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It Matters What You Believe - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27


Well, let's turn to 1 John 2, 1 John 2. I was reminded this last week, in fact just yesterday, of the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul begins his letter to the Romans by saying, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for [to accomplish] salvation to everyone [in individual hearts] ..."

Yesterday I was reminded of that by a phone call from one of the members of our church. And the conversation took me back to an event that happened 12 years ago. It was Saturday morning, July 3rd, 2010, when I drove down to the VA hospital in Dallas. I went there to visit the brother of a member of our church. The man's name was Maury. Maury and I had met a few months before that, at his sister's funeral, and I'd learned that he had terminal cancer. We spoke frankly about life and death and the gospel even then.

But fast-forward a few months later to July 3rd and he was in the VA hospital - terminal, soon to die. And he asked if we could meet. It was my joy to do so and, as I drove down there that morning, I just prayed for God's help and His wisdom and His grace to be a help to Maury. Not long into our conversation that morning at the VA hospital, Maury told me bluntly that he wasn't sure that he was ready to die. He knew death was approaching, but he wasn't confident that he was ready. For the next hour and a half, we talked. I explained how we can be right with God, our Creator, how we can have sins forgiven and come to be God's own children. Maury listened very carefully, asked a number of really good, thoughtful questions. I simply walked through, that morning, the first few chapters of Paul's letter to the Romans, where Paul explains the gospel or the good news that he preached.

And that Saturday morning, 12 years ago, Maury came to personally believe that gospel. He lived two more weeks, and, during those two weeks, he was a fervent evangelist, sharing the gospel with his family and friends, praying for them. Just before he died, he left a personal word of testimony carefully written on a piece of paper. And at the top of the paper it said, "Very Important!" And it was his message of what God had done in his life through Christ.

Within two weeks of our meeting, he was with the Lord. He believed the gospel that morning. It's the same gospel that I myself had believed some 32 years earlier. It's the same gospel that many of you have believed. It's the same gospel that true Christians have always believed. And it's the very same gospel that John the apostle urges us never to stop believing. That's where we find ourselves in 1 John this morning.

Just to remind you, 1 John is the tests of eternal life. And there are three of those tests. We're looking at the third of them, in the sort of first cycle of this letter. It's the doctrinal test. And the doctrinal test is this: do you have faith in the true biblical Jesus and in the true biblical gospel? That's the message of chapter 2:18-27. Just as there are vital signs to determine if a person is physically alive, there are doctrinal vital signs to determine if there is spiritual life. To be a true Christian, you must believe certain biblical truths. We're looking at that together. We're actually considering the second doctrinal sign of spiritual life, the second vital sign when it comes to what you believe and it's this (in verses 20 to 25): do you believe the essential gospel? Do you believe the essential gospel?

Now, we've already begun to work our way through this paragraph. Let me just remind you of where we've come so far. First of all, we learned, in verses 20 and 21, that a true Christian knows, believes, and perseveres in the essential elements of saving truth. He says in those verses that every true believer has what he calls the anointing. As we discovered, that's just another word for the Holy Spirit, another way to say that the Holy Spirit is taken up residence in your life and therefore you know, you don't know everything there is to know, but you know the essential elements of the gospel, of saving truth. Now, that's the general statement in verses 20 and 21.

We learned, the last time we studied together, a couple times ago actually, we learned, secondly, that a true Christian knows, believes, and perseveres in the biblical truth about Jesus Christ. Now, he's getting specific. What are the essential saving truths? Well, the first of them is: do you believe in the biblical Jesus? There are a lot of false Christs, false Jesuses out there and they don't save. You have to believe in the One that does. And we looked at that in verses 22 and 23.

The last time we studied together, we began to look at the third reality and that is: a true Christian knows, believes, and perseveres in the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ. He not only believes the right things about Jesus, he believes the right things about how a person is made right with God and how you come to enjoy that standing.

That's the message of verses 24 and 25. Let's read them again together. 1 John 2:24-25: "As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life."

