The Gospel and Faith
by Miles McKee
“Don't dally with error, and don't tamper with truth. 'Buy the truth' (Proverbs 23:23) at any price; but 'sell it not' for all the gold and silver on earth.” (Horatius Bonar: Follow The Lamb.)
“The best sermons are the sermons which are most full of Christ. A sermon without Christ.... it is an awful, a horrible thing; it is an empty well; it is a cloud without rain; it is a tree twice dead, plucked by the roots. -------It is an abominable thing to give men stones for bread, and scorpions for eggs, and yet they do so who preach not Jesus. ----A sermon without Christ! You might as well talk of a loaf of bread without any flour in it. How can it feed the soul? Men die and perish because Christ is not there, and yet His glorious gospel is the easiest thing to preach, and the sweetest thing to preach; there is most variety in it, there is more attractiveness in it than in all the world besides!” (Spurgeon: Christ The Glory of His People).
“A man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Rom 3:28
If God does not look for a new life in us to justify us isn’t there a matter of God looking for faith in the believer? Doesn’t God look for faith in a believer and then upon seeing it declares him not guilty? Well if you were to believe what many Christians say about the matter you would think so! But the Gospel knows nothing of the sort!
Saving faith is not a quality within us. We are saved entirely by a work outside us. Faith takes a hold of that salvation and acknowledges that all things necessary to make us accepted before God have already been done in the redemptive and substitutionary work of Christ Jesus. Faith takes hold of the good news that in our name and on our behalf, Jesus Christ has met and fulfilled every legal and righteous requirement needed to restore us to God. Faith alone declares that the Christ event is sufficient and complete and that nothing whatsoever can be added to it.
That Jesus Christ alone saves is the great declaration of faith. He is perfect and His work is complete. If nothing can be added to His completed work that must also include faith. Salvation is not a matter of Christ plus faith. Where so many depart from the Gospel is that they believe their faith makes them accepted to God. But faith does not make us accepted to God. We are only accepted in the acceptable One, Jesus Christ, and because of what he has done for us, on our behalf.
Saving faith takes a hold of Jesus and His accomplishments and makes them our own. Faith grasps that our righteousness is not in ourselves but rather outside of us in Christ Jesus. But faith does not bring salvation into existence nor does it produce the righteousness by which God justifies us. It has rightly been observed, “Faith is a TAKER not a MAKER.” Faith takes something already in existence and enables us to reckon it as ours!
Faith is dynamic and continues to grow as it is bathed in the Gospel. Rom 10:16 says, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our report? (17) So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”. Notice how the “WORD of GOD” and the “GOSPEL” are equated in this passage. They are one and the same! Faith will grow, therefore, as the Gospel is expounded! The Preaching of the Gospel always brings and generates faith.
When faith comes to our lives it agrees with God’s verdict that our human righteousness is no cleaner than a filthy rag. In the light of this, saving faith causes us to abandon all hope of ever being saved by our own goodness. What a wonderful gift of God faith really is as it enables us to take hold of the ‘so great salvation’ in Christ Jesus. The more we are bathed and washed in the Gospel the more we will realize that it is not because we have been born again or been filled with the Spirit that we are declared not guilty. Faith’s vision is not foggy! Faith sees clearly that we are not made accepted in heaven because of experiences or because we are being good and are trying to be obedient to God: Rather, faith sees the holy obedience of Jesus Christ is superior to our faulty attempts at obedience and totally sufficient to satisfy all the demands of God’s holy and righteous character.
Faith generated by the Gospel actually reduces a man to nothing. It produces true humility in that it brings us to an end of ourselves. Faith will cause us to say that,
“Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to thy cross I cling,
Naked come to Thee for dress
Helpless look to Thee for Grace,
Foul I to the fountain fly,
Wash me Saviour or I die”.
The Gospel when properly expounded to the church will cause us to take up our cross and follow Christ. Gospel faith will cause us to see our bankruptcy and destitution. A truly destitute man has nowhere else to go but to Christ and no where else to look but up. He sees his poverty and it humbles him. He must now turn in reliance and trust to Christ Jesus who alone can do for him that which he can not do for himself. The man of faith has no need therefore to be taught techniques of self surrender and self crucifixion. Self crucifixion is an impossibility! Try it and see if you will. You can hammer the nail into your feet and then maybe the left hand but you just can’t hammer it in to the remaining hand. With faith alone such techniques are done away with because gospel faith reduces us to our proper place. Jesus taught that true discipleship was to deny self take up our cross and follow Him. This is exactly happens when we walk by faith. Faith heartily agrees with and embraces God’s verdict that we are not righteous in ourselves and that we need The Savior. In that way, self is denied the cross taken up and we follow Christ. Faith sees that the true believer is already crucified with Christ and that He, Jesus Christ alone, is his life (COL 3:4)
Gospel faith will cause us to see that we have nothing yet possess all things. By faith, the scripture, "Having nothing-and yet possessing all things." (2 Cor. 6:10) becomes a reality. But that scripture sounds like a contradiction! How can we have nothing yet have all things? J.C. Philpot gives some wonderful insight on this one. He says,
”It means,” having nothing" in self,” possessing all things" in Christ.----- My own beggary leads me out of self into His riches. My own unrighteousness leads me out of self into Christ's righteousness. My own defilement leads me out of self into Christ's sanctification. My own weakness leads me out of self into Christ's strength. My own misery leads me out of self into Christ's mercy.
