Justin Perdue: Hi, this is Justin. Today on Theocast, we’re going to talk about what is and is not the gospel. There are a number of things that are talked about in the church today that are offered essentially as the good news of Jesus Christ, but they are not. These things would include repentance, faith, obedience, discipleship, and surrender all to Christ, just to name a few. We’re going to talk about each of these, and then seek to clarify what exactly is the good news of Jesus Christ for sinners. We hope this is encouraging. We hope it’s helpful and clarifying. Stay tuned.
Jon Moffitt: The next two episodes are going to be very passionate. I can’t ever think when we’re not passionate, but it always just feels passionate. But today is definitely one of those ones that you walk in and you drop this comment on any of these pastors and we are going to have some thoughts, and they are not going to be lighthearted. They’re going to be pretty heavy.
So today we’re going to talk about what we pile onto the gospel and we titled it What Is Not the Gospel. You would think, “Is that really necessary?” It’s almost like saying, “What is the moon? What is not the moon? What is the sun and what is not the sun?” You would think it’s obvious, but unfortunately, it’s not. It’s not obvious in our day and age because there’s been so much clutter that has been put on top of the gospel. So, today what we’re going to try and do is, as you do in wrestling, we’re going to go and fight up, break up the fight, and pull everybody off and clarify here.
According to Paul, he says in 1 Corinthians that the gospel is the power of God. The gospel is the power of God in that if you are going to see God’s power, you have to know what the gospel is. Many people don’t experience the joy of resting in Christ and really see God’s power at work because the gospel they’re believing in is confused, diluted, it’s grayed out at points, and most people can’t find rest because they are not assured by whatever gospel it is that they are believing in.
We’re going to go through a list of things that have been piled on top of the gospel. And then at the end, we’re going to talk to you about, clarify, protect, and put a fence around what is the gospel. Justin, let’s start with one of the most popular today, and often the most confusing, of what people assume the gospel to be—but it’s not.
Justin Perdue: The first thing that we want to start with in terms of what the gospel is not is repentance. You will hear many people today say things kind of like this: that the good news is that we repent of sin and thereby are saved, that repentance is the good news, repent and believe and things will go well for you. We’re here today to clarify a number of things, including this one, that repentance itself is not the good news. Repentance is something that happens to us. Repentance, biblically speaking, is a change of mind about a number of things: a change of mind about God and what He requires, a change of mind about ourselves and our position before God, a change of mind about Christ and what he has done for us. But repentance itself is not the good news. You hear a lot of language in many contexts—Calvinistic and otherwise—that will exalt repentance to this place of preeminence where this is what the Christian life is. Like to be a Christian is to repent. It is so synthesized and woven into the fabric of what the gospel even is that it’s at best confusing, at worst damning.
Jon Moffitt: You hear verses all the time saying, “Repent, repent.” The Bible literally says, “Repent and believe, and you will be forgiven of your sins.” And I would also say, “Repent and be baptized” is what it says as well.
We have to look at all of Scripture when it comes down to a specific area. In certain contexts when it says repent and believe, he’s talking about those who are trusting in the Law for their salvation versus trusting in the person of Jesus standing in front of them—like God or salvation in the flesh standing in front of them. You have to understand that the difference is don’t believe in your own works for salvation; believe in Christ’s works for salvation.
But even that, in order to believe in Christ, it doesn’t matter if you’re turning from sin or turning from another false belief which is sinful. You can’t do that on your own. What we would say is systematic theology here is very important because the Bible, the way in which it is written and designed, you have to look at all of Scripture in all of context. When someone quotes a verse and says, “This is what the Bible says so I’m just going to believe it,” you, brothers, are changing the gospel.
Justin Perdue: A really quick interjection by way of clarification: when we’re talking about the gospel or the good news, what we mean by that—and we’re going to be clear about that later—is the good news is the thing that saves you. The good news is the thing that saves sinners from their sin and reconciles us to a holy God. Repentance is not that thing. Repentance itself does not save people.