Now, he says, the gospel promises eternal life. But notice how he describes it here. He says that "which you heard from the beginning". John is referring to what every genuine Christian hears at the beginning of his Christian life and continues to hear across the years. What is it? What is it that every true Christian hears at the beginning of his Christian life? Of course, it's the biblical gospel, the gospel that our Lord brought, that His apostles taught, that's revealed in the New Testament Scriptures, and is witnessed to even in the Old Testament Scriptures. It's that gospel. John says, "We need to let the gospel, that very gospel we heard at the beginning, [notice this], abide in us - remain in you". He says, "Listen, just keep on believing that gospel."

But that raises the key question, of course: what is the biblical gospel? Now, last week, we surveyed some deviations from the gospel, some common false gospels. If you weren't here, I encourage you to go back and listen because we tried to clear away the rubble and make sure that we haven't, inadvertently, been misled to believe some false version of the gospel.

But having cleared away the rubble and looked at those false gospels, this morning, I want us to review the real biblical gospel. Specifically, I want to look at the core truths of the gospel, the core truths of the gospel, and those truths concern both the person and the work of Jesus Christ. We're introduced to them, again, in verse 24: "As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning..." The stress here is on the message which they had heard and which we have heard from the beginning, meaning from the beginning of our faith. And what was it at the beginning of our faith that we heard? Well, Paul puts it this way to the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 2:14: "...He called you through our gospel..." That's what you heard at the beginning. He called you to Himself through the gospel.

So, what are the core truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through which God calls sinners to Himself and, if you're a Christian, through which He called you to Himself? Well, this morning I hope to provide you an outline of that biblical gospel in four questions, four words, four basic truths. And then I want to demonstrate for you the many biblical passages that we can legitimately use to present those four truths. And in the process of giving you those four truths, I want to fill them out as well with some supporting scriptural detail.

Essentially, what I want to do is walk you through a biblical version of what used to be called, when I was growing up, "The Roman's Road". The Roman's Road. Sadly, that sort of path to the gospel through Romans, when I was hearing it, was often distorted and taken out of context. I don't want to do that this morning. I want to legitimately show you how you can walk through the biblical gospel genuinely on the Romans' Road.

So, let me begin by just giving you the four basic questions the biblical gospel answers. There're four questions. This is what the biblical gospel has to teach us. Question number one: who made us and to whom are we accountable? The answer to that question is, God. The second question the gospel deals with is, what is the problem between us and God, our Creator? And the biblical answer to that is sin. The third question is, what is God's solution to our problem of sin that separates us from God? And the biblical answer is, Jesus. And the fourth question is, how can we personally receive God's solution in Jesus? And the answer to that is, two words: repentance and faith. Repentance and faith.

So, you can see that we can actually reduce the gospel, and anybody can remember this to four words, four key words. There's, number one: God. Number two: man. Number three: Jesus. And number four: response. You remember those four words and what they stand for, you can know, and you can explain to others the biblical gospel.

Perhaps, better, is four brief phrases. Again, you can remember these and, if you remember them, you remember the biblical gospel. The first is God the Creator. The second is man the sinner. The third is Jesus the Savior. And the fourth is repentance and faith, the response. That's it. That's the biblical gospel. God the Creator, man the sinner, Jesus the Savior, and repentance and faith, the response.

What I want to do this morning, though, is put those truths, those realities, in four truth statements, four propositions, four truths. And I want to take them from the Scripture. I want to use the language of Scripture itself to capture these truths. So, here they are. Number one: there is one God who made all things, and we exist for Him. That's 1 Corinthians 8:6. There is one God who made "all things and we exist for Him". Number two: all have sinned against God and fall short of His glory. That's Romans 3:23. Number three: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. That's 1 Timothy 1:15. And then, the fourth truth that's in the biblical gospel is: God commands us to repent and believe the gospel. That is Mark 1:14-15.

So, there you have it. Those four truths encapsulate the biblical gospel. There is one God who made all things, and we exist for Him. All have sinned against God and fall short of His glory. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. And in order to benefit from that solution, number four, God commands us to repent and believe the gospel.

Now, there are many legitimate ways to present and to biblically defend these four truths. For example, you can share these same four truths from a single verse. You can use a verse like John 3:16 and share those four truths. You can go to a passage like 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, where Paul says, "This is the gospel we preached", and he lays it out. You can take those same four truths and show how they are contained in a passage like 2 Corinthians 5:18-21.

