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    The Personality of the Gospel

    In my own experience I have learned the difference between the gospel as good advice and the gospel as good news. Viewed simply as good advice, the gospel tells us what we ought to be and leaves us to our own resources; but viewed as good news, it brings within our reach the possibility of realizing the best ideals of life and character.SOTW 31.1

    This good news relates to the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. From it we learn who He is, what He has done for us, what He is doing, and what He will do. The great central fact is that what He teaches, that He is; that His message is inseparable from Himself; and that in the gospel of salvation as presented to us in the Scriptures there is no development of an abstract theology, but that saving truth becomes a personality in Jesus Christ. This is what I would like to present in such a simple way that every one who reads this chapter may receive the personal help which comes from a fuller understanding of, and a fuller appropriation of, our wonderful Saviour.SOTW 31.2

    First, then, let us remember that the same Greek word is, in our version of the New Testament, sometimes rendered “to preach,” sometimes “to preach the gospel,” and sometimes “to bring good tidings.” In either case it is the good news which is presented. Now note the various expressions used in the New Testament to suggest the content of this gospel, these good tidings. It is “the gospel of God” (2 Thessalonians 2:2, etc.); “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God “(1 Timothy 1:11); “the gospel of Christ” (1 Thessalonians 3:2, etc.); “the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Mark 1:1); “the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4); “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24); “the gospel of your salvation” (Ephesians 1:13); “the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15); “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 24:14); “the gospel of His Son” (Romans 1:9), and yet there is only one everlasting gospel. But perhaps the fullest single statement concerning the gospel is contained in the following words:SOTW 32.1

    “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, which He promised afore through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead; even Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 1:1-4.SOTW 32.2

    Here the gospel is clearly defined as being “the gospel of God ... concerning His Son,” and this will be found to be the all-inclusive expression. But from this complete statement we learn that the Son of God was also the seed of David, and that His resurrection from the dead designated Him also the Son of God, and that there are three words in His name,-Jesus, His earthly name as a man; Christ, His official title as the Anointed One; and Lord, His title as sovereign. Since, then, the gospel is the good tidings concerning the Son of God, it is plain that the gospel finds its center in a person, and I have now to show that the good tidings of salvation are so manifestly embodied in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of man, Jesus Christ our Lord, that He Himself is the gospel, that the gospel is personality in Him, and that Christianity is nothing less, and can be nothing more, than “conscious personal oneness with Jesus Christ.”SOTW 32.3

    I shall avoid any declarations of a creedal nature, and any traditional forms of expression, and confine myself to the plain words of Scripture, with the hope that the Holy Spirit, who is the only effective teacher of divinely revealed truth, will make His own doctrine very clear to us.SOTW 33.1

    In seeking to find the meaning of the gospel as a matter of personal experience, I have noted what I sometimes call the five commands of Jesus: “Come unto Me” (Matthew 11:28); “Learn of Me” (Matthew 11:29); “Believe also in Me” (John 14:1); “Follow Me” (John 1:43); “Abide in Me” (John 15:4). Jesus does not bid us come to an impersonal force, or to learn of doctors of theology, or to believe in an evolutionary philosophy, or to follow in the train of any human leader, or to abide contentedly in the performance of mere ceremonies. He presents Himself as our teacher of the truth, as the object of our faith, and as our exemplar, and urges us to find unbroken communion with Himself. In other words, He proclaims Himself as the gospel. If Jesus of Nazareth were a mere man, such language as He used could only be interpreted as the very essence of egotism, and would have evoked a contemptuous rejection of His self-assertion; but the history of the Christian church and the experience of millions who have heeded His call, have demonstrated that the gospel is personalized in the Nazarene. He Himself is His own gospel. Apart from Him there is no gospel of salvation. This is the saving gospel which I myself have appropriated.SOTW 33.2

    I think that a brief study of some statements in the Scriptures will make this clearer to us. Here is a plain prophecy concerning “thy holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:27): “It is too light a thing that thou shouldst be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6. Jesus did not give light apart from Himself, but He Himself was the light, as He said; “I am the light of the world.” John 8:12. The great purpose of the work of Christ was to provide salvation for all who would receive it, and this was accomplished, not by imparting salvation as something separate from Himself, but by being that salvation; and so when the devout Simeon took the child Jesus in his arms, he perceived that the prophecy was fulfilled which declared, “All flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:6), and he broke out in the joyous refrain: “Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart, Lord, according to Thy word, in peace; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.” Luke 2:29, 30. Jesus is Himself our salvation, and “in none other is there salvation.” Acts 4:12.SOTW 33.3