Jimmy Buehler: If the listener has not read the book The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson, may I recommend that to you? Because in that book, the author, Sinclair Ferguson, Scottish Presbyterian, he is essentially talking about this very thing. This is a controversy called the Marrow Controversy that went on centuries ago that surrounded this very issue. Does somebody need to forsake sin in order to come to Christ? I can just hear the alarm bells going off in people’s minds, but essentially what it centered on was almost like this chicken and egg analogy: what comes first—is it God’s grace or is it our repentance? Which of these comes first?
I know this is heavily nuanced, and so we need to be pretty careful in how we’re speaking about this, but often I think people believe functionally that it is our work, our repentance, our turning from sin that generates God’s love, affection, and grace for us. What we are trying to say is that is actually the other way around: that it is God’s grace toward us, it is God’s work via the Holy Spirit, via the preaching of the good news about Jesus Christ to us, that generates repentance as a grace in the work or in the life of the believer.
Justin Perdue: Is there anything that we need to do in order to come to Christ? The answer to that question is no.
Jon Moffitt: Going back to something that Jimmy said a couple of weeks ago on a podcast on pietism, God has done His part and basically He has presented you the goods, and now basically, if you want them, you’ve got to clean up your life and come get them. If we’re going to change the word, repentance is to clean up your life and come get Jesus and you can be saved. That is not good news. That’s really bad news. Because in order to clean yourself up to make yourself acceptable, you have to pay for your sins. You can’t do that. To be clear, we have to be careful when we take the Bible literally—you’re taking a phrase literally out of its context of the whole Bible. Because if you look at what all of Scripture has to say, repentance is absolutely part of the Christian life, but it’s what comes when the Spirit does that to you, that God repents you. You can absolutely combine those together: if you believe in Christ, you’re going to repent. So, repent and believe is a true statement, but you have to understand it in its context. But when you pile repentance on before—a change of heart and the Spirit coming in and regenerating—if you require it beforehand, you are saying there is a position you must take in order to receive grace. Therefore, grace only meets you at a certain point.
Jimmy Buehler: Chad Bird in his book—I believe it’s Night Driving—he talks about how God repents us, that God is the one that is doing the work in our lives in order for this to come to fruition. If you think about, specifically, how Ephesians 2 speaks of the person who does not yet know Christ, that they are spiritually dead, that their spiritual faculties have been so deeply affected by sin and the fall, to require that kind of person to do some sort of repenting in order that God’s grace would be placed upon them is absurd. We don’t ask dead people to do anything. So, repentance is a fruit of God’s work via the Holy Spirit by the preaching of the gospel in the life of a believer. I know that might be shocking for some people to hear, but repentance is a fruit.
Jon Moffitt: To add to that, Jimmy, can I say that we cannot fall into the ditch of the either-or? “Well, you guys are saying repentance isn’t necessary.” That is ridiculous. That is not what we’re saying. It’s just that you’ve got to get the order correct: Christ brings us to life and we repent.
Justin Perdue: Repentance, without doubt, will be there. At the same time, it is not the gospel.
This next one is going to perhaps be even more controversial. Not only is repentance not the gospel, but faith is not the gospel. This is confusing. So, the Scripture will use the phrase, “We’re saved, not by works, we’re saved by faith.” But what the apostle Paul, in that instance, does not mean is that faith in and of itself saves. Faith in and of itself has never saved anybody, and it never will. We are saved by the object of our faith, who is Jesus Christ. Faith is the means through which the work and merit of Christ are applied to us.
Just to be really clear to you on faith and repentance, this seems like a reasonable time to say this: I think a lot of times, faith and repentance are pulled apart in the ways that people talk about them in the church. It’s like they can exist independently and biblically. I just don’t think that’s true. If we understand the definition of repentance like we’ve been framing it—it’s a change of mind about these various things—it’s quite clear that repentance and faith go together. Both of them are produced by the work of God in us. Both of them are a result of the grace of God and the fruit of the new birth that God alone causes in us as we behold Christ. So, I think we do bad things, and this is probably another podcast for another day, when we separate those two: repentance and faith.
This is how repentance, in particular, ends up sounding like a work that we need to do when in reality, repentance and faith go together and they’re opposite sides of the same coin, but neither of them are the good news.