Now, as you look at an individual verse, one or more of these truths may be implied, but not clearly stated, and you'll have to draw it out. But you can - those truths are wherever the gospel is presented. Those four basic truths are there. So, you can do it from one verse or a brief passage. You can also present these four truths from one of the gospels, especially John. That's why John wrote his gospel, right? Is to bring people to faith in Christ. I'll be honest with you. I thought about, when I was preaching this - thinking about preaching this message, going to 1 John and showing you how all of these truths are found in and flow out of John's first letter. You can do it from the Old Testament alone. These truths are there. You can do it from the New Testament's use of the Old Testament, if there's somebody who only believes in the Hebrew Scriptures. You can do it from the sermons in Acts. You can do it from Romans. You can do it from key passages taken throughout the Scripture.

This morning, I'm going to use a key Romans passage with each of those four truths to show you how Paul develops those four truths, and I'll also include some other key passages. It's especially appropriate for us to do it from Romans because the theme of Romans is, according to chapter 1:1, the gospel of God. It's the gospel that God gave through His Son. And so, Paul, in the book of Romans, lays out the gospel he preached. He did so for those he'd never met, for churches he didn't found. He said, "This is the gospel I preached." And so, here, in the book of Romans, we have it.

So, what we're going to do this morning, is step away from our study of 1 John and here's why I think that's important. When John said to those he wrote to, "I want you to hold on to what you have believed from the beginning, that gospel you believed", he was talking to people that he administered to for nearly 30 years - from the 60s AD, when he left Palestine and went to Asia Minor, and he's writing this letter 30 years later, in the 90s AD. He had brought them through the gospel many times. He could just say, "that which you have heard and believed from the beginning". But we need to step back and make sure we understand that biblical gospel. So, we're going to walk through these basic truths of the gospel and fill them out with some of the supporting biblical detail.

So, let's do it together. The first biblical truth that's at the heart of the gospel is, there is one God who made all things, and we exist for Him. You know, when you think about origins, it's important for you to know that there are only two possibilities. You know, let's just clear away all the confusion. There are only two options. Either matter is eternal, the stuff of which the universe is made - that's eternal - or there is an eternal God who made all things. Those are the only two options. And so, either way, you are going to be forced to attribute the attributes of deity to something or someone. Either you're going to attribute the attributes of deity to matter and say that matter is eternal, and matter has sufficient power to do all of this, and matter has inherently enough intelligence for all the intelligence that exists in this world and in your body and in your DNA to come into fruition, or you're going to attribute those same attributes to God.

Now, which of those makes the most sense? That's clear. What the Bible teaches is that one true God created, sustains, and owns all things. Genesis 1:1 - it's how the Bible begins. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." It goes on to describe the process by which He did it. In Psalm 24:1 we read: "The earth is the LORD'S [Yahweh's. Did you hear that? The earth belongs to God], and all it contains [and then he goes further], the world, and those who dwell in it." You ever thought about the fact that you belong to God because He created you?

Now, the Creator of all things has surrounded us with information about Himself. Turn now to Romans 1. This creating, sustaining God who owns all things, has completely blanketed us with information about Himself in His creation. Look at Romans 1 and Paul begins to layout the need for the gospel in verse 18. We'll come back to verse 18. Go to verse 19. He says, "because that which is known about God is evident within them [that is, within all men]; for God made it evident to them." That's where Paul begins. Now, he hasn't yet told us how this happened. He simply making a statement of fact: every human being knows there's a God.

You know, when I was - years ago, when I was younger, I came across a book, and I still love the title. It was written by John Blanchard, and it was called, "Does God Believe in Atheists?" Think about that for a moment. Does God believe in atheists? The answer is no. God doesn't believe in atheists because God has made it clear that He exists.

How? Verse 20: "For since the creation of the world His [God's] invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature..." In other words, you can look at the creation and know, "Wow, this has been here a long time, a lot longer than my generation. So, somebody has transcended the generations and has made this work." You see His eternity.

