11In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:11-14, ESV)
Gospel renewal is a work of the Spirit of God in the lives of his people. It is all about the Holy Spirit continually renewing the spiritual remembrance of our salvation.
The temptation from the outset would be for those who have theological training, and/or have been believers for a long time, to zone out. Understand, we are not merely looking at “the basics” here. The gospel is way more than “Jesus loves me” and “Jesus paid the penalty for my sin so I can go to heaven”. Refuse to be satisfied with that! There is so much more!
So, what IS the gospel?
A number of different people have coined great phrases to help us remember, including:
“The heart of the Christian faith is Good News (gospel), not good advice,
good technique, or good behavior.” Tullian Tchividjian
Religion: I obey therefore I am accepted.
Gospel: I'm accepted therefore I obey.
The gospel is that when we believe in Christ, there is now“no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).
“…the good news that God has accomplished our salvation for us through Christ in order to bring us into a right relationship with him and
eventually to destroy all the results of sin in the world.”
Because of what happened in Genesis 3—The Fall—Adam and Eve deciding they wanted to be like God, man was separated from God, man was placed at odds with God. Try as he might, man could not regain God’s favor in and of himself.
The Problem: God’s Standard of Perfection
God set the standard for being accepted by him. God’s standard of righteousness is himself. He set the standard—the Law. That was his demand. Perfection. Jesus said, “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect”. (Matthew 5) Now, it is important to see that that is not a command—there is no way we could ever match God’s perfection or even come close! No, Jesus is saying that it is the Father who will make us perfect. How does that happen?
It happens when the righteousness of Christ is imputed or credited to the one who believes. Jesus did keep the Law perfectly. He did match the Father’s perfection. And that work by Jesus is credited to you and to me when we believed. It was God who not only demanded righteousness and perfection, but it was God who provided that righteousness and perfection and he does so by his grace—without any condition, without any “doing” on our part! Get that! That is the gospel! That is the Good News! God set the demand, and he provided the solution to the demand for you and me, the ones who could never meet the demand.
In our text [Ephesians 1:11-14], Paul describes the gospel as the word of truth. That word of truth, he said, is the good news, the amazing news, of our salvation. It is the good news that we have been rescued or saved from eternal damnation, it is the good news of what God has done for us that we could never do for ourselves. Get that—it is something that has been done for us, done on our behalf. The gospel is all that was demanded by God and all that has been done for us by God that results in the inheritance that has been promised to those who believe. That inheritance is eternal life.
Notice what Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, and to us—the gospel is what God has accomplished in Christ. Period.
*The inheritance we obtained—eternal life—is “in him”
* It was his purpose—not ours—that caused us to be predestined
* He works out all things according to the purpose of his will
* Faith and belief are in Christ
* That belief is something that took place at a particular point in time—the moment of our salvation—a single, successful, effective occurrence
* As a result of belief, the Holy Spirit seals us—he is the guarantee of our inheritance
At the risk of repetition, I say again, God established the demand of perfect obedience, that is, he established the requirement that had to be met to be accepted by him—keeping the Law—AND he provided the means to satisfy that demand, the work of Jesus Christ during his life, and the work of Jesus on the cross. By that work, Jesus perfectly kept God’s Law during his life, and on the cross, he paid the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf—both of which were in our stead.
In considering the gospel, we need to see that because we are not able to keep the Law perfectly, we are cursed by it, yes, cursed by the Law. Because of our failure to keep it, we deserve nothing more than eternal condemnation, eternal separation from God. We deserve the full brunt of his wrath—his anger over sin, his judgment of sin, his eternal punishment for sin.
At the same time, it is important to see that the curse of the law we were under Jesus took upon himself in order to ransom us for and to God. He drained the cup of God’s wrath (think: Gethsemane) for those the Father would give to him and he drained that cup completely. He bore the entirety of God’s holy wrath for those who would believe. By draining that cup, Jesus set us free!
Peace With God v. Peace Of God
Not only that, but because of what Jesus did on our behalf, we have peace with God. As a result of our having been saved, we are no longer at odds with God. We have entered into a relationship with him and the battle against him is over. Paul talked about this when he wrote to the church at Rome: Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)
On the other hand, because we are in that relationship with God, we can experience the peace of God, “which surpasses all understanding” and “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. “The peace of God” describes the inward rest (Spurgeon) we experience because we have peace with God. The peace of God is not something we do, nor is it something we can adequately describe (M. Henry), but something we experience as a result of peace with God, because we are in right relationship with him.
Despite the difficulty in describing the peace of God, Spurgeon took a stab at it when he preached about it 135 years ago. He said,
It “…is peace of conscience, actual peace with the Most High through the atoning Sacrifice. Reconciliation, forgiveness, restoration to favor there must be—and the soul must be aware of it—there can be no peace of God apart from justification through the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ received by faith (he’s talking about peace with God). A man conscious of being guilty can never know the peace of God till he becomes equally conscious of being forgiven (again, he’s talking about peace with God). When his consciousness of pardon shall become as strong and vivid as his consciousness of guilt had been, then will he enter into the enjoyment of the peace of God which passes all understanding!
That is the gospel!
Briefly: What is grace?
So we know that it is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone that we are saved…but just what is this grace?
God’s Favor, His Free Gift
It is God’s favor shown to us, it is his free gift to us—and has nothing to do with us in any way, shape or form. It is God’s love shown toward us (not the other way around) and not because we have in any way earned it or deserved it. God’s grace makes absolutely no sense to us. Why?
Our Default Mode
Because our default way of thinking causes us to believe we need to earn it, that we have to do something to deserve it, that it can’t just be because he loves us. That is how we tend to live—thinking we have to do something to earn God’s favor or to maintain God’s favor.
God’s grace is unconditional—there is no “if/then” to it. It has nothing to do with our strengths or weaknesses. In order to continue in this grace, there are no demands, requirements, or conditions to meet. Again, our default mode is to believe that there has to be a means of balancing the scales in order to receive and/or continue in this grace. And that causes problems for some who will make the charge: “Cheap Grace!” We will briefly discuss that too.
NEXT: Roadblocks to Gospel Renewal
 Tim Keller, Center Church, 2012, p. 31