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The Gospel of God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
May 26, 2024 12:01 am

The Gospel of God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 26, 2024 12:01 am

The gospel is God's message. We have no authority to change or obscure it. From his expositional series in the book of Galatians, today R.C. Sproul speaks on the humility required to receive God's gospel and the charge laid upon us to defend this perfect message of salvation.

Get R.C. Sproul's Commentary on Galatians for Your Gift of Any Amount: https://gift.renewingyourmind.org/3325/galatians-commentary

Meet Today's Teacher:

R.C. Sproul (1939-2017) was known for his ability to winsomely and clearly communicate deep, practical truths from God's Word. He was founder of Ligonier Ministries, first minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew's Chapel, first president of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine.

Meet the Host:

Nathan W. Bingham is vice president of ministry engagement for Ligonier Ministries, executive producer and host of Renewing Your Mind, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast, and a graduate of Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan joined Ligonier in 2012 and lives in Central Florida with his wife and four children.

Don't forget to make RenewingYourMind.org your home for daily in-depth Bible study and Christian resources.

Renewing Your Mind is a donor-supported outreach of Ligonier Ministries. Explore all of our podcasts: https://www.ligonier.org/podcasts

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God owns the gospel, and the reason why He owns the gospel is that because it comes from Him. It's not a human message. It's not Peter's message. It's no man's message. It's God's gospel.

So let me just warn you now. If God owns it and has authority over it, God help us if we mess with it or change it or try to improve it. In an attempt to fill pews on a Sunday morning or to capitulate to a culture that hates God, many have distorted the gospel, changing the message from one about Christ and what He has accomplished to reconcile sinful man with a holy God to a message about personal fulfillment or even personal health and wealth.

But as you just heard from R.C. Sproul, this is God's gospel, and we are not permitted to change it. And in a changing culture, the very thing we need is the constancy of God's gospel as revealed to us in scripture. Welcome to the Sunday edition of Renewing Your Mind, a daily outreach of Ligonier Ministries.

Each Sunday we feature the preaching ministry of R.C. Sproul, and we're currently in a short series in Galatians. If you'd like to study the entire epistle with Dr. Sproul, you can request his hardcover commentary for a donation of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. We're in Galatians chapter 1, and here's Dr. Sproul on the source of the gospel. We're still continuing our study of Paul's letter to the Galatians, and I'll be reading from chapter 1 of Galatians, verses 11 through 17, and I would ask the congregation please to stand for the reading of the Word of God. For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it, and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.

But when He who had set me apart before I was born and who called me by His grace was pleased to reveal His Son to me in order that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia and returned again to Damascus." Again, we remember that this text that was written by the Apostle was inspired and superintended by God the Holy Spirit. This is the Word of God.

Please receive it as such and be seated. Let us pray. Again, our Father and our God, we look to You for the help that we need to understand the things that the Apostle has written, not only to understand it but to embrace them and to live by them. Help us to that end if we beseech Thee in the name of Jesus.

Amen. We've seen already in Paul's letter to the Galatians that Paul was fighting a war, and it was a war that was a battle on two separate fronts. On the one hand and in the main issue was the nature and purity of the gospel itself. The second issue, however, that the Apostle had to deal with was the question of the authenticity of his apostolic authority, which had come under severe attack among the Galatians.

And so we see Paul now continuing his affirmation of the truth of the gospel on the one hand, and secondly, on the authenticity of his apostolic credentials. And so he says in verse 11, "'For I would have you know, brothers.'" This is simply something that I really want you to understand.

I want you to know this. He had just said that if he were trying to be a pleaser of men, he could not at the same time be a servant of Christ. And so he's saying, there's something you need to know and understand. And he went on to say this, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. This is not something new in the thinking of the Apostle Paul. This is something that we find repeatedly in his writings. If we look for just a moment at the opening verses of Paul's letter to the Romans, chapter 1, we read this greeting, Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.

