“I have determined, the Almighty God being my help and shield, yet to suffer, if frail life might continue so long, even till the moss shall grow on mine eyebrows, rather than thus to violate my faith and principles.”
“Paul’s introduction to his letter to the church in Rome makes it quite apparent that the entire epistle’s theme is the good news of “the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1).
Bracketing Romans is the apostle’s reminder to his readers that he was called to be “set apart for the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1) and a”minister of Christ Jesus… in the priestly service of the gospel of God” (Rom. 15:16).
This good news of the gospel is
- “the good news of the kingdom of God” (Luke 16:16),
- “good news… of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12),
- “good news of peace” (Acts 10:36),
- “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24),
- “the gospel of his Son” (Rom. 1:9),
- “the gospel of your salvation” (Eph. 1:13),
- “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:11).
Surrounded by bad news at every turn, the church has been entrusted with good news, the good news of the gospel, which finds its foundation in God himself.
The gospel is not an earthly message but a heavenly message. Paul says that this is the “gospel of God‘ (Rom. 1:1).
The gospel is about God– His holiness, love, grace, wrath, and righteousness. But Paul’s main emphasis here is that the gospel is from God.
He is the single author and architect of the gospel. The gospel doesn’t originate in the church.
The church doesn’t devise the gospel. The church hasn’t crafted the gospel.
The gospel is a message given to the bride of Christ announcing his mediatorial triumph over sin, death, and the world.
The word translated “gospel” is a compound in Greek, euangelion. The prefix eu means “good.” The primary root word angelion means “messenger” or “message.”
When those two words are placed together, the word gospel simply means “good news.”
The gospel is the good news of salvation through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. It is the message that sinners can be rescued from God’s wrath against sin through the sacrificial, substitutionary death of Jesus Christ upon the cross and his triumphant resurrection from the dead.
This isn’t only good news; it’s beautifully good news. We will never hear anything more surpassingly beautiful than the truth that Jesus Christ is a willing liberator and Savior of sinners.
What specifically is the message of God’s beautiful gospel?
God sent His Son, the second person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ, to rescue sinners.
He was born of a virgin and lived a sinlessly perfect and obedient life under the law.
He was crucified on a cross as a substitute to pay the penalty of God’s wrath against the sins of all those who would ever believe.
In His body, He bore on that tree the punishment due to sinners, and His perfect righteousness was imputed to them, making them acceptable in the sight of God.
He was buried in a borrowed tomb and on the third day rose from the dead.
He ascended back to the authority and power of the right hand of his Father to intercede for all believers.
Now, everyone who by faith “calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Rom. 10:13).
No church has the freedom to tamper with, tweak, add to, or subtract from the good news of Jesus Christ– we are just to herald it.
For there is nothing more beautiful and lovely in the sight of God than the extricating of sinners from the kingdom of darkness and delivering them to the kingdom of light.”
–Dustin Benge, The Loveliest Place: The Beauty and Glory of the Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2022), 122-124.
“We know that in Christendom it has been so arranged that all churches are equal, and there is only one single church of Christ in the world, as we pray, ‘I believe in one holy, Christian church.’
The reason is this: wherever there is a church, anywhere in the whole world, it still has no other gospel and Scripture, no other baptism and communion, no other faith and Spirit, no other Christ and God, no other Lord’s Prayer and prayer, no other hope and eternal life than we have here in our church in Wittenberg.”
–Martin Luther, “Against the Roman Papacy An Institution of the Devil,” Luther’s Works, Vol. 41: Church and Ministry III, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 41 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 41: 358.
“My brethren, the angels are part of the worshippers of Christ as well as we; as they are part of His family, as they are part of His city (Heb. 12:22), whereof He is the King and Lord, so they are part of His worshippers. And, as you shall set anon, we, with all them, worship God and Him together, both here, and shall do so hereafter.
They are worshippers of Him, and in that sense make a part of the Church; for ecclesia colentium, a church is properly for worship. If they be therefore part of the worshippers of Christ, they come under His Church, they are a part of it; particular churches are ordained for worship, and so is the general Church for a worship to be performed to Christ.
