Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel (II Timothy 2.8).
The gospel! Good news! Glad tidings! These are a few of the expressions we find in the Bible describing God's message of deliverance for His blessed and chosen family. For those with ears (spiritual ears) to hear, there is no sweeter message nor engaging theme than the gospel of deliverance. How sweetly satisfying and joyful is the gospel message! It speaks in bright terms to a troubled soul of pardon, hope and promise of life everlasting for redeemed sinners. (By redeemed sinners we mean those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb.) Only the heirs of grace, those that have been made alive by the quickening of the Spirit, will benefit from these good tidings. There is no comfort or joy therein for any others. The gospel has no word solace for the children of the wicked one, but it overflows in great measure for needy sheep.
The gospel is good news, glad tidings, timely words of comfort to the living children of God, and much more, too. Time and eternity are not sufficient in duration to fully reflect upon all blessed benefits contained in the gospel proclamation. "As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country (Proverbs 25.25)."
"Thou dear Redeemer, dying Lamb,
We love to hear of thee;
No music's like thy charming name,
Nor half so sweet can be."
Cennick Hymn 291; Beebe Collection
The gospel is not an offer. It is not an invitation to "whosoever will." Search the Word. Go from one cover of the Bible to the other. It shall not be found where the gospel is tendered, offered or prospectively broadcast for any soul that ever lived. The gospel is a restricted message, certainly not for everyone. Be sure of this; the gospel comes (in power and effectually) only to those elect souls for whom it was everlastingly ordained. The gospel comes with authority. It comes as a message so abundant, so rich with heavenly tidings, that it is wholly impossible to turn from it or refuse to hear its message. The hearer, for whom the gospel was intended, cannot fail to be enraptured, captivated, and receptive. The blessed gospel of God surely comes to His chosen as welcome news. To all others it is but a message, ranging in interest from none to a delusional acceptance.
Good news can only be agreeable and important if it directly pertains to the recipient. What may be extremely good news to one person may actually be bad news to another. Suppose there are two employees, A and B, of a certain company. Both of these employees bid on a promotion. At the appointed time the results are posted. Employee A was chosen for the promotion; employee B was not. The posting is certainly a source of exhilaration for employee A, the one chosen for the promotion. This employee will, without doubt, share this good news with fellow employees, friends, and family. Poor employee B, however, is cast down. Upon learning of his rejection, he is dejected. Thus, he is saddened by the very same news which caused joy in employee A. Employee B may show courtesy, and even extend well wishes to the victor, but by no means can the news of the promotion be pleasing to him. This good news for employee A is just the opposite for the loser. The announcement or posting of the decision could not be glad tidings to the rejected individual; only to the chosen one. This illustration is not perfect. None are. However, the comparison shown appears so simple it seems beyond dispute.
The resurrection of Jesus.
Among the first Scriptures to be considered whenever contemplating what the Bible says about the gospel should be the text at the heading of this article. The writer, Paul, had called Timothy to remembrance. Thus, there was a truth to be kept in mind. To paraphrase the text, Paul says, "Timothy, remember that, according to my gospel, Jesus Christ, the seed of David, was raised from the dead." That Jesus was the seed of David was significant, but the essential element of the good news was, and is, that Jesus was raised from the dead.
Though the house of David was greatly diminished at that time, there were, in fact, others of David's seed remaining at the time of Christ's birth. But the splendor of those good tidings was, Jesus, the heir-appointed seed, had been raised from the dead! This, the coming forth of Jesus from the dead, is what becomes such glad tidings to those blessed to hear it. Surely, on the testimony of His resurrection from the dead hangs all the ornaments that garnish the gospel with everlasting splendor. The silver trumpet has sounded.
This is the vital matter Paul would remind Timothy to call to remembrance. Whenever one of the elect hears the sweet gospel, with the inward ear as well as the outward ear, it cannot but be received as good news, perfectly suited to his or her needs.
In order to hear the gospel with that inward ear one must first hear the voice of the Son of God speaking life (creating life) into them. On hearing the gospel initially, by the voice of Jesus directly, the elect live. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live (John 5.24, 25f)."
Living, they see Him Who speaks life unto and into them. There is no other source of spiritual life! Be sure of this; none can inwardly hear a word of gospel news apart from this initial preparation. A recounting of the good news may fall upon the natural ear, but like stony ground, the message cannot penetrate except first there be this divine, initial preparation.
A brief explanation relative to the above paragraph. It is not the purpose of this article to engage in dispute with those who may believe the gospel, as preached by sinful man, is the means of bringing life to depraved, dead sinner. That scheme, known as gospel regeneration (falsely so-called), is a delusion, and, in our opinion, a pestilent heresy. It has ever been rejected by the church of the Living God. The household of faith certainly do believe that all the family of election, the sheep, will hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. This is the gospel in its initial communication to us. Such power accompanies this declaration of good news from Jesus to His children that death loses its grip on them as eternal life is implanted. It is a point long denied by the Old Order of Baptists that the gospel, as preached by man, brings life to dead sinners. Rather, they are persuaded that the gospel brings life and immortality to light (II Timothy 1.10).
The gospel of the resurrected Jesus, as declared by God's called servants, is the subject now at hand.
There is one text, more than many others, that seems well suited to represent our aim. As much as any that could be cited from the Scriptures, this one brings the meaning and purpose of the gospel in focus, particularly for this brief study. It is this: "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures.) Concerning his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection for the dead (Romans 1. 1-4)."
How forceful, yet comforting and encouraging. In penning this weighty doctrinal epistle to the saints at Rome, Paul left no room for successful dispute. Paul opened the book with revelations regarding the blessed truth of a resurrected Jesus. (The gospel derives its basis for being glad tidings to sinners from the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.) The Romans, and also all that through the centuries would read this book, would see at once that Paul was a gospel servant; called as an apostle separated to the gospel. This gospel, he affirms, was promised afore (centuries before) in the writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, along with other prophets during the earlier years in Israel's sojourn.
