess over my transgression to Jehovah; and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah. (6) On account of this let every godly one pray to You, at a time of finding; surely, when great floods come they will not reach him. (7) You [are] my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround [me] with songs of deliverance. Selah. (8) I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you, My eye [shall be] on you. (9) Be not like the horse, like the mule, with no understanding; with bit and bridle his gear to be held in, [that] they do not come near you. (10) Many sorrows [are] to the wicked; but he who trusts in Jehovah, mercy embraces him. (11) Be glad in Jehovah and rejoice, you righteous [ones]; and all the upright in heart, shout for joy.
Today I hope to conclude our point-by-point study of the definition of the gospel. The gospel is God's promise to save His people conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. We have five words left - "imputed righteousness of Christ alone." There's a lot packed into these words, and many sermons could be preached from these words, but I'd like to preach one that touches on each of the main points of these words.
We just read Psalm 32. Verse 11 says, "Be glad in Jehovah and rejoice, you righteous ones; and all the upright in heart, shout for joy." Now what are David and all the people of God rejoicing in? They are rejoicing that God imputes righteousness apart from works. Now someone might say, "Wait a minute. You're reading too much into this Psalm. David isn't even talking about imputed righteousness here. He's talking about his sins being covered and his NOT being charged with iniquity. How can you get imputed righteousness out of this?" Well, let's turn to Romans 4, verses 4 through 8:
Romans 4: 4 Now [to one] working, the reward is not counted according to grace, but according to debt. (5) But to the [one] not working, but believing on Him justifying the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (6) Even as also David says of the blessedness of the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: (7) "Blessed [are] those whose lawlessnesses are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; (8) blessed [the] man to whom [the] Lord will in no way charge sin."
See what it says? It says that David was talking about imputed righteousness! The word "counts" in verse 6 is the same as "imputes." The King James Version translates it "imputeth." David was talking about imputed righteousness.
I've talked about imputation many times. Imputation is legally charging to one's account. Last week, I talked about the sins of Christ's people being IMPUTED to Christ, and Christ suffering the just penalty that these sins deserved. Now I'm talking about an imputation that is in the opposite direction - something is imputed FROM Christ TO His people. Again, if imputation is to occur, there must be REPRESENTATION. Jesus Christ must be a REPRESENTATIVE of a people.
What is imputed FROM Christ TO His people? We see from Romans 4 that it is RIGHTEOUSNESS that it is imputed. What is RIGHTEOUSNESS? It is perfect obedience, or you could say, the MERIT of perfect obedience. Why is perfect obedience necessary? Why can't God accept just the best someone has to offer? It is because God is HOLY. And if you understand God's HOLINESS, you will understand that God CANNOT fellowship with ANYONE who is not as righteous as He is. So in order for any human being to fellowship with God, that human being must either be perfectly righteous in His OWN character and conduct, or he must be CHARGED with the perfect righteousness of ANOTHER human being who is perfectly righteous in His character and conduct. In either case, there has to be at least one perfect human being! Well, we can eliminate anyone who's ever sinned. That leaves only one person - a sinless human being. We know that this is Jesus Christ.
Let's go into some Scripture verses that show that Jesus Christ was sinless:
1 John 3:5:
1 John 3: (5) And you know that that [One] was revealed that He might take away our sins, and sin is not in Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21:
2 Corinthians 5: (21) For He made the [One] who knew no sin [to be] sin for us, that we might become [the] righteousness of God in Him.
Hebrews 4: (15) For we do not have a high priest not being able to sympathize with our weaknesses but [One] having been tried in all respects according to [our] likeness, apart from sin.
Hebrews 7: (26) For such a High Priest was fitting for us: holy, harmless, undefiled, and separated from sinners, and having become higher than the heavens; (27) who has no need, as do the high priests, to offer sacrifices day by day, first for His own sins, then for those of the people. For He did this once for all, offering up Himself. (28) For the Law makes men high priests who have infirmity, but the word of the oath-taking after the Law [appoints the] Son to the age, having been perfected.
Remember last week when we read from Leviticus 16? What did Aaron the high priest have to do before he offered sacrifices for the people? He had to make atonement for himself and his household. But Jesus Christ, the GREAT high priest, did not need to offer a sacrifice for himself, because he was already sinless!
