Message 6, The Nonnegotiable Gospel:
Martin Luther’s rediscovery of the doctrine of justification by faith alone was prompted by his need to be found righteous in the sight of God. His “evangelical breakthrough” forced him to evaluate his standing before God as well as confront moral and theological corruption in the church. This session explains why the doctrine of justification by faith alone is central to the message of the gospel now and in the future. It considers what challenges to this central element of the gospel Christians who desire to see a new reformation may face.
It is always a privilege to be here to spend time with wonderful folks of Ligonier, and I bring you love and greetings from all of our congregation at Grace Community Church. They know and love this ministry and feel like real partners with Ligonier in every aspect, and it’s always my joy to come. It’s been a few years since I’ve been at the National Conference, and that’s my loss, so it’s a wonderful privilege to be back with you here again.
And the common reality here is so obvious, and that is the profound love for the truth. It’s about the truth, it’s all about the truth, it’s all about the most precious thing in the world, divine truth. You love it, that’s why you’re here, and we love it that’s why we serve you, that’s why Ligonier exists, for the proclamation of the truth, to bring glory to God.
No element of that truth is more important than the gospel, and I’ve been asked to speak on the nonnegotiable gospel; that was the title I was given. That is a very broad title, and yet at the same time a very narrow title. There are so many things that could be and should be said about the gospel, and about the fact that it’s nonnegotiable. I hope and trust that I can take you on a bit of a journey through Scripture tonight as we gather together to understand just how nonnegotiable the gospel is.
Now, let’s begin kind of where we are with Martin Luther. Before Luther was a clear-headed theologian he was a confused monk. Before he was a powerful force, he was a tormented failure, and before he had any spiritual peace he was loaded with spiritual pain. And the source of Luther’s angst and the cause of his affliction was the issue that eludes all false religionists, and it is this: How is one to be right with God?
That is the question that has given birth to every religion in the world, that is what religion purports to answer: How one can be right with God? For Luther, it was how could he be right with God so as to be forgiven, to be accepted, to escape hell and gain heaven.
His journey, to find the way to forgiveness, to find the way to the kingdom of God, to find the way to heaven began as a Roman Catholic monk as we all know. Believing that his salvation demanded something of himself, that there was the necessity for him to contribute to his relationship to God to make it right, he inflicted extreme torment on his soul and body. I quote Luther, “I tormented and tortured myself with; praying, fasting, keeping vigils and freezing. The cold was enough to kill me, I inflicted such pain as I would never inflict again.”
Martin Luther’s self-imposed torture along with his academic pursuits along with his sacraments along with the pilgrimages, and the other deprivations that he gave himself to, brought him absolutely; no rest, no peace. All they ever did was escalate the torment. The reality was very clear to Luther, he was by nature and behavior a sinner, and God was by nature and behavior holy, and the gulf was infinite. It was infinite.
Luther was convinced that that gulf was so vast, that no sinner could please God, no sinner could please God. He begun to feel that God was cruel and he came to hate God. Here are his own words, “I did not love. Yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God.
And I said it is not enough that miserable sinners eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by the law of the Decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteous wrath.” Thus he said, “I raged with a fierce and troubled conscious.” One wonders where such raging is in the shallows of contemporary Christianity, where is that raging?
Martin Luther would have found company with a biblical character by the name of Job. Turn to the ninth chapter of Job and we’ll spend a little time there. The ninth chapter of Job begins, “Then Job answered in truth, I know that this is so, but how can a man be right before God?” Job may well be the oldest book in the Bible, it certainly asks the oldest question: How can a man be right with God? That was Job’s question.
If you go back for a moment to chapter 7, Job is under inconceivable duress even though he is a man declared to be blameless, upright, fearing God and avoiding evil, nonetheless we all know the story of his suffering. He is trying to figure out why this is all happening.
In verse 11 of chapter 7, and I want to read some of this because God’s Word on this is better than anything I could say, “Therefore I will not restrain my mouth,” he sounds like Luther. “I will speak in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” Verse 13, “If I say my bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint, then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me by visions. So that my soul would choose suffocation, death rather than my pains. I waste away, I will not live forever. Leave me alone for my days are but a breath.”
