How I Distinguish Between the Gospel and False Gospels

Resurgence Conference

Seattle, WA

(The following is an outline of the message with the texts and notes. It's not a complete manuscript.)

Paul said to the Philippians in 1:7, and I say it now to you: “You are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

  • It is good to devote energy to the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
  • Yes, we give energy, but as Philippians 2:12-13 says, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
  • My working out of my salvation tonight is in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
  • And you are sharers with me of the grace needed to defend and confirm the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So we pray: Lord give us this grace to defend and confirm the gospel. Not just to me but to my comrades in this great cause of proclaiming, explaining, defending, confirming, and living the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The urgency of this topic is underlined in Galatians 1:6-9:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7 not that there is another one [there is no other gospel], but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ [there is a distortion that becomes another gospel] 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. [The fixedness of the gospel could not be expressed more strongly] 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed [Not just believing a different gospel but advocating for it brings a final curse1 Corinthians 16:22 - If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!]

What I want to do tonight is describe six aspects of the gospel—the good news about Jesus—and with each one, point out the kinds of distortions and denials that are blowing in the wind today.

1 Corinthians 15:1-5 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

6 Aspects of the Gospel Without Which There Is No Gospel

1. The gospel was planned by God beforehand (verses 3, 4: “according to the scriptures”)

2. The gospel is an objective physical event in history (verses 3-5: “Christ died . . . he was buried . . . he was raised . . . he appeared”).

3. The gospel is an objective accomplishment—the purchase or obtaining of redemption for all who would believe (verse 3: “Christ died for our sins”—the debt was paid)

4. The gospel is an offer to be made to all that what Christ accomplished is free and my be had only by faith in him (verse 2: “by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain.”)

5. The gospel is an application through faith to specific people of what Christ accomplished (verse 2: “and by which you are being saved”).

6. The gospel is an eternal and infinitely happy future destiny (verse 1-3: implied in the word “gospel” and “saved” and “sins born by another”)

Summary

  1. Plan
  2. Event
  3. Accomplishment
  4. Offer
  5. Application
  6. A supremely happy future

1. The gospel is planned.

Support and Explanation

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3)

But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: 'They hated me without a cause.' (John 15:25)

I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, 'He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.' (John 13:18)

At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. 56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." (Matthew 26:55-56)

So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be." This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, "They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots." (John 19:24)

But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. . . . 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken." (John 19:34-36)

For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:27)

When was this plan made?

All who dwell on earth will worship [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. (Revelation 13:8)

Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began. (2 Timothy 1:9)

Therefore: part of the gospel is that it was a plan from eternity. This is good news because:

  1. God was not taken off guard by the horrific deeds against his Son;
  2. Sin and death and hell and Satan are not frustrations of God’s eternal design but fit into it;
  3. God’s love for us and his willingness to die for us is not an afterthought but eternally deep in the heart of God;
  4. It is all the more clear that the events of the gospel were God’s doing, not historical turns of fate.
  5. This all strengthens and deepens our certainty of God’s commitment to us in the gospel

Distortions and Denials of the Gospel as a Plan

There are many today, as in every day, who bring to the Bible the presupposition that sinful man must have the power of self-determination in order to be held accountable by God. This is not a biblical presupposition. It threatens to undermine the gospel because it pushes people away from believing that God can plan and bring to pass the sins that are essential to the death of his Son.

We don’t usually think about Arminianism as a threat to the atonement. It usually comes in at the point of the accomplishment of the gospel and the offer of the gospel, not the point of the plan of the events of the gospel. But here we see that there is an intrinsic incompatibility between the basic Arminian presupposition and the gospel as including a set of planned sins against the Son of God. That presupposition is that for humans to be morally accountable agents they must have the ultimate power of self-determination at all those points where they are found blameworthy or praiseworthy.

That presupposition pushes people away from believing that God has the right and power in righteousness and wisdom to infallibly plan the death of his Son through the sinful acts of morally accountable men. But the Bible teaches that he did. There is no atonement and no gospel without God-planned sins against the Son of God. He died at the hands of sinful men by God’s design. That is an essential part of the gospel. “He died for our sins according to the scriptures.”