There are other verses that talk of Christ's sinlessness in that He was a perfect sacrifice. We see all throughout the Old Testament that the one who brought a sacrifice should bring the best of the flock, one without spot or blemish. This is a type of Christ, who was untainted by sin. Let's turn to Hebrews 9:13-14:
Hebrews 9: (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!
Now let's turn to First Peter. Let's first look at chapter 1, verses 18 and 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,
Now let's look at chapter 2, verses 21 through 24:
1 Peter 2: (21) For you were called to this, for even Christ suffered on our behalf, leaving behind an example for us, that you should follow His steps; (22) "who did not sin, nor was guile found in His mouth;" (23) who, having been reviled, did not revile in return; suffering, He did not threaten, but gave [Himself] up to Him who [was] judging righteously; (24) who "Himself carried up in His body our sins" onto the tree; that dying to sins, we might live to righteousness, of whom "BY His wound you were healed."
So Jesus was totally sinless. And not only was He totally sinless; He was a totally sinless MAN. Jesus Christ was fully human. Matthew 1:25, Luke 2:7, and Galatians 4:4 clearly show that he was born of a woman. Matthew and Luke say that he was a child and grew up, just like any of us. Jesus got hungry and thirsty and tired and sleepy, just like any of us. In fact, 1 John 4:3 says that anyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not from God. Jesus came in the flesh, a flesh just like ours, and had all the same bodily needs that we do. Yet, UNLIKE any of us, He did all this without sin. And it HAD to be this way, or else there would be no imputed righteousness. The merit of Christ's perfect obedience to God's Law is charged to His people, and His people are counted perfectly righteous. Christ also had to be a human because a HUMAN must be punished for the sins of HUMANS. Just as Christ was our representative and substitute in His life, He was our representative and substitute in His death. And since sin demands death, and God cannot die, Jesus Christ HAD to be a human who could and did die. He HAD to be a human who could and did pour out His blood. He HAD to be a human who could and did rise again from the dead, giving resurrection life to us. The humanity of Christ is an essential gospel doctrine.
But not only was Jesus Christ human, He was also God. And He HAD to be God. He HAD to be God because only GOD can forgive sin. Only GOD can deliver us from the power of sin and death. Only GOD is without sin. Only GOD can satisfy His own justice. And only GOD can sanctify the offering. We see in Matthew 1:18-20 and Luke 1:35 that Jesus Christ was conceived by God the Holy Spirit. We see in Isaiah 7:14 and Luke 1:34 that Jesus Christ's mother had not had sexual relations with any man before Christ was born. Isaiah 9:6 says that Jesus Christ is THE MIGHTY GOD. John 1:1 and 14 says that the Word was God and became flesh and dwelled among us. Titus 2:13 says that Jesus Christ is our great God and Savior. Jesus said in John 10:30 that He and God the Father are ONE. John 1:14 and 18, John 3:16 and 18, Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5 and 11:17, and 1 John 4:9 say that Jesus Christ is the only begotten son of God. And 1 John 4:15 says that whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God is regenerate. The deity of Christ is an essential gospel doctrine.
Jesus Christ HAD to be a GOD-MAN. He HAD to be one person with two distinct natures: a divine nature and a human nature. He HAD to be both of these AT ONCE because He HAD to be the MEDIATOR between God and men - the only One who could go between God and man. Let's turn to 1 Timothy 2:5-6:
1 Timothy 2: (5) For God [is] one, also [there is] one Mediator of God and of men, [the] Man Christ Jesus, (6) the [One] having given Himself a ransom on behalf of all, the testimony [to be given] in its own time,
Who can make peace between Holy God and sinful man? Only a GOD-MAN MEDIATOR.
So we see in the gospel how God is just to justify the ungodly. The key is in the God-Man Mediator. The sins of His people were imputed to Him, and He suffered the just penalty of those sins. His righteousness is imputed to His people, and His people are counted righteous. God then remains just, remains holy, remains undefiled, because He is communing and fellowshiping with those whose sins have already been punished and those who are righteous by imputation.