In verse 20 he asks, “Have I sinned? What have I done to you, oh watcher of men? Why have you set me as your target so that I’m a burden to myself? Why then do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity?” In the musings of that, one of his friends shows up who happens to be the shortest man in the Bible, Bildad the Shuhite.
Oh you didn’t know that? Oh. He was as short on theology as he was on stature, I’m afraid.
He pops up and says (this is conventional wisdom), “How long will you say these things and the words of your mouth be a mighty wind? Does God pervert justice?” Which is another way of saying getting exactly what you deserve. “Or does the Almighty pervert what is right? If your sons sins against him — sinned against him, then he delivered them into the power of their transgression. If you would seek God and implore the compassion of the Almighty, if you are pure and upright surely now he would rouse himself for you and restore your righteous estate. All it’s going to take is for you to be pure.” That is — that is the standard religious answer.
If you were just perfect it would all work out, verse 20, “God will not reject a man of integrity.” Then chapter 9, and we find Job here, scorning the bad advice. It doesn’t help, “How can a man be right before God?” And then he begins to think about it, “If one wished to dispute with Him, he couldn’t answer him once in a thousand times. Wise in heart and mighty in strength who has defied him without harm, it is God who removes the mountains, they know not how.
When he overturns them in his anger, who shakes the earth out of its place, and it’s pillars tremble. Who commandeth the sun not to shine and sets a seal upon the stars. Who alone stretches out the heavens and tramples down the waves of the sea. Who makes the Bear, Orion and the Pleiades and the chambers of the south. Who does great things unfathomable and wondrous works without number. Were he to pass by me, I would not see him.
Were he to move past me, I would not perceive him. Were he to snatch away, who could restrain him? Who could say to him, ‘What are you doing?’ God will not turn back his anger, beneath him crouch the helpers of Rahab,” the mythical sea monster. “How then can I answer him and choose my words before him? Even though I were right I could not answer, I would have to implore the mercy of my judge. If I called and he answered me I couldn’t believe that he was listening to my voice, for he bruises me with a tempest and multiplies my wounds without cause.
He will not allow me to get my breath, but saturates me with bitterness. If it is a matter of power, behold he is the strong one. If it’s a manner of justice who can summon him? Though I am righteous my mouth will condemn me. Though I’m guiltless he will declare me guilty.”
Verse 25, “Now my days are swifter than a runner; they flee away, they see no good, they slip by like reed boats, like an eagle that swoops on its prey. And though I say ‘I will forget my complaint I’ll leave off my sad countenance and be cheerful.’ I’m afraid of all my pains, I know that you will not acquit me, I am accounted wicked why then should I toil in vain? If I should wash myself with snow and cleanse my hands with lye, yet you would plunge me into the pit and my own clothes would abhor me. For he is not a man as I am that I may answer him, that we may go to court together.”
This is the original statement of the dilemma of sinful humanity; how can I be right with such a God as this? It’s the original statement of the issue of divine acceptance and favor, it shapes all religion throughout all of history.
Psalm 130:3, “Since you Lord, mark iniquities who can stand?” Psalm 143:2, “For in your sight no man living is righteous.” Micah 6, “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before him on high? Shall I come to him with burnt offerings with yearling calves? Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams, in 10,000 rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
Shall I burn my baby like those who worship Moloch, how can I be right with God? How can I escape guilt? How can I escape death? How can I escape just punishment? How can I receive forgiveness? Where am I going to find the way to reconciliation that leads to eternal life in heaven?
All religions give the same wrong answer; by your works, by your morality, by your religiosity, by your ritual, by your ceremony. Paul sums them all up in Romans 10:3 in considering Judaism, but they all fall under the same category, “Not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.” That is the single definition of all false religion, it seeks to establish its own righteousness as the path to being right with God.
When, in the next verse Paul says, the answer is this, Christ is the end of the law for righteousness,” here it comes, “To everyone who believes,” and with that you are introduced to sola fide. Christianity is the single true religion on the planet. There are only two possible ways of acceptance with God; one is by human achievement, and the other is by divine accomplishment.
Even our Lord said there are two roads marked heaven but only one goes there. There is the broad road, it says heaven but it goes to hell, it’s the road of all religion. There is the narrow road, the way of the gospel, it’s the only true religion.