Jimmy Buehler: Something I say to our church repeatedly—and they might be getting tired of it by now—but we are never saved by the quality of our faith, but we are always saved by the object of our faith, which is Jesus Christ.
Often, when we read the New Testament and we look at the people that believed in Christ and believed in Christ, we want to… Hebrews 11 says their faith is commended. We often associate that this person is a man of strong faith, or this woman has a strong faith. I understand what people are trying to say there, that their life is a model for perhaps younger Christians to follow. But at the end of the day, you look at Hebrews 11, and the people that are commended for their faith committed some pretty horrible sins and had some pretty atrocious decisions littered throughout their life.
The object of our faith is always Jesus Christ. We are not saved by our strong faith, we are saved by a strong Savior in whom our faith is in. To say that the gospel is faith, that you just believe—that’s actually not good news. The good news has to be about someone to believe in, which is Jesus Christ.
Jon Moffitt: If I were to tell you that we all believe you have to drink water—there are three things you need in order to live: you got to drink, you got to eat, and you got to sleep. If you remove one of those, you’re going to die. Period. If you say, “I believe that water will keep me alive.” Believing in the water won’t keep you alive. The water itself has to keep you alive, but believing in the water is not going to do it. You actually have to put your faith in something that actually is going to accomplish the thing that you said, and then it has to do it.
What we’re trying to separate is that some people just talk about finding their assurance in their faith. As Jimmy said earlier, your faith will be weak at times, and your faith can be strong at times. When someone describes to me a strong Christian, I think of someone who is really trusting in Christ and nothing else—that, to me, is a strong Christian, versus someone who is weak in faith meaning that there’s some doubt, they’re wavering, their faith in the substance of Christ—our object—is not very strong. The illustration I’ve used a thousand times is my dear mother-in-law is just terrified to fly. She’s afraid she’s going to fall. Her faith is really weak. So, if I’m sitting next to my mother-in-law in a plane and we’re flying, and we fly safely, we get from point A to point B, was her safety called into question based upon her faith in that plane? No, our faith did not get us from point A to point B, the plane did—and that’s gospel. The gospel is Jesus Christ saving sinners, not Jesus Christ looking to someone’s faith saying, “Oh, your faith is strong, therefore you are saved,” or, “Because you have faith, therefore you are saved.” It sounds like we’re splitting hairs, but this is so important because people often lose heart because they have weak faith. A weak faith is not a weak Savior—that just means that your heart needs to be renewed in Christ.
Justin Perdue: We’ve already talked about repentance, we’ve talked about faith. The next thing that is not the gospel is obedience. Sometimes people will look at the words of Christ like, “If you love me, you’ll keep my commandments.” Language like that the apostles will even use. John uses language like that at points: to love God is to essentially do what He says. So, people will talk about obedience being the good news, hitching my wagon to obedience, and those kinds of things. Even the transformation of life falls under this heading, too. The transformation of our lives is not the good news. The fact that I’m not like I used to be is not the gospel.
Jimmy Buehler: We like to use the phrase—even though I don’t think Jon likes it anymore—to kind of poke them in the eye.
Justin Perdue: Graciously.
Jimmy Buehler: There is this trend within greater evangelicalism. It’s good hearted. I don’t want to impugn people’s motives and so on and so forth, but there is this trend within greater evangelicalism to typically, if it’s a Credo-Baptistic church, to share their testimony before they are baptized. I’m all for hearing people’s stories of how God has worked in their life, but if you notice the common thread in the way that modern Christianity has framed people and taught people how to share their testimonies, what is it that they are constantly pointing to? They’re pointing to, “I used to do this. I used to be addicted to this. I used to struggle with this. But now I don’t and now I’d like to go under the water.” As if that is the end game.
Jon Moffitt: The proof of their salvation is the evidence of some kind of change.
