Voddie Baucham – What the Gospel Is, and What it is Not

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A big thank you to Manuela who alerted me to the G3 Conference video being posted.

In some ways the Gospel has become a fad…. there are those that speak much about the Gospel, but, when they say Gospel, they don’t mean what the Bible means by Gospel. There are those who love hearing so much Gospel talk, because to them, the Gospel is the means, to them, by which God levels the socio economic playing field in the world. And so, when they say Gospel, when they celebrate Gospel, they are celebrating the social Gospel.

There are other. When they hear Gospel, they are excited about that, because for them the Gospel is all the moral teaching of Jesus. And, so they celebrate a form of legalism. There are others who are more subtle in their form of legalism. Because, when they hear Gospel, they simplify the Gospel. There’s phrase, there’s a mantra that is going around now, that is presumed to be a simplification of the Gospel. And it is „Love God, Love People”. The irony here could not be greater. „Love God, love people” is actually an abbreviation of Jesus’s teaching on the greatest commandments.

Here’s the great irony. „Jesus, what is the greatest commandment?” It was a legitimate question, a legitimate argument, and some have argued that the first commandment was the greatest commandment. And then, all the others rested on the first commandment. Some have argued that the fifth commandment was the greatest, because it was the bridge between the first and second tables of the law. Others have argued that the tenth commandment, in, coveting, was the greatest commandment, because ultimately, all of your sins arises out of your coveting. So, „Jesus, what is your greatest commandment?” Is he going to say 1, is He going to say 5, or 10?” And, Jesus looks at them and says, „You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind- which, by the way is your summary of the first table of the law. „Jesus, what is your greatest commandment?” „I’m going to have to say 1 through 4.” Then, the other shoe drops. He says, „The second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself,” which is the summary of the second table of the law.

So, here’s how the conversation went, „Jesus, which commandment is the greatest commandment?” His response, „I’m going to have to say 1 through 4; followed closely by 5 through 10.” Folks. this ubiquitous saying „Love God, Love People” is actually a summary of the law. The whole law. It’s not the Gospel at all. It’s what the Gospel freed us from, and to.

So, when we talk about Gospel, we need to be clear, and as I think about clarity concerning the Gospel, and fighting for that clarity, defending that clarity, my mind is immediately drawn to 1 Corinthians 15, because that’s precisely what Paul does. He clarifies the Gospel and he does battle on behalf of the Gospel. But, he does more than this. I believe, if we look carefully, we discover that he outlines 3 different types of arguments.. Three different lines of argumentation:

  1. The first is an argument from authority.
  2. The second is an argument from evidence, and
  3. The third is an argument from logic.

All of them are important and useful in their own right. We know here that Paul is actually addressing, in one sense, a kind of mixed multitude. You’ll see that, as we get further along in 1 Corinthians 15, where he actually addresses those individuals who are arguing against the very concept of resurrection. As he does this, he both shuts the mouths of those who oppose the Gospel and emboldens and strengthens the arms of those who preach it and defend it. We need to be emboldened. We need to be encouraged. We need to see an example of what it looks like when a Christian squares his shoulders and plants his feet, and does battle on behalf of the Gospel, because we live in a culture that does not celebrate the 10 commandments. We celebrate the 11t commandment, which is the only commandment: „Thou shalt be nice”. (8:00)

And so, the idea of a vigorous defense is dismissed, regardless of its clarity or truth if it sounds „even ever so slightly, as if it’s not nice”. Because, if after all, none of the other commandments matter, the 11th commandment is the greatest commandment. „Thou shalt be nice. You have to be like Jesus, who was nice. He walked around with a lamb on His shoulders, had long flowing hair, like a model in a magazine, pretty hands that never did a day of work”. Paul would beg to differ.

1. The argument from authority

1 Corinthians 15- I would remind you brothers, of the Gospel I preached to you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved if you hold fast to the word I preach to you. Otherwise you have believed in vain. This is incredibly important. Paul is the sender, the Corinthians are the receivers, and the message is the Gospel that he preached to them. But, there’s something more here than just effective communication. He says, „I’m reminding you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand… In other words, they are standing in, standing on that Gospel that Paul preached tight now- and by which you are being saved.