And it is the proper expression of the members of a church, what they are designed unto—they are worshippers. Now, in Heb. 1:6, you shall find that the angels are all worshippers of Jesus Christ, ‘And again, when He bringeth His first-begotten into the world, He saith, Let all the angels of God worship Him,’ speaking of Christ…
Little do we think it, but the angels fill our churches as well as men, and are present at all our congregations and assemblies. Because we are to be with them hereafter, and to worship God together with them, therefore they come down and are present at the worship of God here with us…
Angels are round about the throne; and they are present at the courts of God’s house; still they are worshippers, you see, together with us on earth. They do delight to hear Christ preached, because Christ is their Head, and therefore are present (Eph. 1:21-22).
The text is express, Eph. 3:10; Paul sheweth there the end why to him was committed, and so to others, the preaching of the gospel: ‘To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.’
They do not know it out of the Scripture simply, but as it is opened in the church, by the ministers of the church, for the good of the church, so they come to know it; and they delight to do so, for so you have it, 1 Pet 1:12. Saith he, speaking of the fathers before in the Old Testament, ‘It was revealed unto them, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things which are now reported unto you’ (he speaks in general) ‘by them that preached the gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.’
The angels are present, and they are glad to hear Christ laid open and preached unto men, to hear their Head spoken of. They are worshippers together with us of Christ…
Here on earth angels have joy when any poor soul is converted. As they come to church, be they observe who is wrought upon. When they see a poor soul go home and humble himself, fall down upon his knees and become a new creature, news is presently carried up to heaven; for the text saith, Luke 15:10, that ‘there is joy in the presence of the angels of God’—that is, in the court of heaven, amongst them all, so the word signifieth, ἐνώπιον, in the face of all the angels; it is the same word used, Luke 12:8, ‘him shall the Son of man confess before the angels of God,’ He will own him in his court, and confess Him in the presence, in the face of all the angels; so there is joy amongst the angels, they rejoice before God—‘over one sinner that is converted,’ over a poor soul that is gathered unto Christ their Head.
This association, my brethren, we have with them, besides all the services they do us, which I cannot stand to repeat and reckon up unto you; for all the angels are our fellow-servants; so that angel calleth himself, Rev. 22:9. And Jacob’s ladder that touched heaven, the angels ascended and descended upon it; and Christ himself, John 1:51, interprets it that He is the ladder; they all come down upon Him and ascend upon Him, for the service of men.
He is their head, their ruler, their governor. But as we have in this world this association with them, so in the world to come we shall all worship God with one worship, both angels and men together.
Such he there is Heb. 12, the place I quoted before; ‘you are come to the Mount Sion,’—so he calleth the Church, which consisteth both of angels and men, as I observed before. Mount Sion, you know, was the place of God’s worship.
What is his meaning, then, when he saith, ‘you are come to the Mount Sion, to the heavenly Jerusalem?’ You are all come, saith he, to the place of worship whither angels are come up; for al the tribes came up there, to that Mount Sion, to worship God—the mount where all the angels are, and where all the souls of just men made perfect shall come up in their succession, and all to worship God.
It is called Mount Sion, because it is the place of God’s worship. And that which we translate the company of angels, μυριάσιν, it is the solemn assembly of angels; so the word signifieth, such an assembly as was at a solemn feast of the Jews, whither all the people came up.
The men that dwelt at Jerusalem, he compareth them to the angels, for that is their standing seat and dwelling; and we that are upon earth, he compareth to the tribes that came up to the solemn assembly, to the solemn feast. And he calleth them the general assembly, for there God will have all His children about Him. So that both angels and we one day shall be common worshippers, live in one kingdom together; we shall be as angels; so Matt. 22:30...
Angels have a happiness in Christ, in seeing of Him as well as we. I take that to be part of the meaning of that 1 Tim. 3:16. I have often wondered at the expression there; I shall give you what I think to be the meaning of it.
Speaking of Christ, and of the great mystery of godliness in Him, saith he, ‘God, who was manifested in the flesh,’—and there was more of God manifested in the flesh in the person of Christ, than there is in all creatures that were made, or possibly could be made,—‘justified in the Spirit,’ which was spoken of his resurrection, ‘seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.’