2. The gospel is an event.

Support and Explanation

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scripture. (1 Corinthians 15:3)

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. . . . 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, "Peace to you!" 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." (Luke 24:36)

So he really physically died and he really physically rose from the dead.

Distortions and Denials of the Gospel as an Event

What is remarkable about modern liberal Christianity is how much of the gospel can be denied and the pastors and teachers still call themselves Christian.

John Selby Spong is a typical liberal mainline teacher of religion. One article notes,

In . . . a five part criticism of Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ," published in installments between February and June, 2004, by Insights, the magazine of the New South Wales Synod of the Uniting Church in Australia . . . wrote:

The idea that a convicted felon, like Jesus, would be given a burial attended by such splendor is obviously not history. . . The probable fate of the crucified Jesus was to be thrown with other victims into a common, unmarked grave. The general consensus of New Testament scholars is that whatever the Easter experience was, it dawned first in the minds of the disciples who had fled to Galilee for safety, driving us to the conclusion that the burial story in the gospels is … legendary.

Typically liberal Biblical Scholars in the twentieth century like Rudolph Bultmann argued that the resurrection-language of the early church was mythological language that really meant the death of Jesus was a triumph and means of our existential renewal. The event of Easter was the resurrection of the hope of the early church not the resurrection of the body of Jesus. (Rudolf Bultmann, “New Testament and Mythology: The Mythological Element in the Message of the New Testament and the Problem of its Re-interpretation,” in Kerygma and Myth: A Theological Debate, Hans Werner Bartsch, ed., Reginald H. Fuller, trans. (London: SPCK, 1953), 38-43.)

Take heed to any diminishing of the historical realities of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

3. The gospel is an accomplishment.

Support and Explanation

The gospel is an objective accomplishment—the purchase or obtaining of redemption for all who would believe (verse 3: “Christ died for our sins”—the debt was paid)

In his death he bore our sins.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

He paid the price of our redemption.

You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19)

He endured God’s wrath and condemnation in our place (propitiation).

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh. (Romans 8:3)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree." (Galatians 3:13)

He completed a life of perfect obedience.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8)

The truth of “limited atonement” comes in here. The L in Tulip. It is not a suitable description. What it means is that in dying for us and in paying the price for us and in completing an obedience for us and in bearing God’s wrath for us, these things were certainly and decisively accomplished for us. These things will become ours because they were obtained for us by the work of Christ.

Christ knows those who are his sheep and he lays down his life for the sheep.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

Christ knows who are his believing friends and lays down his life for them.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

Christ knows who is his bride and he lays down his life for her.

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:25)

The death and resurrection of Christ really accomplished these things decisively and once for all.

The right title of this teaching would be successful atonement or definitive atonement or triumphantly effective atonement.

This doesn’t mean that the atonement isn’t offered to all. This is what needs to be clarified. Those who oppose this teaching say: No, Christ died for all and quote John 3:16 or 1 Tim. 2:4 or 2 Peter 3:9.

We say yes, that is true in the sense that you mean it: What Christ did is proclaimed to all and offered to all. Absolutely, without distinction. And any who believe will be saved by this accomplishment. Christ died for all in the sense that all who believe may be saved and the salvation is offered freely to all.

The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Revelation 22:17)

We agree. But we say more was accomplished at the cross than the possibility that all who hear and believe could be saved. He did not die for all in the same way. The salvation of Christ’s sheep was actually secured. All that it takes to save those his chosen ones was obtained by Christ.

And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9)

In John 17:6,9,19 Jesus prays, "I have manifested Thy name to the men whom you gave me out of the world; yours they were, and your gave them to me...I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom you gave me, for they are yours. . . And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth."

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

Problem: 1 John 2:2, "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."

Solution: John 11:51-52, "He prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad."



Distortions and Denials of the Gospel as an Accomplishment

I will mention four claims that have risen up to obscure the triumph of God in the accomplishment of the cross.

