The Gospel 2.
Past not Progressive
Key Text: Eph 2:1-8
We are in week 2 of our series in the gospel. Last week we looked at the two enemies of the gospel and saw that the gospel essentially is not about us. It is God’s good news of what Christ has done for us on the cross. We saw that because the gospel essentially is about what God has done; man has been left helpless in this; we have nothing but our brokenness to bring to the “equation” of the gospel.
In this we saw that the gospel always has had and always will have two great enemies; Religion and moralism. Essentially; those who think that they are good enough for God because of what they do or those that think that they are good enough for God by who they are. The gospel breaks both of the presuppositions.
As we engage this topic of the gospel we need to see what is at the heart of the gospel. So tonight we will essentially look at what the gospel is not so that we can understand what it truly is:
What the Gospel isn’t:
It is not advice
It is not about what is happening to you
What the gospel is:
It is a declaration
It is about what happened for you
Don’t worry we will spend tonight making this more clear…
So let's look at this below. To do this I want us to turn to Ephesians 2:1-8.
The core reality of this text is at the heart of what I want to talk about tonight. So let’s read;
Ephesians 2:1-8New International Version (NIV)
Made Alive in Christ
2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
So let’s look at this gift of God to us; firstly as we look st the gospel we see that..
It is not advice; it is a declaration
This has to be said due to the nature of the world we live in. The gospel is not a suggestive lifestyle that results in your good. You know like a good piece of advice that we receive around the braai.
The world we live in has convinced us that the gospel stands with the other religions around the world; essentially another ingredient in the mix of human experience; simply another good piece of advice to apply to your life if you want or not.
The problem is that the gospel never lets itself be interpreted that way. It is not another suggestive lifestyle choice. The gospel is a declaration! “The word gospel (Evangelizo) is generally used to declare the news of something that has happened to rescue or deliver people form peril” (Keller).
The Gospel by definition is a declaration of what God has done for us on the cross! What is this declaration? It is a declaration that we have been saved. The question we must ask is what have we been saved from?
Many say we have been saved from sin, an unfulfilled life, depression, dependency etc. these, however, are a result of the gospel, but are not the gospel itself.
The good news is that we have been saved from the coming wrath. You see church; the most terrifying thing in scripture is the fact that God is good!
You might ask how can that at all be terrifying. Well the fact that God is good is a good thing; it would horrific if this universe was ruled by an evil god. However, the fact that God is good it is terrifying because we are not.
And we have to ask; what does God do with a people who are not good? Well to be just he has to punish us with the full measure of his wrath; or he would not be a good God.
This is the paradox of monotheistic; how can a just God be merciful and how can a merciful God be just? In fact every other forms of monotheism cannot answer this problem. Islam cannot answer this and neither can the Hebrew faith.
The only answer is found in Jesus! Jesus fulfils the demands of God; so that he is perfectly righteous. He then dies the death we deserve and pays the debt we could never pay; so that we can receive the righteousness we could never earn.
In Christ the full wrath and justice of God is met out (God is fully just in punishing the sin of men) so that the mercy of God is poured out; in Christ because the wrath of God has been met; we are receivers of the full mercy of God; the full love of God!
This is the declaration(of the gospel): we can be saved from wrath! Jesus has made that possible. The cross made it possible that you could be rescued from the coming wrath of God.
Verse 3 speaks to this reality:
. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
All this leads us to the second reality of the gospel;
It is not progressive it is past
We have a great temptation to reduce the gospel to something that is happening within us now. Now, keep up with me. This is not to undermine the fact that the acceptance of the gospel does cause a change. The danger is thinking that the gospel is the change itself. This simply is not true.
The gospel is something that was done for you in the past. It is NOT something we do.
. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Many of us get into the debate; so we are saved by grace then what does that mean for good works? And it is here that we need to be clear; so that we do not confuse or separate our understanding of the gospel and the result of the gospel.
You see good works are a result of what was done for you 2000 years ago on the cross. When we believe in what God has done through Jesus on the cross; God by his Holy Spirit makes us alive to God and enables us to live a life that honour him (vs5)!
There is a subtle but important reality that needs to be fully understood here! The gospel always produces good works; however good works can never lead to acceptance of the gospel.
The gospel is done for us and results in life change; however, sometimes we preach or act in the opposite manner.
I will use a controversial example to illustrate: the way the church has been dealing with the issue of homosexuality has been essentially anti-gospel. We have a subtle but essentially destructive view that says (even if it is through subtext); “first abandon your homosexuality and then come to our church and you can then be saved.”
I hope you see the subtleness of the error; but there is essentially a very destructive belief driving this. It is the belief that moral conformity precedes conversion. This is anti-gospel.
You don’t change to believe the gospel; that essentially is the idea that we bring something to the cross other than our brokenness.
God didn’t save you because you did something; God saved you because Jesus died your death.
God doesn’t demand moral change in order to be saved. Rather He saves you; makes you new and that results in a moral change.
It is the past event of the cross that changes us; not our ability to do anything other than what the bible asks us to do; believe; have faith!
.8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
God saved you because of His love in sending Jesus to the cross; so how can we say to some (such as the homosexual) if you just change your ways then you can be saved.
The church has exposed its lack of understanding of the gospel in this over recent times. And so has exposed its own hypocrisy.
Let’s ask it this way; because others have asked it this way? Does being a homosexual send you to hell? Well let’s ask another question does being a heterosexual send you to heaven?
The answer is no! now hear me out; because there is a great danger of you mishearing me here. What sends us to heaven is the opposite of that question? And the answer is: Acceptance of the gospel and a relationship with Jesus; that and that alone send us to heaven. We all believe that right?
So if it is only the gospel that saves us; then does sin send us to hell? Well, no! self-righteousness send us to hell, rejecting God’s means of salvation sends us to hell.
Our sins makes us guilty and in need of the gospel. But abandoning our sins doesn’t fix that! Because simply we cannot do that; all we can do is to fall at the cross and believe in Jesus; He and He alone is our salvation!
If the abandonment of our sins secured our salvation, then; I have to be honest; I am going to hell! And you need to be honest; you are going to hell!
No – now I need you to get this – the gospel is the fact that we couldn’t save ourselves so God sent his only son; so that he would die our death; so that whoever would believe would not perish by have everlasting life!
Gospel then creates life change; life change does not ensure gospel!
And I think we have condemned many people by convincing them of a false gospel; stating that their ability to obey; their ability to change is what will make them acceptable to God; however, I read the gospel, and the bible says the gospel is something God does for us!
The gospel is a reality in the past that we believe. This is why the gospel is good news; because it is a declaration about what has been accomplished!
In other words; Christ HAS accomplished our rescue from wrath of God on the cross! That news/declaration creates within us an appreciation and love; a freedom and grace that creates life change!
The good news creates life change; but it must be said life change does not create or is not itself the good news!
Church; the good news (Gospel) of Jesus Christ is good news because it is effective! It is not advice it is a declaration! It is not something we do it is something that is done!
Therefore, go church and share with the world with all who will hear the declarative good news that Jesus has saved all who would believe from the coming wrath of God!