This gospel of which the prophets wrote, God's glad tidings to His family, concerns His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. That is plain enough! Furthermore, and importantly, Paul reckoned how Jesus was the Son of God. That Jesus was the Son of God is the sum and substance of this gospel, proven so by the powerful declaration of the Spirit of holiness when Jesus came forth from the dead. Again, the gospel is vitally linked with, and associated to, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. If that is not good news, glad tidings, and the gospel of the grace of God, whatever could be? If it is the gospel, the glad tidings, the good news, then what else could compare to it in wonder and power to dying sinners?
No message, however well-intended, can be the gospel of God's grace, nor glad tidings from heaven, unless it is anchored in the resurrection of Jesus, the seed of David, from the dead. It is the raising Jesus from the dead that empowers the message with sweet tidings to needy sinners. "And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee (Acts 13.32, 33)."
Notice well: glad tidings! It was the good news, the gospel, that God had kept His promise to the Fathers by fulfilling those same promises unto their children. How, it may be asked? By raising Jesus from the dead as the firstfruits of the resurrection. For all who are His by covenant love and everlasting election, the good news is this: Jesus came forth from the tomb, and even so shall all His family. That is exactly what Paul declared as being the meaning of Psalm 2.
Paul continued in Acts 13: "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses (Acts 13.38, 39)." So then, Paul affirmed first a resurrected Jesus. Then he preached Him (Jesus) unto his hearers as the sum and source of the forgiving of sins. And what evidence did Paul produce in this affirmation? Just this; all who believed this gospel were justified (not going to get justified) from all things. By simple deduction it may be fairly said, if one was a believer, then those glad tidings he believed pronounced him justified. Note well! The gospel did not justify him; the believing did not justify him. The gospel was the glad tidings of this justification and the believing was God's ordained way of comforting the believer. It is a much blessed sinner who has been enabled to believe in a resurrected Saviour; a Saviour that has completely secured and justified his brethren. See Acts 13.48.
The living Lamb.
If it cannot be seen by now what our aim is, to set forth the resurrection of Jesus as the heart of the gospel, then we are at a loss to do so. And, why the emphasis on the resurrection? It was, after all, the cornerstone of the Apostle's message from the very beginning. "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee (Mark 1.1-3ff)." With but a little comparison it can be seen that in the beginning of the gospel Jesus was identified by John as the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. And, was it not as the Lamb slain this was accomplished? "And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain.(Revelation 5.6)." Again: "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation (Revelation 5.9)."
This was not a dead lamb these congregated voices adored. The Lamb these admirers worshipped had come forth triumphant from the tomb. Death had been vanquished! It could have been nothing more, or nothing less, than evil tidings had they learned that Jesus had deceived them; that His death resulted in nothing other than His burial and ultimate corruption. But no; He lived! The Lamb which John the Baptist had pointed to in the beginning of the gospel had been gloriously elevated. After His ascension, His resurrection became the core and heart of the gospel. This then was glad tidings, sufficiently empowered to lift the lowest sinner from his depths and to revive the flagging spirits of the vilest rebels who ever lived.
"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures (I Corinthians 15.1-4 ff)." Here, as Paul again affirms the importance of the resurrection, he tells the reader he is at that time declaring the gospel. He had previously preached this same gospel, the Corinthians had received this same gospel, and were presently standing therein. The question, then, what had Paul first preached unto these brethren? Certainly nothing new, for he tells them it was also what he had received. It was this: Christ died for our sins. This was in complete agreement with the Scriptures. Christ was buried. Christ rose again on the third day! This too was in harmony with the Scriptural record. The gospel now flies on the wings of the resurrection message.
We are all dying sinners. The entire human race lives, and then, in their order, they die. Those sinners who groan under the felt weight of their sins, fearing the consequences of past and continued trespasses against their holy God, are seekers. They are seeking a word from some authoritative source to relieve their burden; to cheer their soul as they see yonder the awaiting grave. Reader, there is but one word to relieve these seekers. It is the word of the gospel! In the simplest terms it is this: God will not at all acquit the guilty. We are guilty. However, we have an Elder Brother, Jesus, the eternal Son of God, who has come to earth, born of Mary, without sin. He has undertaken all, everything necessary, to satisfy the Father in our behalf. Whatever the law demanded; whatever the holiness of the Father demanded, Jesus met and obliged. All, all that could possibly be required of us, Jesus has fulfilled. This includes His substitutionary life; the righteousness thereof to be imputed to us. Accomplished as well was the sacrifice of Himself upon the altar of God's justice to pay our debts. So, Jesus died. He was buried. He arose the third day. He was received up unto the Father after His resurrection. All this for His own.
Is this good news? Is there any glad tidings in this dispatch? Perhaps not as much as at times might be desired, but does this not somehow bring a little light of hope to your dark path of gloom and dread, especially as you face the reality of death and the world of the unknown? Yes, there is good news contained herein. When blessed to have some little understanding of the Word of God it can be seen that the everlasting love of God to His elect provided a way of salvation. The gospel brings this heavenly intelligence to our souls. We find a measure of elation. Perhaps, when I die, when my life is over and done, my soul will be gathered to the Father in the harvest of His family. When the world as we know it is concluded, perhaps too my body shall also be raised in the glorious fashion as was the body of Jesus my Brother.
These brief thoughts have not been submitted as a full explanation of what the gospel is, or what its purpose may be. If something here has been useful to encourage any that feel a need for good news then the effort was worth the time involved.
Elder James F. Poole
Volume 13, No. 6 - November-December, 1999