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What Is The Gospel?
by Dr. Harry Ironside
"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto
you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are
saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye 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)
First I should like to indicate what it is not.
THE GOSPEL IS: Not The Bible
In the first place, the Gospel is not the Bible. Often when I inquire, "What
do you think the Gospel is?" people reply, "Why, it is the Bible,
and the Bible is the Word of God." Undoubtedly the Bible is the Word of
God, but there is a great deal in that Book that is not Gospel.
THE GOSPEL IS: Not The Commandments
The Gospel is not just any message from God telling man how he should behave.
"What is the Gospel?" I asked a man this question some time ago, and
he answered, "Why I should say it is the Ten Commandments and the Sermon
on the Mount, and I think if a man lives up to them he is all right." Well,
I fancy he would be; but did you ever know anybody who lived up to them? The
Sermon on the Mount demands a righteousness which no unregenerate man has been
able to produce. The law is not the Gospel; it is the very antitheses of the
Gospel. In fact, the law was given by God to show men their need of the Gospel
THE GOSPEL IS: Not Giving Up The World
Nor is the Gospel a demand that you give up the world, that you give up your
sins, that you break off bad habits, and try to cultivate good ones. You may
do all these things, and yet never believe the Gospel and consequently never
be saved at all.
THE SEVEN DESIGNATIONS OF THIS GOSPEL ARE CALLED
1. The Gospel Of The Kingdom,
and when I use that term I am not thinking particularly of any dispensational application, but of this blessed truth that it is only through believing the Gospel that men are born into the Kingdom of God; We sing: "A ruler once came to Jesus by night, To ask Him the way of salvation and light; The Master made answer in words true and plain, 'ye must be born again.' " But neither Nicodemus , nor you, nor I, could ever bring this about ourselves. We had nothing to with our first birth, and can have nothing to do with our second birth. It must be the work of God, and it is wrought through the Gospel. That is why the Gospel is called the Gospel of the Kingdom, for, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God" (John 3:3,7). "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. . . And this is the word which by the Gospel is preached unto you" (1 Peter 1:23-25. Every where that Paul and his companion apostles went they preached the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and they showed that the only way to get into that Kingdom was by a second birth, and that the only way whereby the second birth could be brought about was through believing the Gospel. It is the Gospel of the Kingdom.
It also called
2. The Gospel Of God,
because God is the source of it, and it is altogether of Himself. No man ever thought of a Gospel like this. The very fact that all the religions of the world set man to try to work for his own salvation indicates the fact that no man would ever have dreamed of such a Gospel as that which is revealed in this Book. It came from the heart of God; it was God who "so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He first loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:9,10). And because it is the Gospel of God, God is very jealous of it. He wants it kept pure. He does not want it mixed with any of man's theories or laws; He does not want it mixed up with religious ordinances or anything of that kind. The Gospel is God's own pure message to sinful man. God grant that you and I may receive it as in very truth the Gospel of God.
And then it is called
3. The Gospel Of His Son
Not merely because the Son went everywhere preaching the Gospel, but because
He is the theme of it. "When it pleased God," says the apostle, "who
called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me that I might preach Him among
the nations; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood" (Gal. 1:15,16).
"We preach Christ crucified . . . the power of God, and the wisdom of God"
(1 Cor. 1:23,24). No man preaches the Gospel who is not exalting the Lord Jesus.
It is God's wonderful message about His Son. How often I have gone to meetings
where they told me I would hear the Gospel, and instead of that I have heard
some bewildered preacher talk to a bewildered audience about everything and
anything, but the Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel has to do with nothing else
but Christ. It is the Gospel of God's Son. And so, linked with this it is called
The Gospel is also called
5. The Gospel Of The Grace Of God,
because it leaves no room whatever for human merit. It just brushes away all
man's pretension to any goodness, to any desert excepting judgment. It is the
Gospel of grace, and grace is God's free unmerited favour to those who have
merited the very opposite. It is as opposite to works as oil is to water."
If by grace," says the Spirit of God, "then it is no more works. .
. but if it be of works, then is it no more grace" (Rom.11:6). People say,
:But you must have both." I have heard it put like this: there was a boatman
and two theologians in a boat, and one was arguing that salvation was by faith
and the other by works. The boatman listened, and then said, "Let me tell
you how it looks to me. Suppose I call this oar Faith and this one Works. If
I pull on this one, the boat goes around; if I pull on this other one, it goes
around the other way, but if I pull on both oars, I get you across the river."
I have heard many preachers use that illustration to prove that we are saved
by faith and works. That might do if we were going to Heaven in a rowboat, but
we are not. We are carried on the shoulders of the Shepherd, who came seeking
lost sheep When He finds them He carries them home on His shoulders. But there
are some other names used. It is called
It is also called
because it will never be superseded by another. No other ever went before it, and no other shall ever come after it. One of the professors of the University of Chicago wrote a book a few years ago in which he tried to point out that some of these days Jesus would be superseded by a greater teacher; then He and the Gospel that He taught would have to give way to a message which would be more suited to the intelligence of the cultivated men of the later centuries. No, no, were it possible for this world to go on a million years, it would never need any other Gospel than this preached by the Apostle Paul and confirmed with signs following; the Gospel which, throughout the centuries has been saving guilty sinners.