You see, as well, His power. Just look at a single thunderstorm and you see the power of God. You see His divine nature. There has to be a God. You understand this. Notice, these things "have been clearly seen being understood through what has been made..." In other words, there isn't a single person on this planet who doesn't know there is a divine being who made all of these things. And what's the result of that revelation of God in His creation? The end of verse 20: "so that they are without excuse." There isn't a person on this planet who can get to the judgment and go, "Wait a minute, God. This isn't fair. I didn't know."

Instead, how do we respond to this self-revelation of God in creation? Verse 21: "For even though they knew God [that is, they knew the reality that God existed], they did not honor [glorify] Him [literally] as God or give thanks..." So, they didn't acknowledge God's right in their life. They didn't thank Him for all they enjoyed. Instead, they began to create their own gods, he goes on to say. This is what happened with this information that we received.

So, God created, sustains, and owns all things, and has revealed Himself in His creation. And He created mankind in His own image. Genesis 1:27 says, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."

Now, this God who created all things is perfectly holy in His character. That is, He is pure and completely without sin. In fact, look at how He responds to our sin. Verse 18: "For the wrath of God is [being] revealed from heaven against all ungodliness..." Ungodliness means how we respond to God Himself, to the person of God. We are ungodly because we don't love God. We don't fear God. We don't worship God. That's ungodliness. Unrighteousness is when we disobey God's law. So, God is justly angered by man's response to Him.

And, notice, they "suppress the truth". You say, "How does somebody, who knows there is a God because what of he sees in creation and God has made it evident to him, how does that person become an atheist? How does that person become an agnostic? How do they come to reject the presence of God." Verse 18: they suppress that knowledge. It's there, but like trying to hold a beach ball under the pool, they just keep desperately trying to suppress what they know about God.

So, God is perfectly holy in His own character. He can't respond to that sin with any sort of favor. He is, instead, filled with just anger against it. He Himself is completely without sin. Matthew 5:48: "...your heavenly Father is perfect."

He then told us - as the perfect Holy God, He told us what He requires of us in His law. How did we get His law. In two ways: through the written Scripture, that you hold in your hand, and He has written the substance of His law on every human heart.

Turn over to Romans 2. He says, verse 12, "For all who have sinned without the Law [that is, there are those who sin when they didn't have the written law of God. They didn't have the Bible. They] will also perish without the Law [because they didn't know certain about God. We just saw it in chapter 1], and all who have sinned under the Law [that is, all who possess God's written law] will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified." And then he describes people who don't have the Bible. He says, "For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law..." What does it show? Verse 15: "in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them..." In other words, on every human heart, God has written the substance of His law. That's why, someplace on this world that doesn't have the Word of God, they inherently know it's not right to lie to your friend. How do they know that? Because God has written the substance of His law on every heart. God created us to understand this.

God's law is summarized in the Ten Commandments. Think of the Ten Commandments as a kind of outline of God's law. The first four tell us - remind us of how we're to treat God. And the final six remind us of how we're to treat others. And that outline is further condensed into a Spark's note version in two great commands the Lord mentions in Matthew 22, and that is, love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. That's what God expects.

Oh, and there's one other really important caveat. He requires perfect obedience to His law from every person. Look at chapter 2:6: "[God] who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS..." Those who do good - they're going to be treated that way based on what they have earned and deserve. Those who sin - they're going to be treated that way. Verse 11: "For there is no partiality with God." God demands perfect obedience.

You know what that means? That means you can never break a single law and meet God's standard. James 2:10: "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all." You know, some people think of God's law like these little fibers. And if I break one, the rest of the fibers still stand; the rest of the cloth is still there. No, the law of God is more like a plate-glass window. Hit it once with a hammer and what have you done? You've destroyed the whole thing, because it's perfect love for God and perfect love for others. 1 Peter 1:16: "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY." So, there's one God who made all things. We exist for Him. He's told us what He expects, He's perfectly holy, and He requires perfect holiness from us.

