IT becomes us to inquire into the truth concerning the gospel. That which is of such vast importance to the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, must necessarily call up questionings in our mind as to the true meaning of the word. Not that we would seek out derivatives, roots, endings, and the natural meaning of the letter of the word, for, “the letter killeth,” so says the Scripture; but it is the substance that we are searching for; in other words, the spirit of the word, which giveth life, light and understanding. The child of grace would pine away and quickly die were he fed upon the husks of Latin, Greek and Hebrew derivations. Suffice it to say, then, that the word “gospel “signifies “good news,” or “glad tidings.” But what value would accrue to you or me, unless such messages come directly into our own Soul? Only these who are the recipients of good news or glad tidings can obtain joy or gladness from it. That which would come as good news to my neighbor might be adverse news to me. Therefore the application of the gospel is personal, and the substance is Jesus Christ our Lord. It always conies to us by way of revelation, never by searching. But it comes to us in different forms, sometimes in the form of a promise, for example: “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed,” as also do all the promises of God in Christ Jesus come to us. A natural promise from a trustworthy source, of some favor, is pretty sure to give us pleasure. How wonderful then is the good news and glad tidings of great joy when we receive from our heavenly Father the promise of life eternal. The wonder increases in the certain knowledge (received by faith) that in him “is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,” and that his word of promise is as the everlasting hills, immovable and eternal. The gospel reveals God’s grace in the salvation of the sinner by a new and living way, through the mediatory ministration of the holy Soil of God. Under the law, the knowledge of the justice of our condemnation is so clear that we cannot see any way that we can be justified and the law made honorable. Then what joy and rejoicing, when the Spirit of redeeming grace conveys to our darkened Soul the gospel tidings that a ransom has been found, a Savior has appeared in the gospel heavens, the law has been satisfied, and we are free, and we hear the voice of Jesus, saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” The gospel also brings us this refreshing news, that while justice is never tempered with mercy, yet as the sword has been removed from the way of the tree of life, by reason of a completely satisfied law, now the mercy of God to fallen, sinful man is made clearly manifest. The agonized heart has been crying for mercy all of the six days of labor and toil under the law, but the cry brought no relief. The law demanded the death of the transgressor, and here is presented the wondrous love of God, that, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Of this wondrous grace the gospel comes to us laden with good news; herein is the promise of God fulfilled: “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” It being further declared, “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” The redemption price being paid, through the death of our gracious Redeemer, and the truth of his perfect work is revealed to us in the gospel of the grace of God, through the Spirit of truth, and now by faith we lay hold of the promises, and “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It does appear sometimes to our limited understanding that the experience of the revelation of our justification by faith is the beginning of our life of faith, but such is not the case; we are subjects of the faith of God from the time we are quickened into divine life, and become conscious, sensible sinners under the law. For is it not declared of Abraham that, “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went”? Faith, hope and love go with us all our journey through, and thus we go on, not knowing whither we go, and not knowing what invisible, mysterious power is impelling us. The gospel is also preached unto us then, as it was to Abraham in the promise of the blessing of life eternal, which promise we cannot yet grasp, although we enter the race that we may obtain the prize. In preaching this very gospel Paul said: “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.” Let us remember at all times that Jesus is the essence and substance of the gospel, that it is not a simple communication of glad tidings, but that we receive it through an experience of the grace of God, which brings with it in our crucifixion a fellowship with the sufferings of Christ; that it is a reality, and not a chimera of the brain: for these who are exercised thereby are made willing (as was Christ) to endure the cross, despise the shame, for the joy that is set before us. There is no mention of the gospel in the Old Testament Scriptures; all that transpired under the law was a shadow of the gospel day; the law demanded “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth;” it demanded the death of the sinner whom it condemned, yet in its types and shadows it pointed to the atoning sacrifice which should usher in the gospel day; it set forth the great truth that is realized in every christian experience, that, “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Jesus said: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” In all the doctrine of the gospel of Christ, and in all gospel tidings, there is nothing of more vital importance to the child of grace than the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; it brings into the light of our spiritual understanding all things else concerning our salvation. And so the apostle declares: “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” What does the natural sun give to the inhabitants of the earth? Does it not give to the living, light, heat, energy and all vitalizing influences by which we obtain strength and power to execute the things of time and sense? Upon the dead it has no effect. So also to the living in Christ Jesus, the Sun of righteousness gives light, and every other form of spiritual life, through the revivifying power of the gospel, as Jesus is revealed in our hearts a Prince and a Savior, the author and finisher of our faith. Therefore the apostle declares that the gospel of Christ is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” It is when we have come to know and to feel the power of the resurrection, that the light of divine truth illumines our Soul to the knowledge that we have been delivered out of death into life, out of darkness into light, out from under the condemnation of the law, into the light and liberty of the gospel of Christ. And now that we have tasted and handled the good word of God, and possess the earnest of our inheritance, what shall it be when the vail has been removed and we have entered into the full fruition of that which we now hope for? Faith will be swallowed up of love, gospel tidings, the harbinger of our joy and peace, will have accomplished its welcome duty, and then we shall stand in the presence of the Father without a vail between, complete in his wondrous glory, honored and acknowledged as the bride of the only begotten Son of God. To this glorious end the gospel of Christ is preached to the believer. By this faith, and in this hope, we are kept (in these low grounds of sorrow) “by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.”
B. F. COULTER.
Philadelphia, Pa., March 22, 1005.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 73., No. 17.
SEPTEMBER 1, 1905.