Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Gospel in Summary--The Glory of God in Christ, Part One

This evening, I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. John Piper preach at my home church here in NC. I am no longer there now, but it was good to be back home to hear Dr. Piper. They are hosting the annual NC Baptist State Convention’s Evangelism and Church Growth Conference. Incidentally, I learned tonight that Dr. Piper’s grandfather was the pastor of this church at one time, so the grandson came to fill the pulpit of one of his grandad’s former pastorates. Neat huh? Keep in mind that, although some folks from the local Presbyterian and Reformed Baptist/Sov. Grace Baptists churches were there, as well as a few Founders members, most of this crowd was your typical synergistic “4 point Arminian” crowd. I want you readers to notice how he presents the doctrines of grace. Let this be a lesson with respect to not hammering your audience on the head with them and berating them for not believing them. More than that, of course, consider the message’s content. Note the above title is my own based on my notes, as he did not title his message.

He preached this evening on the following questions:

1. What is it that makes the gospel good?
2. What is lostness?
3. What is conversion?
4. How are we involved in this enterprise?
5. How does teaching relate to the human component in evangelism?



Be warned as you read this. What follows herein is from my notes, so this isn’t a manuscript of the sermon. Additionally, this is Part One of a 2- part sermon. Tomorrow night, we’ll get part two, so this blog entry will feel like it ends abruptly. I will post the 2nd part tomorrow.

1. What is it that makes the gospel good? What is it's highest order aim?

2 Corinthians 4:4-6

4in 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.

5For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake.

6For 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.


What makes the gospel good? Is justification by faith alone through grace alone? Is it forgiveness of sins? Is it liberation from sin? Is it propitiation of God’s wrath? Is it rescue from hell? Is it access to heaven? Is it eternal life? Is it being freed to love others the way Jesus loves them? Is it deliverance from pain and healing?

All of the above items are good things, but are they the ends of the gospel itself, or are they merely benefits of the gospel? You must go through them but they final good is not found in these items.

Note the structure of the passage and the parallels:


4in 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.

6For 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.


These are not different glories here. These are the same glories. Christ is the image of God. God calls light from our darkness that leads to the glory of God in the face of Christ. The god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they might not see the light of the gospel. God, however gives sight to believers through giving the light of the knowledge of His glory in Christ to them.

Justification is not the end of the gospel. Sanctification is not the end of the gospel. Forgiveness of sins is not the end of the gospel. Removal of wrath is not the end of the gospel. Escape from hell is not the end of the gospel.
The glory of God in Christ is the end of the gospel! The gospel is that which enables us to apprehend, understand, and see with our own eyes a glory that is not fading away as in Moses' day. We are divinely enabled to see with our minds and affections that which should burn us to a cinder any other way! This is the end of the gospel: Christ and the glory of God!

Too many of us speak as if these other items are ends in themselves. We talk about heaven as if all it is amounts to a perfect game of golf with our buddies or the best family reunion ever. Oh that we would remember and teach our people that the end of the gospel is the Person of Christ and His glory!

2. What is Lostness?

4in 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.

Lostness is blindness. It is an affectional condition. It is not merely a lack of information. It is an imperviousness to the doxa of God! It is a living soullessness. It is a complete inability to see. It’s as if men are standing on the precipice of the Grand Canyon at sunrise with a hamburger in their hands and, in the glory of the perfect sunrise, they complain about their hamburger not having enough ketchup on it.

What then can a man do to see? Answer: Nothing. You can work tirelessly, right emails and letters, preach day in and day out for years, but you can do nothing to make men see. They cannot come to Christ unless God directly intervenes.

3. What is Conversion?


6For 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.
Conversion is the granting of spiritual sight. Note here that Paul calls on the first words of the Genesis narrative itself. God said, “Let there be light!” and there was light. The darkness did not complain about its condition. Light did not object to the command. There was no question as to whether or not the light would contemplate what it wanted to do. God did not plead for it to walk down the aisle for days on end. No! He called it into existence, and it was so.