Here are two principles, faith and vision. Here is faith attributed to men; they cleave to Christ their head by faith, ‘believed on in the world.’ The angels cleave unto him by vision, ‘seen of angels;’ admiring Him with infinite joy, looking upon Him as their Head.
They saw more of God manifested in that man Christ Jesus, than they had seen in heaven before. We cleave to Him by faith; they cleave to Him by sense: that which we shall have, for we shall see Him one day as He is, that the angels do, and are made happy in Him; the same eternal life that we have, they have, ‘and this is eternal life, to know God, and to know Jesus Christ,’ John 17:3.
Their happiness lieth, as our happiness, in seeing God incarnate, in seeing God in the flesh, in seeing God face to face, and His Christ forever.”
“All the rich benefits which Christ gives to His believers on earth receive their fulfillment and their crown in the glorification which accrues to them in part upon death but only in its fulness after the day of judgment.
But this benefit of glorification is one which we cannot yet discuss, because we have first to pay some attention to the way in which, or the route along which, Christ brings the benefits of calling and regeneration, faith and repentance, justification and adoption as children, renewal and sanctification, into being in His believers on earth, and sustains and reinforces them.
We have already noted that He grants all those benefits by means of His Word and His Spirit, but have still to see that He also grants them also only in the fellowship which binds all the believers together.
He does not distribute them to single individuals, nor to a small group of persons, but He gives them out to a great multitude, to the whole of the new humanity, which was chosen in Him by the Father from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4).
The believer, therefore, never stands apart by himself; he is never alone. In the natural world every human being is born in the fellowship of his parents, and he is therefore without any effort on his own part a member of a family, of a people, and also of the whole of mankind.
So it is also in the spiritual sphere. The believer is born from above, out of God, but he receives the new life only in the fellowship of the covenant of grace of which Christ is the Head and at the same time the content.
If by virtue of this regeneration God is his Father, the church may in a good sense be called his mother. In the world of heathendom also there is no believer or no gathering of believers except by way of the mission which the church of Christ sends them.
From the first moment of his regeneration, therefore, the believer is, apart from his will and apart from his own doing, incorporated in a great whole, taken up into a rich fellowship; he is member of a new nation and citizen of a spiritual kingdom whose king is glorious in the multitude of his subjects (Prov. 14:28).”
–Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God (trans. Henry Zylstra; Glenside, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 1909/2019), 495–496.
“The especial design of the rule of the church in its government is to represent the holiness of Christ, love of Christ, compassion of Christ, care of Christ, and authority of Christ towards His church.
This is the great end of rule in the church, and of all the discipline which is to be exercised by virtue thereof.
Whilst this is not attended unto, when the officers and rulers of the church do not endeavour, in all the actings of their power and office, to set forth these virtues of Christ, to exemplify that impression of them which He hath left in His laws and rule, with the divine testimonies which He gave of them in His own person, they utterly deviate from the principal end of all rule in the church.
For men to act herein in a way of domination, with a visible elation of mind and spirit above their brethren; with anger, wrath, and passion; by rules, order, and laws of their own devising, without the least consideration of what the Lord Christ requires, and what is the frame of His heart towards all His disciples,—is to reflect the highest dishonour imaginable upon Christ Himself.
He who comes into the courts of the king in Westminster Hall, when filled with judges, grave, learned, and righteous, must ordinarily be allowed to judge of the king himself, his wisdom, justice, moderation, and clemency, by the law which they proceed upon and their manner of the administration of it.
But God forbid that Christians should make a judgment concerning the holiness, wisdom, love, and compassion of Christ by the representation which, as is pretended, is made of Him and them in some courts wherein church rule and discipline is administered!
When any had offended of old, their censure by the church was called the bewailing of them, (2 Cor. 12:21); and that because of the sorrow, pity, and compassion whereby, in that censure, they evidenced the compassion of the Lord Christ towards the souls of sinners.