1. Universalism: Christ effectively saved everyone on the cross and all will be in heaven some day. George MacDonald, C. S. Lewis’ mentor believed this. But it flies in the face of the Biblical teaching that we must believe (John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him), and the biblical teaching the punishments of hell are eternal (Matthew 25:46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life).

2. The view that since Christ died for all the sins of all people in the same way all those sins are forgiven and the only sin that Christ did not die for is final unbelief. So no one is condemned for their sins but only for their unbelief. This goes against the focus of the atonement that we saw in John 17 but also against Colossians 3:5-6:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.

3. The atonement accomplishes potential salvation for all but accomplishes definitive salvation for none. This is typical Arminian teaching. It diminishes the glory of the cross and encourages people to take into their own hands what belongs to the work of the cross, namely the purchase of their own rescue from unbelief. God is allowed to rescue them from the guilt of sin by the cross, but not from the bondage of unbelief by the cross. The cross does not obtain or accomplish that. I must provide the decisive impetus for overcoming my unbelief, the cross did not accomplish that. In that way part of the gospel is undone.

4. The claim that God’s punishing sin in his own Son (Rom. 8:3; Gal. 3:13) in morally unacceptable, a kind of cosmic child abuse.

“The fact is that the cross isn’t a form of cosmic child abuse—a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. Deeper than that, however, is that such a concept stands in total contradiction to the statement: God is love”. If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil.” (Steve Chalke and Alan Mann, The Lost Message of Jesus, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), pp. 182-183.)

That undoes both the heart of God’s love for us and the accomplishment of the cross

4. The gospel is an offer.

Support and Explanation

The accomplishment of the cross is offered freely to be received by faith alone apart from works of the law, meaning, any work of the heart or hand at all, anything other than faith.

Then he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31 And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:30)

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Romans 3:28)

Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16)

Distortions and Denials of the Gospel as an Offer

I will leave aside the Roman Catholic and some Disciples of Christ who distort “faith alone” and undermine the gosel by their view of baptismal regeneration that disconnects the new birth from the word of the gospel believed (1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18).

I want to focus on the various ways that justification by faith alone is obscured today. You could lump all these under the New Perspective on Paul, but some forms of the distortion are very old. The concern we have at this point (on the offer) is that in two general ways faith alone is being undermined:

  1. By treating “works of the law” as not all works but only ceremonial works of circumcision, food laws, and Sabbath-keeping. Thus when Paul says that “one is justified by faith apart from works of the law,” he is only excluding ceremonial Jewish boundary markers which contradict the Gentile-including scope of the gospel. But this has opened the door to allowing other moral works of love to slip in along with faith as the basis of our justification.
  2. The other way “faith alone” is being obscured is that faith itself is pressed as a virtue in and of itself, and is virtually synonymous with “faithfulness” and thus is and includes other virtuous acts of the soul. So the reception of the offer of the gospel happens not by faith alone in the traditional sense but by faithfulness, or by the virtue of faith and its expression in life of obedience.

A very helpful response to both of these distortions is the work of Andrew Fuller from two hundred years ago. He is addressing the view that faith is a virtue itself and therefore God does justify us on the basis of our virtue which means our works.

He uses the analogy of a magnet to help us see that faith can have qualities about it and yet it not be these qualities that God has reference to when he counts faith as justifying.

Whatever holiness there is in [faith], it is not this, but the obedience of Christ, that constitutes our justifying righteousness. Whatever other properties the magnet may possess, it is as pointing invariably to the north that it guides the mariner; and whatever other properties faith may possess, it is as receiving Christ, and bringing us into union with him, that it justifies.”1

He points out that faith is a “peculiarly receiving grace.

