In what way is the good news unlimited?
Mar 19, 2013 1510
Decades ago, the gifted but amoral unbeliever Aldous Huxley expressed a wish. He wanted a new drug that would remove all loneliness, enable people to get on well with others, and make all of life both beautiful and significant. Unlike other drugs it must leave the user the next morning with a clear head and an undamaged constitution.
There is such a panacea used by millions. It is free and was devised by our Creator for all who want it. But just as we take the sunshine and air, beauty and melody for granted, so most of earth’s inhabitants despise and ignore this gift. You may be tempted to do the same as you read on, and so miss the best heaven has to offer.
The panacea is faith in the gospel of Christ. It alone can abolish our loneliness, enable us to love all we meet and open our eyes to the unsuspected beauty and marvel of life. And instead of enfeebling, it rather invigorates.
It does more, it makes us richer than the richest tycoons of the planet, it makes the receiver eternally young, and it abolishes the phantom that stands in the way of all human happiness—the phantom of fear.
But just what is this gospel of Christ, which must be believed to enrich us so? William Tyndale said, ‘It is the good, glad and merry tidings which makes the heart to sing and the feet to dance’. He should have known, for most of the Bibles of the last five centuries spring largely from his translation.
The gospel of Christ is good news—it is not good advice. It is not the elucidation of the secret of how to ‘let go and let God’. It is not the formula for discovering how to have Christ so living in you that by your consent all you do is his doing. No, advice centres on what you are to do, but news is about what has already happened.
The glorious news of the New Testament gospel is that all that was necessary to reconcile us to God and all that is necessary for time and eternity has been accomplished for us by our Representative over 2,000 years ago. This achievement is credited to anyone, however vile, willing to receive the gift.
Not all know the exact date and place of their death. Three o’clock, black Friday, Calvary. Christ represented the whole human race, and when he died, legally the whole world died. We were ruined ages before, without our personal participation, by the first Adam.
At Calvary, again without our having anything to do with it, we were redeemed by the second Adam. He was made what he was not (sin), that we might be made what we are not (righteous). Especially see the paraphrase of the Living Bible.
Despite our sin and selfishness there is no need for us to try and reconcile God. He is already reconciled and invites us ‘Be reconciled’. God is offering, not demanding something.
My standing before God depends on my acceptance of what Christ has done, not on what I am doing. For though the law represents a perfect standard, it is powerless to offer us what the Gospel offers—a perfect standing.
We are saved by faith alone, though the faith that saves is never alone. It is not faith plus works that brings justification, but a faith that works. ‘By faith’ does not mean ‘because of’ faith, as though faith is a work, but ‘through faith’. It is a channel only.
‘The believer is not called upon to make his peace with God; he never has, nor ever can, do that. He is to accept Christ as his peace, for with Christ are God and peace’.
‘You need not be anxious about what God thinks of you but only what God thinks of Christ your substitute’.
‘Are you thinking that you must be free from sin before you trust his power to save?’
‘You may have the blessing even now. It is insanity to remain a single moment longer unsaved’.
‘Come to Jesus, and receive rest and peace … Jesus loves to have us come to him, just as we are—sinful, helpless, dependent’.
There are two aspects of Christ’s work—1) what he did for us at the Cross, which brings complete acceptance with God for every believer, and 2) the work he does in us by the Spirit, which has nothing to do with our acceptance. The first is complete and is never less at any stage of the Christians experience. We do not fall from grace because we err. A million stumblings on the road to the New Jerusalem do not bring the slightest shred of condemnation.
Sanctification is never complete in this life, but it is also true that its presence is evidence we have received the gospel. Luther said that the Christian is ‘always a sinner, always a penitent, and always right with God’.
The divine plan involves our complete rescue from sin—from its guilt, its power, and its presence. Our acceptance of Calvary brings the first. Our dependence upon the living Christ brings the second. And his return accomplishes the last. The work is his, though received by our faith. Objectively, ‘Christ is all’; subjectively, ‘faith is all’.
Look back to the Cross—which brings the faith that justifies. Look forward to the Coming, which brings the hope that sanctifies; look upward to the throne, which brings the love that satisfies.
Too many think of the kingdom of God as something far off, but the New Testament says it has already come. See Christ’s introduction to his seven parables in Matthew 13, and Matthew 12:28. Both John the Baptist and Jesus began their ministry with the announcement that the kingdom was then dawning.
The final act in the drama of redemption has even now begun; the messianic age has dawned; he who is greater than Solomon, greater than Jonah, greater than the temple and the law (see Matthew 12) has overcome on our behalf the world, the flesh, and the devil.
When David slew Goliath, all Israel knew they were conquerors. The resurrection of Christ was the proclamation of heaven’s amnesty because of the complete victory of Christ over sin and death. The New Testament calls us to rejoice in the ‘now and the not yet’. All that is to be seen and felt at the Second Advent is available now for believers.
The chief texts on what is known as Inaugurated Eschatology are as follows:
Resurrection: Col 3:1;
Judgment: John 12:31;
Translation: Col 1:13;
Glorification: Rom 8:30;
Eternal life: John 5:24;
End of transgression, sins, and iniquity: Daniel 9:24; Heb 9:26;
Devil destroyed: Heb 2:14;
All things new: 2 Cor 5:17;
Heavenly Citizenship: Phil 3:20;
God with us: Matthew 28:20.
A shorthand Biblical synonym often used for the gospel is ‘righteousness by faith’, but we do not correctly understand that phrase unless we remember that the Greek original word for both ‘justification’ and ‘righteousness’ is the same. So ‘righteousness by faith’ is the same as ‘justification by faith’.
This is important because the righteousness of justification is 100 per cent but it is not in us. It is reckoned or imputed, put to our account, for our real righteousness is in Christ in heaven. However, the righteousness of sanctification is never 100 per cent, but through the indwelling Holy Spirit it is inside us. At glorification, when Christ returns, righteousness will be both 100 per cent and inside us.
Sanctification is always the fruit of the gospel, though it has no part in our standing before God. God gives his gifts with both hands. Those whom he justifies, he also sanctifies. However, the first gift is complete, perfect, and instantaneous. Not so the second.
The imputed righteousness of Christ is to the believer what the sheltering cloud was to imperfect Israel. Thus Christ is made unto us ‘righteousness, sanctification and redemption’ (1 Cor. 1:30). He is indeed ‘all and in all’ (Col. 3:11); and we are ‘complete in him’ (Col. 2:10), ‘accepted in the beloved’ (Eph. 1:6).
Faith in the gospel is the treasure that not only Aldous Huxley but all men have sought. Most are cheated by substitutes. Only the one who finds the real treasure knows loneliness no more, loves his fellows and finds joy and satisfaction in all the particulars of life.
That believer has the verdict of the Last Judgment already, possesses eternal life and need fear nothing. For in the merciful reckoning of God he or she is already living in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). Praise be given to our gracious God, who ‘justifies the ungodly’ and counts all believers as free from all condemnation, despite recurring failures and follies (Rom. 4:5; 8:1).