Turn to 1 Tim 1:15-17.
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:15-17 ESV)
Five facets of answering the question – what is the gospel? [I lost count.]
1. What does the very word “gospel” mean? It derives from the Greek word euaggelion. In the NT, the concept of gospel takes on a new meaning. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Paul’s writings focused more on Jesus Himself as the gospel. Jesus is the good news.
Paul encapsulates the gospel in 1 Tim. 1 that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. The gospel is not good news about anything we have to do. Jesus does not help us or enable us to save ourselves. Jesus Christ came to save. Jesus completed salvation.
The Son of God came to save sinners. He took the hell of sinners. He came to save rebels. He came to save people who hate their creator. To people who would ungod God if they could. The crucifixion is man’s attempt to get rid of God.
Beeke describes different reasons, such as love, why Christ came to save sinners. We are all sinners who are no excuses. But the good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ came to save just that kind of people.
Beeke shares a story of a dialogue in which he expressed how hard it is to fathom that God saved anyone. If people are to understand how good the gospel is they must first understand how bad they are.
Total Depravity is an important doctrine to understand. Five points on TD.
1. TD is inseparable from sin itself. It means transgressing God’s boundaries and living a life of disobedience.
2. TD is primarily an inward thing. The guilt of Adam’s sin is imputed to us and his nature is inherited by us. My life is a stench in the nostrils of God. Original sin, said Luther, is like our beard. Everyday we shave it off and we think we got it, but the next morning there it is.
3. TD means every part of us is stained by sin. It does not mean we become animals, but that every part of us is affected.
4. TD lords itself by nature over us. By nature sin is our master. Sin plays the king. We are sinaholics.
5. Sin reaps a harvest. Sin is always immanent.
The reality of the gospel is the Jesus was wounded for our transgressions. Has the cross of Christ overwhelmed you? Calvary is nostalgic today, but it was a place of death in Jesus’ day.
Everyone is there mocking Jesus on the cross – all the people, the religious leaders. The only one who defends Him is a thief on the cross. He suffers and bears the hell that our sin deserves. Jesus is rejected by heaven and earth and nature itself. He cries out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
Jesus came to do two things that we can never do for ourselves. 1. He paid for our sins. 2. Lived a perfect life. Jesus’ passive and active obedience is imputed to us. His active obedience gives us access to eternal life. He obeyed the Law and paid for sin.
Christ Jesus came to save sinners in this world.
This text also gives us a statement of reliability. The gospel has always been true and faithful. There has never been a sinner who repented and believed who was rejected by Christ. The gospel never, ever fails and that’s our comfort. That is the good news of the gospel. It is not 99% sure, but 100% sure. You can trust it always even if you are the chief sinner on earth. Bunyan said the only reason Paul could say he was the chief sinner is because Paul did not know his heart.
No matter how many skeletons in your closet or bad things you’ve done the gospel can save you. His “it is finished” is the greatest encouragement we have. No man who comes to the Son will be cast out.
The gospel is worthy to be accepted by all. Paul besieges sinners to receive it. Too often today Reformed have let Arminians hi-jack the term “accept”. This acceptance is a total surrender at the feet of the Savior. It’s a dreadful thing not to accept, not to put your trust in Jesus.
If you are not a believer, your unbelief is a serious act of disobedience to your creator. He offers the gospel freely. When we reject God’s offer we are spurring God Himself; calling Him a liar. We know Jesus does not fail on the cross. When we rebel we are saying that He won’t save me.
4. Paul is saying that he is an example of preaching the gospel. The gospel is something to declare and to share with others where ever we go. If God can save me, he can save you.
5. Paul speaks of the gospel in doxology. He experientially praises God for saving him.
The gulf between man and God is bridged by the good news. The King will give life to dead souls. He is the only Lord and only wise God. Our God is the King so He alone is worthy of all honor, forever and ever.
We need preachers today burning with fire in their bones. A preacher without doxological praise for the gospel is a miserable preacher. Paul lived in sin 35 years and then preached the gospel for 20.
God won’t turn any sinner away.
Beeke closes with an illustration. It’s about a young man who writes a note to his father that he is returning home. He knows he does not deserve to come home. If the father will accept him he should hang a white sheet. The young man came home nervously and there were white sheets everywhere. This is the character of our God. He will receive any repentant sinner with plentious grace everywhere.
The gospel will give you joy in this life and joy unspeakable in the next.