gospel

The Initial Components of the Father’s Plan are Inaugurated.

The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is that sinners are made into sons. That may sound simple enough, however it most certainly is not a simple matter. This is not because God somehow has to work extra hard to do this. It is not because Satan is such an enemy that God is being outwitted by him. It is not because we are already so acceptable to God that He has a hard time choosing whom to redeem. To make sinners into sons demands the satisfaction of a reality that is insurmountable…at least by mankind.

God’s justice, motivated by His holy nature, is no small thing. God must punish sins and those who perpetrate them. He must destroy all that offends Him, not because He is Himself sinfully proud for then He would have to punish Himself. He has to destroy all that offends Him because of His purity, righteousness, and holiness. These things coupled with His sovereignty require the vanquishing of all that does not respond to Him in like manner. In fact, to do this is right for God alone.

Therefore, in order for God’s plan to make sinners into sons to take place, God has to do something with the sins of the eventual sons. He cannot overlook them, pardon them, nor can He punish the sinners He has elected because once a sinner dies, there awaits judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Therefore, the elect cannot die in their sins, yet they cannot atone for their own sins either. God must remedy the problem, and He most certainly did.

In order to initiate the remedy, the sinner needs to comprehend his illness. It does no good to present the remedy to someone who cannot accept that he is ill. That is more than an illustration, it is true. Jesus said, “

         29      And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them.
         30      The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?”
         31      And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.
         32      “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:29–32).

People who are sick know their need. They need to be made well, so they trek to the local doctor and submit to his suggestions. The main point is that the healthy usually do not endure the examinations and suggestions of the physician. In the same way, unless a person sees the illness of his offense toward holy God, he will not seek a cure. He must know he is ill. He must understand that he is in a very precarious condition and is at death’s door. Therefore, God will, without exception, demonstrate to the sinner his illness. How does He do that? He shows mankind the picture of the perfect man. He demonstrates to the sinner, via the Law, his illness as compared to the holy, righteous, and good nature of the Law of God (Romans 7:12). Unless a sinner agrees that he has broken God’s holy Law, he will not be convinced that he is ill.

Romans is a profound book in so many respects. But, one way in which its profundity is demonstrated is Paul’s comments in chapter 7 concerning the Law and its role in his life. Whether this chapter is dealing with Paul and his pre-conversion days, or Paul and his immediately post-conversion days, the truth is the same, Paul would not have seen his sin if it were not for the external Law of God, the Ten Commandments, and their objective standards, which contradicted his nature. In short, Paul states that he would not have seen the impulse to covet as wrong and offensive to God had he not read in the Law the holy prohibition of God to not covet. In verses 7-13 Paul relates this action of the Law in him in a very candid way. He says that he would not have come to know sin except through the Law (v.7). Why not? Because, unless there is a standard, a law from God, we will compare ourselves to ourselves and think that we are not sick. If we are all sneezing and coughing, then my sneezing and coughing won’t seem so bad. However, when someone comes along and tells you, “Sneezing and coughing is abnormal,” I will see the truth of my condition. Paul read in the Law that coveting is sin against the God of Israel (Exodus 20:17). However, his condition is so severe (and so is yours), that his covetousness did not die down simply because it was revealed. It increased. Sin, being the condition that it is, was exacerbated by the commandment of God. It is so contrary to God’s nature that to tell it what God loves is to cause it to rail against that very thing. This is why Paul says that “through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful” (v.13). In a condition like that, you can see that we are worse off than we imagined. It is like being allergic to antivenom.

But, this is the plan of God. Our utterly sinful condition, for which there is no human cure, is profound and desperate. We could not, nor do we want to, cure ourselves. We love our illness. It is sweet to our palate. We love its impulses and what it provides. We love its allurements. And when we are punished for it, we complain against a God who is ruining our fun. Again, our illness is worse than we imagined. God must demonstrate all this to us, and He does so in the Law.

Many years after Romans, Paul wrote to Timothy, “

    8       But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully,

1 Timothy 1:8

The use of the Law is like a sword, you must use it the way it is meant to be used. What is the use of the Law? It is to reveal sin. It is made for

   9     …those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 
   10      and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching,

1 Timothy 1:9–10.

 

The Law is the sounding board against which every person is measured. It is holy, righteous, and good, not simply to reveal sins, but their root cause-our own hearts.