This is scarce answered by those pecuniary mulcts and other penalties, which, with indignation and contempt, are inflicted on such as are made offenders, whether they will or no.
Certainly, those who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, and have a due honour for the gospel, will, at one time or another, begin to think meet that this stain of our religion should be washed away.
The rule and law of the exercise of power in the elders of the church is the holy Scripture only.
The Lord Christ is the only lawgiver of the church; all His laws unto this end are recorded in the Scripture; no other law is effectual, can oblige or operate upon the objects or unto the ends of church-rule.
If the church make a thousand rules, or canons, or laws for government, neither any of them, nor all of them in general, have any the least power to oblige men unto obedience or compliance with them, but only so far as virtually or materially they contain what is of the law of Christ, and derive force from thence: as the judges in our courts of justice are bound to judge and determine in all cases out of and according to the law of the land; and when they do not, their sentence is of no validity, but may and ought to be reversed.
But if, wilfully or of choice, they should introduce laws or rules not legally established in this nation, judging according unto them, it would render them highly criminal and punishable.
It is no otherwise in the kingdom of Christ and the rule thereof. It is by His law alone that rule is to be exercised in it. There is nothing left unto the elders of the church but the application of his laws and the general rules of them unto particular cases and occasions.
To make, to bring, to execute, any other rules, laws, or canons, in the government of his church, is to usurp on His kingly dominion.”
“The Lord, indeed, hath laid out and manifested infinite wisdom in His works of creation, providence, and governing of His world: in wisdom hath he made all His creatures. ‘How manifold are His works! In wisdom hath He made them all; the earth is full of His riches,’ (Ps. 104:24).
So in His providence, His supportment and guidance of all things, in order to one another, and His own glory, unto the ends appointed for them; for all these things ‘come forth from the LORD of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working,’ (Isa. 28:29).
His law also is for ever to be admired, for the excellency of the wisdom therein, (Deut. 4:7-8).
But yet there is that which Paul is astonished at, and wherein God will for ever be exalted, which he calls, ‘The depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God,’ (Rom. 11:33);—that is only hid in and revealed by Christ.
Hence, as he is said to be ‘the wisdom of God,’ and to be ‘made unto us wisdom;’ so the design of God, which is carried along in Him, and revealed in the gospel, is called ‘the wisdom of God,’ and a ‘mystery; even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world was; which none of the princes of this world knew,’ (1 Cor. 2:7-8).
In Ephesians 3:10 it is called, ‘The manifold wisdom of God.’ And to discover the depth and riches of this wisdom, he tells us in that verse that it is such, that principalities and powers, that very angels themselves, could not in the least measure get any acquaintance with it, until God, by gathering of a church of sinners, did actually discover it.
Hence Peter informs us, that they who are so well acquainted with all the works of God, do yet bow down and desire with earnestness to look into these things (the things of the wisdom of God in the gospel), (1 Pet. 1:12).
It asks a man much wisdom to make a curious work, fabric, and building; but if one shall come and deface it, to raise up the same building to more beauty and glory than ever, this is excellence of wisdom indeed.
God in the beginning made all things good, glorious, and beautiful. When all things had an innocency and beauty, the clear impress of his wisdom and goodness upon them, they were very glorious; especially man, who was made for His special glory.
Now, all this beauty was defaced by sin, and the whole creation rolled up in darkness, wrath, curses, confusion, and the great praise of God buried in the heaps of it.
Man, especially, was utterly lost, and came short of the glory of God, for which he was created, (Rom. 3:23). Here, now, doth the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God open itself.
A design in Christ shines out from His bosom, that was lodged there from eternity, to recover things to such an estate as shall be exceedingly to the advantage of His glory, infinitely above what at first appeared, and for the putting of sinners into inconceivably a better condition than they were in before the entrance of sin.”
“The first and principal duty of a pastor is to feed the flock by diligent preaching of the Word. It is a promise relating to the New Testament, that God would give unto His church ‘pastors according to His own heart, which should feed them with knowledge and understanding,’ (Jer. 3:15).
