Yesterday we discussed the fact that the Gospel “is the power of God…,” and that “…in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last.” (Romans 1:16-17). We mentioned that this last part – that the righteousness revealed in the Gospel comes by faith from first to last – means that we begin, end, and live all the days in between by faith. Today’s lesson in The Power of the Gospel is titled The Starting Point, and the focus of the lesson are the words “from first…” In other words, this lesson is going to discuss how the Gospel introduces us to Christ.
As we pointed out yesterday, the Gospel deals totally with the Old Me, and it also deals totally with the New Me. These first few lessons talk about how the Gospel deals with the Old Me, and this lesson begins by breaking this half of the Gospel into 2 more parts. So today we are only really looking at the first quarter of the Gospel.
In Hebrews 12:2, Jesus is called “the author and finisher of our faith” (KJV). As the “author” of the Gospel, it is a revelation of Jesus that starts us off in the entire process of salvation. And in Scripture, Jesus is first and foremost revealed as the only way to salvation. Jesus himself said “…no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6), and Peter, when speaking to the religious leaders in Acts 4, said “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (v. 12). So the Gospel is very much exclusivistic.
You may think that such bold terms as these are a little radical. But as you read through Scripture, it becomes obvious why God would put such a radical plan into place. God sees the condition that we are in as a big problem – our sin isn’t just a sickness – it’s a terminal illness. The Bible describes the problem in these terms:
- “dead in your transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1)
- “objects of [God’s] wrath” (Ephesians 2:3)
- “alienated from God and…enemies [of God] in your minds” (Colossians 1:21)
Just as a doctor wouldn’t treat a terminal illness with over-the-counter medicine, so God is not going to treat our terminal problem lightly. “The Gospel is ‘narrow’ in the same way that surgery is ‘narrow.’ It is a narrow option because there is no other way to deal with the problem.”**
The Bad News
The other day I was reading Don Miller’s blog, and in a post titled “When Doing Good Isn’t Really Doing Good,” Miller started by saying “[G.K.] Chesterton said the idea of a sin nature is the only bit of Christian theology we can actually prove. And while there may be other bits of theology we can prove, I do agree the matter of sin nature is undeniable.” Most people who have thought about it seriously would also agree – people, by their very nature, are sinful. Paul pointed this out when he wrote
There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.(Romans 3:10-12)
He goes on to say that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Even those that think that they are doing enough good to get by are falling short – because the standard they use are themselves and those around them. Paul wrote “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12). No, the scales on which we are judged are balanced very differently. The lesson put it this way:
Imagine a pair of gigantic scales. Most people imagine that God places their good deeds on one side and their bad deeds on another, and, hopefully, the good weighs heavier. But this is not how God views it. Imagine instead that he places you, together with your righteousness, on one end of the scales, and on the other end he places his own righteousness. Now let’s see how the scales tip.**
On top of this, we must understand that our sin has created a barrier between us and God. “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2). To by seen by God as a detestable, rotten-to-the-core, disgusting thing that He won’t even allow into His presence is a bit disheartening. Our sin has put nothing less than a death penalty on our heads.
The Good News
As sinners, we are completely powerless. Not only are we sentenced to death, but because of the barrier between us and God, we are not given the right to come before the righteous judge to plead our case (do we really even have a case to plead?). But the Bible says “…at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8, emphasis added). This is the good news of the first quarter of the Gospel. Jesus died for me, in my place. And now, we not only are forgiven, where our guilt is taken away, but we are justified – the very record of our sin has been completely demolished.
“as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12) – He has not only removed our guilt, but He has removed our very sins!
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) – The only One who had the right to condemn us has already said we are justified!
This first quarter of the Gospel – the starting point, if you will – is the part that deals with Sin. The good news is that, although our sin is a problem, Christ died for us. Understanding and putting our faith in this is what opens the door to salvation, and even better – it’s the only the beginning.
** Quoted from Lesson 2: The Starting Point, from The Power of the Gospel, OBC.