"What The Gospel Is"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2006 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
I want us to turn in our Bibles to the book of Titus - 1 and 2 Timothy, and then Titus. Again we are coming, somewhat, to that place the Bible calls 'Calvary', 'the place of the skull', the place where Jesus suffered and died for sin. Titus and chapter 2, and I want to speak to you later on on the subject 'What the Gospel Is'. Titus 2, and we'll take time to read the whole chapter, but really our concentration will be on verses 11 through to 14.
Beginning to read at verse 1, Paul writes to Titus: "But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" - the Lord will bless the reading of His truth.
The book of Titus comes along with 1 and 2 Timothy under the New Testament categorisation of the 'pastoral epistles', because both Timothy and Titus were young pastors. The apostle Paul actually viewed them as his own sons in the faith, we see that from chapter 1 and verse 4: 'To Titus, mine own son after the common faith'; and he refers to Timothy in the same light. Probably Titus, just like Timothy, was literally his son in the faith in the sense that he was converted through the ministry and the Gospel preaching of the apostle Paul. After his conversion through the Gospel, he not only was a Christian that Paul led to Christ, but he became a great helper in the Gospel ministry of the apostle. We read as we go through scripture that, after serving with Paul a while on the Isle of Crete, which was one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean, Paul actually asked him to stay on in Crete and to strengthen and to continue the work of God there. We see this in this book in verse 5 of chapter 1: 'For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee'.
This little letter of three chapters, the epistle to Titus, was probably in response to a report that Titus had written previously to the apostle Paul as to how the work was going on in the Isle of Crete. As we read through it, it's not long until we find out that it is chiefly a letter of encouragement to this young pastor. He has been left by the great apostle to lead the church of God in Crete, to set elders in place, to see that the testimony of Jesus Christ goes on from strength to strength. This evangelism in the early church was not dropping 'gospel bombs' and leaving people to their own devices, they stayed with the people, they settled there and the new converts made up a church. They put elders in place, they formed an assembly. Titus was given the responsibility of discipling these young Christians, and eventually developing other godly leaders that would take the testimony of Jesus Christ on to the next generation.
But another chief responsibility that Titus had was also to win the lost, to preach the evangel, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to see people saved thereafter. The major thrust of this book was to equip the people in Crete to evangelise the people round about them in their neighbourhoods, in their workplace, in their family. We see this: six times God and our Lord Jesus Christ are referred to in this book as being 'Saviour'. That is the emphasis of this little epistle: that there is a Saviour for the world, a Saviour for those who are lost in sin and nature's night. The Gospel themes of the portion we read together, if you were just to take verses 11 through to 14 of chapter 2, you see the Gospel theme is coming through very definitely, the theme of God's grace: 'For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men'.
We see in verse 13 the subject of the second advent, the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, that the Gospel is not only a message of the first coming when Jesus came to Bethlehem, and the Gospel records that we have of Him in Matthew to John; but there is a second coming, Jesus is going to appear a second time without sin unto salvation. Then we see in verse 14 the intrinsic crux, literally speaking, of the Gospel - 'crux' means 'cross'. The cross is the central axis of everything that we believe and preach, verse 14: this One, this Christ 'gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works'. The substitutionary sacrifice that Jesus made for our sins on the cross.
Now before I go on any further, what is very interesting - at least I think - to note, is the definition of what the church is. Have you ever wondered about that? Why the church exists at all? Well, along with worshipping God, which I would say is the primary reason for the church of Jesus Christ in the world today, the second, the next best reason why it is here and now in the 21st-century is to preach the good news, to herald forth the Gospel, the good tidings that a Saviour has come, and a Saviour who is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him - 'Seeing He ever liveth', He died and He is alive again through His glorious resurrection. But that is not often the answer that you get from people. If you were to ask them casually, maybe stop them in the street or even in a meeting like this: 'What's the church for?' - you would get a plethora of answers.
