Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Difference between the Gospel Message and the Offer (or Promise) of Eternal Life

The historical story and evidentiary scriptural facts that lay behind the provision of eternal life by Jesus Christ is called the “gospel”, or good news. The gospel as articulated by Paul speaks of Christ’s sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection, as well as His appearances to various disciples and others. Supplementary elements may be included within the telling of the gospel in order to customize the message to the recipients, such as developing the historical Person of Jesus to better understand Him. The Pauline gospel is expressed in this manner:

1 Corinthians 15:1-5
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.
NKJV

Here in 1 Corinthians we see that the gospel message is that Christ died for our sins, was buried, rose again from the dead, and appeared alive from the dead to those who could give testimony to that fact. Contained within this message is the work of Christ that made provision for our eternal life. By virtue of His death and resurrection, He is the Guarantor of eternal life to the believer in Him for it.

The gospel message is the critical story, that gives among other things, a description of how our salvation was provided for, yet it is not the conscious and necessary object of saving faith that bestows eternal life. If you look carefully at the aforementioned passage in the Greek, you will find that ‘through’ (Greek: dia) the gospel you are saved and not by faith in the gospel (are you saved). A more correct translation would be “… I declare to you the gospel… through which also you are saved.” This is a critical distinction. It was through Christ’s work that is proclaimed in the gospel message, vis a vis the death and resurrection of Christ, that our salvation was secured, in other words, provided for. Believing the gospel has never saved anyone; faith in the gospel never imparts eternal life. It is Christ who imparts life to whom He wills (Jn. 5:21).

By virtue of the work of Christ that is heralded in the gospel message, the death and resurrection accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf, God is able to freely bestow eternal life to mankind. The vicarious, substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross has freed God to unconditionally accept any human. The purpose of this atonement was to remove all barriers to God’s acceptance of the sinner. God’s justice is satisfied in the sense that He can now confer acceptance upon those sinners who accept the provision of the promise of eternal life through faith into Jesus Christ for it.

The offer of eternal life is the offer to receive an absolutely free gift (John 4:10; Rom. 5:15-18; 6:23; Eph. 2:8, 9). The gift of eternal life, and thus heaven, is a gift that only need be received by the sinner to be possessed. The avenue of receiving this gift is faith in Jesus Christ (Jn. 3:16; 6:47). Jesus Christ is the Guarantor of eternal life to all who believe in Him for it (Jn. 11:25-27).

There is a distinction between the gospel message and the offer of eternal life which is based upon that message. The gospel message gives evidence on why Jesus Christ can be trusted for eternal life, including an articulation on how salvation was secured and provided for, among other evidences. The promise of eternal life offers the absolutely free gift of eternal life based solely on one’s faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Guarantor of eternal life to all who believe in Him for it. It is simple… “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

There is dispute among scholars what exactly is to be believed in order to receive eternal life. It can be put into no simpler terms that the object of saving faith is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the content of that object, is that Christ guarantees eternal life based upon faith in Him. Faith that Christ will answer your prayers, that He will deliver you from your temporal problems, or that He exists/existed is not the correct content that will bring eternal life. It is believing in Jesus for the sole purpose of receiving eternal life that salvation is received.

Some claim that one must believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus in order to be saved as well as faith in Christ. That is not true. The gospel message articulates, among other things, how provision was made for the absolutely free gift of eternal life, but it is the Person of Jesus Christ who dispenses that gift based upon faith in Him for it. The only book written in the Bible with the express written purpose of being evangelistic is the Gospel of John (John 20:30, 31). Within the confines of the book, the one and only requirement given is faith and the one and only object of that faith is Christ. Thus the reformation mantra ‘Faith alone in Christ alone.’ Nowhere in this Gospel does it state that there is some other object or content to saving faith other than that of the Lord Jesus Christ in His promise. If John gives no other requirement to receive eternal life other than faith in Christ, why must we insist on adding more conditions?

One may ask why then preach the gospel? It proclaims the love and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. When one learns of the incredible payment Christ made in our behalf, it helps persuade us that Christ is faithful and worthy of our faith and reliance upon for our eternal destiny.

