The gospel is the revelation of God’s righteousness revealed in the sovereign and gracious work of the Lord Jesus Christ on behalf of His sheep. The gospel reveals how even though God is just and right to demand the death of all who disobey Him, He is nevertheless also just and right to grant immortality to His sheep even though they have disobeyed Him.
Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
The good news begins with an explanation of God’s sovereignty in election. Long ago in eternity, from before the time God created the world, God determined to glorify His grace and power by sending His Son to die for a people whom He had purposed to save from His eternal judgment. He purposed to do this for His own glory. The Bible calls it election.
In addition to His determination to save a people whom He had purposed from eternity to save, He also determined to glorify His holiness and wrath by creating another group of people whom He would not save, but would instead condemn to eternal judgment for their disobedience. The Bible calls the people from this group vessels of wrath.
Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
Ephesians 1:5 In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.
At the same time, in eternity, from before the time He created the world, God also determined to accomplish His purposes in election and wrath by ordaining that both groups would fall into sin. In this way, those whom He had chosen from eternity to save would find themselves in need of His grace and power, while those whom He had chosen from eternity to condemn would find themselves under judgment. God’s choice to elect and condemn was based solely upon His own will and desire. Nothing either group of people would ever do in time had any part to play in God’s determination to elect and condemn. His free choice to elect and to condemn is called Unconditional Election.
For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
Acts 13:48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
Romans 5:12-15 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned — for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many
God determined that both the elect and the condemned would fall into sin through the disobedience of one man. That is, by treating Adam as the representative of the entire human race, both elect and condemned alike, God judged the entire human race guilty of Adam’s disobedience. God did this through an act of imputation. Imputation is a word which is sometimes used in accounting. It means to transfer the value of something to another person’s account. When you use a credit card, the credit card company imputes the dollar value of the item you have purchased to the store’s account, while an IOU is imputed to your account. In somewhat similar fashion God charges every human, both elect and condemned alike, with the guilt Adam had incurred by disobeying God. As a result of this imputation, every human is conceived into and born with a predilection for disobedience. That is, the desire to disobey becomes a part of every human being’s nature.
Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Psalm 53:3-4 God looks down from heaven
on the children of man
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
They have all fallen away;
together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.
This fall into sin, brought about by the imputation of Adam’s guilt is called Total Depravity. Total Depravity means the totality of man’s nature is effected by sin. There is no part of him which desires to submit to God’s righteousness.
Romans 1:28-32 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
God’s righteous demand for those who disobey Him is death. He is just and He is right to demand the death of all those who refuse to submit to His righteousness, because this was the penalty He announced beforehand for disobedience.
Genesis 2:16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
In addition to this imputation of Adam’s guilt every man and woman adds more disobedience to the guilt. Mankind’s disobedience compounds. Man begins with Adam’s guilt imputed to him and then goes on to add his own disobedience to the guilt already imputed to him. Thus both groups find themselves in utter need of salvation.
The method God had determined from eternity to use in order to save His elect from the death He demanded of them was the death of His own Son. That is, in the fullness of time God sent forth His Son, born of a virgin, born under the law. This Son is the eternal second Person of the Trinity, the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons
John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.
God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, took on human flesh and humbled Himself to be born of a virgin. He who had always been fully God consented to become also fully a man without ever ceasing to be God. Though He was fully a man He was yet conceived by the Spirit rather than by natural means. This means He was not born of Adam’s seed. That is, Adam did not represent Him. He came into the world unblemished by the imputation of Adam’s guilt.
Philippians 2:5- Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Luke 1:26-35 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of his father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God
To accomplish His purpose of saving His elect, Christ humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross. At the cross, God imputed all the sins of His elect to Christ. Jesus did not Himself become sinful; but rather, God reckoned Him guilty by imputing to Him all His elect’s sins.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
With Christ thus reckoned guilty of His elect’s sins by imputation God then poured out upon Christ the full and eternal measure of His wrath for His elect’s sins. God punished His own Son for His elect’s sins. Jesus died their death, the death they had merited with their disobedience, as well as the guilt they carried by the imputation of Adam’s disobedience.
Christ’s death for His elect is called Limited Atonement. Limited Atonement does not mean His elect’s atonement is limited. Rather, it means He died only for them and thereby atoned for only their sins.
Matthew 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.
John 10:14-15 I am the good shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
John 10:26-29 but you do not believe because you are not among My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
Jesus’ decision to die on the cross for His elect was an act of obedience. He whose will was always in perfect agreement with the Father’s now agreed again with His Father’s will even to the point of death. His death was an act of perfect righteousness. For this reason, God raised Christ from the dead. This act of raising Christ from the dead was God’s way of announcing to the world that Jesus Christ is righteous.
Romans 1:3-4 concerning His Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord
But there is still the matter of His elect’s salvation, for although Christ has taken the punishment they had earned with their disobedience, nevertheless they are still in need of resurrection.
The method God chose to save His elect is the same method God chose to bring them under sin; that is, by imputation.
In the fullness of time, God imputes to His elect the righteousness Christ earned by offering His body to God at the cross as a sacrifice for their sins. The righteousness He earned is made theirs by imputation.
Romans 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness
Because His resurrection was a declaration of His righteousness, the same resurrection He underwent will be the same resurrection His elect will undergo.
John 5:24-25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”
Romans 6:5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection
In the meantime, as a down payment of this resurrection, God graces His elect with the gift of His Holy Spirit. His Spirit teaches His elect about the good news of God’s righteousness and He brings them to agree with God that this good news is true. His Spirit also leads His elect to repent of the many false gospels they have believed before they heard the one and only true gospel.
2 Corinthians 1:22 and who has also put His seal on us and given us His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
Ephesians 1:13-14 In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.
One such false gospel is the false gospel of free will. This false gospel claims that Jesus died for everyone, but yet some people He died for will still be eternally judged. This false gospel seeks to rob God of His glory and elevate man’s self righteousness by claiming that Christ’s death has merely made salvation possible, and that if a man is to be saved, then he must do something to make Christ’s death count for him – say a prayer, raise a hand, receive baptism, follow some new rules, etc.
The Bible rejects all of this. It first of all denies free will. It teaches instead that all men are born totally depraved and therefore unable to resist the desire to disobey God. The Bible also teaches that Jesus’ death actually accomplished (past tense) the redemption of all whom He died for. Not one whom He died for shall be lost to eternal condemnation.
John 6:37-39 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
John 6:43-44 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”
John 6:65-66 And He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
Hebrews 10:11-14 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
This is the gospel. This is the only gospel. This has always been the gospel and all other gospels are false. God commands all men everywhere to believe it. Only His elect shall believe it.
Romans 3:21-26 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins. It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.