Some would say: 'Well, the church exists for social good. It ought to be a charitable institution, helping the poor and the sick, the orphan and the widow'. There is a measure of truth in that, we ought to be doing all those things, but does the Bible teach that that is the reason for the existence of the church? Others will say: 'Well, the church should give political leadership to whatever nationality it belongs to, whatever state and society and entity it is found within'. Others say that the church should give a sense of community to a neighbourhood or to people who are at a loose end. There are so many lonely people around today, they need a sense of belonging and the church is where they can find that. Others say: 'Well, the church ought to preserve our national or ecclesiastical heritage'. Whether your church is the Roman Catholic Church or a Protestant denomination, perhaps you feel that it is the 'defence of the faith'. People around this district talk the nonsense of 'For God and for Ulster' - that's what many believe the church is for, to defend your particular national or political allegiance.
But I say to you this evening, from the word of God, that the church is in existence for none of those things. Apart from worshipping God, which is the chief end of man, the church exists to herald forth the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. I would go as far as to say on the authority of Scripture that if a church does not evangelise, that is preach the Gospel, it is not a church at all in the New Testament sense. All you have to do is look to the very origins of the church. In Acts chapter 2, the birthday of the church, when it became an actual organism - it had been a mystery hitherto, and now God was revealing what He was going to do in saving Gentiles as well as Jews - what happened on that very origination day of the church? Almost or about 3000 souls were saved! The church exists to see people won for the Lord Jesus Christ in salvation.
Now when we come to that conclusion we face another disputed point, because once we agree that the church exists to preach the Gospel, the question that obviously hangs in the air is: what is this Gospel that the church ought to be preaching? You would think by 2000 or so years of history that the church, in general, would have come to some kind of consensus as to what the Gospel is, but it hasn't! If you ask many people in Christendom today, some will say: 'Well, the church exists to continue to teach the traditions and the dogmas of the church - its own dogmas, its own traditions, its own teaching - to keep those going'. There's a measure of truth in that, depending on what those traditions and dogmas are, as long as they are based on the word of God - but others will say: 'Well, the church exists to follow the example of Christ, to follow Jesus, to do as He did, to says as He said'. Others pick up on the commandment in the New Testament to 'Love thy neighbour'. You often hear this in Christian churches, so-called, that the Gospel is 'Loving your neighbour and loving God'. Others say the Gospel is to live by the ten commandments, God's law that He has given to us. Others turn to the New Testament and see Christ as the new Lawgiver after Moses in the Sermon on the Mount, and to obey the Beatitudes and all the laws and principles that Christ laid down. One of the most popular is the 'golden rule': 'Live out the golden rule! - 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you' - that is the Gospel'.
Well, if you really want to know what the Gospel is tonight you've come to the right place - I don't mean the Iron Hall, I mean this little epistle of Titus. Titus is a young pastor, and you would expect that when the apostle is trying to encourage and instruct this young man in how to make the church grow and to preach the Gospel, he would make absolutely clear in remembrance to him what that Gospel is that he ought to be preaching. He does just that in verse 11: 'For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men'.
Let's look tonight at what the Gospel is. The first thing I want to say on this text is that the Gospel is a gospel of grace, the Gospel is a gospel of grace. Now you might be like most people in our world thinking that 'grace' is something that Torvill and Dean display when they're on the ice rink - but that is not grace. The theological definition of 'grace' is 'unmerited favour', something that you do not deserve but you're getting it anyway - not because you've earned it, but through a free gift, a gift of grace. But you will note in this verse 'the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men'. Now that's very strange, because we never think of a concept appearing. We can talk about it, we can debate about it, we can analyse and dissect a concept, even a theological one - but we don't ever think of it appearing. There is a personification here of grace - grace has appeared!
So we see that what Paul is speaking to Titus about is not a mere philosophy, it is not a body of ethics, it is not just a doctrine - though doctrine is involved - but Paul is chiefly speaking of a Person. Grace is a Person. You see, the New Testament message that has come to us and agrees right from Matthew to Revelation, is that God's supreme gift to fallen man throughout all of history has been His Son. At the beginning of the Gospel of John, chapter 1 and verse 14, we read that John says God's expression of Himself was manifest in human flesh. John, on behalf of all the disciples, said: 'And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth'. The Lord Jesus Christ is the personification of grace.