Thus it is that justification is ascribed to faith, because it is by faith that we receive Christ; and thus it is by faith only, and not by any other grace. Faith is peculiarly a receiving grace which none other is. Were we said to be justified by repentance, by love, or by any other grace, it would convey to us the idea of something good in us being the consideration on which the blessing was bestowed; but justification by faith conveys no such idea. On the contrary, it leads the mind directly to Christ, in the same manner as saying of a person that he lives by begging leads to the idea of his living on what he freely receives.”2

What matters, Fuller says, concerning the meaning of the justification of the ungodly is not that we possess no holy affections in the moment of justification by faith, “but that, whatever we possess we make nothing of it as a ground of acceptance, ‘counting all things but loss and dung that we may win and be found in him.’”3 Faith is a duty. It is an act of the soul. It is a good effect of regeneration. “Yet,” Fuller says, “it is not as such, but as uniting us to Christ and deriving righteousness from him, that it justifies?”4

Let us hold fast to the free offer of the gospel which is good news because it is an offer to faith alone, that is, it is to be received as a gift, not a purchase. It is already purchased. If we put anything but receiving in the place of faith, we diminish the glory of the accomplishment of Christ in the purchase.

5. The gospel is an application.

Support and Explanation

All of these eight are essential to the gospel. If any one of them is omitted there is no gospel. And all of them are infallibly secured in the accomplishment of Christ in the cross and resurrection.

Regeneration

You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. (1 Peter 1:23)

Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:18)

God’s begetting creates our believing. But they are simultaneous the fire and light are

Eternal Life

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. (John 3:36)

This life is what is most foundationally imparted regeneration. New birth is the creation of spiritual life.

Faith

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8)

Faith is awakened by regeneration and becomes the cause of the remaining applications of the work of Christ.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God. (1 John 5:11)

Forgiveness

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. (Ephesians 1:7)

Justification

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Romans 3:28)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)

For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:10)

Reconciliation

We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

Adoption

You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:15)

Sanctification consummated in glorification

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:30)

Note: sanctification is not in the list because glorification is sanctification consummated.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

The first seven are simultaneous with faith and the last, sanctification is over a life time, though there is a positional sense in which it happens decisively at faith.

Distortions and Denials of the Gospel as an Application

1. Arminianism

Arminianism (Wesleyanism) teaches that God helps all people overcome their deadness of soul and leaves to the decisive will of man whether to follow that grace and trust Christ and as a consequence be born again. In other words regeneration does not cause faith; faith, in an act of ultimate self-termination, chooses to agree with God’s grace and believe and thus be born again.

How serious is this? Must one believe that faith is decisively caused by God through regeneration? Or can one be saved believing that faith causes regeneration?

The issue comes down to this: Is the heart relationship to God one of utter reliance on God’s grace in Spirit-wrought humility, such that God gets the glory for all of my salvation, both accomplishment and application?

Can the heart be truly humble and reliant in this way while the mind espouses a theology that claims that the human will is taking credit for what the humble heart is really depending on God to provide?

Answer: There are those who totally rely on God in their heart but who fail to see with their minds that total reliance on God includes reliance on God for their reliance on God. Their hearts are better than their heads. They humility echoes the truth while their theology is out of sync with it. God is willing to look at their heart for the truth.

There are more and less virulent forms of articulated non-reliance on God for the gift of faith.

Pelagianism says that our will is free to will our faith and not so enslaved that we need any divine assistance to do so.

Arminianism in its popular form (most of evangelicalism) says we are unable without divine assistance to believe, because we are dead in trespasses and sins, but God gives assistance to all, making it possible for us to believe but not bringing us to believe. That is left for our decisive determination. At that point we are ultimately self-determining.

Pelagianism has historically been regarded as such a virulent form of self-reliance and such a virulent assault on grace that it is considered heresy in the sense that to truly hold it damns. That is, it stretches charitable judgment to the breaking point if one attempts to say that the heart is truly reliant on God in salvation when the mind is saying that there is no need of divine grace in the use of the will to believe.

Arminianism/Wesleyanism recognizes more truth about our sinful and helpless condition apart from grace, and gives more credit to grace, but stumbles intellectually over the implications of sovereign grace. It cannot bring itself to embrace the apparent implications of faith as a gift of God, namely, unconditional election. It appears to them unjust and unloving. Historically charitable views of a good heart behind this mistaken theology have been encouraged.