This is by teaching or preaching the Word, and no otherwise. This feeding is of the essence of the office of a pastor, as unto the exercise of it; so that he who doth not, or can not, or will not feed the flock is no pastor, whatever outward call or work he any have in the church.
The care of preaching the gospel was committed to Peter, and in him unto all true pastors of the church, under the name of ‘feeding,’ (John 21:15–17). According to the example of the apostles, they are to free themselves from all encumbrances, that they may give themselves wholly unto the word and prayer, (Acts 6:1–4).
Their work is ‘to labour in the word and doctrine,’ (1 Tim. 5:17); and thereby to ‘feed the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made them overseers,’ (Acts 20:28): and it is that which is everywhere given them in charge.
This work and duty, therefore, as was said, is essential unto the office of a pastor. A man is a pastor unto them whom he feeds by pastoral teaching, and to no more; and he that doth not so feed is no pastor.
Nor is it required only that he preach now and then at his leisure, but that he lay aside all other employments, though lawful, all other duties in the church, as unto such a constant attendance on them as would divert him from this work, that he give himself unto it,—that he be in these things labouring to the utmost of his ability.
Without this no man will be able to give a comfortable account of the pastoral office at the Last Day…
Sundry things are required unto this work and duty of pastoral preaching; as,—
(1.) Spiritual wisdom and understanding in the mysteries of the gospel, that they may declare unto the church “all the counsel of God” and “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” (See Acts 20:27; 1 Cor. 2:4–7; Eph. 3:8–11).
The generality of the church, especially those who are grown in knowledge and experience, have a spiritual insight into these things, and the Apostle prays that all believers may have so, (Eph. 1:15–19); and if those that instruct them, or should do so, have not some degree of eminency herein, they cannot be useful to lead them on to perfection.
And the little care hereof or concernment herein is that which in our days hath rendered the ministry of many fruitless and useless.
(2.) Experience of the power of the truth which they preach in and upon their own souls. Without this they will themselves be lifeless and heartless in their own work, and their labour for the most part will be unprofitable towards others.
It is, to such men, attended unto as a task for their advantage, or as that which carries some satisfaction in it from ostentation and supposed reputation wherewith it is accompanied.
But a man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul.
And he that doth not feed on and thrive in the digestion of the food which he provides for others will scarce make it savoury unto them; yea, he knows not but the food he hath provided may be poison, unless he have really tasted of it himself.
If the Word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us. And no man lives in a more woful condition than those who really believe not themselves what they persuade others to believe continually.
The want of this experience of the power of gospel truth on their own souls is that which gives us so many lifeless, sapless orations, quaint in words and dead as to power, instead of preaching the Gospel in the demonstration of the Spirit.
And let any say what they please, it is evident that some men’s preaching, as well as others not-preaching, hath lost the credit of their ministry.
(3.) Skill to divide the word aright, (2 Tim. 2:15); and this consists in a practical wisdom, upon a diligent attendance unto the word of truth, to find out what is real, substantial, and meet food for the souls of the hearers,—to give unto all sorts of persons in the church that which is their proper portion.
And this requires, (4.) A prudent and diligent consideration of the state of the flock over which any man is set, as unto their strength or weakness, their growth or defect in knowledge (the measure of their attainments requiring either milk or strong meat), their temptations and duties, their spiritual decays or thrivings; and that not only in general, but, as near as may be, with respect unto all the individual members of the church.
Without a due regard unto these things, men preach at random, uncertainly fighting, like those that beat the air.
Preaching sermons not designed for the advantage of them to whom they are preached; insisting on general doctrines not levelled to the condition of the auditory; speaking what men can, without consideration of what they ought,—are things that will make men weary of preaching, when their minds are not influenced with outward advantages, as much as make others weary in hearing of them.
And, (5.) All these, in the whole discharge of their duty, are to be constantly accompanied with the evidence of zeal for the glory of God and compassion for the souls of men. Where these are not in vigorous exercise in the minds and souls of them that preach the Word, giving a demonstration of themselves unto the consciences of them that hear, the quickening form, the life and soul of preaching, is lost.
All these things seem common, obvious, and universally acknowledged; but the ruin of the ministry of the most for the want of them, or from notable defects in them, is or may be no less evidently known.