I love that phrase. Paul didn’t say „by which you have been saved”, although you have. He didn’t even say „by which you will be saved”. Although you will. He says: by which you are being saved. This ongoing, sanctifying work of the Gospel. The Gospel is not just a message that you need to hear to get saved. The Gospel is a message you need to hear to stay saved, to be saved, to live saved.

But then, there’s this „if” clause. „If you hold fast to the word that I have preached to you, unless you believed in vain”. Couple of possibilities here. Possibility #1 is that Paul just introduced the idea of a christian losing his or her salvation. He says, if you keep holding on and you keep believing, and you keep standing you’ll be saved. But, if you stopped, then you won’t be saved. Here, I’ll give you a simple answer and then a more complex answer. The simple answer comes form John MacArthur, he says, „If you could lose your salvation, you would.” How arrogant does a person have to be, to believe that it’s possible for them to lose their salvation, but they haven’t? But, there’s a second idea, that’s the idea that such theology would put Paul at odds not only what he teaches in the rest of this passage, but, what he teaches everywhere else. He’s not ashamed of the Gospel. Why? Because the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. It is the Gospel that is the power of God unto salvation. Not me. Not my apprehension of a retention of the Gospel, that’s the power of God unto salvation, but the Gospel. And the God of the Gospel, to be more precise. (13:00)

But, there’s also this phrase that he puts in Ephesians 1, which I believe puts all of this to rest. We could talk about the fact that we have, as a present possession, eternal life. Jesus makes that clear. We could talk about the fact that Jesus gives us the promise that we’re in His hand, and that’s in the Father’s hand, and there’s nobody that’s gonna remove us from that. Ephesians 1:11-14

In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestinedaccording to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

So, Paul’s not arguing here that, somehow, we lose our salvation, if we are wavering on the Gospel. What he is doing here is an argument form authority: That we can’t have salvation if we don’t believe the right Gospel. You don’t get to reinterpret, or reinvent, or tweak the Gospel and have the hope of salvation. If what you believe is something other than that which was proclaimed, you have no hope of salvation. So, first and foremost, it’s important that we get the Gospel right. Because, if we don’t, there are people out there (including ourselves) who will be duped into believing that they are right with God, when in fact they are at enmity with Him. If you believe the wrong Gospel, it doesn’t matter how sincere you are in your belief. You are merely, sincerely wrong. So, his first argument is an argument form authority. As an apostle, he reminds them that he preached the Gospel to them clearly. That they are standing and are saved by the Gospel that he preached. Remember the context here- the resurrection is being brought into question. After this argument from authority he moves on to a second type of argument (16:00):

2. An argument from evidence

A. 1 st piece of evidence- According to the Scriptures.For, I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received. That Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day, in accordance with the Scriptures.” So, first he couches this argument form evidence, not in the things around him, or even in himself, but in the Scriptures, in the prophecies of the Scriptures- that God foretold that He would send forth His Son, born of a virgin, born under the law. That He would come in due season. That he could live, that He would die, and He would raise again on the third day. One of my most favorite passages in the New Testament is in Luke 24, when Jesus is on the road to Emmaus. Jesus calls them ‘foolish one’ and ‘slow of hearts to believe’. What? Moses and the prophets. He doesn’t say: You should have believed those things that I told you. But, (he says) ‘you didn’t believe Moses and the prophets’. And because of that, you missed death, burial, and resurrection. That’s the first piece of evidence. It’s biblical evidence. We have the authority, inerrancy, sufficiency of the Scriptures. It always amazes me that we hang on to the authority of the Scriptures, inerrancy of the Scriptures and everything else, until we get to apologetics. Then it’s reason.