"Having nothing-and yet possessing all things." 2 Cor. 6:10 These two branches of divine truth, so far from clashing with each other-sweetly, gloriously, and blessedly harmonize. (J. C. Philpot, "Spiritual Poverty and Heavenly Riches.”)
Gospel faith is mighty. It is powerful because in itself it is nothing. What makes it mighty is its mighty object, the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as the Holy Spirit always points away from Himself so too Gospel faith will always point away from itself towards the Lamb of God. A faith filled Church will be a Christ centered Church and a Christ centered Church will be a faith filled Church. If there is no Gospel center, there will be not exploits done for God. With out a Christ center, service in His cause becomes a chore. The Pastor will continually plead for volunteers to help with evangelism and other forms of service and yes, he’ll get plenty of ‘volunteers’ if he can make them feel guilty enough ----but what a mess they can make of their own lives.
If the gospel does not hold first place in our Churches it holds no place. Unfortunately, in today’s church, the Gospel is continually being given a subordinate role. Either it is misunderstood and presented as Christ’s work within the believer or it is seen as useful only to get the lost saved. Like the Christians at Corinth, many believers today are occupied with their experiences rather than being occupied with Christ. The condition of the believer’s heart, like a spoiled child, is demanding center stage. If we are Spirit led, however, we will learn from Paul and his word of wisdom to the out of balance church at Corinth. They were in a mess because they were totally absorbed with themselves and their experiences. What does Paul say to them? We’ve already read it,
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein you stand; by which also you are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless you 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”.1 Cor. 15:1-4.
History is repeating itself! What happened at Corinth and other churches is once more happening to many of our Churches today. Well packaged false teachings have come among the believers, saying, "You have the gospel. That’s fine - just what the Doctor ordered to start the Christian life. Now you must go on and rise higher in God. We bring to you the secret of the deeper life, the full gospel, the real secret of victorious living and the crucified life. "
In short, Jesus Christ, His person, His work and offices have now become too boring and unexciting for many Christians. Church services are held and Christ Jesus is paid lip service only. The worship service is no longer about Him! On the contrary, Church meetings are now all about the believer and his Christian progress and about how good he can feel. This is road to apostasy! The Gospel has been demoted to something unimportant for the Church. Christ Jesus has been given a back seat and will shortly be thrust out the door. But let Christ be preached and the Church will undergo revival. As the Gospel is preached, the Holy Spirit will generate faith. And faith will cause the believers to see that God became a man. Not only did He become man, He became our Man. Faith will see that this God Man, Christ Jesus, became our representative; and because he represents us, faith causes us to say, “When He lived I lived, when He died I died and when He rose again I rose again”. When the Gospel is proclaimed and applied, faith sees we were in Christ when everything was accomplished. The believer can now say I have lived a perfect life because I lived it in Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago. Faith also causes the believer to say I was punished, executed and buried 2000 years ago in Christ Jesus. In addition, the believer can now say, In Christ I rose again in newness of life out of that grave, I ascended into glory and in Christ I sat down on the right hand of God's favor. (Eph. 2:5:6). In Christ, God purged me and perfected me. In Christ, I have been taken, not to the wood shed but to the throne of grace. Faith will cause us to embrace that we are, “Buried with Him in baptism wherein you are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God Who has raised Him from the dead. And you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh has He quickened (made alive) together with Him having forgiven you all trespasses;….if you then be risen with Christ seek these things which are above where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above not on things on the earth. For you are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God. Col 2:12-13, 3:1-3)
Gospel mercies declare we have been washed clean in Jesus Christ and taken into perfect fellowship with God. The good news is not “here are five steps to maturity” and “here are seven steps for growth”. The good news, when rightly preached and applied, is that the work is finished and ‘in Christ’ believers are already complete (Col. 2:10).
The Gospel declares that God Himself broke into human history in the Person of His Son. He became our representative Man. What an endorsement for humanity and what a demonstration of His amazing love. That he would become one of us is almost too hard to fathom. This event must shout volumes even to the deafest among us for it declares God is not against us ……for how can He be seeing He has become one of us? He has become so identified with His people that all which He did was not only for us, but was exactly the same as if we had done it. I needed to strive with sin and win but couldn’t, so Jesus did it in my place. I had a great enemy, Satan, who wished to kill me and could have but Jesus on my behalf and in my place won the victory over Him. Faith can now boldly say “I have won this fight and victory because I won it in Christ”. The final enemy I will face is death but Jesus went into its very jaws and defeated it. Faith makes me confess that in my representative I have already conquered death and the reality of this confession will be finally seen at the day of resurrection.
Many times in the Old Testament the question is asked of God “Who is like unto Thee”. For example,
“Who is like unto Thee, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? (EX 15:11)
Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto Thee! (PS 71:19).
Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity and passes by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retains not his anger for ever, because he delights in mercy. (MIC 7:18)
Who indeed is like him? What did Buda or Mohamed ever do for their people compared to Jesus! When Christ arose from the grave and was welcomed with joy into the presence of God with all honor and exaltation, we were raised, welcomed, honored and exalted. Faith can now say, “as certainly as God came to this earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, just so certainly have I gone to heaven in the Person of Jesus Christ’. The gospel is not, as some would have us believe, about all the good things that God is going to do at some stage in the future, nor is it all about the good things God is doing now in our lives but rather this Gospel proclaims the good things which He has done in Christ. He has forgiven, justified, reconciled, redeemed and restored us to glory and honor in the Person of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3-7; 2:4-6; Rom. 4:25; 5:8-10, 18, 19; Col. 2:10).
And that’s The Gospel Truth.
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