The Revelation of God – 9
The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans 16:16)
The Gospel of Jesus Christ
Question: Why did Jesus come into the world? Answer: In order to save the nations of the earth from sin, from heathenism, and from corruption. He came to restore us to union with God, to make us like God, like Himself; and to drive sin, darkness, and rebellion from the minds of men, and therefore from the world. When did He come? “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6). Why were we without strength? Because we were without God – the image and likeness of God. Why were we without God? Because we had disobeyed Him.
Question: What good did the Life and Death of Jesus accomplish? “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14). “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Pet. 2:24-25).
The above passages bring out some significant facts: (1). All men were without strength, and had in some degree lost their image and likeness of God. (2). In our extremity Jesus Christ came to our relief; the grace or favor of God bringing salvation to all men appeared. (3). Jesus redeemed the world. (4). This grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lust and live righteously, soberly, and godly in this present world. (5). The people of God are “zealous of good works.” (6). We have an opportunity to return to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.
In our last lesson we taught much concerning the “image and likeness of God.” What does this image and likeness signify from the Gospel standpoint? In creation it meant that man was the only creature that God made like unto Himself. In other words, God gave to man in a limited degree that which He possessed in an unlimited abundance. The ability to think, to love, to sympathize, to forbear, to be gentle and forgiving - in short, everything that is good in man is derived from God. Our faculties were given us at the creation. They are a part of our nature.
What has sin done for the race? Let us see. There have been great thinkers through the ages, but no man will affirm that our progress has not been impeded and our achievements hindered by the corruptions of sin, the conflicting elements of society, and the frailties produced by disease. What a change sin produced in the hearts of men! Under its destructive influence the image and likeness of God became a wreck, love became hatred, sympathy became selfishness, forbearance became fierceness, gentleness became spite, meekness became aggression, forgiveness became resentment, hope became a delusion, and faith became a ruin.
Under the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the likeness and image of God is recovered from the depths of darkness into which sin has plunged it: hatred becomes love, selfishness becomes sympathy, fierceness becomes forbearance, spite becomes gentleness, aggression becomes meekness, resentment becomes forgiveness, hope becomes the anchor of the soul, and faith becomes the mystic tie between the human and the Divine.
None of our mental, moral, or spiritual faculties have been completely destroyed, but they have been weakened, perverted, lost in sin. The Gospel of Christ proposes to deliver us from sin and reunite us to God. The person who puts himself or herself completely under the control of Christ is made, or remade, in the likeness of God. Do the Scriptures sustain these statements? Yes, for the Bible says:
“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Rom. 6:6). “Assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Eph. 4:21-25). “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (Col. 3:9-15).
What do you think of the mystery of God-likeness? God made man like unto Himself. Man lost this likeness by transgression. The Gospel is God’s plan of restoration. Glorious, wonderful, world-embracing plan! What is it to be like God? He loves his enemies. If we, through the power of the truth, love our enemies, are we like God? He blesses those who despitefully use and dishonor Him. If we do the same, we are like our “Father who is in heaven.”
Are you like God? If not, you are not a Christian. Do you love your enemies? If not, you are not a child of God. Do you desire the salvation of the world? If not, God has not been restored to the control of your heart. Do you live for self? If you do, your heart is still impure. You cannot – it is useless to try it – live a Christian life until you become one. You become a Christian by being “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph. ). How is this done?
Jesus is the image of God (Col. 1:15). He is the embodiment of wisdom, righteousness, power, goodness, justice, truth, holiness, mercy, love, gentleness, faith, obedience, meekness, power, forbearance, long-suffering, self-denial, self-sacrifice, and liberality. You cannot possess Christ unless you possess all of these. Everything depends upon whether you have Christ within you (Phil. 3:8-9). If you have you are like God; if you have not, you are on the road to ruin.
Why do so many people have such low conceptions of the Christian life? Answer: Because they have not received Christ; because they have not been created anew in the image and likeness of God. Just in proportion as God dwells in us will we be able to combat the evils of the world. The religion of the New Testament binds men to God; restores Him to the supremacy of mind and life. The Bible says:
“Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Cor. 3:16-17). “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:14-19).
Christian has Christ formed in him. He is filled with the Spirit. He is the temple of the living God. Christ dwells in his heart by faith. He is rooted and grounded in love. Have you Christ formed in you? Are you filled with the Spirit? Are you the temple of God? Does Jesus Christ dwell in your heart by faith? Are you rooted and grounded in love? If not, how can you claim to be a Christian?
Has God a method of reaching the people, of driving sin from the heart, of re-establishing Himself in every faculty of the mind, and therefore in every act of the life? Is it a perfect method? Is it adapted to the wants of men? Will it destroy our love of sin? Will it keep us from transgressing the law of God? Will it enthrone God in the heart? What is it? ANSWER: The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Is it enough to save us? All religious people admit that it is. Do their practices correspond with their concessions? No. Examine their practices. Do they glorify the Gospel? They turn away from it, and pray for God to send salvation down from heaven. This is inconsistent and contradictory, and it drives many honest men into infidelity.
Let us come down to Bible facts. God’s method of making men like Himself is in harmony with our constitution, and our intellectual, moral, and spiritual nature. Sin must be destroyed. How can it be done? It has led the minds of men into captivity; into the bondage of degradation. In order to conquer the lusts and passions of the flesh the mind must be enlightened, purified, and captivated by the truth. The truth then inspires in the heart an inclination or determination to do right. The more completely God is enthroned within, the more fully the life will conform to the requirements of the Gospel. All actions proceed from the heart, the mind. Good actions come from the heart as God made it, or as the Gospel cleanses it. Bad acts come from the perverted heart. You may condemn this as “head religion” if you wish, but true religion certainly involves the mind.