Everything but the gospel is just another form of the doctrines of demons from hell. There is no salvation apart from belief in the gospel; no gospel, no salvation. You would think we would have that fairly clear by now, we are subject in this postmodern world to more contentment with a lack of clarity than any time in my life. We still have the old Roman Catholic idea of natural theology, that is to say man has natural reasoning powers that will bring him to God without the Bible or the gospel; that’s what the Catholic Church teaches.
I quote the Pope’s interpretation of the second Vatican council, quote, “Those who live in accordance with the beatitudes and who bear lovingly the sufferings of life will enter the kingdom of God,” that’s Roman Catholic theology. The Protestants have a kind of version of it called the wider mercy view, and that is that God saves people by Christ but through different religions.
Some years ago Clark Pinnock, once a Christian apologist who couldn’t even convince himself, defected from the faith. And Pinnock wrote this, “God has more going on by way of redemption than what happened in first century Palestine.” A little more updated version of that is Raimon Panikkar, who wrote a book called ‘The Unknown Christ of Hinduism.’ Here is a quote from that book, “It is through the sacrament of Hinduism, through the message of morality and a good life; it is through Hinduism that Jesus Christ saves.”
Maybe more subtle and certainly more pervasive is what is currently being called the new perspective on Paul. It’s been propagated by a man by the name of N.T. Wright. You could kind of shift that a little and make it New Testament wrong, and you’d be closer to reality.
But N.T. Wright has written hundreds and hundreds of pages on the gospel, and the more you read of it, the less you understand what he affirms. It is confusing, it is ambiguous, it is contradictory, it is obfuscation of the highest level. Academic slight of hand. But while I cannot figure out what it is that he does believe, even after hundreds of pages, it is crystal clear what he does not believe.
More recently, he has written a book ‘The Day the Revolution Began’ and in that book he says this, “We have paganized our understanding of salvation, substituting the idea of God killing Jesus to satisfy his wrath for the genuinely biblical notion we are about to explore.” So, all of us who believe in the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross have been worshiping a paganized perversion of biblical truth now to be clarified by him.
Another quote, “That Christ died in the place of sinners is closer to the pagan idea of an angry deity being pacified by a human death than it is to anything in either Israel’s Scriptures or the New Testament,” end quote. He’s clear on what he rejects; he rejects substitutionary atonement of Christ, he rejects imputation, he rejects the gospel. He says, “To worship God as one who justifies through sacrifice and by imputation is nonsense.”
Here’s a quote, “If we use the language of the law court it makes no sense whatsoever to say that the judge; imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the court room. This gives the impression of a legal transaction, a cold piece of business, almost a trick of thought performed by a God who is logical and correct, but hardly one we want to worship.” Christianity Today identified him as one of the five most significant Christian theologians of our day.
He further says, “No one will be justified until he reaches heaven.” One more painfully clear denial is in these words, “I must stress again that the doctrine of justification by faith is not what Paul means by the gospel. The gospel is not an account of how people get saved.”
I have no idea what he believes, but I know what he does not believe. And he says he doesn’t believe the gospel and he doesn’t believe the gospel is an account of how people get saved in spite of the fact that 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 says, “Now, I make known to you brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which you also received in which you stand, and by which also you are saved.”
N.T. Wright has just piled up high sounding words raised up against the knowledge of God, to be smashed by the truth, fortifications to be crushed under the force of the truth. What strikes me though is this, here is a man (and those who follow him) who seem to have no angst about their heresy. Who seem more than content to offer themselves as the ones who have arrived at the solution 2,000 years after the New Testament, and who are happy to propagate it as far and wide as they can, lay down their head on the pillow at night and go to sleep.
Here are people who clearly are content to be in an unjustified state, but have apparently little or no angst about the reality of their condition. They are still in the state of Luther before he understood the gospel. Utterly void of the way to be right with God, but instead of feeling; the pain that Luther felt, the anxiety that overwhelmed him, the agonies of Job, they are comfortable they are content. They don’t really care whether works is the ultimate cause of justification or the evidence of justification, it really doesn’t matter. It’s a very small inconsequential issue to them. To be a heretic is one thing to be a confident, happy heretic is quite another.