What then is the content of this Gospel? We are told right here, "I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain." There is such a thing as merely believing with the intelligence and crediting some doctrine with the mind when the heart has not been reached. But wherever men believe this Gospel in real faith, they are saved through the message. What is it that brings this wonderful result? It is a simple story, and yet how rich, how full. "I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received." I think his heart must have been stirred as he wrote those words, for he went back in memory to nearly thirty years before, and thought of that day when hurrying down the Damascus turnpike, with his heart filled with hatred toward the Lord Jesus Christ and His people, he was thrown to the ground, and a light shone, and he heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" And he cried, "Who art thou Lord?" And the voice said, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." And that day Saul learned the Gospel; he learned that He who died on the Cross had been raised from the dead, and that He was living in the Glory. At that moment his soul was saved, and Saul of Tarsus was changed to Paul the Apostle. And now he says, "I am going to tell you what I have received; it is a real thing with me, and I know it will work the same wonderful change in you. If you will believe it. "First of all, "That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." Then, "that He was buried." Then, "that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." The Gospel was no new thing in God's mind. It had been predicted throughout the Old Testament times. Every time the coming Saviour was mentioned, there was proclamation of the Gospel. It began in Eden when the Lord said, "The seed of the woman shall bruise thy head." It was typified in every sacrifice that was offered. It was portrayed in the wonderful Tabernacle, and later in the Temple. We have it in the proclamation of Isaiah, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him: and with His stripes we are healed." It was preached by Jeremiah when he said, "This is His Name whereby He shall be called, the Lord our Righteousness" (Jer.23:6). It was declared by Zechariah when he exclaimed, "Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones: (Zech.13:7) All through those Old Testament dispensations, the Gospel was predicted, and when Jesus came, the Gospel came with Him. When He died, when He was buried, and when He rose again, the Gospel could be fully told out to a poor lost world. Observe, it says, "that Christ died for our sins." No man preaches the Gospel, no matter what nice things he may say about Jesus, if he leaves out His vicarious death on Calvary's cross.
CHRIST'S DEATH - NOT HIS LIFE
THE NECESSITY OF DEATH
HE HAD TO DIE, to go down into the dark waters of death, that you might be saved. Can you think of any ingratitude more base than that of a man or woman who passes by the life offered by the Saviour who died on the Cross for them? Jesus died for you, and can it be that you have never even trusted Him, never even come to Him and told Him you were a poor, lost, ruined, guilty sinner; but since He died for you, you would take Him as your Saviour? HIS DEATH WAS REAL. He was buried three days in the tomb. He died, He was buried, and that was God's witness that it was not a merely pretended death, but He, the Lord of life, had to go down into death. He was held by the bars of death for those three days and nights, until God's appointed time had come. Then, "Death could not keep its prey, He tore the bars away." And so the third point of the Gospel is this, "He was raised again the third day according to the Scriptures. "That is the Gospel, and nothing can be added to that. Some people say, "Well, but must I repent?" Yes, you may well repent, but that is not the Gospel. "Must I not be baptised?" If you are a Christian, you ought to be baptised, but baptism is not the Gospel. Paul said, "Christ sent me not to baptise, but to preach the Gospel" (1 Cor. !:17) He did baptise people, but he did not consider that was the Gospel, and the Gospel was the great message that he was sent to carry to the world. This is all there is to it. "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures."
THE GOSPEL ACCEPTED
Look at the result of believing the Gospel. Go back to verse two, "By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain." That is, if you believe the Gospel, you are saved; if you believe that Christ died for your sins, that He was buried, and that He rose again, God says you are saved. Do you believe it? No man ever believed that except by the Holy Ghost. It is the Spirit of God that overcomes the natural unbelief of the human heart and enables a man to put his trust in that message. And this is not mere intellectual credence, but it is that one comes to the place where he is ready to stake his whole eternity on the fact that Christ died, and was buried, and rose again. When Jesus said, "IT IS FINISHED" the work of salvation was completed. A dear saint was dying, and looking up he said, "It is finished; on that I can cast my eternity." Upon a life I did not live, Upon a death I did not die; Another's life, another's death, Is take my whole eternity." Can you say that, and say it in faith?
THE GOSPEL ACCEPTED
What about the man who does not believe the Gospel? The Lord Jesus said to
His disciples, "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every
creature. He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth
not shall be damned" (Mark 16:15,16). He that believeth not shall be devoted
to judgment, condemned, lost. So you see, God has shut us up to the Gospel.
Have you believed it? Have you put your trust in it; is it the confidence of
your soul? Or have you been trusting in something else? If you have been resting
in anything short of the Christ who died, who was buried, who rose again, I
plead with you, turn from every other fancied refuge, and flee to Christ today.
Repent ye, and believe the Gospel.
by Dr. Harry Ironside.
(The source of this ministry is unknown )