Jimmy Buehler: I haven’t seen a video like this in a while, but I have seen it before, where essentially it’s like the cardboard testimonies—I feel like I’m just offending people left and right now, I’m really sorry -where they would hold up the cardboard sign and say, “I used to be this,” and they flip it over and they’d say, “But now…” Well, that’s great. But here’s the problem in that: if that is the gospel we are sharing, we are in essence making a promise to people that if you believe in Jesus, you will no longer struggle with this, which may or may not be the case—and that’s not good news.
Justin Perdue: The thing that communicates in part to this transformation of life idea, for example, what we’re saying, “I used to be an alcoholic and now I’m not, and I’m coming to Christ,” or, “I used to abuse substances, and now I don’t and I’m coming to Christ,” or, “I used to be this and now I’m not, and I’m coming to Christ,” you realize there are many different belief systems and programs that exist in the world where people give the exact same testimony. There is nothing distinctly Christian about that. This is just one example of so many things in the church, in the evangelical church anyway, where there are good things talked about but you don’t need Jesus for them. You don’t have to have Christ for them because you could go about it some other way and transform your life. There are people who don’t believe in Christ at all, and are pagan in that sense of the word, whose lives have been changed by this or that discipline or this or that thought process or whatever it may be. You don’t need Jesus to get off drugs. You don’t need Jesus to quit drinking. You don’t need Jesus to stop being a serial womanizer and be a good husband. That sounds absolutely controversial to say, but you need Jesus to save you from your sins and give you righteousness.
Jon Moffitt: My children were baptized recently—my 12-year-old daughter. In our church, we give people the opportunity to speak if they would like to say something to the congregation for the encouragement of the hearer. We give them the opportunity to do that. So, my 12-year-old daughter wrote out something and it was great. We’ve had people who have come from pretty rough backgrounds whom you would hear their testimony and it’s unbelievable to see what God has done saving them. I remember when my daughter came to me and she said, “Dad, I think I really want to be baptized,” because it’s something we explain every single week with communion, the sacraments. Then she goes, “But I just don’t have a…” and she was trying to describe a transition moment to tell people about. Six months of me really encouraging her and talking with her to make sure she understood that you aren’t saved because you’ve had a transition moment. Like, “I used to really get upset at my brother and now I don’t anymore.” So, when she got up there and she read her testimony, she literally said, ” I always thought I had to have this story, and I’m reminded that without God and Christ…” and she explained the gospel. She literally said, “I’m a sinner and I’m standing in this water because I’m a sinner who was saved by Jesus.”
Justin Perdue: God gave her baptism so that she now has that story where she can look back and say, “I was baptized into Christ Jesus, and I’m united to him, and I’m his.”
Jimmy Buehler: I once was dry, but now I’m wet. That’s it.
Here’s the crazy thing. I’ve said this before, and I’ve prayed this before publicly. I don’t think I’ve ever received more pushback for a prayer than what I’m about to say, where I have prayed for the children of our church. I have prayed, “God, we ask in your grace and by your favor that our children would have particularly boring testimonies.” People give me all sorts of pushback because they want their kids’ testimonies to be exciting. If in 20 years, my Charlie, my Owen, and my Nora can say, “Lord, we can’t remember a time that we didn’t know or trust in you,” then praise God. I’ll chalk that up as a win.
Justin Perdue: Not only that. One, I don’t remember a time I wasn’t meaning to trust Christ, and two, I remember my baptism.
Jon Moffitt: And that’s decisionalism. What you’re getting into is that you have decided to follow Jesus. The sinner’s prayer probably falls into this. A lot of people who grew up with a Baptist background are pointed to deciding to follow Jesus and praying the sinner’s prayer. I’m with Jimmy. My kids—16, 14, 12, and 5-years-old—my oldest three can’t tell you when they said a prayer. We just don’t lead our kids in that way. They hear the gospel every single week. What really forces my children early on in their ages to deal with their salvation is that they saw communion happening every week, and we fix the Table and we let people know to come to the Table and receive such mercy, kindness, grace, and strength from the Father. You have to be a family member. This is a family gathering. My kids would ask, “Dad, why am I not taking communion?” It was early on. We had this opportunity to share the gospel with them over and over again. Eventually the kids were like, “I believe. When can I participate?” “Well, you need to be baptized.”