The Apostle Paul in dealing with the gospel always was profoundly exercised, as you know. He could barely endure any situation where he felt the gospel was in any sense compromised at all. We’ll see a little more about that when we come a little bit later to the book of Galatians. But it didn’t really matter when it was in dealing with churches when he was writing to them and confronting them, and communicating his heart to them. If there was any deviation at all from the foundations of the gospel, it was a terrifying reality to the Apostle Paul.
He said to the Corinthians, ‘If you have at all deserted the simplicity that is in Christ for another Christ, another gospel, this is more than I can bear.’ People who know the true gospel and love the true gospel are people who have a true peace, a settled peace, and people who have a passion for its proper declaration on behalf of others.
N.T. Wright’s influence is spreading rapidly, and continues to be a very attractive, novel theology is always attractive. Many young theologians and pastors have been drinking the Kool-Aid, and so the battle for the gospel still rages. But by the sovereign grace of God, Martin Luther begun to see the light of the true way of salvation, the good news of grace, particularly as he was teaching through the book of Galatians a couple of years after he had posted his thesis. And he discovered that God gives the believing sinner His own righteousness by imputation, as a gift received by faith alone, and that of course is the gospel.
Gospel broke on his soul with such force and brought such peace and joy. He was forgiven, he was accepted, he was reconciled, he was converted, he was adopted, he was justified solely by grace through faith. He wrote this, “Through faith in Christ therefore, Christ’s righteousness becomes our own righteousness, and all that He has becomes ours, rather He himself becomes ours. He who trusts in Christ exists in Christ, he is one with Christ, the same as He.” That all rising out of Galatians 2:20, “I’m crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me.”
The issue of the nonnegotiable gospel wasn’t settled 500 years ago it was settled 2,000 years ago, but we’re still calling the professing church to be faithful to the truth. The Reformation is not over; every turn in the road, every new false teacher that arises to teach one version or another of the alternate message must be addressed.
And if there’s anything true about elders in churches, first of all they should have them, secondly, they ought to be the men who can refute error. We’re still calling the professing church to a faithfulness to the gospel. Well, those are some introductory thoughts, now I want you to turn to Romans chapter 3.
I was just talking, now I’m going to preach.
I don’t want to intend to say something to you that you don’t know, but just to reaffirm what we all know and love. Let’s pick it up at Romans 3:19, “Now, we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God. Because by the works of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets. Even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ, for all those who believe, for there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Being justified as a gift by his grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in his blood through faith.” We’ll have to stop there.
We all understand the book of Romans from chapter 1:18 through to chapter 3:20 that I just read. Paul makes the point that no one is right with God, not the Jews who had the law, not the Gentiles who didn’t have the written law but had the law of God written in their hearts. No one is right with God, “All mouths are stopped,” that’s verse 20.
That is a very definitive statement, all mouths are stopped, verse 19 says, “All” — every mouth — “All the world becomes accountable to God.” No defense, no excuse, all are rendered guilty before God.
The remedy is not in the law, because by the works of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight. All that comes through the law is the knowledge of sin. The law can be a bridal to show us sin, so that it can control our behavior. The law can be a barrier to restrain sin. The law can be a mirror to reveal sin. The law can be a tutor, to lead us to Christ who is the answer, Galatians 3:24. “But through the law comes only the knowledge of sin, it cannot save, it can only condemn.” Galatians 3:21, “If a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would have indeed been based on law.”
On that very verse I was reading Luther’s commentary, this is what Luther said commenting on Galatians 3:21. Here Paul is saying that no law of itself is able to give life, it only kills. Therefore such works as are done even according to God’s own law do not justify us before God, but make us sinners. They do not pacify the wrath of God but kindle it. They do not obtain righteousness, but hinder it. They do not give life but kill and destroy.
Therefore in these words Paul clearly teaches that the law in itself does not justify, but has the exact opposite effect. What an amazing discovery that must have been for Luther, who had been all his life under a system of law.
Galatians 3:10 says as many as are under the works of the law are under a curse. As many as are under the works of the law are under a curse, all the law does is damn you. Let me just run some things by you that you must understand about the law. The law requires attitudes and behaviors which are opposite the natural desires of the human heart; it demands unnatural affections, it demands hated attitudes and hated behaviors. The law goes against the natural will.