How did the Lord our God operate at the beginning? (Luke 24:49). By the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter and his associates preached the Gospel (Acts 2). Who were Peter and his co-laborers? The Apostles of Jesus Christ. Why did they preach the Gospel of Christ? In order to convert the people, or turn them from sin. Why did they desire to turn them from sin? In order to make them like God. Why make them like God? In order to prepare their hearts for His indwelling, and unite Him to them forever. Did the apostles proceed as if they believed the Gospel sufficient to save people? They did. Did they exhort the brethren to pray for converting power to descend upon the people? They did not. Why not? Because they had the power in the Gospel of Christ.
What was the position of the Jews in reference to the Gospel? They were opposed to it. Why were they opposed to it? Because they were wicked unbelievers. What was the condition of their hearts? They were desperately sinful. Were they like God? Were they sinless, innocent, pure, and good? They were transformed into the children of the devil by evil works (cf. John 8:44). Did they believe in one God? Yes, but they did not respect His law. Were they seeking for light? They were contented in the darkness. Did God dwell in them? They were murderers (cf. 1 John 3:15). Were they filled with the Spirit? They were filled with malice. Were they governed by love? They followed their own way, regardless of truth or sympathy.
What brought the Jews together to hear the Gospel on the day of Pentecost? Nothing but idle curiosity. Did the apostles tell them that nothing but Omnipotence could break their stony hearts? Certainly not. Why not? Because such a statement would have been false. What did the apostles do? They reasoned with the people. They preached Christ and Him crucified. They directed their arguments to the minds of the people. Their words were freighted with truth, and therefore produced conviction in the minds of the people.
The sermon preached by the apostles in Acts chapter 2 is a startling arraignment of the people for their sins. Each thought was an arrow winged with light, and when it struck the heart it startled its possessor into a realization of his guilt before God. See the darkness fly! See the light of heaven pour into the soul! See the heart quiver under the power of Divine truth! See the devil forsake the throne to which he had no right, and the Lord entering the heart as its rightful sovereign! See the dominion of ignorance, prejudice, hatred, and disobedience crumble into ruin! See the desire to know and do the will of God burst from the heart into a living reality!
The preaching of the apostles pricked the Jews in their hearts. It pierced to the deepest depths of their understanding. They saw their condition in what they heard, in the Gospel. Is it any wonder that fear took possession of them? Is it any wonder that sorrow for sin filled their hearts? Is it any wonder that they were stricken with grief? Is it any wonder that they cried from the depths of their broken hearts: “Men and brethren what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).
What produced this change in these people? Hearing and believing the Gospel. Why did they inquire what to do? Because they saw their condition. When the truth takes possession of a man and pricks his heart, and convicts him of his sins, he does not stop to argue, he inquires what to do, and does it at once. This question shows the condition of the man within: faith, fear, anxiety, willingness, and trouble. Were they saved when they ask this question? If so, why did they ask it? Did the apostle answer it? Yes. Is his answer worthy of attention, and is it an answer to people in similar condition in all ages of the world? It is.
What was the answer? “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). What is repentance? A change of mind that leads to a reformation of life. What is baptism? A burial and resurrection (Rom. 6:4). What are repentance and baptism for? The remission of sins. What follows the remission of sins? The gift of the Holy Spirit.
This question and answer are applicable to us under similar circumstances. Preaching produced conviction, conviction produced the question, and the question called forth the answer. Did the people hesitate to do their duty when they had learned it? They did not. Did any penitents go away seeking, mourning, or inquiring? Not one.
The apostles had a definite plan. They were guided by the Lord. They told the people what to do, and they did it. They were added to the church (Acts 2:47). Were they saved? Were they made like unto God? Were they filled with the Spirit of truth? Did they put on “the new man?” Most assuredly. Suppose they had refused to “repent and be baptized,” would they have been saved? NO. A refusal would have been positive rebellion against the authority of Jesus Christ, and undeniable evidence that their hearts were yet impure and that they loved their own ways more than they loved the way of God.
There baptism was the result of repentance; their repentance was the result of faith; their faith was the result hearing; what they heard was the result of the preaching of the apostles; the preaching of the apostles was inspired by the Lord; hence, He works in us both “to will and to do” (Phil. 2:13) when we hear, believe, and obey the Gospel of Christ. This is the way in which we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), or partake of the Divine Nature (2 Peter 1:4).
The Gospel is God’s power; His only power unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). It saves and makes men like God when they receive and keep it in their hearts (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-4). It is the principle of union between God and men, and therefore the basis of union among the people of God. It made Christians of the people who heard it on the day of Pentecost, in the city of Samaria, and at the house of Cornelius. It is growing in influence, and it will continue its conquests until the world is turned to Christ. You have it in your Bible. What will you do with it?
Do you desire to be like Jesus? If so, you may be “changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18), and “be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). Do you sigh for freedom from sin? Jesus Christ can make you free (John 8:31-36). Will you obey Him? The New Testament reveals the way. It is unmistakable plain. It is the revelation of God. Will you walk in it? On what are you building? What if God should call you now? Soon your soul will be required of you, and if you are not a Christian, what then? Death! The second death! Eternal death!
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