The Gift of the Gospel in Romans 1

pexels-photo-104966One of the most important questions for a Christian to be prepared to answer, both for himself and others, is What is the gospel? You should ask yourself this question often and always be prepared to give an answer to others. The reason many Christians don’t grow in holiness and righteousness is because they ironically don’t have a firm grasp on the gospel. The same is true for Christians who don’t go with the gospel to their neighbors and the nations—they simply don’t think enough about the gospel. Deep meditation on the gospel will increase your joy in God and ignite a passion for others to know God through the gospel.

When Paul writes that he desires to preach the gospel among the Roman Christians, he means that he wants to take part in both discipleship and evangelism. This means he wants to preach the gospel to the Roman Christians for their discipleship. He also wants to preach the gospel with the Roman Christians for the evangelism of the lost in Rome. But what is this gospel Paul wants to proclaim? What is this message he desires the Christians and lost in Rome to know?

The gospel and theme of the entire letter of Romans is stated nicely and clearly for us in Romans 1:16-17. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” The theme of the gospel and the letter of Romans is that the righteousness of God is freely given to sinners.

Paul wants to preach the gospel in Rome because he is not ashamed of the gospel. He is fearless to share the gospel, and he is proud of the universal effects of the gospel. The gospel carries the power of salvation for anyone who believes in Jesus—Jews, Gentiles, and everyone in between. You can be unashamed of the gospel in these same ways. Be fearless to share the gospel and live your life in line with the gospel. And, be proud and glad to share the gospel freely with anyone. There is power in the gospel to save even the worst person you know.

The reason we can be unashamed of the gospel is because it is a message from God and it contains power of God for salvation. God produces salvation, not human effort. You cannot do anything to earn salvation. It is entirely a work of God to save his people from the penalty of death we deserve. God reveals his righteousness in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Jesus, who was perfectly and divinely righteous, dies in the place of those who are unrighteous. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). The gospel is a gift. It is a gift of God’s righteousness given freely to the unrighteous who receive it by faith. Share this gift as freely and generously as you have received it.

Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.


How Can a Righteous God ‘Put Away’ David’s Sin?

pexels-photo1I had a friend in high school who always parked in the teacher’s parking lot. Now, this was a big deal not only because he wasn’t a teacher, but also because the teacher’s parking lot was much closer to the school than the student parking lot. While we were all walking from the back student parking lot, he was just taking a few short steps into the school. After about three months of this, someone finally was brave enough to tell the principal. One day, he was called into the principal’s office and we all knew he would lose his parking permit and his parents would probably have to drop him off each morning. But to our surprise, when he left the principal’s office he was just given a warning. No punishment. No consequences. He totally got away with it!

That’s what it feels like happened to David. Even though there were consequences for his sin, the Lord seems to just pass over his sin. It really is a radical statement when we read, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” If the man in Nathan’s story deserved to die for stealing a poor man’s lamb, then surely David deserved to die for committing adultery, having a man killed, and then lying about it. The Lord himself rightly accuses David of despising the word of the Lord and scorning God. These are sins against God that deserve death. But David does not get what he deserves. He deserves death, but he receives divine mercy. This just doesn’t seem fair!

How is it right for God to just put away or pass over David’s sin like this? How can he just put away David’s sin? How does an adulterous, lying, murderer get set free? John Piper points to Romans 3:25-26 and comments, “The outrage we feel when God seems to simply pass over David’s sin would be good outrage if God were simply sweeping David’s sin under the rug. He is not.”

The only way for God to pass over David’s sin and to pass over your sin is for David’s sin and your sin to be covered by the blood of Christ. God was able to show mercy to David because there was coming a day when Jesus Christ would live without sin and die for sinners. Jesus would one day die in David’s place. In a mysterious way, David’s confession of his sin and trust in God’s mercy and work of redemption connected him to Jesus, so that David’s sin and Christ’s righteousness are exchanged for one another. Christ became sin for David. David was counted righteous by Christ.

Is it fair that David’s sins were put away? Only if they would be put on another. David did not bear the full penalty of his sin. Jesus did. And because he did, God is now the just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26). God remains a good judge even when he shows mercy to sinners like us.

Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is a M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

J.I. Packer and Justification

The-Structure-of-JustificationsIn prepping to teach on justification this Wednesday night in my church’s children’s catechism ministry, I have spent some time in J.I. Packer’s 18 Words. I recommend this book to new believers more than any other. Yesterday, I re-read his chapter on justification and was reminded of Packer’s great insight and clarity.
I am so eager to introduce the doctrine of  justification to the kids of First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt tomorrow night because of the peace and joy that accompany it. Justification is the path to joy in the face of suffering. Justification is the door to freedom from guilt. Justification is the road to peace amidst worry and fear.

I wanted to take some time here to share Packer’s thoughts on the meaning of justification. He later unfolds the groundmeans, and centrality of justification. What follows are some of the most complete and thorough statements on the meaning of this precious doctrine. So, if you do not know what the doctrine of justification is or are not sure how to communicate it, this post is for you.

1. Justification means to Paul God’s act of remitting the sins of, and reckoning righteousness to, ungodly sinners freely, by his grace, through faith in Christ, on the ground, not of their own works, but of the representative righteousness and redemptive, propitiatory, substitutionary blood-shedding of Jesus Christ on their behalf.

2. To ‘justify’ in the Bible means to ‘declare righteous’; to declare, that is, of a man on trial, that he is not liable to any penalty, but is entitled to all the privileges due to those who have kept the law.