Secondly, the demands that the law makes are not only against the sinner’s will but they are beyond the sinner’s capability, so the sinner is both unwilling and unable. Thirdly the law exacts absolute perfection accepting nothing less all the time, perfection with no excuses all the time. Fourthly, the law accepts no partial payment for violations. The law offers no restitution and no restoration. No good acts erase bad acts, there is no accumulated human goodness that cancels out one sin. A lifetime of human goodness can’t cancel one sin.
Also the law refuses to accept good intentions, the law is indifferent toward good intentions or noble motives as if that’s any consolation or credit against guilt. Further the law provides no lightening of the burden of responsibility. The law does not shorten the sinner’s sentence; it is an unrelenting taskmaster, there is not one millimeter of mercy in the law. Furthermore the law shatters the soul of the noblest sinner like a hammer shatters glass.
And then the law sentences the violator to the most extreme punishment forever without relief eternally. The law provides no strength to help its victims, the law offers no assistance. The law listens to no excuses, listens to no confessions, is indifferent to repentance. The law offers no grace, the law provides no hope. You want to live under the law?
That’s what all people and all religions do outside the gospel, that’s the curse of the law. The law, yes, is holy, just and good, but it will damn you forever mercilessly unless it becomes your tutor driving you to Christ. Why does the law lead us to Christ? Because Galatians 3 says Christ became a what? A curse for us. That’s what was happening on the cross — God cursed Jesus in our place. He became sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. What do you mean He became sin for us?
I remember hearing Kenneth Copeland one time say, on the cross Jesus became a sinner so God sent Him to hell for three days, and I was shuttering.
As I remember correctly He was a lamb without blemish and without spot; holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners. He was as holy hanging on the cross as He ever was eternally. He was not a sinner, He didn’t become a sinner, God treated Him as if He was. Maybe a more personal way to say it is God treated Jesus on the cross as if He lived your life and mine.
God treated Him as if He lived your life and mine and He punished Him for all the sins of all the people who will ever believe in Him through all of human history, ever to be redeemed by His sacrifice.
And, He bore the full weight of that in three hours of darkness. You say, if all the sinners in hell can’t get rid of the guilt of sin with an eternity of punishment in hell, how could Jesus bear all the sins of all the people who have ever believed through all of human history in three hours? He is an infinite person, He took the curse. That’s why we run to Christ. He took the curse for us.
So we come to Romans 3, and let’s just kind of remind ourselves of this. We come to Romans 3, and when we get to verse 20, we’re left in the dilemma that we can’t reconcile to God through the law because that’s impossible. And then we come to verse 21. First two words, “But now,” you have to stop there, catch your breath right? But now.
We just heard no flesh justified. No flesh justified sounds like Exodus 23:7, “I will not justify the wicked,” or Psalm 17:15, “He that justifies the wicked is an abomination to the Lord.” So, we’re out of breath in verse 20, and then comes, “But now, since we have no righteousness of our own that can make us right with God.” But now, but now.
Apart from the law, here’s the phrase, “The righteousness of God has been manifested.” The righteousness of God has been manifested, has been revealed. The righteousness of men is useless, filthy rags, manure. The righteousness of God intervenes, interposes. God’s own righteousness is disclosed, revealed.
Horace the Roman poet was giving guidelines for those writers who were writing tragedies for the theater, and one of the lines of his advice was picked up by Martin Luther somewhere along the way. This is what Horace the Roman poet supposedly said, “Do not bring a god onto the stage unless the problem requires a god to solve it.” Good advice if you’re writing a tragedy. Luther said, “This is such a problem that demands a god to solve it.”
I love Isaiah 45:8, “Drop down from the heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness and bring forth salvation; I the Lord have created it.” The righteousness that pleases God is the righteousness that belongs to God and comes down from heaven to us. That divine, eternal, perfect righteousness manifested in the Son of God actively and passively; but now is manifested.
The Old Testament sacrificial system was focused primarily on the punishment of the law. It was all about punishment, but there really wasn’t something in the Old Testament that demonstrated what obedience looked like. I mean, go through the list of people in the Old Testament, the best of them; you can start with Job and others, and you’re not going to find — you’re not going to find an adequate illustration of the obedient righteousness that is manifested in Christ.