The second truth of the gospel, sadly, is that all have sinned against God and fall short of His glory. All have sinned against God and fall short of His glory. Now, this story begins all the way back at the beginning. It begins in Genesis 3, because in Genesis 3, we learn that God created Adam and He appointed him (Genesis 3) as our representative. He stood in our place in the garden. And God tested his obedience with a single command: don't eat from that tree. That was it. And He promised him life if he kept that commandment. But Adam chose, as we would have in his place, to disobey God. And the guilt of Adam's sin and Adam's sin nature passes to every person on this planet by ordinary generation. In other words, you get it from your parents. Romans 5:12: "...through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned..." So, Adam stood in our place. And in case you're feeling that's unfair, he was better to represent you than you were to represent yourself. He had a better chance of getting it right than you do, because you and I would have made exactly the same decision.

But fast-forward to our lives, from the garden to our times, all of us, like Adam, have chosen to break God's law and the Bible calls this rebellion against God and His law sin. How have we responded to God's self-revelation? We've ignored it and we've worshipped other things besides God. We've worshipped ourselves, we've worshipped things of our own making, the lusts of our flesh. We've made something else God. We've rebelled against what we knew about God and what God wanted from us. Go back to chapter 1:21. We haven't honored him as God. We haven't given thanks to Him as God. Instead, verse 32 of chapter 1: "and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them." We celebrate when other people do them because it makes us feel better about ourselves. You see, the story of our lives is Sinatra's song, "I did it my way!"

You say, "Well, Tom, this sounds pretty harsh towards everybody. I mean, what about all those people who appear to be good people?" That's a fair question. It's a question Maury asked me that morning in his hospital room. Here's the answer. Their goodness is an entirely different kind than the kind God requires. It's like the goodness among the members of a violent street gang. Now, think about that. I mean, there is a kind of honor among thieves, and at times, those people can care for each other, they can protect each other and, on occasion, even be willing to take a bullet or an eye for each other. But their interpersonal goodness, in that street gang, doesn't change their relationship to the law. They're still outlaws. They're still criminals. And that's how it is with our good works. We do all of our good works while we're still in a state of rebellion against our rightful King. So, they're not good any more than the street gang members' goodness is good.

In fact, Isaiah, the prophet, says that our righteousness is like filthy rags. Just think, for a moment, about your finest moral moment - the finest moral moment of your life. Apart from Jesus Christ, God says, that's like a menstruous rag in His sight. See, we think God's going to accept us based on our own good works, but it's not what God says. Go over to chapter 3, chapter 3:9. Here's where Paul brings the need for the gospel to an apex. He says, "What then? Are we [that is, are we, Christians, inherently] better than they [those who haven't believed]? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks [and, by the way, that's everybody - Jews and Gentiles, everybody on the planet] are all under sin; as it is written, 'THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE...'" That's a summary. There's nobody who meets God standard of righteous, not even one. Not you. Not me. "THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS..." We have corrupted thinking. "THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD..." We have enslaved wills. "ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS..." We have sinful lifestyles. And, we have sinful behavior - "THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE." And then in verses 13 and 14, he describes our toxic speech that destroys everything around us. Think social media and interpersonal. And, our relationships, verse 16 and following, we destroy all of our relationships. And what's the ultimate foundational cause? Verse 18: "THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES." Instead, verses 19 and 20, we're just guilty before God. That's every single human being. That's why verse 23 says, "...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..."

So, what does our sin deserve? The just penalty for our sins is death and eternal punishment. Romans 6:23 says this, "For the wages of sin [that is, what you earn from your sin, what I earn from my sin] is death..." Now, what kind of death? Well, in that verse, he's contrasting eternal life with this kind of death. So, he's talking about, not physical death, but spiritual, eternal death. He's talking about hell. It's like what our Lord said in Matthew 25:46, "These [the wicked] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." So, that's what our sins deserve.

Well, how in the world do we get out of this mess? One more really important point, and that is, no one can rescue or save themselves. No one can rescue or save himself. How does God say He responds to our sin and rebellion? Well, right now, chapter 1:18 says, "For the wrath of God is [being] revealed from heaven..." God is not taking it lightly right now, and the rest of chapter 1 describes what that looks like. But go over to chapter 2:5: "But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up [God's] wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God [because in that day, notice verse 6], who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS..." That's what's coming. So, not one of us has the slightest whisper of a hope of getting right with God through our own efforts, through our own work, through our own goodness. So, all of sinned against God and fall short of His glory.