Thus, God has to show us our condition. After all, when Christ said that He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance, He was most certainly speaking about the entire world. Once the condition is believed, by God’s grace, the remedy may be taken and applied. That remedy being Jesus Christ, who never sinned, never wavered in His love for the Father, and maintained perfect obedience to the Law of God. What is more, He died so that He might satisfy that insurmountable reality-God’s justice.

The Gospel Was Planned Before Genesis 1:1

It is important to consider that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not a new invention. In fact, the gospel is the reason for the existence of everything. Why do we say that? Consider again Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 3:11. He writes in that verse, “

This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,

Think about this profound statement. Notice the “This” at the beginning of the verse. Although not present in Greek, it is implied and supplied by the editors because v.11 clearly refers to and explains further a previous teaching. There is a unit of thought in vv. 8-11 that is very tight and clean. In verse 8, Paul says that a grace was given to him by God. First, to preach the unfathomable riches of Jesus Christ. Second, to bring to light the administration of the mystery. Both of these are to accomplish a goal which is that God’s manifold wisdom might be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places through the church, who is the recipient of this deep and profound wisdom. Verse 11 refers to all of this. The unfathomable riches of Christ, the administration of the mystery of Christ, and the manifold wisdom of God before the angels and demons (including Satan) being evident by means of the existence (and practice) of the church, are all the “this” of v.11. All of this is in accordance with the eternal purpose of God.

Notice, however, that Paul does not say that all of this is the eternal purpose of God. He simply says that all of this is “in accordance with” the eternal purpose of God. Big difference. God’s goal is not simply preaching the unfathomable riches of Christ, as precious and critical as that is. And God’s goal is not simply to bring to light the administration of the mystery so that God’s wisdom is on display, as critical as that also is . These are simply components in the eternal plan of God that has one, and only one, goal.

Before we look at that goal, consider this term “eternal” for a moment. In Greek, it is τῶν αἰώνων “of the ages.” This is in reference to the all the ages of time. But the way that this is written is that it describes something. It describes, modifies, the word “purpose”, πρόθεσιν. This refers to a plan, or purpose, which has been laid out beforehand. It comes from a verb that is used often of something being placed, or set, or put, somewhere. It can, in a logical sense, be in reference to something being established or set in motion. You can see this in the use of the term in Acts 1:7. God has fixed, or placed, certain events, i.e. the kingdom, in time by His own authority. So also, it is according to this “plan” of the ages that all the other things in Ephesians 3:8-11 has occurred. Therefore, this plan, by which and for which, all things happen has been established “of the ages” or for eternity. This plan of God is an eternal plan.

So, what is the goal of this eternal plan? What is God going to accomplish in His plan since God’s plans cannot be thwarted. He will bring it to pass. The purpose of it all is stated in Romans 8:28-29. How marvelous! Understood from our discussion above, we know that every millisecond that passes, and every event in history, and every thought and intention of the heart of every person who has ever and will ever live, are all marching forward exactly as planned by God. It all has God’s purpose in the horizon. It cannot be changed, by man or Satan. With that in mind, we understand that all things, for those who are elect, work together, like a tapestry, for a particular good. That is, good qualitatively as opposed to evil. That is, good that is righteous as opposed to an earthy, man-centered good that is not good enough. This good is the highest good and is the good that defines and limits the working together of all things. What is this good? Simply, but impossibly profound, it is that sinners called, predestined, foreknown, justified, and glorified, by God in Christ Jesus will be made sons, in accordance with the image and likeness of God’s dear, beloved, eternal, Son. God’s good goal, toward which all things inexorably move, is to make elect sinners conformed to the nature and expression of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who will be the firstborn among many brethren.

The reality that God had a plan, before Genesis 1:1, that is being carried out which necessitates everything that ever happens in time and space, is a reality that causes us to bow in fear of a God who not only can conceive of such a plan, but who has the absolute sovereign power and authority to carry it out. And, like Joseph in Egypt, God’s goal for us, in spite of the evil of this age, is for good. But not the good of a saccharin, man-centered, Freudian self-therapy of the happy thinking of a kind of fairy-tale land with no problems. It is in fact, the good of conformity to the image of Jesus Christ and all the privileges that accompany such a condition. But remember, Jesus was crucified, and slandered, and hated by all, except One, the Father.

