Archive for the ‘Gospel’ Category

God’s mercy and justice are revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ

From the catechism of Edward Dering (1540-1576):

What do you call this true faith? 
This true and lively faith is a full persuasion and assurance of my heart grounded upon the promise of God, and wrought in me by the Holy Spirit, whereby I am fully assured, that whatsoever Christ has wrought for man’s salvation, pertains not only to others, but even to me, and is wholly mine, as surely as if I performed the same in my own person.

How can it be that your sins are forgiven you, and yet according to God’s truth fully punished, with the punishment which God has appointed for sins?
By this my true faith, I see my sins both to be forgiven, and yet fully punished; for in Jesus Christ to satisfy God’s justice, they are fully punished, and yet to me they are forgiven: because in me, they are not punished but in Christ for me, to set forth God’s mercy, and therefore shall never be laid to my charge. In this manner therefore I see the Lord my God to be both merciful and just.


“The gospel is better than unconditional love…” David Powlison

From David Powlison’s excellent article on idolatry and motivation, “Idols of the Heart and ‘Vanity Fair'”:

What happens to the Gospel when idolatry themes are not grasped?  “God loves you” typically becomes a tool to meet a need for self-esteem in people who feel like failures.  The particular content of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—”grace for sinners and deliverance for the sinned¬against”—is down-played or even twisted into “unconditional acceptance for the victims of others’ lack of acceptance.”  Where “the Gospel” is shared, it comes across something like this: “God accepts you just as you are.  God has unconditional love for you.”  That is not the biblical Gospel, however.  God’s love is not Rogerian unconditional positive regard writ large.  A need theory of motivation—rather than an idolatry theory—bends the Gospel solution into “another gospel” which is essentially false.

The Gospel is better than unconditional love.  The Gospel says, “God accepts you just as Christ is.  God has ‘contraconditional’ love for you.”  Christ bears the curse you deserve.  Christ is fully pleasing to the Father and gives you His own perfect goodness.  Christ reigns in power, making you the Father’s child and coming close to you to begin to change what is unacceptable to God about you. God never accepts me “as I am.”  He accepts me “as I am in Jesus Christ.”  The center of gravity is different.  The true Gospel does not allow God’s love to be sucked into the vortex of the soul’s lust for acceptability and worth in and of itself.  Rather, it radically decenters people—what the Bible calls “fear of the Lord” and “faith”—to look outside themselves.

Thomas Boston on the middle path of the gospel

Edward Fisher, in his 1645 book The Marrow of Modern Divinity, unpacks the middle path of the gospel of Jesus Christ, over against both legalism and antinomianism/lawlessness, namely, “Jesus Christ received truly, and walked in answerably.” Thomas Boston, in his notes to the book, comments:

[This is] a short and pithy description of the middle path, the only pathway to heaven – “Jesus Christ (the way, John 14:6) received truly (by faith, John 1:12; this is overlooked by the legalist) and walked in answerably,” (by holiness of heart and life, Col. 2:6; this is neglected by the Antinomian. The Antinomian’s faith is but pretended, and not true faith, since he walked not in Christ answerably. The legalist’s holiness is but pretended, and not true holiness, since he hath not “received Christ” truly, and therefore is incapable of walking in Christ, which is the only true holiness competent to fallen mankind. Thus, both the legalist and Antinomian are each of them destitute of true faith and true holiness; forasmuch as there can be no walking in Christ, without a true receiving of him; and there cannot be a true receiving of him without walking in him: so both of them are off the only way of salvation, and, continuing so, must needs perish. Wherefore it concerns every one who has a value for his own soul, to take heed that he be found in the middle path.

Amen and amen. May the Lord keep us from falling into either ditch, safe on the gospel road.

Daniel Baker on Justification by faith alone

If the sinner were a thousand times better than he is, that would be no ground of hope; if he were a thousand times worse than he is, that need be no ground of despair; for, mark, if he were a thousand times better than he is, he never could be saved without coming to Christ; if a thousand times worse than he is, coming to Christ, in the overflowings of a penitent and believing heart, he would, immediately, be encircled in the arms of God’s parental and forgiving love. So that, in the matter of the sinner’s acceptance with God, (so far as merit in the sinner is concerned,) good works form no part whatever.”

– from Revival Sermons, “The Uses of the Law”

Plumer’s Piety – William Swan Plumer on Law & Gospel, and Preaching

“The great folly of even good men is that too often they forsake the rock of their salvation; they rely on works, so that the law with its sharp, flaming, two-edged sword must be called in to slay legal hopes as often as they revive. Whenever believers go to Sinai for salvation, its words of terror, its thundering and lightnings must be let loose upon them; if they cannot be drawn thence, hope will die within them, and terrors will consume them. Mount Sinai is far from Jerusalem; but Mount Calvary is hard by [very near] it. Ministers whose preaching discourages a law-work in the soul, are not wise; those, who have been the most soundly troubled in conscience, commonly cleave most closely to the gospel method of mercy. The law is still a schoolmaster to bring men to Christ; the nearer we are to the law as a covenant, the farther are we from Christ, from deliverance.”

Martin Luther on the Righteousness of God

“I had been captivated with a remarkable ardor for understanding Paul in the epistle to the Romans.  But up until then it was not the cold blood about the heart, but a single saying in chap. 1, ‘In it the righteousness of God is revealed,’ that stood in my way.  For I hated that word ‘righteousness of God,’ which, according to the use and custom of all the teachers, I had been taught to understand philosophically of the formal or active justice, as they called it, by which God is righteous and punishes sinners and the unrighteous.  Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt I was a sinner before God with a most disturbed conscience.  I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction.  I did not live, indeed, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners.  Secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God.  Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant.

Finally by the mercy of God, as I meditated day and night, I paid attention to the context of the words, ‘In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.”  Then I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith.  This, then, is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, viz. the passive righteousness with which the merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous one lives by faith.’  Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.  There a totally other face of all Scripture showed itself to me.  And whereas before ‘the righteousness of God’ had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love.  This passage of Paul became to me a gateway to heaven.  Then I ran through Scripture, as I could from memory, and I found an analogy in other terms, too, such as the work of God, i.e.,, what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us strong, the wisdom of God, by which he makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God.” (Martin Luther, “Preface to Latin Writings [1545],” in Luther’s Works 34:336-37; WAusg 54.185-86)


Jesus ate with Pharisees

One thing that is often overlooked about the parable of the two sons in Luke 15 is that it ends with the father going out to the elder brother, to call him to repentance and to join in the celebration over the younger brother. Jesus told all the parables on Luke 15 to the Pharisees and scribes. He wasn’t merely explaining why He ate and drank with sinners and tax collectors, He was calling them to repentance as well. Sometimes the impression is given that Jesus hated the Pharisees. He certainly had harsh words for them and disagreed with their hypocrisy and self-righteousness, but He told lots of parables to them to call them away from their sin, and He spent lots of time eating with them, just as he did with the “sinners.” He wasn’t a Pharisee toward the Pharisees. May we not be either.