This word 'appeared' in Titus could be translated 'manifested'. The grace of God has been manifested, or shone forth to us. God's gift of grace to fallen mankind is none other than His Son! Paul described the Saviour as God's unspeakable gift, or God's indescribable gift. One indescribable element of His grace is what theologians and Bible teachers and scholars call 'His condescension'. He condescended to come from heaven to earth. Or you could put it like this: 'His humiliation' - you read about it in Philippians chapter 2, that He humbled himself. He came to this earth, He took upon himself human flesh; but also the form of a Servant, to serve God, to bring the way of salvation to fruition. He went to the extent of humbling and condescending, to going to the cross and dying even the death of the cross.
Do you know this evening that our Gospel is a gospel of grace? Do you know that that grace is the personification and manifestation of none other than the Lord Jesus? That's why Paul says in 2 Corinthians: 'For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich'. The King of heaven, the Creator of the universe, the One who set the rolling spheres in orbit, He came to be a man, He came to where men were out of grace.
Now many people mistake salvation to be found in religion. If you like, religion is men trying to get where God is - but religion is determined by itself, not by how you're related to Jesus Christ, and that's what salvation is determined by. Not by what religion you are, or how many steps of the ladder you've got, ethically speaking, to God! But religion is false - what really matters is a relationship with Jesus Christ, how we come to God through Him and Him alone. 'Christ', Titus says, 'hath appeared to all men', irrespective of religion. This is beyond class or creed, culture or whatever you believe or have believed - this grace has appeared to all men! Now that does not mean that all men are saved, the Bible nowhere teaches a doctrine of universal salvation - that everybody will be all right in the end. We see that from John 1, when this Christ of God came into the world, verse 11 tells us: 'He came unto his own, and his own received him not', but the next verse, verse 12 says, 'But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name'.
This is why the Gospel must be preached: Christ must be preached because He is the only hope for men. He must be preached to all men, every creature, and this is why Paul tells Titus: 'Preach this Gospel, that the grace of God has appeared to all men'. Paul said in Romans: 'How shall they believe in whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?'. You see, this grace is not something that you come into through baptism. You see, some churches - and we've been thinking about this on a recent Monday night - talk about grace being given at baptism, as an infant. Then other denominations talk about grace being given into you by confirmation or by church membership, but that grace that men define is not the grace of the Bible. The grace of the Bible is a gift of God, and it is accepted only by faith. That's what verse 1 of chapter 1 of Titus says: 'Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect'. Faith is how he has received the gift of salvation.
The Gospel is a gospel of grace, but can I say very personally to you this evening that the Gospel is also a very personal thing. The Gospel has appeared to all men, but what I'm asking you tonight is: have you, by faith, received the gift of this gracious Gospel as your own? Just received it, and believed it? This is why the Gospel makes a lot of people uncomfortable, because it is a very personal affair. That's why evangelical preaching is so unpopular today. People don't like, in general in our society, feeling that their privacy is invaded. They like to keep themselves to themselves - next-door neighbours hardly even speak to one another in the day and age in which we live. So when you get so personal as to come close to talk about individual faith, acceptance of the Gospel, people become uncomfortable.
I wonder are you uncomfortable tonight in this place hearing the Gospel? Or have you ever been uncomfortable listening to words like these? Well, I would vouch to say that if you have never ever been uncomfortable listening to the Gospel, you've never ever heard the Gospel. Now you might say: 'How can you say that?'. Well, simply because the Gospel is not only a gospel of grace, it is a Gospel that confronts our sin. You can't get more personal than sin! Some of our sins are only known between ourselves and God, that's why people get uncomfortable - because the Gospel uncovers our sin and calls it what it is, an abomination in the sight of Almighty God!
These Cretians were described by one of their own countrymen, a prophet, you will see in verse 12 of chapter 1, as: 'alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellied'. The poet, probably Epimenides, was describing these people in Crete as the dregs of Greek culture and society. How our culture today needs a message, but the message that it needs is the message that it does not want! It is the message of God's gospel, yes that there is a gift of grace, but that sin must be dealt with. You might say: 'Well, you couldn't call people in Ulster 'always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies''. Well, this, of course, was an exaggeration on his part. You can't tar all with the one brush, even though Epimenides does it. But I ask the question of you tonight: who of us does not have a problem with the things described for us in verse 12? 'Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world'.