And the very naming of them (which is all at present which I design) is sufficient to evidence how great a necessity there is incumbent on all pastors of churches to give themselves unto the Word and prayer, to labour in the Word and doctrine, to be continually intent on this work, to engage all the faculties of their souls, to stir up all their graces and gifts, unto constant exercise in the discharge of their duty; for ‘who is sufficient for these things?’ (2 Cor. 2:16)”
“Oh, my brethren, when you are in heaven and when sin shall be forgotten,—you love Christ now because He saveth you, justifieth you, and cleanseth you, and you will love Him at the latter day because He pronounceth you blessed, forgiveth you all sins, and suffereth you not to enter into condemnation.
But when all these shall be over, what will be the sweetness forever? That He is your head. ‘Above all He gave Him to be a head to His church.’ (Eph. 1:22-23)
And do you but consider what a head you have? There is I know not how many alls in Him.
In His person there dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. (Col. 2:9)
In His relation to you He is all, and He is in all. (Col. 3:11)
In His power for you He is above all; so saith the text. (Eph. 1:21)
In His communicating His goodness, ‘He filleth all in all;’ so saith the text too. (Eph. 1:23)
He is one that hath all the Godhead; that is all in all, that is above all, that filleth all in all.
What would you have more? Here are alls enough for you. Value this gift: that Jesus Christ is your head.
Last of all; take that other sense, that of all relations else He is above all a head, performeth that part the best, and nothing is more comfortable to His church.
He is not only above all other heads, above husband, above the natural head of the body, puts them all down, they are but shadows to Him; but above all offices belonging to Himself He is above all a head to His church.
It is as if a wife should say of her husband, ‘He is the best warrior in the world, he is a king, he hath the power and command of all the world, he is wise, he is rich, he is above all in everything, and he hath all sorts of excellencies in him. But above all he is the best husband in the world. He acts that part the best.’
So it is with Jesus Christ. He is the king of all the world, He is wise, He is rich, He is above all in everything, and He hath all sorts of excellencies in Him.
But above all He is a head, He excelleth in that above all things else.”
“Next, the apostle says, ‘In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.’ (Phil. 2:3) Alas! how far we fall below this standard! How few have attained this grace!
Bunyan beautifully portrays Christiana and Mercy coming up out of the bath of the interpreter’s house. They have had jewels put upon them, and when they are both washed, Mercy saith to Christiana, “How comely and beautiful you look!”
“Nay,” Christiana said, “My sister, I see no beauty in myself, but how lovely you look! I think I never saw such loveliness.”
They were both lovely because they could see other people’s loveliness. Your own spiritual beauty may be very much measured by what you can see in other people.
When you say, “Ah! there are no saints now, it is to be feared that you are not one.” When you complain that love is dead in the Christian church, it must be dead in your heart, or you would not say so. As you think of others, that you are.
Out of your own mouth shall you be condemned. Your corn shall be measured with your own bushel. When we come to admire the good in other people that we have not yet attained ourselves, instead of depreciating other people because they have not something which we have, when we get to that, we shall be evidently approaching nearer to Christ.
If the popular preacher can say, “My beloved brother A has a smaller congregation, and is not a very attractive preacher, yet he visits his flock so carefully, and looks after each individual so well, that I admire him greatly, and must endeavour to imitate him;” and if the man with the small congregation says, “My brother B studies to find out acceptable words, and commend himself to the people of God, and he is very earnest, and is a great soul-winner, I wish I were as earnest; I admire it in him;” why, these interchanges of loving estimate are infinitely more Christlike than for the minister with the large congregation to say, “Brother A has mistaken his calling; he cannot get above a hundred people to hear him: what is the good of his preaching?” and for the lesser light to reply spitefully, “Ah, B’s work is just a flash in the pan—fine words and excitement—there’s nothing in it.”
Satan greatly approves of our railing at each other, but God does not.
Let us learn this morning to esteem others instead of depreciating them; for in proportion as we exhibit a meek and lowly spirit, we shall be working out our own salvation.”