3. Justification is a judgment passed on man, and a work wrought within man; God’s gift of a status and a relationship to Himself.

4. Justification is God’s fundamental act of blessing, for it saves from the past and secures for the future.

5. Justification brings peace with God (because sin is pardoned) and also hope of the glory of God (because the rights of the righteous are bestowed on the believer).

6. The gospel which proclaims God’s apparent violation of his justice is really a revelation of his justice.

7. The gospel shows a just God can justly justify believing sinners.

8. The only way in which justification can be just is for the law to be satisfied so far as the justified are concerned.

9. Sinners are justly justified on account of the obedient law-keeping and blood-shedding of Jesus Christ; and it is on this that their assurance of present and future salvation must rest.

10. Faith is not the ground of justification…Faith is rather the outstretched empty hand which received righteousness by receiving Christ.

11. Certainly, faith is the occasion and means of our justification, but Christ’s obedience, His righteousness, His propitiation for our sins, is its ground.

12. The reason why the doctrine of justification is central to the gospel is that God’s basic relationship to us as His rational creatures is that of Lawgiver and Judge, so that our standing before Him is always determined by his holy law. The sinner’s first problem, therefore, is to get right with God’s law, for until he is right with the law he cannot be right with the God whose law it is. As long as the law condemns him, true worship and fellowship with God are impossible for him. The gospel of justification, however, solves this problem by showing him how, through faith in Christ, the condemning voice of the law against him may be silenced for ever. Now he may draw near, unafraid, to worship his Maker.

–All quotes taken from Packer, 18 Words, pp. 135-142

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.

Martin Luther on the Relationship Between Justification and Sanctification

luther2_zoomI recently read an essay written by the Reformer, Martin Luther, entitled, “Two Kinds of Righteousness.” I found it to be very helpful and edifying, as well as carrying (as expected) astute theological significance. There has historically been much confusion over the relationship between justification and sanctification. Such confusion is still awry with the whirlwind surrounding Tullian Tchavidjian and The Gospel Coalition, just to give one example.
The relationship between justification and sanctification isn’t mere theological debate reserved for academics. One’s understanding of this relationship directly effects Christian living. For example, if one mistakenly believes justification to function in such a way that neglects progressive sanctification, there would be no motivation to mortify the flesh and sin. However, sanctification should never be viewed as a legalistic method by which one earns salvation as if justification did not exist. There must be a healthy balance between the two, understanding that justification and sanctification is distinct, but connected.

Luther’s “Two Kinds of Righteousness” as a whole serves the Christian in his or her daily battle with sin. I found sections from propositions two and six particularly helpful in clearly stating the connection and distinction within the relationship between justification and sanctification.

Proposition Two: “Therefore, everything which Christ has is ours, graciously bestowed on us unworthy men out of God’s sheer mercy, although we have rather deserved wrath and condemnation, and hell also.”

In explaining what he calls “alien righteousness,” the imputed righteousness that believers obtain by God’s grace through faith in Christ, Luther makes a theologically loaded statement in this second proposition that hits on a few doctrines. Firstly, he concisely describes the essence of imputed righteousness by writing, “…everything which Christ has is ours.” Luther points out the degree of the blessings poured out on the Christian through the imputed righteousness of Christ. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Luther sums up in this statement the blessings Christians receive through this glorious transaction. It is through this doctrine that we are justified and it is only by this doctrine that we can stand before God and be counted blameless in his sight. This statement is highly significant because in it we have a description of the direct effects of Christ’s imputed righteousness, which lead us to say with Paul, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3).

But even further, in this short section we see God’s sovereign grace in bestowing this blessing upon us. Our alien righteousness is nothing that we earn. It is a gift. It is a divine gift of sovereign grace, in which God grants saving faith to those whom he wills, though all are deserving of “wrath and condemnation, and hell also.” So, Luther also shows in this statement his affirmation of the depravity of man and the grace of God in salvation. According to Luther, our eternal destiny depends solely on the grace of God. From this we can apply that all praise, glory, and worship are due God alone. There is no room for boasting in salvation on man’s part.

 Proposition Six: “The second kind of righteousness is our proper righteousness, not because we alone work it, but because we work with that first and alien righteousness. This is that manner of life spent profitably in good works…in slaying he flesh and crucifying the desires with respect to the self…this righteousness consists in love to one’s neighbor…in meekness and fear towards God.”

Luther turns at this point in his essay from an exposition of justification (“alien righteousness”) to discuss the doctrine of sanctification (“proper righteousness”). It is noteworthy that Luther keeps at the forefront the necessity of God’s grace and the total and utter reliance on the work of Christ for salvation. He emphasizes that this “proper” or more active righteousness on our part is not a way by which we merit salvation, but rather a full reliance on the merit of Christ (“…not because we alone work it, but because we work with that first and alien righteousness”). This section is highly significant because it describes sanctification as being motivated by justification.

Though Luther accurately separates the two, he links them by showing the reliance of the one upon the other. To put it practically, Luther shows us that it is by the imputed righteousness of Christ that we do good works, slay the flesh, crucify selfish desires, love our neighbor, and fear God. This gets to the heart of Philippians 2:12-13, “…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.” We are to work out our salvation, yet it is God who works in us for his good pleasure.

According to Luther, our alien righteousness fuels our proper righteousness. God saves us by his grace alone and he works out our sanctification through the means of our obedience.

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY. with his wife Erica.