Ungodliness! Have you never had a problem with ungodliness? 'What is that?', you say. Well, it's unrighteousness. Let me be more specific: it is breaking the law of God. You know, or at least I hope and assume you know, the ten commandments. It is to break those, that is ungodliness - and surely I don't need to explain to you in the 21st-century what worldly lusts are? Sensual passions, incontinence, not being able to control yourself! Do you have problems with those types of sins in your life? Well, you're not a human being if you don't, that's a fact! But really the question tonight in the face of the Gospel is: are you being honest with yourself about your ungodliness, about your worldly lusts, and are you being honest before a holy God?
You see, that is the starting place of conversion - not only to admit that you do wrong, but that you are wrong. That you are sinner by nature, and that you can't help sinning. Even when you want to do that which is right, you can't bring yourself to do it. You're a sinner, the Bible says! Now you might find that uncomfortable, friend, but that's what the Bible says about us all. 'There is none righteous, no not one, there is none that seeketh after God. There is none that doeth good' - we are born that way, we live that way, and we will die that way. I urge you to overcome that uncomfortableness in thinking of yourself as a sinner.
But then there are people who admit to this fact, and they freely accept: 'Well, I am a sinner' - but they go a step further than God does, and they say, 'Well, if I'm disobedient to God's law, I must then become obedient to it. I must try and do better. I must try and stop sinning, I must attempt to do good'. Many make this mistake after coming to terms with their own sinnership, they devise some personal way or some institutional religious way of overcoming their sin - but sin cannot be overcome, and that is not the Gospel way to overcome it!
'What is it?', you say. Well, here is our third definition of the Gospel: it is a Gospel of grace, it is a Gospel that confronts our sin, but thirdly it is a Gospel that changes lives. Verse 12 says that this Gospel of grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. That word 'teaching us' could be translated 'disciplining us'. The word 'denying' is in the aorist tense in Greek, which means 'once and for all denying'. This does not mean that the Gospel is saying: 'Look, if you stop these things, well then you're a Christian'. This is not a Gospel of good works, but this is telling us that this Gospel of grace actually has the power within it to make us stop sinning in ungodliness and worldly lusts. This Gospel of grace has the power of Christ in it!
Paul could say in Romans 1:16: 'For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power', the word is 'dynamus', 'the dynamite of God unto salvation to every one that believeth'. What am I saying? This Gospel can make you good. This Gospel changes lives. As Mrs Alexander put it, and we sang it:
'He died that we may be forgiven' - some people change this verse, and they are wrong to change it -
'He died to make us good,
That we might go at last to heaven,
Saved by His precious blood'.
This is a message that can make you good. You don't have to be good to get it, but when you get it makes you good! The reason being, God's Gospel delivers you from three things: one, from the penalty of sin. Verse 11: 'the grace of God that bringeth salvation' - that means deliverance from hell and our judgment upon our sins. It is also a Gospel that delivers us from the power of sin, verse 12, all these passions and habits that constrain us and control us. Then in verse 13 the believer, then, in Christ looks for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Eventually this Gospel will deliver us from the very presence of sin! This is a Gospel that deals with your past, that deals with your present problems, that deals with your future prospect. It is a transforming thing, Paul could say that after you are converted 'old things pass away, behold all things are made new' - because this new birth in Christ gives you a new start, a new life in which the power of sin is broken! How many people put the cart before the horse, they think that you need to do good to be a Christian. They fail to see that a Christian is made, by God, to do good.
'How is such a change possible?', you might say. The answer is found in verse 14, that our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ - note, please, one definite article, the Lord Jesus here is the God who is the Saviour, He is God's Son, Deity, God of very God - but this Saviour, God manifest in flesh: 'gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify a people unto himself'. How is such a change possible in the life of any man, woman, boy or girl? It is possible because Christ can redeem men's lives!
What does it mean to redeem? Well, you should know that, it means simply to free a captive on the payment of a ransom. You pay the price, the prisoner is set free! God's justice, because He is a holy God, demands satisfaction for sin. You see, God must judge sin, He can't just sweep it under the carpet. We are sinners, and that means we are sure to be judged, but the Gospel is that God sent His only Son to give His life a ransom for many. Because:
'There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin,
Because He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven and let us in'.
