What is the Gospel?

Graeme Goldsworthy gives a stirring answer:

Predestination, or creation, or the new birth, or the baptism o the Spirit is not…the gospel. All of these things are related to the gospel and are necessary for the working of the gospel, but they are not the essential message to be believed for salvation. Furthermore, unlike the gospel message, they do not directly address the matter of our justification and assurance of salvation. Only the message that another true and obedient human being has come on our behalf, that he has lived for us the kind of life we should live but can’t, that he has paid fully the penalty we deserve for the life we do but shouldn’t–only this message can give assurance that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

– Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2000), 83-84.


Rely on Jesus Alone for Acceptance with God

Here is a beautiful, gospel-centered prayer from Matthew Henry. It is a prayer that, if you prayer it and believe it, will help you root your acceptance and righteousness before God in Christ alone.

I must profess my entire reliance on the Lord Jesus Christ alone for acceptance with God and come in his name.

I do not present my plea before you because of my righteousness, [Daniel 9:18] for I am before you in my guilt, [Ezra 9:15] and cannot stand before you because of it; [Psalm 130:3] but I make mention of Christ’s righteousness, even of his only, who is the LORD our righteousness, [Jeremiah 23:6] and therefore the LORD my righteousness.

I know that even spiritual sacrifices are acceptable to God only through Christ Jesus, [1 Peter 2:5] nor can I hope to receive anything but what I ask of you in his name; [John 16:23] and therefore, bless me in the Beloved, [Ephesians 1:6] that other angel who put much incense to the prayers of the saints and offers them up on the golden altar before the throne. [Revelation 8:3]

I come in the name of the great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, who is able to sympathize with my weaknesses, [Hebrews 4:14-15] and is therefore able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. [Hebrews 7:25]

Behold, O God, my shield, and look on the face of your Anointed, [Psalm 84:9] in whom you have by a voice from heaven declared yourself to be well pleased; Lord, be well pleased with me in him. [Matthew 3:17]

For more prayers by Henry, check out Method for Prayer, a free online e-book.

Life Theology

A is for Atonement

Even though the word does not appear in the New Testament, the idea of atonement still permeates the whole Bible.  Salvation is possible and effectual for all who believe in Jesus because he atoned for our sins by his sacrificial death on the cross.

The Hebrew word for atonement is kaphar and it means “to cover, purge, and reconcile.”  In the Old Testament, God atoned for the sins of his people through animal sacrifice. Leviticus 16 is a particularly important passage for us when we consider the history of this word.

Leviticus 16 is important because it describes the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, known to us as “The Day of Atonement.” On that day, the high priest was to  make atonement for himself and his family, then for the people of Israel.  Verse 34 tells us, “This shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of their sins.”

In the New Testament, Jesus is our atonement because, simply, “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:4). Before Christ, sacrifices had to be made once a year. They were a foreshadowing of what was to come in Jesus, who “has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26).

Not only is Jesus our atonement, but he was substituted for us as he took the penalty for sin. These ideas together give us the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement (penal meaning “penalty”).  It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Christian faith is wholly dependent on this doctrine.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree…For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous (1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).

He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed (Isa. 53:5-6).

If you do not receive the payment Jesus made for sin by his atoning sacrifice, then you will continually seek something else to make the payment. You will seek to cover your sin and shortcomings with relationships, status, wealth, body-image, reputation, knowledge, wisdom, adventure, entertainment, discipline, work-ethic, sexual encounters, or a thousand other things.  And, as Tim Keller has said, those things can never ultimately save you, and if you fail them, they will never forgive you.

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Over the next couple of months, we’ll be walking through the ABC’s of Christianity.  I’ll write short posts about 26 words that every Christian needs to know.