But in Christ is manifested God’s righteousness in punishment, and His righteousness in obedience, both of which sum up the righteousness of God in Christ, both of which are imputed to those who believe in Him. And here the Holy Spirit — we’ll just look at it briefly; I have one minute.
No, here the Holy Spirit reveals the true gospel that shocks the religions of works. Here’s the true gospel, the righteousness of God comes down from heaven because the righteousness of man is useless. If man is to be made right with God, it has to be God granting to man a covering that is essentially His own righteousness imputed to man.
And the righteousness of God that comes down, let’s look at its elements number one — it is apart from the law. That is a statement, by the way, in the empathic position in that verse. It comes even before the main statement — the righteousness of God — first comes apart from the law, that’s the empathic statement. This righteousness is apart from the law.
The law as we’ve said, defines sin and increases sin, pronounces a curse, sentences everybody to divine wrath, but it can’t impart spiritual life. So the righteousness that comes down from God is apart from the law.
Secondly it is — it is witnessed by the law and the prophets, which is simply the Old Testament. It is witnessed by the Old Testament, and the primary witness that Paul uses for that is Abraham in chapter 4, right? We don’t have time to go into that, but he uses Abraham as the illustration of the fact that the Old Testament declares that salvation is the righteousness of God being granted to a sinner by faith. The gospel of grace is, listen, no new way of salvation, no new way of salvation; but in Christ, it’s out of the shadows.
So the righteousness of God then, is apart from the law, it is witnessed by the Old Testament. Further, the righteousness of God, verse 22, is through faith in Jesus Christ — there is sola fide. Martin Luther said if this doctrine of sola fide stands the church stands, if this article collapses the church collapses. On the other hand the council of Trent said, “If anyone says that by faith alone, sola fide, the impious is justified so that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of salvation, let him be anathema.” Damnation on anybody who thinks salvation is by grace through faith alone.
You think there’s harmony between Roman Catholicism, and true gospel evangelical churches and doctrines? None. It’s through faith, and we can illustrate that a lot of ways. Joseph Alleine, writing back in 1688, wrote a wonderful message called “An Alarm to the Unconverted,” and he talked about what this faith is. He says, “The sound convert takes a whole Christ, and takes him for all interests and purposes; without exceptions, without limitations, without reserve. He is willing to have Christ upon any terms, He is willing to have the dominion of Christ as well as the deliverance of Christ.
He says with Paul, ‘Lord what will you have me to do. Anything Lord.’ He sends the blank to Christ to set down his own conditions,” end quote. It’s that kind of faith, take up your cross, follow me. So, the righteousness of God comes down, it is imputed to us apart from the law, revealed in the Old Testament, and received by faith.
Fourthly, it is without distinction, it is without distinction. Look at verse 22 again. “For there is no distinction,” between who and who? Between Jew and Gentile, between any period of time in the history of humanity. There is no distinction. Which is to say there is no other gospel in any other time. There wasn’t one kind of gospel in the Old Testament, or two kinds of gospel in the New Testament, one for the Jews and one for the Gentiles. And some even advocate that today, that there is a different plan of salvation for Jews. That’s very popular teaching by John Hagee.
No, there is no distinction, and the reason is a negative reason. There is no distinction for all have the same problem, they’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. That’s the common denominator. We’re all damned because we can’t come up to the standard of God’s holiness. The distinctions aren’t racial. He’s not talking about that. Obviously there are lots of nations. The fact that there’s no distinction, is because we’re all the same in terms of our depravity, our wretchedness.
There has to be the same way of salvation because all of humans have the same condition. It has to be by grace, through faith, apart from the law, it has to come down from heaven. John 10, when Jesus said I have sheep of another fold, He’s not talking about aliens on some planet. He’s talking about Gentiles. Or when Peter says, “You’re going to receive the promise of God, it’s not only for you and your children, but it’s for those who are far off” — the day of Pentecost, Jew and Gentile.
Acts 13:38-39, “Let it be known to you brethren, that through him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.” Gentiles on the first missionary trip. “And through him even who believes is freed from all things from which you can never be freed through the Law of Moses.” Everybody has the same problem and therein is the elimination of all distinctions. There’s only one way to save us all because we all have the same problem; we’re all cursed by our wretchedness.