B. 2nd piece of evidence- Eyewitnesses. Then, he goes on, „and He appeared to Cephas, then to the 12, then he appeared to more than 500 brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then, he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” Now you have eyewitnesses. First, we have the evidence of what the Scriptures have taught. The argument form authority is: This is what the apostles have told you. The argument from Scriptures begins with what the Scriptures have taught. And then, there is evidence that Christ has fulfilled what the Scriptures have taught, because there are these eyewitnesses who saw Him. Most of whom remain until now. Which means, that if you do the math, there are 300 eyewitnesses to the resurrection still alive during the time that 1 Corinthians was written. Which, by the way, demonstrates the early, not the late dating of the New testament.

Paul is not talking about some secret that he and a few others know, that nobody else knows. Paul is not speaking about men who are wielding their own personal authority, because of information that they have, to which others have no access. Paul is speaking about events that took place in public, in the open. The Gospel that we preach is a historical Gospel. The Gospel that we preach is a Gospel of things that actually took place. The Gospel is real, it is historical. Enough already with the idea that the Gospel doesn’t necessarily have to be true, if it just changes your life. These are historical events. In fact, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most well attested event in all of antiquity. If we can’t trust the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can’t trust anything form antiquity. Over 300 eyewitnesses still alive at the time of his writing.

C. #3rd piece of evidence- Personal Evidence. he appeared also to me, for I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But, by the grace of God, I am what  I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder  than any of them. Though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me, whether it was I or they, so we preached , so you believed.” Connecting this argument from the argument of authority: What evidence? (1)Scriptural evidence. The Bible foretold these events that would occur. (2)Eyewitness evidence. That there are individuals who saw this resurrected Christ, after His resurrection. (3)Personal evidence. That I saw this resurrected Christ, after His resurrection.

Note, that Paul does not take his own, isolated experience, and argue solely from that isolated experience. That’s not the power of the Gospel. The power of the Gospel is not that I’ve been changed. What is the difference between you and the thousand other people who’ve been changed by a thousand other things. Be careful here. Her’s what Paul is not doing. Paul is not giving us a pattern whereby we argue first from those evidences, and then from our own testimony. His testimony is different form your testimony. Galatians 2. At the end of Galatians chapter 1, Paul goes back to the other apostles after 3 years of being instructed and confirms his Gospel. This is one of the most fascinating and overlooked pieces of the New Testament. „Then, after 14 years, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (the apostles) the Gospel that I had proclaimed among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I had not run in vain.” (28:00)

3. The argument from logic

(33:00) Here’s where he gets right into the face of his opposition. „Now, if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?” There’s the question. Here’s the problem. There are people who, evidently are hanging around the Corinthian church and like some aspect of what they’re experiencing. But, they don’t like this one aspect, where the Gospel that is being preached rubs up against their personal philosophy, that doesn’t allow for the concept of the resurrection. So, what they want is a resurrectionless Christianity. They want a Christianity that will fit within the context and confines of their presuppositions.

So, Paul says- argument form authority- „Here’s what I preached to you as an apostle. Argument from evidence- here’s what God has verified and validated historically in the open. Now, he gets to the argument from logic, and he says, „There are some of you, who on the one hand want to say that you are attached, but on the other hand want to say that your personal philosophy doesn’t allow for the concept of resurrection.” Now, we all question something. (Some) just don’t like the idea of hell…and so, we want a Christianity without hell. We don’t like the idea of judgmentalism. So we have a Christianity that doesn’t speak the truth to sin. We don’t like the idea of holiness or righteousness, so we have a christianity that doesn’t require it. We don’t like the idea of the church. So we have a christianity that’s absent of it. And so on, and so on… Watch what he does. There are 7 things that must follow, if the concept of the resurrection is not true (35:00).