Thankfully, the gospel doesn't in there. There's a third truth, and that is Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son..." He sent His Son into the world, and He became one of us. Jesus was fully human. He came into the world to save us by living the life we should have lived, a life of perfect obedience to God and then, by dying the death our sins had earned, and suffering what God should have poured out on us. So, Jesus is the answer. He's the solution.

Now, first of all, we need to make sure we've got the right Jesus because there are a lot of false Jesuses out there. Jesus Himself said that would be true. So, who is the biblical Jesus Christ?

Go back to Romans 1:1. He says, "Here's the gospel that I proclaim." Verse 2, this is a gospel that that was promised in the Old Testament. And notice verse 3, this gospel is, "concerning His Son". The gospel is about God's Son. Jesus is the good news.

Notice, His divine nature. Verse 3 says, "[it's] concerning His [God's] Son." You see, at the foundation of the Christian gospel, is this extraordinary claim: Jesus of Nazareth is the eternal Son of God. And notice the order here in verses 3 and 4. He was the Son of God before His birth, before His death, and (verse 4) before His resurrection. He was, is, and always will be the eternal Son. The eternal relationship between the first member of the Trinity and the second member of the Trinity is that of father and son - doesn't mean because Jesus was born like you and I are born and started to exist at some point. It means They are father and son in the sense that the Son shares the same exact nature as the Father. And verse 4 says the resurrection declared, unequivocally, Him to be the Son of God with power. What He claimed was proven by the resurrection.

So, He was divine but, notice, He also had a human nature. Verse 3 says, "concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh..." He was fully God and fully man. The One who was eternally God, the Son, was born into David's line, a descendant of David. Divine human.

And then notice His personal identity in verse 4, "Jesus Christ our Lord". That's the unique person that Paul's been speaking of. "Jesus" - that's His personal name. This is a human, historical person named Jesus of Nazareth, whose name means "sent to save us from our sins". Christ - that's not His name; that's His title. It's the word "Messiah", the Messiah promised in the Old Testament Scriptures. And "Lord" - that's His rightful position. So, this is who we're talking about.

And how does this biblical Jesus save sinners? That's the key question. You know, we have two foundational problems - spiritually. One of those is God's righteousness requires our full obedience to His law. That's a problem, because we haven't done that. The second problem we have is that God's justice demands payment for every single violation of His law. Jesus' perfect life addressed the first problem and Jesus' substitutionary death dealt with the second problem.

Let's look at it very quickly. First of all, Jesus perfectly obeyed God's law. He perfectly obeyed God's law. Look at Romans 5:18: "So then as through one transgression [we're talking about Adam here. Through Adam's one transgression] there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness [the righteous life of Christ] there resulted justification [or being declared right with God] of life to all men [who are in Christ]. For as through the one man's disobedience [Adam] the many were made sinners [that is, were seen to be sinners and treated as such], even so through the obedience of the One [Jesus Christ] the many will be made righteous." - that is, they will be seen to be and treated as righteous, not because of their own righteousness, but because of His. He knew no sin. He was perfectly righteous. 2 Corinthians 5:21: "... [He] knew no sin..." Hebrews 4:15: "[He was] tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin."

So, He perfectly obeyed God's law, but the second part of this truth is that He died to fully satisfy and exhaust God's just wrath against the sins of all who would believe. He didn't deserve to die. He deserved to live. But He died to satisfy God's just wrath against the sins of all who would believe. This is the heart of the gospel. Go to Romans 3. Romans 3:25. Notice verse 24 ends with Jesus' name - "Christ Jesus; whom..." So, let's change the order of verse 25. God publicly displayed Jesus Christ as a propitiation in His blood. "In His blood" means in His violent death on the cross. He publicly displayed Jesus as the propitiation on the cross.

What is a propitiation? That word means to satisfy God's just wrath, His justice against the sins of those who would believe in Jesus. Jesus, on the cross - think of it this way. God credited to Jesus, to Jesus' account - He put in Jesus' account every sin of every person who would ever believe in Jesus. And on the cross, God treated Jesus as if He'd committed those sins. He paid the debt. He paid it in full.

