What is the Gospel?
I know what you may be thinking. “I’m already a Christian, I already know the gospel, why do I need to read this?” *scrolls past, ignores, mentally marks as irrelevant* My friend, if you are breathing, this post is for you. The gospel is not just for unbelievers, it is for Christians, too. We all need it. We need to be reminded of who God is, what he’s done, who we are in Christ. While this post will contain a gospel presentation for non Christians, I want you sisters to know that I’ve had you in mind while I’m writing it. We never outgrow the gospel.
Like yesterday’s post, this will involve some points from some previous posts and I will link all of them down at the bottom, if you would like to read them. I also want to remind you what the focus verse is for this week, Romans 6:23:
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And one more reminder of Ephesians 2:8-10:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
What isn’t the Gospel?
Again, I want to start off with what the Gospel is not. It is not Your Best Life Now. It is not self help, this is not an area where you can pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. We contribute nothing to our salvation except the sin that made it necessary (Phillip Melanchton).
This is also not something you can “live out.” We don’t live the gospel, we are recipients of God’s great love, mercy, and forgiveness. Now, living in light of the gospel does bring us back to the third use of the law, but it is not the gospel. And I would argue that those who say that we need to live the gospel by doing anti abortion advocacy or supporting homeless shelters do not understand the law or the gospel. Those things are good things and things Christians can and should do as part of their witness, but being active in those ways is not sharing the gospel or Christianity, they are part of our lives as citizens of the Kingdom of God and living in the world.
It is also not calling someone a sinner. That’s part of the first use of the law and it is the premise that allows us to understand that we need a savior, but that is not the whole story. The gospel is supposed to be Good News and that is not good news.
Then what is the Gospel?
I think one of the most prevalent false ideas in the world today is the idea that there is a such thing as a good person. Humanly speaking, I can see how you would see how some people can seem better than others. Especially in this post-Holocaust era, where we see so much evil and corruption and we know that we are not that bad. But yet, we all know that we’re not perfect. Especially those of us that are reformed Christians, we understand total depravity and we get it. And even James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law, but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” So this first use of the law is the premise by which we come to the gospel.
Because of our sin, we are unable to have fellowship with God. In fact, 1 John 1:6 say that “If we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” But God loves his children, so as John 3:16 says, he gave his only Son as a propitiation for our sins. To say it a different way, in our sinful state, we are unable to access God on our own, but God still wants fellowship with us. So, he sent Jesus to die for our sins. But he didn’t just die for our sins, he lived a perfect and sinless life on our behalf, so that when we stand before God, we do not need to fear judgment, we can be comforted knowing that not only was Christ’s death in our place, but God looks at us as if Christ’s life was also in our place and we are now seen as blameless before God.
Now, it’s important to recognize that this isn’t something that just happens to everyone no matter how they feel about God. It’s not an “all roads lead to heaven” type of thing. God extends mercy and grace to those who are his. Romans 8:28-30 explains it as:
And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
This is a gift freely given and open to anyone for the taking. You don’t need to pray a prayer or write today’s date down on a card to keep in your wallet. God is giving you a new heart and he is making all things new. You are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
So how does this relate to legalism, antinomianism, or lordship salvation?
You may remember a few months ago, I did a Theological Errors Week post on Lordship Salvation and another on the New Perspective on Paul and said later on that I would be covering the Law Gospel Distinction during Reformation Month. Well here we are and I want to make sure I explain this all well and tie it back together.
In the Whole Christ, Sinclair Ferguson notes that legalism and antinomianism are two sides of the same coin. It can be easy to assume what a legalist needs is more grace and what an antinomian needs is more law, the truth they both need a proper understanding of the gospel. We need the gospel preached every Sunday, not as an altar call moment, but so that we have a right understanding of who we are, who God is, and how we are to live.
The argument is not that the law is for non Christians and the gospel is for Christians, but rather that both the law and the gospel serve different functions for Christians and non Christians. For the Christian, in light of this forgiveness, Paul wrote in Romans 6:1-3 (3rd use of the law):
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we, who died to sin, still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized in Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
In The Reformed Brotherhood’s podcast, Jesse notes that “the law and the gospel are different, but they’re inseparable friends.” When we flatten the differences, we either cheapen grace or make it unattainable. As we begin to close out Reformation Month, I also want to encourage you guys to check out Sinclair Ferguson’s The Whole Christ. I said in August that the book was a game changer for me and it is definitely true, it is a lifeline. We all need the truth of the gospel, Christians and non Christians alike.
All Theology Gals episodes on this (in the order that I would listen to them in):
http://bit.ly/tglgimportance, http://bit.ly/tgGospel, http://bit.ly/tglawgospel, http://bit.ly/tgTheGospel, http://bit.ly/tgLawGospelP1, http://bit.ly/tgLawGospelP2, http://bit.ly/tgTheLaw, http://bit.ly/tglordsalvation, http://bit.ly/tglordcontroversy, http://bit.ly/tgantinomlegal, http://bit.ly/tgordosalutis, http://bit.ly/tgGoodWorks, http://bit.ly/tgsanctification, http://bit.ly/tgpracticalLawGos, http://bit.ly/tgcanwehave, http://bit.ly/tgassurance, http://bit.ly/tglordselfhelp, http://bit.ly/tgparentinpews, http://bit.ly/tglawgosparent
Related Unit Posts: (in order I would read them in)
- Covenant of Redemption
- Total Depravity
- Covenant of Grace
- Solus Christus
- Sola Gratia
- Sola Fide
- Can We Have Assurance?
- Perseverance of the Saints
- New Perspective on Paul
- Lordship Salvation
- What is a Gospel Issue?
The Reformed Catechisms & Confessions address the Gospel here:
- Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 1-51
- Belgic Confession Articles 20-26
- Savoy Declaration 8-18
- WCF Ch 8-18
- 1689 LBCF 8-18
- 2nd Helvetic Confession Ch 8-11, 13-16
- 39 Articles of Religion Articles 9-18
Resources on the Gospel:
- Jacob Smith Good News for Control Freaks sermon https://bit.ly/31ZN5VB
- Jacob Smith Sermon That is the Gospel and I Need That https://bit.ly/2GdJrzT
- Jacob Smith Christ and the Gospel https://bit.ly/2TF8Hly
- Simply Put https://bit.ly/3ea1hjE
- TGC The Good News of Romans 8 – Trillia Newbell https://bit.ly/3oGBhkK
- Same Old Song Church is For Hypocrites https://bit.ly/3mFKO9Q
- Same Old Song Already and Not Yet https://bit.ly/2TDMLHB
Resources on the Law Gospel Distinction:
- The Heidelblog “Do the reformed distinguish between Law and Gospel?” https://bit.ly/2GgIiaM
- Monergism https://bit.ly/3kIAXQn
- The Reformed Brotherhood https://bit.ly/31Xmo3U
- Modern Reformation https://bit.ly/34F4nZZ
- Mockingbird God’s Two Words https://bit.ly/35MvCBb
- Mockingbird Experiencing Law and Gospel https://bit.ly/3oK9Eav
- Freely Given Podcast https://bit.ly/34HtATy
- Ben DeHart If You Love Me https://bit.ly/3mCixkB