So we've gone into imputed righteousness, and we've gone into the person of Christ. And last week, we went into the atoning blood. But let's not forget the last word of the definition of the gospel. The last word of the definition is a very important word. That word is "ALONE". God saves His people conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ ALONE. There are so many false gospels out there that say "the work of Christ - PLUS" or "the blood of Christ - PLUS." Well, my friends, if a "PLUS" is added to the equation, then it is no longer the true gospel of grace. The atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ MUST demand the salvation of ALL whom He represented WITHOUT ANY CONTRIBUTION FROM THE SINNER. Look again at Romans 4:4, which we read right at the beginning:
Romans 4: (4) Now [to one] working, the reward is not counted according to grace, but according to debt.
If salvation is conditioned in ANY WAY to ANY DEGREE on the works of the sinner, then God is NOT showing grace; instead, the sinner has obligated God to save him. God would owe a debt to that sinner. And that god is an idol. Look at Romans 11:6:
Romans 11: (6) But if by grace, no longer [is it] of works; else grace no longer becomes grace. But if of works, it is no longer grace; else work is no longer work.
Grace is NOT REALLY grace if the works of the sinner are introduced as forming ANY part of the ground of his salvation. And we have seen in this series that salvation does not only include initial regeneration and conversion; it includes being preserved throughout one's lifetime and being brought to final glory. If someone conditions ANY PART of salvation, from regeneration to final glory, on ANYTHING that proceeds from the sinner, then what they call "grace" is actually no grace at all. It's a system of works, and it's an abomination to God. In Galatians 5:2, Paul says that if one is circumcised thinking that this forms at least some part of the ground of his salvation or acceptance before God, Christ will profit him nothing. It is Christ's work ALONE that is the ground of all salvation and all blessing. Why is it that God's people cannot lose their salvation? Because no one can undo what Christ has done. If one believes that he can lose his salvation, he does not believe in the finished work of Christ. If one believes that he cannot lose his salvation, BUT ALSO believes that his everlasting habitations are based on his present stewardship, he does not believe in the finished work of Christ. Our works form NO PART of our initial salvation, our being kept saved, our being blessed, our being recommended unto God, or our right to inherit the kingdom.
Let's turn to John 19:28-30:
John 19: (28) After this, knowing that all things have now been finished that the Scripture be completed, Jesus said, I thirst. (29) Then a vessel full of vinegar was set, and having filled a sponge [with] vinegar, and putting hyssop around, they brought [it] to His mouth. (30) Then when Jesus took the vinegar, He said, It has been finished. And bowing [His] head, [He] delivered up the spirit.
It is finished! There is no work for the sinner to do for salvation! To say that there IS still work for the sinner to do for salvation would be to say, "It is NOT finished" and to call the blessed Lord Jesus a liar. But we who are Christ's people, Christ's sheep, Christ's church - those who have been given by God the Father to God the Son, for whom Jesus led a perfect life and died on the cross - WE know that it is finished. We have a Sabbath rest, as Hebrews 4 says, because God has caused us to rest from our works and to trust in Jesus Christ ALONE for ALL of our salvation. The gospel is GOOD NEWS. It is a PROMISE. It is an UNCONDITIONAL PROMISE. It is a PROMISE from GOD, who KEEPS His promises, who is a JUST God and a SAVIOR. It is a PROMISE from GOD to SAVE, to rescue, to deliver, to preserve. It is a PROMISE from GOD to SAVE HIS PEOPLE, those who have been chosen from before the foundation of the world, those for whom Christ died. It is a PROMISE from GOD to SAVE HIS PEOPLE CONDITIONED ON THE ATONING BLOOD AND IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST ALONE, with no contribution from the sinner in any way to any degree. This atoning blood and imputed righteousness DEMANDS the justification, sanctification, and glorification of ALL whom Christ represented, ALL for whom He lived and died, NO EXCEPTIONS. Jesus Christ finished the work. Let's turn to Hebrews 10:11-14 to close:
Hebrews 10: (11) And indeed every priest stands day by day ministering, and often offering the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. (12) But He, offering but one sacrifice for sins, "sat down" in perpetuity "[at the] right [hand]" of God, (13) from then on expecting "until His enemies are placed [as] a footstool" of His feet. (14) For by one offering He has perfected in perpetuity the ones being sanctified.