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Rainbow Divider

Chapter 5

The Gospel

This brings us back to II Timothy 1. Verses 8-12 say, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;

“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

“But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:

“Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.

“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

Once again we see that life and immortality are brought to light through the gospel. “The gospel” is a potentially enormous subject all by itself. However, as it is also central to the subject of immortality it is necessary to establish some basic truths relating to the gospel.

It is also necessary because “the gospel” is so little understood having been so corrupted by religion. Virtually every group preaches what they call the gospel and the result in most cases is mere religious conversion.

It matters a great deal what gospel is heard and believed. II Cor. 11:4 speaks of “another Jesus,” “another spirit” and “another gospel.” Even in Paul’s day Satan was busy promoting his counterfeit gospel. Verses 13 and 14 reveal Satan’s ability to transform himself as an “angel of light” and the ability of his apostles to transform themselves into “the apostles of Christ.”

By its very nature, a counterfeit is designed to deceive men into believing it is the real thing. It takes a true revelation of God’s word by the Holy Spirit to discern the difference.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were very zealous to make converts to their “gospel” but Jesus called one of their converts “twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matt. 23:15).

There are many “gospels” but only God’s gospel will lead to eternal life. That is the one we must have.

The first thing we must see concerning the gospel is the sovereignty of God in the matter. Verse 9 of II Tim. 1 reminds us that our calling is “not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”

As we pointed out in Rom. 3, nobody by nature seeks God. The gospel is the overture of Almighty God to destruction-bound man. It exalts Him and leaves no room for flesh to boast (I Cor. 1:29, Eph. 2:8, 9).

Since man’s problem is his revolt against his Maker it is appropriate that salvation involve complete surrender to a sovereign provision of God. According to I Cor. 1:30 if any man is “in Christ” that has come about as a result of God’s intervention.

Begotten by God

James 1:18 is a very significant verse that also establishes this point: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

This scripture says (of believers, of course) that He (God) “begat” us. Since God alone is immortal, then for one of Adam’s descendants to become immortal he must of necessity partake of God’s life. This takes place when God “begets” us, or becomes our Father.

When you beget a child, that child partakes of your life with whatever strengths and weaknesses that involves. According to I Pet. 1:23-24, the seed that produces natural life is “corruptible.” The life produced is compared with grass that quickly fades away.

When God begets us we receive His life. James 1:18 also reveals how this is accomplished: it is “with the word of truth.” That is the means, the only means. As surely as natural seed reproduces natural life so does the word of God reproduce His life in a receptive heart. The Word of God is the seed of God. That is why it is so important.

I Peter 1:22-25 says this precisely: “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

“For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:

“But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”

Notice how carefully Peter identifies the word to which he refers in verse 25. It is “the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” It is not the word read in a tract or even in the Bible itself.

The difference is life and death! Paul referred in II Cor. 3:6 to his own ministry as a ministry of the spirit that brings life. This is contrasted with the mere letter which kills.

The ministry of the spirit is certainly not something apart from the scriptures but the scriptures are not enough without such a ministry. If they were, the Ethiopian Eunuch would have had no need of Philip to teach him (Acts 8:31).

That is the point of I Pet. 1:25. While the word of God is the seed of His life, that seed is imparted by preaching. Preaching necessitates a preacher.

This is precisely what Romans 10:13-17 says: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

“And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

“But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Paul says in I Cor. 1:21, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” No one receives God’s life unless he receives it through another human being. This is a great stumblingblock. Everybody likes to believe he is smart and capable and can come to God independently. It isn’t so.

Paul’s Conversion

Paul certainly understood this from his own experience. Although Paul (then known as Saul) was suddenly confronted on the road to Damascus by the risen Christ, contrary to popular teaching, he was not saved there. In Acts 9:6 Jesus instructed Saul to “Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” If Paul was to be saved, he was going to have to humble himself and allow someone of God’s choosing to tell him what to do!

Think about that! All of Paul’s experience and religious training was useless at this point. He had to become as a little child just as Jesus said in Matt. 18:3 in order to be saved. The natural man strongly resents this.

He waited three days, blind, until God sent a disciple named Ananias to him. It was at that point that Ananias instructed him to “Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” He had been yet in his sins up to that point. Note carefully that it wasn’t Jesus who told him these things but Ananias, a fellow human being. There is an important divine principle here.

An angel appeared to Cornelius but he had to send for Peter to come and preach the gospel in order to be saved (Acts 10:5-6, 15:7).

The apostles of the early church were called, prepared and empowered to preach the gospel. Jesus had said to his disciples in John 15:16, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”

Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:18, “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.”

In John 20:21-23, Jesus spoke directly to the disciples in similar language: “Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

“Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.”

Think about the authority embodied in this commission. They were literally taking Christ’s place as the vessels through whom God would reveal Himself to men. Their calling even included power to forgive sins! I’m aware that such authority has been corrupted, counterfeited and exercised under the influence of many false spirits, yet true God-given authority of this sort is a valid and necessary part of New Testament Christianity.

After the day of Pentecost God bore witness to their authority repeatedly with signs and wonders. To put it simply those who heard and believed their word received eternal life and those who rejected them rejected the God who had sent them and are awaiting the lake of fire.