2 Corinthians 5:21: "He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf..." 1 Peter 2:24: "and He [Christ] Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness..." This was the only way. If you had been the only person on the planet that God intended to save, you were the only one, understand this, the only possible way for it to happen was the perfect life of Jesus and the violent death of His Son as your substitute. But it didn't end there. God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day and He is alive forever. Chapter 1:4 says, "who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead..." Revelation 1:18, Jesus says, "...I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades [the grave]." By his grace alone, God offers all the forgiveness, the gift of forgiveness, and a right standing with God. That's what we mean by being justified - a right standing before God because of the work of Jesus Christ.

He offers it to all. Go back to verse 22. He says this gift of righteousness, this righteousness from God, comes "through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction [among sinners]; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." And anyone who's justified, is justified the same way. Verse 24: we are declared right with God (that's the meaning of the word "justified") "as a gift by His grace..." And how can God do that? Because of what Christ did - "through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus..." He publicly displayed Jesus on the cross as the satisfaction for your sins. This is how it works. This is the gospel.

So, there is one God who made all things, and we exist for Him. All have sinned against God and fall short of His glory. Thirdly, Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners in the way we've just seen. That's how He came to rescue us, by offering Himself as our substitute.

The fourth truth in the gospel is that God commands us to repent and believe the gospel. You see, to be reconciled to God, our Creator, through the work of His Son, Jesus Christ, we have to respond. We must repent and believe. We can never earn what Jesus did. We just saw in Romans 3 - it's a gift by His grace. But the amazing gift of an eternal right standing before God doesn't become ours just because Jesus died and was raised. We have to respond God's way for that gift to become ours.

And what is God's way? Well, listen to Jesus' first message in Mark 1. In Mark 1:14-15 it says this: "... [He came] preaching the gospel of God, and saying, '...repent and believe in the gospel.'" That's what our Lord said. There it is. Repent and believe. Repent and believe. It's what Paul said. In Acts 20:21, Paul says, "[I preach] repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." Repentance and faith, repentance and faith.

So, what does this mean? First of all, you must repent of your sin. Paul mentions repentance in Romans 2. He says, "...kindness of God [God's goodness is intended to] leads you to repentance..." What your - all the good things you're enjoying in this life, are supposed to lead you to repentance. And because you aren't repenting (chapter 2:5), "you are storing up wrath for yourself".

So, what does it mean to repent? I wish I had time to fully develop this, but repentance consist of three elements. Number one: repentance is the recognition that you have sinned. Secondly, it is the genuine sorrow for that sin. And, thirdly, it is the determination to turn from that sin. Let me say that again. Biblical repentance is the recognition that you have sinned. It is genuine sorrow for that sin against your good Creator. And it is the determination to turn from everything you know to be sin in your life. That's repentance.

Let me tell you what repentance is like. Repentance is like a rebel who lays down his weapon and acknowledges his king's right to rule him. Repentance is like a prodigal son who seeks his father's forgiveness. Repentance is like a criminal, confessing his crimes, agreeing with the judge on the sentence that's been offered, but pleading to be pardoned. Repentance is like a person who destroys a relationship, acknowledging that it's entirely his fault and seeking forgiveness and reconciliation.

You must repent before God and, secondly, you must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Look at Romans 10. Romans 10:9-10. Look at the end of verse 8. Paul says, "You want to know what the message of faith that I'm preaching is? I'm telling you; you have to believe in order to be saved. Well, here's the message of faith I'm preaching." Verse 9: "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in [the gift of] righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, 'WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM [verse 11] WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED. [Verse 13] for WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.'" So, here's faith. You must confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord", believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead.