One way of salvation for all without distinction, because all have sinned without exception, fallen short of the glory of God. I’d like to say more about that point, but, that’s what your pastor always says when he’s just run out of material.
OK. Paul goes on. So, just to give you a little review, this righteousness comes down apart from the law, according to the Old Testament by faith, without distinction, and this I love, look at verse 24, “As a gift of grace.” As a gift of grace; this is just being very sequential being justified, declared righteous as a gift by His grace. Some translations say freely. Freely, freely.
That same term is used in John 15:25 where Jesus says, “You hated me without a cause.” It’s used in Galatians to mean for nothing. Grace a hundred times that word ‘charis,’ appears in Paul’s writings — justified to be declared right with God by grace.
Apart from the law, according to the Old Testament by faith, without distinction as a gift of grace. By what means — the next point, number six in my little outline — through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. It’s what it says at the end of verse 24, “Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation, a satisfaction in his blood.” And then he closes by saying, through faith. That’s just Paul walking us through the gospel, how can a man be right with God.
Luther pleaded, “How can I be right with you?” The New Testament answers: the righteousness of God is declared, made available. Apart from the law according to Scripture, received by faith, provided for all, given freely by grace, purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. Now, this gets me to my title — ‘The Nonnegotiable Gospel.’
Turn to Galatians. Just how nonnegotiable is this? Galatians 1 — for the sake of time we’ll look at verse 6, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting him who called you by the grace of Christ for a different gospel, which is really not another, only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, let — he is to be, or let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed.”
Paul says, “I’m astonished, I’m absolutely astonished how fast you have deviated from the true gospel to a different gospel. ‘Heteros’ a difference of another kind that is not ‘allos;’ it’s not just an acceptable alternative. You have turned to a different gospel, you have been disturbed, and now you have basically deserted the true gospel.” And he becomes sarcastically hyperbolic, “Even if we, or an angel from heaven preached another gospel, let him be damned.” Very harsh, very harsh.
No contemporary evangelical would do that. That is very harsh to modern ears — postmodern ears. That is a vigorous condemnation, damnation of anyone who holds to or advocates a false gospel; this is very severe. This is sharp force thrust at anyone who holds to a false gospel. Not to expose that is sin, did you hear that? Not to expose that is sin. It’s a rare day when somebody would stand up and say any of you who do not believe the true gospel, you are damned, and if you propagate a false gospel you are under the damnation of God.
You know, Paul was always very gracious when people attacked him, but never when they attacked the gospel. “If any person doesn’t love the Lord Jesus Christ,” 1 Corinthians 16:22, same word, “Let him be damned.” R.C. was saying in the Q&A, that it really irritates him when he hears people say, “God loves everybody unconditionally.” No, everybody’s under a curse, everybody’s damned, if they do not love the Lord Jesus Christ and believe the true gospel. And the most damnable of all things, is not only to believe a false gospel, but to propagate it as if it’s the true gospel. These are devilish liars.
We need to get to a place where we are willing to pronounce a curse on those who distort and corrupt the gospel. Just a final word; there’s only one gospel going to be celebrated in heaven, so let’s hear what it is. “And they sang a new song saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the book and to break its seals, for you were slain, and purchased for God with your blood, men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign upon the earth.’
And then I looked and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders. And the number of them was myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.’
And every created thing which is in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea and all the things in them, I heard saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ And the four living creatures kept saying ‘Amen!’ the elders fell down and worshiped.” Only one gospel will be celebrated in heaven.”
Father we thank You for the clarity of Your Word, and the clarity of the gospel. Oh, what would we do if it were not clear. We thank You that it’s so clear, over and over and over and over, by grace, by grace, by faith, by faith, apart from the law the righteousness of God imputed to us, granted to us so we are unworthy.
We thank You that on the cross You treated Your Son, as if He lived our life so that You could turn around and treat us as if we lived His life. You imputed our sin to Him and His righteousness to us, glory of all glories. We are unworthy, we will always be undeserving, but increasingly overwhelmed with gratitude for such abundant, incomprehensible grace. May we be faithful to proclaim the truth and to condemn the error that blasphemes Your holy name. Use us to that end we pray, for Your glory, amen.