But the point of it is I didn’t walk them through a prayer and ask, “Are you deciding to follow Jesus?” I can tell you my kids have been hearing the gospel from their birth because I’ve been sharing it with them, and they’re not going to have this transition moment. As a matter of fact, my kids could fall into deep sin. We know that to be true according to Christianity. The sinner’s prayer is really dangerous and it’s not the gospel. This is one of the things that we pile on to the gospel. The sinner’s prayer is not the gospel. I can’t tell you how many people I know who come and talk to me and say, “I know I’m a Christian because I said a prayer.” It’s really sad. It’s heartbreaking because again, that’s another way of saying my faith is in the statement I said.
Justin Perdue: They’re effectively saying that the sinner’s prayer saved them; it is the thing that saved them and reconciled them to God.
Jimmy Buehler: People want to get crazy. They look at us like we’re nuts when we talk about the sacraments in that way, that God communicates grace. They claim it’s like mysticism, etc. Then all of a sudden, the sinner’s prayer—that’s where it’s at.
Jon Moffitt: I understand why people want that. It’s like this one-and-done mentality where I want to know that I did what was required in order to get in. What’s the secret passcode? I’ve got it. I’m in. That’s dangerous because, again, you’re pointing to something you did, not what Christ has done. You are not saved because you prayed a prayer. You were saved because Christ saved sinners. That’s really hard to wrap people’s minds around.
All right, I’m going to go to another one. You guys ready for this? We’re running out of time. So, you’re going to just have to do your best on this: discipleship. Discipleship is not the gospel.
Jimmy Buehler: Here’s the thing. “You might believe in Jesus, but you just don’t take the Christian life very seriously.”
Jon Moffitt: That’s not what saves you.
Jimmy Buehler: “You’re a nominal Christian. You don’t really love Jesus.”
Justin Perdue: You’re right. People there are separating faith in Christ and discipleship as though those are two different things, that a person could, in theory, believe in Jesus and not then be a disciple. I’m trying to figure out where in the world you have those categories biblically as though they’re distinct things, because the New Testament clearly speaks that to believe in Christ is to be a disciple, and that every Christian is a disciple.
Jimmy Buehler: I think we confuse discipleship with mentorship and apprenticeship. We think to be a disciple means that I get coffee with somebody once a week and share my deepest, darkest sins, and when I think I’m going to stop, and that is discipleship. When in reality, when you live and participate within the greater life of the church, your pastor, every time he preaches, is discipling you. When you go to church and you live life with people, and you need to forgive them and they need to forgive you, and you need to have hard conversations, and you need to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice, that is discipleship.
People want to pigeonhole discipleship to be mentorship and I’m all for mentorship. I’m a young guy, and the two guys that I’m looking at on the screen right now, these two guys help mentor me and they help disciple me. But at the same time, in the same way, there are people within my church that I wouldn’t consider to be my mentor but they disciple me in me living life with them.
Jon Moffitt: It’s a cultural word that we often get very confused and we have piled on. We have turned discipleship into something that is just biblically not there. We assume discipleship is to be one of the 12—and Jesus had more than 12 disciples. That’s the confusing part that people don’t understand. Even when he says go out into all the world and make disciples, the concept back then was a follower of one’s teaching. You were identified as a follower of a specific teacher, and you are being disciplined by him. You are embracing his teaching, embracing his instruction.
What people assume that means, and going back to what Jimmy was saying, is we take it to the next level: discipleship is you get in the gate as a Christian, and then you become the real deal when you’re a disciple. If you believe the gospel, you are a follower of the teachings of Christ. Therefore, you’re a disciple. Like you said, there’s, there’s not two paths.
Justin Perdue: It’s almost framed like those who “simply believe in Jesus,” some of them will be saved, but not all of them—but the disciples will be saved. Those who are really serious, the disciples, all of them will be saved without fail. But those who simply believe in Jesus, many of them will be lost. It really is unhelpful because then it comes across sounding like discipleship is what makes one a genuine believer as opposed to trusting in Christ.