Man has something in him that tends to complicate simple things. Throughout the Christian era we have seen added provisos and conditions heaped on to the simple condition of “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” The offer of eternal life is simple and free, yet, as is abundantly clear in theological circles today, that just doesn’t sit well with many!

5 Comments:

Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

People really do get confused on this one.

June 25, 2007 1:02 AM  
Blogger Rose~ said...

Well, that was very well-written and I appreciated it. Thanks for explaining yourself so well.

June 26, 2007 2:15 PM  
Blogger Lou Martuneac said...

Antonio:

You wrote, “Some claim that one must believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus in order to be saved as well as faith in Christ. That is not true. The gospel message articulates, among other things, how provision was made for the absolutely free gift of eternal life, but it is the Person of Jesus Christ who dispenses that gift based upon faith in Him for it. The only book written in the Bible with the express written purpose of being evangelistic is the Gospel of John (John 20:30, 31). Within the confines of the book, the one and only requirement given is faith and the one and only object of that faith is Christ. Thus the reformation mantra ‘Faith alone in Christ alone.’ Nowhere in this Gospel does it state that there is some other object or content to saving faith other than that of the Lord Jesus Christ in His promise. If John gives no other requirement to receive eternal life other than faith in Christ, why must we insist on adding more conditions?”

The first bold print- It is not that “some claim” it is the Bible that makes this clear statement.

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation,” (Romans 10:9-10).

That is what the Bible says, “believe…that God hath raised Him from the dead…” I believe this is a very clear statement from the Bible. For you to make the,”…this is not true” statement really puts you at odds with Romans 10:9-10.

The second bold print- You are fixated on John’s gospel as if this is only place in Scripture where the plan of salvation can be found. It appears you are coming (or have come) to the place where you view the Gospel of John as trumping any other book, passage or verse in the Bible on salvation.


LM

June 27, 2007 3:34 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Hi Lou, thanks for coming.

Almost everyone who professes any form of Christianity (except liberals!) believes that Jesus was raised from the dead. Does that make them saved? I doubt that you or I would say so. It seems obvious that this is Pauline shorthand for justification truth as indicated in earlier chapters.

Rom 4:23-25
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
NKJV

Paul does not mean to say that simple belief in the resurrection saves, and this is confirmed by the obvious reference to justification in 10a ("believes unto rigtheousness"). Thus to believe that God raised Christ from the dead really means here, for Paul, to believe in Him as the one who is the grounds for our justification before God.
This is functionally equivalent to believing that Jesus guarantees eternal life to the believer as presented in John.

Unless a person holds that everyone who believes that God raised Jesus from the dead is eternally saved, the meaning that I have proposed here is the one suggested in the immediate, as well as broader, context.

But please remember a point of logic: Even if everyone who believes in the resurrection is saved, it does not follow that the one who just believes that Jesus provides eternal life is not. The positive affirmation only entails a negative if Paul says: ONLY THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN THE RESSURECTION ARE SAVED. On any reading he does not say this.

Antonio

June 27, 2007 5:25 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Antonio,

Thank you for your wonderful explanation of the gospel. You said---
"Believing the gospel has never saved anyone; faith in the gospel never imparts eternal life. It is Christ who imparts life to whom He wills (Jn. 5:21)."
Your further comments helped me tremendously.

So I understand NOW that it's WRONG to say--- "People need to believe the gospel and be saved." OR---
"Believe the gospel" for eternal life.

I understand that you're showing us that the gospel (ACCORDING TO THE WAY PAUL USES THE TERM) is the FULL story of Christ death and resurrection. But the offer of eternal life that Jesus makes to all who believe in Him alone is the SPECIFIC TRUTH that saves eternally. Paul is not giving an evangelistic invitation in his gospel. He is giving the history of what Jesus Christ did to PROVIDE for our salvation. We couldn't be eternally saved without the crosswork of Christ. That's what Paul is proclaiming. He is not telling us the specific truth that must be believed to receive eternal life.

