by Rick Pidcock
I was walking into King Soopers yesterday afternoon when I saw a poster advertisement for a “Gospel Concert.” Of course, this drew my attention. And later, I began asking myself, “What is the gospel?” In today’s church, the gospel can be everything from a few theological facts concerning salvation to a music style and everything in between.
As I have said on a number of occasions, worship is a response to the gospel. But what gospel are we talking about? In a day of theological and ecclesiastical ambiguity, it is vital to understand what the gospel is if we have any desire to offer true living worship to God.
This first article will deal with the gospel’s content. While there is much more to the gospel than merely just a few theological facts, the gospel is indeed defined by certain fundamental doctrines of theology.
1. The gospel reveals the holiness of God.
“But the Lord of hosts is exalted in justice,
and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.”
God shows us that He is holy by declaring and demanding His righteousness. The New Bible Dictionary says, “God is Creator and therefore He is the ground and guarantor of the moral order. His righteousness is hence intimately related to…His holiness.”
As some of you may recall, a month and a half ago, I lost my job cleaning toilets at a local church because they wanted more money to build a nicer facility. In the mean time, I am cleaning carpets while studying to become certified as a computer database manager. Through this study, one thing is evident. The creator of the database sets the rules that all of the users must abide by in order to function properly. If a user were to start accusing the database manager of being arrogant for creating the rules, then most likely that user would be looking for a job very soon.
It is the same way with God. Because God is the Creator of everything, He is the One Who writes the code by which all of creation must be governed. And in our case, that code is moral perfection. He demands that every human be morally perfect to the same quality that He is.
Every aspect of righteousness points us to the fact that God is holy. And because He is holy, He is also just. The passage that I quoted above says, “The Lord of hosts is exalted in justice.” God’s holiness is so eternal that it demands eternal justice. And His holiness exalts Him far above where any human could ever hope to attain.
2. The gospel reveals the hopelessness of man.
“‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called,and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost;for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
As the prophet Isaiah stood before the holy God, He fell to the ground in complete hopeless awe. He did not view himself as “not perfect,” or “not as bad as the murderers,” but as “lost.”
Left to himself, man is completely hopeless physically and spiritually. Just as nobody can work or will themselves to be born physically, nobody can work or will themselves to be born spiritually. It is something that our Father must do. Just as nobody lives and grows physically apart from the sovereign grace of God, nobody lives and grows spiritually apart from the gospel. And just as nobody can escape the reality of physical death apart from an extreme act of God’s sovereign grace, nobody can escape the reality of spiritual death apart an extreme act of God’s sovereign grace.
Romans 3:11, 12 say, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands;no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;no one does good, not even one.”
Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Romans 6:23 declares, “For the wages of sin is death….” The more righteous God is, the more depraved we are. And thus, as God is totally righteous, we are totally depraved. The more holy God is, the more hopeless we are. And thus, as God is eternally holy, we are eternally hopeless.
3. The gospel reveals the hope of Christ.
“Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
The only hope that we have is the hope of atonement.
Romans 4:21-26 says, “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.”
We noted earlier that the righteousness of God reveals the holiness of God. But up until now, we have only discussed how his righteousness is revealed in the law. If we were to just stop there, then we would surely be completely hopeless.
This passage in Romans is one of the most exciting passages in the Bible to me because it shows how God can uphold His holy standard of righteousness, but still give me hope. And that hope is found by faith in the redemptive work of Christ.
Christ is our only hope. He lived the perfect life that we could never live. He died the death that we deserved to die. And He did it all to glorify the Father by giving us hope.
Because of the cross, God can be just to forgive all the sins that were punished on the cross, and He can be just to declare righteous all those whose sins were dealt with on the cross. Now, our hope is as eternal as Christ is sufficient.
There are many aspects of the gospel. And in no way will we even begin to scratch the surface in these few short articles. But hopefully it will set the context by which we discuss worshiping in response to the gospel. And I pray that it will increase your hope and joy in our Savior Jesus Christ.