Posted by: Bill Hornbeck | October 24, 2018

What is the gospel? What is the content of the gospel? What is the power of the gospel? – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation”

Today’s devotion comes from Mark 16:14-20.

“Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table;  and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen.  And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved;  but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.  These signs will accompany those who have believed:  in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues;  they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them;  they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.  And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.]

[And they promptly reported all these instructions to Peter and his companions.  And after that, Jesus Himself sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.]”  Mark 16:14-20.

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What is the gospel?

What is the content of the gospel?  

Is the gospel that God loves everybody and Christ died for everybody but no one is saved in particular without the saved person providing the works or will to be saved?

Or, is the gospel that God only loves His elect and Christ died only for the elect and all the elect are saved by God Who provides all that the elect needs to be saved including faith?

What is the power of the gospel?

Is the gospel dependent on the power of man to exercise his alleged free-will to go everywhere and preach and to do it eloquently and effectively?

What is “the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation”?

Is it sacred if it is dependent on the alleged free-will of man and the power of man and the work of man to proclaim it?

Is it imperishable if it is dependent on the alleged free-will of man and the power of man and the work of man to proclaim it?

The content of the gospel is that God saves according to His purpose, according to His choice, according to His power, not because of works nor even the will of man.  “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 does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”  Romans 9:15-16.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.  In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.  …”  Ephesians 1:3-8.

In a nutshell, the content of the gospel is that God saves all and only His elect according to His purpose, His choice, and His power from the beginning to the end:   from the beginning of “Unconditional Election” through “Limited Atonement” through “Irresistible Grace” to the end of “Preservation of the Saints”, the “U”, “L”, “I”, and “P” of “TULIP”, the Five Points of Calvinism, Reformed Doctrine of Salvation, as more fully taught in the Reformed creed Canons of Dordt. 

Although only the elect will be saved, Christ commands in today’s Scripture:  “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved;  but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.”  Consistent with that broad command to preach the gospel to all creation, consider the following from the Canons of Dordt.   

Article 5.  Moreover, the promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified, shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of his good pleasure sends the gospel.

Article 6.  And, whereas many who are called by the gospel, do not repent, nor believe in Christ, but perish in unbelief;  this is not owing to any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the cross, but is wholly to be imputed to themselves.

Article 7.  But as many as truly believe, and are delivered and saved from sin and destruction through the death of Christ, are indebted for this benefit solely to the grace of God, given them in Christ from everlasting, and not to any merit of their own.  SECOND HEAD OF DOCTRINE Of the Death of Christ, and the Redemption of Men Thereby of Canons of Dordt.   

The power of the gospel is described by the Westminster Larger Catechism as “effectual calling”. 

Q. 67.  What is effectual calling?

A.  Effectual calling is the work of God’s almighty power and grace, whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto) he doth, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his Word and Spirit;  savingly enlightening their minds, renewing and powerfully determining their wills, so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.

Q. 68.  Are the elect only effectually called?

A.  All the elect, and they only, are effectually called:  although others may be, and often are, outwardly called by the ministry of the Word, and have some common operations of the Spirit;  who, for their wilful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ.  Westminster Larger Catechism.

In summary, the good news of the gospel is that the content and the power of the gospel is all the work of God.  

We notice from today’s Scripture that although they did preach everywhere, they only did so “while the Lord worked with them”:  “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.”

“I am the vine, you are the branches;  he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5.

Moreover, the gospel is “the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation”, because the gospel is the the Lord’s sacred work and the gospel is the Lord’s imperishable work.

“Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”  John 6:28-29.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation …”  Romans 1:16.

“9 “Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
10 Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;
11 Calling a bird of prey from the east,
The man of My purpose from a far country.
Truly I have spoken;  truly I will bring it to pass.
I have planned it, surely I will do it.”  Isaiah 46:9-11.


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