So, the specific truth that must be believed to have eternal life is not the gospel as Paul uses the term. Am I correct? Paul's gospel takes in the whole story of Christ's death and resurrection.

If I'm right, then THIS NEEDS TO BE EXPLAINED AND TAUGHT OVER and OVER IN OTHER FORUMS AND BY OTHER TEACHERS AS WELL!!!!! It's kind of shocking when you first hear it because we've always thought that believing the "gospel" saves. I think I understand now what you're saying. You're not de-emphasizing the cross work of Christ. You're just pointing out that biblically it's not believing the "gospel" that saves (according to the way Paul uses the term).

***The gospel is the good news of what Christ did to PROVIDE for our salvation. It's not the PARTICULAR TRUTH that must be believed to have eternal life.***

If Jesus Christ hadn't died on the cross and removed the sin barrier that separated us from God, then we could believe in Jesus all day long and never have eternal life. But BECAUSE Jesus died on the cross for our sins (removing the sin barrier) we HAVE eternal life when we believe in Him alone for it. Understanding all the implications of the cross and resurrection may come later for some people. Remember that Peter, the other apostles, the Samaritan woman, and Nicodemus all had eternal life BEFORE they understood the cross work of Christ. The offer that was made to them in John is the exact same offer that is made to us today in John. The book was written AFTER the cross. The stated purpose of the book of John (the signs in the book) are evangelistic.... to bring a lost person to Christ. In John, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, nothing changed in HOW we are saved . That's biblical. That can't be denied.

Believing in Christ would not bring eternal salvation IF He hadn't made provision for it. So the gospel is the PROVISION that allows God to save us........ when we believe in Him for that gift of eternal life (not believe in the gospel.... the entire truth of HOW He provided). I NOW understand that distinction. But others need to get it also, or confusion and division will be wide spread. SO FREE GRACE TEACHERS WHO GET THIS....... TEACH IT. WRITE ABOUT IT. PROCLAIM IT~!!! HELP PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND. IT'S GOING TO TAKE A LOT OF PRAYER AND A LOT OF TEACHING. The battle is the Lord's!!!

GES is already being attacked as preaching a "crossless gospel" which we know is ridiculous. But those doing the attacking don't understand what the issue REALLY is. They've totally misunderstood--- some of them. Perhaps some are deliberately closing their mind to this truth. Only God knows.

For those who might be reading my comments, I just want to say that I agree with Antonio and GES on this issue because I see it as biblical. But I also want everyone who thinks that we're proclaiming a "crossless gospel" to know that this is NOT true. I BELIEVE the gospel that Paul preached. I BELIEVE that Jesus died for my sins and rose from the grave. I will sing about His crosswork and resurrection as long as I have breath. I teach it to my grandchildren. I have no words to express my gratitude for what Jesus Christ did for me on the cross of Calvary. Without His work on the cross, I couldn't be eternally saved. So it's wrong to say we (GES and those of us who support GES) are proclaiming a crossless gospel.

In fact, I'm always buying my grandchildren stuffed animals that are lambs because I want to reinforce in their hearts and minds that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. My grandchildren are taught New Tribes Mission chronological teaching for children. It's wonderful. So those who say that we who understand this truth are preaching a "crossless gospel" need to be called to task. God is not pleased with that. They will give an account for their words at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

I hope people are getting this truth.....
The gospel as Paul proclaimed it was the story of the cross work of Christ and His resurrection. It was the truth of HOW God provided for our salvation. AWESOME! He is not giving an evangelistic invitation by telling people if they believe the "gospel" (the whole story of God's provision) they will receive eternal life. Many people I'm sure came to that place while listening to Paul preach, but it's because they came to that PLACE where they understood that by believing in Jesus they would have everlasting life.
But there are many "religious" people who believe that Jesus died on a cross for them and rose again, yet are still lacking life (eternal life, God's life) because they haven't yet believed in Jesus alone for eternal life. He is the only way. Believe in the One whom God sent (John 3:16) and you will have everlasting life. Praise God!

Thankful for His wonderful free gift,
Diane

July 27, 2007 10:30 PM  

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