But how should we regard these errors in relationship to the teaching office of the church and other institutions?

Here’s my rule of thumb: the more responsible a person is to shape the thoughts of others about God, the less Arminianism should be tolerated. Therefore church members should not be excommunicated for this view but elders and pastors and seminary and college teachers should be expected to hold the more fully biblical view of grace.

Do you separate from a denomination that allows pastors and seminary teachers to believe and teach this error? You can. We do. Oh, how we need discernment concerning how helpful you might be to the cause of Christ and his truth.

2. The denial of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in justification.

  1. Robert Gundry denies that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. It is not a New Testament doctrine. See Counted Righteous in Christ written in response.
  2. N. T. Wright considers the historical doctrine of God’s or Christ’s righteousness being imputed to us as making no sense in biblical categories. See The Future of Justification, pp. 21-22 etc.
  3. Others are saying that the righteousness that is imputed to us is not the moral righteousness of Christ, the perfection of Christ or the obedience of Christ, but rather the status of vindicated. Righteous, they say, doesn’t mean morally right in the legal context of the relevant texts but only having the legal status of the acquitted. So Christ’s obedience is relevant for his being a perfect sacrifice, but not relevant as being counted as ours.

See my “Justification and the Diminishing Work of Christ” as a response to these views.” The key text in that document is Philippians 3:6-9 where I try to show that the way Paul things about “being found in Christ not having a righteousness of my own but that which comes through faith” teaches, against all three of these denials a real imputation of the righteousness of Christ.

. . . As to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. (Philippians 3:6-9)

Three bad effects of denying the imputation of Christ’s righteousness:

1) It diminishes the work of Christ by denying that he did one of the glorious things he did.

For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19)

2) It leaves the guilty soul languishing when the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is what God tailor made to free the saints.

3) When the glory of Christ is partially obscured and the assurance of the soul is weakened, the costly, sacrificial labor of love is hindered.

6. The gospel promises a supremely happy future.

Support and Explanation

The final destiny promised in the gospel is God. 1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.

Not ultimately, regeneration, or forgiveness of sins, or justification, or adoption, or sanctification. All of those are means to an end. The end of our reason for existence to “Glorify God and enjoy him for ever.”

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)

I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:26)

Distortions and Denials of the Gospel’s Promises

Here anything can be a denial of the gospel if you put anything as the treasure that Christ died to bring you above God himself. Christ died to give you Christ, ultimately.

Not ultimately prosperity, health, wealth, self-esteem, family, successful church, reunion with deceased loved ones, lawful behavior, forgiveness of sins, removal of wrath, removal of guilt, escape from hell or anything else.

He died so that you might see and be everlastingly and increasingly satisfied in all that God is for us in Christ.

This is where we must take people. Anything short of this goal is falling short of the gospel, and the reason Christ died and rose again.

1The Complete Works of Reverend Andrew Fuller, vol. I, p. 281. “By believing in Jesus Christ the sinner becomes vitally united to him, or, as the Scriptures express it, ‘joined to the Lord,’ and is of ‘one spirit with him;’ and this union, according to the divine constitution, as revealed in the gospel, is the ground of an interest in his righteousness. Agreeable to this is the following language: “There is now, therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.’ -- ‘Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us righteousness,’ etc. -- ‘That I may be found in him not having mine own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ.’” The Complete Works of Reverend Andrew Fuller, vol. II, p. 384.

2 The Complete Works of Reverend Andrew Fuller, vol. I, p. 281. “By faith we receive the benefit; but the benefit arises not from faith, but from Christ. Hence the same thing which is described in some places to faith, is in others ascribed to the obedience, death, and resurrection of Christ.” p. 282.

3 The Complete Works of Reverend Andrew Fuller, vol. II, p. 406.

4The Complete Works of Reverend Andrew Fuller, vol. II, p. 572. At this point he refers to Jonathan Edwards and gives him credit for this insight.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org