    The gospel is essentially the good news concerning the everlasting covenant of grace, but this covenant is not the ordinary agreement or compact, an abstract document with certain provisions, but it is a personality, as it is revealed in such statements as these; “I, Jehovah, have called Thee in righteousness, and will hold Thy hand, and will keep thee, and give Thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles.” Isaiah 42:6. “Thus saith Jehovah, In an acceptable time have I answered Thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped Thee; and I will preserve Thee, and give Thee for a covenant of the people.” Isaiah 49:8. No mere dictionary definition of the word “covenant” will suffice for this great word of the gospel. Only when the covenant of grace is embodied in a person does it become salvation to us.SOTW 34.1

    When I go forth to each day’s experience, to meet the temptations common to us all, I know that I need a power beyond my own to demonstrate in my life the victory which Jesus Christ has won for me. I can see the revelation of power in nature all about me, but I find it impossible to lay hold of that power through any effort of mine. Then there comes to me the good news that the gospel “is the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16); that “the word of the cross is ... unto us who are being saved [margin] ... the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18), and that Christ crucified is “Christ the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:24. The power which saves me is not an impersonal force, bound by natural laws and devoid of compassion, but a person who loves and works for my salvation. Blank Page “Ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you.” Acts 1:8. “In the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:19), is the explanation of victory in the Christian life. “I can do all things in Him that strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13. “In Christ” is the hall-mark of Christianity.SOTW 34.2

    Christianity is the religion of hope; “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4. But the Christian’s hope of salvation is not simply an earnest expectation based upon certain general conditions, not simply a deep-seated yearning for the realization of a heartfelt longing, and not simply a conviction that certain promises will be fulfilled in due course. In the Scriptures the hope which is unto salvation is a person. In the Old Testament we find, “O Jehovah, the hope” (Jeremiah 17:13); in the New Testament it is “Christ Jesus our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1). The sum and substance of Christianity is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27. Such a living hope is “an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and stead-fast.” Hebrews 6:19.SOTW 36.1

    The great aim of the gospel is to provide righteousness for us who sinned in the first Adam, and “fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23. The natural tendency is to regard righteousness as an abstract term denoting a certain state or condition, a standard of character; but according to the teaching of the Scriptures the righteousness which is bestowed through the gospel, the righteousness which transforms our nature, is embodied in a person, and cannot be received apart from that person. And so we read; “Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch.... In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is His name whereby He shall be called; Jehovah our righteousness.” Jeremiah 23:5, 6. This righteous Branch became manifest in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, who “was made unto us wisdom ... and righteousness.” 1 Corinthians 1:30. Hence we are “justified in Christ” (Galatians 2:17), and righteousness becomes to us a personality.SOTW 36.2

    There are different words which summarize the whole gospel. One of these words is “redemption.” Jehovah of the Old Testament, who declares Himself to be “thy Saviour and thy Redeemer” (Isaiah 49:26), took the flesh that He might redeem us from all iniquity; but it is also true that He Himself became our redemption, as is revealed in the declaration that He “was made unto us ... redemption.” 1 Corinthians 1:30. And so it is He “in whom we have our redemption” (Ephesians 1:7), and this redemption is embodied in His person.SOTW 37.1

    Formerly I regarded justification and sanctification as abstract terms designating certain experiences in the Christian life, but I look at them differently now. I emphasized the teaching that we are “justified freely by His grace” (Romans 3:24), that we are “justified by His blood” (Romans 5:9), and that we are “justified by faith” (Romans 5:1); but I overlooked the foundation fact that we are “justified in Christ” (Galatians 2:17), and that He “was made unto us ... sanctification.” 1 Corinthians 1:30. The experience of justification and of sanctification means receiving Jesus Christ the justifier and the sanctifier, who is Himself our justification and our sanctification. It is both our privilege and our duty to seek a fuller knowledge of the infinite treasure which we have in Christ. This means growth in the Christian life,-sanctification. The more intimate our fellowship is with Christ, the more evident will be His transforming power in our lives.SOTW 37.2

    I hope I have made it clear to my readers that the gospel is in reality a living personality and that it becomes personality in those who accept it as such; that salvation is not a sort of life insurance policy, issued to those who fear death, but fellowship with a person; that Christ imparts no gifts to us apart from Himself, the all-inclusive gift, the “unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15); and that every blessing is found personalized in Him, even as we read; “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3.SOTW 38.1

    Such is the good news which I am glad to make known. “My God shall supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19. The riches of His grace are found in Christ. The riches of His love are expressed in Christ. The riches of His mercy are revealed in Christ. “Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians 3:11. “Christ is Christianity.” O that each one of us may “be found in Him”! Philippians 3:9.SOTW 38.2

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