So, just know, if you understand these things, and you comprehend God’s eternal plan, and you believe this message of conformity to Jesus Christ (which, by the way, demands His lordship over His people), you then need to understand that if you follow Jesus Christ, you will also endure what He did-contempt. However, consider the glories that are now His at the right hand of His beloved Father. And consider Jesus’ promise to His followers in John 14:1-3, “

   Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe  also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

Be encouraged, faithful Christian. God’s plan is right on schedule. Be obedient to God, as a dear child (Ephesians 5:1; 1 Peter 1:14) and proclaim this message of God’s eternal plan. Call the world to the repentance that leads to life. Live righteously, even if the entire church itself falls in love with the world. Obey the Father, as Jesus Christ did even to the point of the cross. Give Him glory, and you will be raised up. After all, what happens in time cannot stop God’s eternal plan.

God’s Eternal Plan.

When we stop to consider all that God has done in the gospel it quickly becomes a staggering exercise. When we compile the teaching from Scripture concerning God’s plan of redemption, there follows a certain pattern:

  • The plan designed before the world was,
  • The “setting of the stage” in order to execute the plan,
  • The initial components of the plan inaugurated,
  • The plan executed, the plan awaiting its final installment,
  • The plan completed and its effects enjoyed, uninterrupted, for eternity.

Paul wrote a most profound thing in Ephesians chapter 3.

         1      For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
         2      if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you;
         3      that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.
         4      By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,
         5      which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;
         6      to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,
         7      of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.
         8      To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,
         9      and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things;
         10      so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.

To break this down into thoughts that Paul is expressing is instructive. Paul first writes that he is a prisoner, not of Rome, but of Jesus Christ. This is because he was preaching the gospel to the Gentiles and they were getting redeemed. Paul had been given a duty, a certain management of sorts in reference to the message of the grace of God in Christ (v.2). This message was given to Paul via a revelation from Jesus Christ Himself, much like Revelation 1-3. He calls this the “mystery of Christ” (v.4). Now, this becomes the topic of choice for Paul. The mystery is in reference to Jesus Christ. It is not simply a mystery about Jesus. And it is not as if He Himself were mysterious. It is the mystery, i.e. that truth that no one has known except the Father until now, having revealed it in Christ and explaining it through apostles and prophets, concerning all that God has accomplished in Christ, specifically as it relates to the salvation of Jew and Gentile alike into one body. Gentiles are brought into God’s kingdom not from aligning themselves with the Mosaic Law along with Israel. Gentiles partake of the promise of the kingdom in Christ through the gospel. The gospel is that instruction given to the Gentiles by which, upon believing, they are saved. Again, Paul asserts his calling, responsibility, and reminds them that he is called to be a preacher of this mystery, the unfathomable riches of Christ (which encompasses the salvation of Gentiles), as well as exposing the actuation of the mystery into this world (v.9). But notice that this mystery “has been hidden in God” “for ages.” This is incredible! God has kept a plan unrevealed from before Genesis 1:1, but now has begun to carry it out in Christ Jesus. And what is the result? The result is that God’s magnificent, and manifold, wisdom would be on display through the church to the rulers and authorities, not on this planet, but in the heavenly places. He did what He did not to impress rulers and presidents here. He has done what He has done in order to exclaim to the angels that Satan is not lord, He is.

And what does v.11 say?

      11      This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,

All of this “was in accordance with”, or exactly carried out perfectly in line with, “the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Magnificent! Everything is right on schedule. The most horrendous event in human history was the murder of God’s Son. It appeared to be out of control and unexpected. Satan entered a man in order to betray Christ to the authorities so that they would execute Him unjustly, and that is exactly what happened. And yet, with all the pandemonium and confusion of the trials, accusations, foolishness, and abandonment of the disciples, everything happened according to a predetermined plan which only the Father knew from eternity. That is why Peter said,

         22      “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—
         23      this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.
         24      “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. (Acts 2:22-24).

 

All things have been, are, and will be consumed in Christ. Jesus Christ did nothing but what the Father told Him-

   49      “For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. 
   50      “I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.” (Jn 12:49–50.)

Thus, because of the perfect obedience of God’s Son, which is the only pattern for all children to their parents, God has accomplished salvation for all who would ever believe.

The realities of Jesus Christ demand a greater treatment than this post. I will be studying further on Jesus Christ and writing that here, following the order from the first paragraph above.