Jon Moffitt: The confusion came in when they were finding their identity in who they were being discipled by. Culturally speaking, this is a thing. It’s a thing to follow someone and say, “I am of this person.” But it’s confusing to assume that it’s this next step level or that real assurance is found by being a disciple of Jesus, and real discipleship is forsaking all, which I think is what we’re getting into.
Justin Perdue: Absolutely. One very quick clarifying remark. You’ll notice that a number of these things that we’ve mentioned already are what we might call outflows of the gospel or implications of the gospel, but they are not the gospel itself. Faith, repentance, obedience, discipleship, etc. flow out of the gospel and come from it, but they are not the gospel itself, and that distinction makes all the difference.
This last one that we want to talk about also may offend some. I think it’s helpful, though, for us to draw this one into the light because many of us have heard this before, and it is frankly a form of slavery and bondage, and it is a damning reality.
Many people will say to surrender all to Jesus is the good news. At the risk of sounding like a shock jock, if to surrender all to Christ is the gospel, then we are all damned. Because none of us have ever done it. That’s the point of the rich young ruler. When Jesus asks him to prove his love to God and neighbor, he can’t do it. That’s what Christ asks him: prove your love for God and your love for neighbor by selling your stuff and following me and the man walks away dejected.
Jimmy Buehler: I’ve said this to my church last week that as you continue living the everyday Christian life, every single day, what you are going to find is that there is another deep recess and another dark corner of your heart that you are unaware of, or you could say an area that you have not surrendered to Christ. However, the good news of the gospel is that in the same way that our wickedness and our sin goes far deeper into our hearts than we could ever possibly imagine, god’s grace and Jesus’s righteousness also goes down into those deep places. It has to be that way because otherwise, we are condemned. Because if my salvation is banked on the fact of the quality of me surrendering all to Jesus, or treasuring Jesus above all, or loving Jesus more than I love this, my goodness; that just denies the whole simul justus et peccator. That denies that I am both simultaneously saint and sinner. This is Roman 7. The good news of Romans 7 is Romans 8:1: that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Jon Moffitt: I would say there’s a confusion here and I’m going to make a statement. If this is new to you, go back into our episodes. They’re all available. Go find the Law-gospel podcasts. But this is a confusion of the Law and the gospel. A total surrender to God is impossible.
When Jesus says, “Unless you forsake your father and mother, your wife, your siblings and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.” Every person should hear that and say, “Then no one can be Jesus’ disciples.” That’s what you should hear, but it’s not. What you hear is, “Oh man, I need to work on that.” You just lowered what Jesus said. Jesus didn’t make it relatively; he says you have to. Unless you sell everything.
What we don’t understand is that when Jesus receives the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”, the inheritance is standing in front of you. Your path to inheritance is standing in front of you, and then you ask the man what you must do. He says, “Well, if you want to know what you have to do, I’ll tell you what you have to do. But if you want to know how you get eternal life, come to me.” That’s Law versus the gospel. The gospel is faith in Jesus, the Law is to obey and do something to receive. That’s Law. When you say to me that a total surrender is how you receive salvation, you should walk away completely devastated because there is no one in the history of the world who fully surrendered themselves to the Father, except for Jesus.
Justin Perdue: We’re about to pivot briefly to talk about what the gospel is. I want to illustrate the fact that this conversation we’re having is important. I put up a post months ago on social media about how emphasizing justification, emphasizing God’s declaration of us, that we’re righteous in His Son, actually leads to sanctification, growth, holiness, and maturity in Christ. That was very controversial for many people. To emphasize our justification leading to our sanctification, people reacted, “No way. In order to grow in the faith, we need to emphasize sanctification.” This was the response of some people: Romans 12 is just as much a part of the gospel as Romans 3.