This is the way Paul sees God working in conversion! God commands the sinner to see in a divine and recreative act analogous to the creation of the light itself. God speaks and it is so. There is no committee meeting by its representatives to see if the terms are amenable. It is simply done.

God speaks the light into a man to give the light of the knowledge of God. Notice this is not a mere set of facts about Jesus. This is an affectional knowledge that is impressed with the glory of God. Men, when they are converted, are converted to see that which should annihilate us in our fallen condition. We need to remind our people that saving faith is not just an intellectual exercise. It includes a change of our affections so that we cling to Christ and Him alone.

This summarizes the ordained ends of the gospel and its effects, but what of the means? Does this sovereign and powerful calling out of light in darkness in men’s hearts happen no matter what we do?

No. God has ordained the ends and shown us what He does, but He has also declared means by which we can participate with Him in this work:

5For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake.

4. How are we involved in this enterprise?

Our job is essential.

Acts 26:17-18


17rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I
am sending you,

18to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.


What did Christ tell Paul? “I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light from the dominion of Satan to God...” Christ told Paul that he was sending Paul to do the work that Paul said in 2 Corinthians that God Himself does!

You go make light happen in darkness. You make freedom happen in bondage. You’re at work constantly, but you’re not at work at all! Your job is simply to tirelessly take the gospel into the world and trust the Spirit of God to change hearts when He is ready to change them. You cannot convert men. God does that, but God has said we are to participate in this work by doing what we can do, and our work is analogous to the Spirit’s work.

Recall also John 16: 13 – 16:

13"But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.

14"He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.

15"All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.


The Spirit glorifies Christ. The end of the gospel is God’s glory in Christ, who is the image of God. This is why the Spirit will bring results to your work.

5. How is teaching involved?

2 Timothy 2:24-26

24The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,

25with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,

26and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.


Cf. 2 Cor. 4:5:

5For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake.
The servant of God, the bond-servant engaging in the work of evangelism, must not be quarrelsome. He must be able to teach, yet kind to all, patient when wronged, and gentle when correcting others. Let me pause here and say that there is a lot going on out there in the name of Christ right now. When the culture pushes in one way, we push back, but there’s a lot of meanness in the Christian community, a fiestiness that often appears unseemly. Just listen to Christian talk radio these days. People want to fight back at the world when they attack our faith. That's fine, but our tool is the gospel, not the ways of men. We cannot imitate the world’s ways in order to fight back at the world! We are to correct those who oppose us gently. If mean are "unteachable" we are to work with them. We are to correct them, but we are to do so with patience and prayer. Are we praying for the souls of the homosexuals? Are we praying for the abortionists? Are we praying for our brothers with whom we may share theological differences?

For all intents and purposes, the days when we can have devotions in school and not get sued are gone. The cultural Christianity of the past is gone. Praise God for that. When you think about it, we're back at first century pluralism, and look what God did in those days! Look at how quickly and how well the Lord grew His church! Oh for God to pour out His Spirit again in that same way. Praise God we are back at that point!

Remember too that God grants repentance which leads to the knowledge of the truth (cf. John 6:65). Then, and only then can men escape the devil’s snares. Folks, our churches are full of men and women who have been told that conversion is believing a set of facts and making a decision, yet they love football more than they love Jesus. Wee need to preach on that. That may frighten some of you. Some will think that we shouldn’t cause people to doubt their salvation, but God gives the grounds of assurance, and you have to present those tests to the people of God constantly. You get the assurance God gives on the terms He tells us in Scripture. You have to ask them if they love football more than Jesus. You have to teach them the tests of assurance in 1 John and consistently apply them to yourself and your people! Unless we preach the whole counsel of God, we will have failed God and our people. May God grant us the grace and understanding of these things as we confront our culture, even those in the pews of our churches with what God has said and what God does in these matters.

End Part One

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks! This is my first visit to TRIABLOGUE but it will not, Lord willing, be my last!

    PERSEVERE!

    ReplyDelete