Again, I wish I had time to develop it, but like repentance, biblical faith has three components. First of all, it is knowing the gospel - you can't believe what you don't know. So, it's knowing what I've covered this morning. Secondly, it is believing it to be true. But that's not enough. There's a third element of saving faith. You have to know it, you have to believe it to be true and, thirdly, you have to personally trust in and depend on Christ to apply what He did to you, for the forgiveness of your sins and reconciliation with God. In other words, it's a trusting in Christ. It's a completely abandoning all hope in yourself and saying, "Jesus Christ, if I'm ever to be right with God, it'll be through what You did and You alone. Make me Yours. I want to follow You. I want to live for You. I want You to forgive my sins and to make me right with the Father."

When you repent and believe like that, it's amazing what happens. You are immediately forgiven of all of your sins - past, present and future. At the courtroom of God's justice, He declares you pardoned, forgiven forever. And, even more amazingly, He credits to your account the righteousness of Jesus Christ. You see, on the cross God credited the sins of everyone, who would ever believe in Him, to Jesus and on the cross God treated Jesus as if He'd lived their lives. And then, He credits that 33 years of perfect obedience that Jesus lived to the account of every person who believes in Jesus and, forever, He treats us as if we'd lived Jesus' perfect life. That's what 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "He [God] made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf [for us. There's the first part of it], so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him [there's the second part]." Amazing! God's wrath against your sins will be satisfied. You're reconciled to God.

Folks, those are the core truths of the gospel. If you're not a Christian this morning, understand, this is how you can be forgiven. This is how you can be made right with God. This is how God's wrath against you can be satisfied forever. This is how you can be reconciled to God your Creator. This is how your Creator and the God who sustains your life can become your Father. And this is the only way. It can happen while you're sitting there in your seat. This moment, if you will repent and believe, if, like a prodigal, you'll call out to God, if you will acknowledge your sin, if you will be genuinely sorry for that sin and determined by God's grace to turn from that sin, that's repentance. And then, if you will know the truth of the gospel, believe it to be true, and then cast your entire dependence and reliance for being right with God on Jesus Christ and trust in the person of Jesus Christ to get you to heaven, then these things become true.

If you're already a Christian, this is the gospel that you heard, and this is the gospel that you believed. And back to where we started in 1 John, John says, "Let that which you heard from the beginning remain in you." Don't ever stop believing that gospel because it's the only gospel that saves.

Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for the gospel. Thank You for the good news, Lord, that there's nothing we have to do; there's nothing we can do to make ourselves right with You. But You have done everything, and You have graciously extended the offer of forgiveness to us. And Lord, ultimately, even when we believe it's because You have given us repentance and faith because You have called us to Yourself through this gospel. And I pray, Lord, this morning that, for those of us who've already been called through the gospel, that You would help us to live in the light of the gospel, to hold on, to continue believing it, not to ever give it up. And Father, for those who are here who don't know You, may You call them through this gospel to Yourself, even now. I pray in Jesus' name, Amen!


It Matters What You Believe - Part 4

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27

It Matters What You Believe - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27

It Matters What You Believe - Part 6

Tom Pennington 1 John 2:18-27

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1 John


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The Apostles' Proclamation - Part 2

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The Apostles' Proclamation - Part 3

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The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 1

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The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 2

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The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 3

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The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 4

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The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 5

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The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 6

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The Priority of Love

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Loving One Another - Part 1

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Loving One Another - Part 2

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A Child of the Father

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Do Not Love the World

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It Matters What You Believe - Part 1

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It Matters What You Believe - Part 2

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It Matters What You Believe - Part 3

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It Matters What You Believe - Part 4

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It Matters What You Believe - Part 5

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It Matters What You Believe - Part 6

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The Christian's DNA - Part 1

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The Christian's DNA - Part 2

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The Christian's DNA - Part 3

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The Christian's DNA - Part 4

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The Christian's DNA - Part 5

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Researching Your Spiritual Ancestry - Part 1

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Researching Your Spiritual Ancestry - Part 2

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Love as a Sign of Life - Part 1

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Love as a Sign of Life - Part 2

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Love as a Sign of Life - Part 3

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Love as a Sign of Life - Part 6

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Love As a Sign of Life - Part 7

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Recognizing False Teachers - Part 2

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Recognizing False Teachers - Part 3

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Recognizing False Teachers - Part 4

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Recognizing False Teachers - Part 5

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Recognizing False Teachers - Part 6

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