Romans 12 is a number of exhortations that Paul gives that are great in terms of how Christians are to live together in the church. Every man around these microphones would uphold all of those exhortations from Romans 12. But to say that those exhortations are just as much a part of the gospel as the Romans 3 content, where the righteousness of God has now been revealed apart from the Law for all those who have faith in Christ, and the righteousness of God has been given as a gift to those who believe in Jesus, that God might be just and the justifier of those who have faith in Christ. To say that those are equally the gospel, first of all, is flat out insane. It is not good news in the slightest, because if it’s true, then heaven will be empty. No one will be there because none of us can ever do these things well enough to earn God’s favor and to be then declared righteous on the basis of what we do or how well we perform.
This is the kind of confusion that exists out there because of some of the teaching that’s out there in the Evangelical church. That’s why this conversation, like Jon said at the beginning, may seem like, “Duh, we know what the gospel is.” Maybe we do, but there is all this clutter and confusion that’s been thrown on top of it, and saints are harmed as a result.
Jon Moffitt: This is almost like saying maintaining your house is how you gain your house. You don’t maintain a house so you can buy it. You buy the house and then part of owning a house is to maintain it. This is what we do is salvation. It’s like somehow the maintenance plan is the gaining plan. No, Christ gives us our salvation. Then he says there are some things that you’re going to do now that you’re a child.
The gospel is done. Everything about the good news of the gospel is done. There’s no potentiality. There’s no future. I would say the good news is history because it’s telling you the facts, not the potential. The facts are what Christ has done on your behalf for you. When Jesus says it is finished, he means he finished the work required so that all sinners can be saved through him. This is the difference between good news: it’s not potential, it’s done. It’s not do, it’s done.
Jimmy Buehler: This is classic Luther. This is the Heidelberg Disputation. The Law says “do this”, and it is never done; the gospel says “believe this” and everything is already done. The gospel is declarative. It’s objective. It’s outside of us. In its original context, the word euangelion, Greek, where we get the word “gospel” meaning good news, as a military term. If a King won a battle, he would send a runner back to the city to say euangelion or good news. The victory has been achieved. When we declare the gospel, that’s what we are declaring. We are declaring that the victory over sin and death has been achieved. Believe, trust, and rest in that reality.
Justin Perdue: Receive what has been done for you on your behalf. You, brothers, are both saying wonderful things. The gospel is objective; it’s outside of us. It’s not affected by anything that we think, feel, or do. It’s declarative. It’s done. The work of Christ is finished. It’s news, it’s facts, it’s history. We should actually listen to ourselves when we call the gospel the good news. That ought to instruct us on how to present it. All we’re doing is heralding stuff that’s happened and stuff in particular that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, has done. Then all that is left for us to do is to receive his work, his merit, and his righteousness.
Jon Moffitt: Can I say that sometimes when I hear someone give the gospel, I get done listening and I go, “There is nothing good about what you just said.” That is not good news.
Justin Perdue: Basically, you gave me no news at all. You gave me a bunch of instructions, but you didn’t tell me anything that’s actually been done.
Jon Moffitt: Then you gave me a contract, is what you gave me. It’s contractual.
Jimmy Buehler: Thanks for the list.
Justin Perdue: The last thing I’ll say as a parting shot across the bow, as we make our way over to the members’ podcast, is you will also hear a lot of language in the church these days about how we need to live the gospel, or we need to do the gospel in the church. Again, this is a symptom of a larger systemic problem. We’re here to say that there’s one person who has ever done the gospel and his name is Jesus, and we trust and rest in him. There’s nothing left to do. We receive what’s been done. Christ is our righteousness, he is our hope and stay in the ground of our assurance and peace before God today and forever.
So, now we’re going to transition into our members’ podcast. What we’re going to do over there is apply some of the things that we’ve been talking about. We said a lot really quickly and you might be feeling a little bit of that fire hose effect. We’re going to marinate on this a little bit, the three of us, and give you some handles. Hopefully we’ll flesh this out and unpack this for you in ways that will be helpful and encouraging as you think about the gospel—what it is, what it isn’t, and what that means, frankly, for your Christian life in the local church.
If you would like to listen in on this conversation that we’re about to have, and you don’t quite know what the members’ podcast is, you can find more information about how you can partner with our ministry and get access to this content over at our website, theocast.org.
We look forward to speaking with many of you in just a moment in the members’ area. We look forward to having another conversation with all of you.