There are countless thousands in our day who consider themselves preachers but pitifully few who have been sent of God. Remember what Rom. 10:15 says: “How shall they preach except they be sent?” How, indeed? Men do preach, of course, but without the authority of a divine commission and the anointing of the Holy Ghost their preaching is utterly vain and their followers doomed.

The Ministry of Reconciliation

Those who have such a ministry know they have it. One has only to read Paul’s epistles to see how often he referred to his divine calling. I do not believe Paul did this out of pride, to gratify his ego. I believe he was deeply aware how crucial it was for men to hear one sent of God if they were to escape destruction. He understood that he was an extension of God Himself to lost men and that there was no other way they could be saved.

Listen to Paul’s words in II Cor. 5:17-20: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.

“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

“To wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”

Notice how he says that God had “committed to us” (God-called ministers) the ministry of reconciliation. What does he mean? He means simply that in order to be reconciled to God one had to receive their ministry. Jesus wouldn’t bypass this in speaking to Saul on the Damascus road; the angel wouldn’t bypass this; neither will the God who ordained it.

Man hates this. It exposes his independence, self-will and rebellion. Yet no human being will enter into immortality who does not receive the words of a God-sent man.

Paul was very aware that such a ministry could not be carried out through natural human ability. Though God committed a ministry to him, he was not expected to carry it out in his own strength and wisdom. For it to be effective, a joint effort was necessary. That is why he refers to God’s ministers as “workers together with him” (God) in II Cor. 6:1.

In Col. 1:29 he says, “Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” Paul put forth an effort, but as he did so God joined in and the effort was carried out in His strength. Many have gone forth in great zeal to work for God but those few God calls work with Him as He works through them. (Read the context from Col. 1:23-29 also, concerning Paul’s calling.)

This is why Paul says in I Cor. 2:1-5: “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.

“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

“And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.

“And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:

“That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

I am persuaded that in our day very few have a faith that stands in the power of God. This is because the faith they have wasn’t begotten in them by God, but it came from some other source.

Notice how specific Paul’s language is in I Cor. 4:15: “For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.”

Remember that we’re speaking of being begotten by God! Yet Paul says, “I have begotten you”! Both are true. The seed of God’s immortal life is imparted through the words of specially commissioned men. How important, then, is the gospel? It is the only thing that is important. Without it man will perish. Nor can he have that life any other way.

This is why most of mankind will perish. They will not come God’s way. Prov. 16:25 says, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

Two Ways

Matt. 7:13-14 speaks of two ways, one that is broad and well-travelled and one that is narrow and found by few. Both are ways by which men seek to find favor with God but only one is God’s way. The broad way is a picture of man’s religious efforts.

Most religious people are like the Jews Paul described in Rom. 10:3: “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”

Consider Paul’s words in II Cor. 4:1-6: “Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not:

“But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:

“In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

“For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Let’s return to Rom. 1. Immediately preceding the passage about the wrath of God we find these words (1:16-17): “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”

First of all the gospel is the power of God. Most of what is called the gospel of Christ today has no power. The “gospel” without power is simply not the gospel, even if the words involved are scriptural and true. Remember, the letter kills. But Paul’s message was an expression of God that had power to save — to rescue men from God’s wrath — to give them immortality.

What makes this power effective in a given individual is faith. They must believe. This faith is not a human ability, however. As Paul says in Eph. 2:8, “... it is the gift of God.” Rom. 10:17 says, “So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”

True Faith

Faith is a conviction born in one who opens his heart to God’s anointed word. He doesn’t have to manufacture it or work it up. The anointing imparts to a receptive heart the power to believe. This faith is not mere theory or mental belief but a force that moves the believer to positive action. Divinely given faith exercised brings salvation.

The writer to the Hebrews was concerned that some of his readers might stop short of this point. He refers in 4:1-2 to the Israelites who fell in the wilderness: “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.

“For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.”

Their problem was the same as that of most men who hear God’s word. They cling to their hardness of heart and unbelief (Heb. 3:7-13) and though there is power in the word it does not save them. Most who heard Jesus didn’t believe. God’s elect remnant believed — those given by the Father to Christ (John 6:37).

Rom. 1:17 says, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” The gospel is something that must be revealed to man. That which is foolishness to most men is revealed to others by the Spirit (I Cor. 1:18-2:10).

What is revealed is God’s righteousness. Man by nature wants to provide his own righteousness, to do something that will make him acceptable to God. The gospel reveals the only righteousness that God will accept: his very own righteousness imparted to us through faith in the death of His Son for us.

Paul then adds the phrase, “from faith to faith.” This expression confirms much that we have said. Just as natural life begets natural life so faith begets faith. In order for a candidate for salvation to have faith to be saved the one ministering must have that faith and be called to impart it. Thus the gospel is the means of transmitting faith from the heart of God’s servant to the receptive hearer: “from faith to” (or unto — resulting in — producing) “faith.”

The result is, “The just shall live by faith.” The just are those made righteous in the manner described in Rom. 4:5, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”

The word “live” in Rom. 1:17 refers to eternal life — immortality! As Jesus said in John 11:25-26, “... I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

“And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”

The Gospel is the key to immortality. The New Testament preachers saw a world of men headed for destruction and proclaimed words capable of imparting eternal life. Jesus occupied such a position before them. That is why when Jesus asked his disciples if they would leave when others were offended, Peter spoke up and said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. John 6:69.

Let’s close this portion by returning to the words of Paul in II Tim. 1:9-10 where he refers to God “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

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