Biblical Masculinity-pt.1

What is expected of a man? This topic of masculinity seems to be an increasingly hot issue these days. Many people are identifying the reality that seems to be before us that men are not acting like men. Many from Christianity Today to Wall Street Journal to City Journal, are identifying the same thing-men are not acting like men. However, what they would expect from men is far different than what God expects of men. Those periodicals may want a man to conform to the expectations of women, but God’s expectation of men is infinitely more important. It has become apparent to me that men are confused. But that is not simply because of social repression, feminist agenda, educational disadvantages, or skin color. The reason men are confused, I am convinced, is because they do not understand the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ restores a man to his responsibilities in God’s kingdom. The gospel of Jesus Christ reconciles a man to the God and Father he is created to emulate and represent. The gospel of Jesus Christ instructs a man to be a son, in the truest sense of the word. And I would guess that these truths have not entered the minds of most of the people reading this.

The Gospel Creates Disciples:

Consider what God does when a person repents and believes in Jesus Christ.

  • The glory of God is restored

“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:3–6, NASB95)

  • A hard heart is made soft –

““Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” (Ezekiel 36:25–27, NASB95)

  • Sins are forgiven

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight” (Ephesians 1:7–8, NASB95)

  • The Holy Spirit actually indwells the believer

“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:9, NASB95)

  • God the Father personally teaches us

““They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”” (Jeremiah 31:34, NASB95)

With all that happens in a person who follows Jesus Christ, why aren’t more families strong and glorifying to God? Why are more women than ever leaving their children and going to work? Why are more men refusing to lead, in the family and in the church? Why are children in the church seemingly disconnected and more a reflection of their favorite rock group instead of God? Is the problem the work of God? Is God to blame for all this? Certainly not! Further, I would not want to blame it on too little teaching on how to maintain a marriage, or how to parent successfully. There seems to be no end in programs and books asserting the fact that they have the answers that others seem to have missed. If there is anything that Paul teaches us in Ephesians 5-6 concerning the family, it is that the fruit, or lack of it, in the family is directly related to how you understand the gospel, which is intrinsically tied to God Himself.

To begin with, consider the typical gospel presentation. There is usually the comment that you are a sinner and that God punishes sin. That is true. However, at this point, the gospel presentation is skewed into a kind of “admission ticket” approach. “If you would (pray a prayer, sign this card, come to church, get baptized), then God will let you into His heaven.” Many times we equate belief with one, or more, of these events. We often attach faith in the event treating their act as commensurate with true faith. However, what eventually happens, is that person is immersed into a church or organization that continues this approach, calling upon that person to remember that event whenever difficulty or doubt arises. Consequently, the lives of professing believers is not at all what would indicate a kind of faith that is given by God and bears fruit (John 15:8). So, when a young man “trusts Jesus”, then grows up and gets married, he is ill-equipped to handle the responsibilities of leading a home toward godliness. So, the problem then becomes the gospel that we are calling people to believe.

Compare that scenario to what Jesus said:

  • Matthew 10:34-39

““Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. “For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”

  • Luke 9:23-26

“And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles taught the same thing, calling men and women to be disciples:

  • Ephesians 4:1

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,” 

  • Ephesians 4:20-24

“But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” 

  • Colossians 1:9-10

“For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;” 

  • Philippians 1:27

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;”  

Thus, a true believer is better called a disciple. He is a follower, not a one-time-eventer, of Jesus Christ. His days are marked by learning and obeying the teaching from the Lord via His Word.

Discipleship Builds The Home:

In Ephesians 5-6, Paul demonstrates to us this reality. Marriage and home are the areas of life that are created by God to give Him glory specifically by each person taking care of their responsibilities which God has created, by the power of the Holy Spirit, who is given when one repents and believes in Jesus Christ. And the power of the Holy Spirit is given through a proper understanding of biblical truth. God sanctifies an individual by truth and truth alone (John 17:17). It is the Holy Spirit who is given as a promise from the New Covenant and, when given, will “cause” us to walk in God’s commandments and instructions (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27; cf. Luke 22:20). Thus, a man can face God on judgment day with full confidence that, by God’s work in him, he has done all that his master expected of him (Luke 17:7-10; Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

So, men, from the beginning, you need to get the gospel straight. If you have never considered the demands of Jesus Christ upon yourself, and have never subjected your will to His, and have never hated your own life in light of His glory, you, then, have never followed Jesus Christ. Start there. Once that issue is settled, we can move forward in this issue of masculinity.

Over the next few posts, we will be learning from the Apostle Paul what it means for a man to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

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