But, if there is no resurrection of the dead:

  1. then, not even Christ has been raised. That is brilliant, because He just demonstrated form authority and form evidence that Christ has been raised.
  2. and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain and your faith is vain. There are people out there who want to pick the supernatural parts of the Gospel out. They don’t like the supernatural parts. And so, they don’t believe in the virgin birth, they don’t believe in the resurrection, But, at the same time they say, „But, your Christian faith is good. You do great things in the community. Good for you”. Paul says, if there’s no such thing as resurrection our preaching is vain. In other words, it’s empty and it’s useless.
  3. your faith is vain. Your faith is useless because the resurrection is central to the Gospel that we preach. You just gutted the Gospel. You’ve got a Gospel that’s another Gospel, which is no Gospel at all.
  4. we are even found to be misrepresenting God, that we are testifying about God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise. If it is true that the dead are not raised, for if the dead are not raised,  not even Christ has been raised. If there’s no such thing as a resurrection, you just called me a liar.
  5. and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you’re still in your sins. If Christ has not been raised, there is no justification. He died for our sins, He rose again for our justification. If Christ has not been raised, there is no penal substitutionary atonement. If Christ has not been raised, that means He went into the ground with something that would keep Him there. The only thing that would keep Him there is sin. If Christ has not been raised, He was a sinner and no one has satisfied the righteous wrath of God, on your behalf and mine. And, you and I are still in our sins, and we are only waiting, marking time until we face almighty God and are consumed by Him, the consuming fire. You have offended a Holy and a righteous God and you have no hope. He will crush you. He must. Justice cries out for it. From the time that you were a child, one of the first concepts you learned is „that’s not fair”. Because everything on the inside of you cries out for it. And for God not to consume you , would not be fair. For God to give you a pass, without the shedding of blood, and the remission of your sin through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
  6. And if those also who have fallen asleep in Jesus Christ have perished, if in Christ, we had hoped in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. „I want to hold on to christianity, but I don’t like this resurrection thing.
  7. You and I are the most pitiful lot in mankind because we believed the biggest lie that was ever perpetrated.

Here’s the wonderful thing that happens, because of the way Paul situates his argument: If there is no such thing as a resurrection from the dead, these 7 things are true. The first one has already been proven, which means, not only are you wrong, but all 7 of these things are flipped. There is such thing as resurrection from the dead, which means:

  • Christ has been raised
  • our preaching is not vain, but it is the power of God unto salvation
  • our faith is not vain. But by grace you are saved, through faith
  • which means I am not a liar, I am a truth teller
  • which means that you and I are still not in our sins. Christ died for sins, once for all. The just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us back to God. All, we like sheep had gone astray. Each of us had turned to our own way, but God had laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. I am not in my sins, I am redeemed form my sins. I am cleansed form my sins. Those who had gone on before me did not die vain, hopeless deaths. But, absent from the body, they are present with the Lord.

The Gospel matters. The content of the Gospel matters. It all matters. Do I have to know all there is about the Gospel? I’ll spend eternity  and not know everything there is to know about the Gospel. But, what does it mean to believe the Gospel savingly?  It means to believe what we have received and whatever it is that we’ll continue to receive.

Argument from authority- we believe because the apostles said it was so
Argument from evidence- We believe it because God did it in the open and there is evidence verifying what He did
Argument from logic- Why do we believe it? Because logically it makes absolutely no sense to believe otherwise. Because, there are things that not, only are we not willing to accept, but things that literally cannot be the case, because Christ indeed has been raised.

Ultimately the Gospel is the only thing that will matter when those of us will face a righteous God and will have to give an account. It is only through the Gospel, that the account we give is that our debt has been paid in full, by the One who lived, and died, and rose again. And is coming again, to judge the living and the dead. And to redeem that which was put on deposit.

Original video here – http://new.livestream.com(could not import this video)

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4 comentarii (+add yours?)

  1. The Master's Slave
    feb. 10, 2013 @ 09:42:59

    Reblogged this on The Master's Slave.

  2. Delight in Truth
    feb. 10, 2013 @ 16:07:41

    Great message. I had a sermon last Easter from this passage and I touched on some of the same points! Different situation, same Spirit…

    • rodi
      feb. 10, 2013 @ 22:56:34

      That is the Spirit! Sometimes I see the same message in the American church, being preached at the same time in the Romanian churches at about the same time, and it blesses me to be able to ascertain the way God is speaking to us this way. And it’s one of the (many) blessings of being bilingual. 🙂

  3. Trackback: Voddie Baucham – Last sentence in the Book of Romans | agnus dei - english + romanian blog
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