There, hanging between heaven and earth, He paid in the currency of His own blood - the precious blood of Christ, a Lamb without blemish and without spot. We may not know, we cannot tell what pain He had to bear, but we believe it was for us He hung and suffer there. He gave himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil world, that He might have a people, a peculiar people, that means a special people, zealous of good works for Himself. Maybe you're saying tonight where you sit: 'I would long to be a person like that, a special person, a person that no longer lives for sin, but lives for the Saviour and lives for God. I long that I might know this Gospel of grace, this Gospel that really once and for all confronts my sin, a Gospel that changes my life!'.
Would you be free from the sins that bind you this very evening? Would you live righteously for God in this present evil world with all its temptations that seem to be greater than they have ever been, though they are far from it? Well, if you would my friend, it's very simple: this grace has been given, and you must embrace it by faith. The Scottish Catechism - and I love to quote this - puts it like this: 'Embrace Christ as He is freely offered in the Gospel'.
I warn you: there is another appearing. If you do not have Christ as Saviour from the first appearing, you will face Him as Judge at the second. I'm sure some of you have heard of John Newton. John Newton was the author of that famous hymn 'Amazing Grace' and many others, and when he was a young man he used to dream of following in his father's footsteps. His father was a sea captain. At the age of 11 young John realised his dream, he was on the crew of his father's ship - but it was far from plain sailing from then on in, because with that crew John learned the ways of wickedness, ungodliness, worldly lusts. He began to fight with his father, he began to rebel and clash with his employers - eventually he was flogged for desertion, and finally he ended up in jail!
When he got out of jail, his imprisonment hadn't changed him one iota. When he was released he just continued on in his old immoral, godless life in unrestrained debauchery - the greatest sin and abominations you could ever imagine. Eventually his downward spiral led him into the most despicable of all trades in those days, and that was the slavery trade. What a wretch and what a sinner young John Newton had become. We might well ask the question: could God do something with a man like this? Can God change a life like this? Well, in his autobiography which was entitled 'Out of the Depths', he wrote these words, I quote: 'March 21st is the day to be remembered by me. I have never suffered it to pass wholly unnoticed since the year 1748. On that day the Lord sent from on high and delivered me from deep waters'. The story goes that he was caught in a raging storm in his boat off the north-west of Ireland, and as the waves thundered against the vessel, as the water filled the decks, the ship was about to break into pieces - and Newton and the crew did everything to pump the water, and with buckets to throw it out of the boat. When he could do no more, fearing that he was going to die, he cried: 'If this will not do, then may the Lord have mercy on us!'. Then the thought came to him: 'What mercy can there be for me?'. Miraculously the storm abated, and more miraculously John Newton was converted. He wrote with his pen that hymn:
'Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see'.
Towards the end of his life, he used to say to audiences: 'My memory is nearly gone, but I can remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour'. He died on December 21st 1807, having served his Lord 60 years in one particular parish in London. On the tombstone in the graveyard of his former parish at Olney are these words inscribed, listen carefully dear soul: 'John Newton, clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was by the rich mercy of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long laboured to destroy'.
It is truly an amazing Gospel, for it is a Gospel of amazing grace. Have you believed it?
Now if the Lord has spoken to you in the Gospel tonight, I have some booklets: a Gospel of John with seven steps to knowing God at the front of it, and a booklet on 'Pardon For Sin and Assurance of Peace with God', and you're very welcome to either of those or both of them on your way out. But the question that remains hanging tonight for you is: do I know that grace of God, the grace of the Lord Jesus in my life?
Father, we pray tonight that someone or some folk in this place would come to know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor. We thank Thee for the Saviour, for His condescending love, for His agony and blood on the cross, and for His willingness to receive repentant sinners - only those who class themselves as sinners, but who will cast themselves on the mercy of God by faith. Lord, may someone take that step tonight, young or old, and we will be careful to give Thee all the praise and all the glory. Those of us who are saved by this amazing grace, we want to say 'Thank You Lord, for saving my soul'. Amen.
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This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording, titled "What The Gospel Is" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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