He indicates who he is, where he's from, where he's from, and what his mission is. Paul, he says, a man who was consecrated or set apart for a particular task, and the task that he identifies in Romans was for the gospel of God. Now when I went through the book of Romans years ago on Sunday nights, and Burke has been going through it systematically in the last years or so, we know at the very beginning that Paul asserts that this gospel is the gospel of God. And what does Paul mean when he says the gospel of God?

There's different ways that you could understand the language there. You could think that Paul was saying that the gospel of God means it's a message, it's good news about God. It's good news about something God has done, or good news about something that God is saying to us.

But that's not, in my opinion, the grammatically correct understanding of the text. When he uses the word of, he's using the genitive, which is the genitive of possession, meaning that when he says that the gospel is the gospel of God, it means that it is God's possession. God owns the gospel, and the reason why he owns the gospel is that because it comes from Him. He initiates this message. It's His message. It's not a human message. It's not Paul's message. It's not Peter's message. It's no man's message. It's God's gospel.

So let me just warn you now, if God owns it and has authority over it, God help us if we mess with it or change it or try to improve it. And that's why Paul is so stressed at this point. I remember when I was a little boy, and I would come home crying because one of the older boys was bullying me. And when I would walk in the kitchen crying and my mother would look at me and say, what's wrong? And I'd say, so-and-so said something mean to me, and she would dry my tears. And she said, son, when you hear bad things like that, consider the source.

I really didn't know what she was talking about. Consider the source. And this is what Paul is saying. This question that is in dispute among you, you need to consider the source. I'm not the source. Peter's not the source. God is the source. And then he goes on to say that which was closely related to it, where he says that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel.

I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it. It's God's gospel, but He received it, He said, from the revelation of Jesus Christ. Again, let me look at another text that you're familiar with at the very beginning of the letter to the Hebrews, where we read these words in chapter 1, long ago at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets. But in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed the heir of all things, through whom He also created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.

Consider the source. In sundry manners and diverse ways, the old King James read, God spoke to us through the prophets. Other means that He used to reveal Himself in the Old Testament was through dreams and object lessons and historical narratives. But now revelation from God reaches its zenith, because now He's not speaking merely through Moses or through the prophets or through the announcement of angels, but He is now revealing Himself through His Son. And His Son is the brightness or the radiance or the refulgence of God's glory. What is it that makes God's glory that makes God's glory so magnificent, so transcendently beautiful? It's Christ. In one sense, we would be driven to the conclusion that without Christ, the glory of God would be dull.

But with Christ, the shining majesty of the very essence of God Himself is the infused glory of Jesus, who is the precise image of God. And so Paul is saying, I received this gospel by supernatural, divine revelation. I didn't get it by careful study of the material universe or learned it from deductions based upon the data that I examined in a laboratory. I got it from God, from divine revelation. That's how I know it is true.

It is true. Now when you preach in a church for almost 20 years, it's impossible not to recycle certain illustrations. So the illustration I'm about to give you is one some of you at least have heard before, and that usually worries me because I'm afraid that you'll be bored by repetition. And then I realize that, well, you probably wouldn't remember it if you did ever.

And so I'll risk telling it to you again. When I was a young Christian, a sophomore in college, I was in an English class that was taught by a woman who was a former war correspondent in World War II who was outwardly hostile against Christianity and never passed up an opportunity to attack it. And I don't know how she knew it, but she knew that as a student in her class that I was a Christian. And so out of the blue, she called on me this day in class, and she said, Mr. Sproul, do you believe that Jesus is the only way to God?

Imagine that. Sitting in a classroom and the teacher who is manifestly hostile to Christianity calls on you and said, do you think that Christ is the only way to God? Now this was in the 1950s. This was before the Cultural Revolution that had established for all time political correctness.

But this was political correctness with a vengeance even in the 50s because the last thing you ever wanted to say was that Jesus was the only way to God. And I knew that if I answered truthfully that I would be provoking not only her greater animosity but also the hostility of the entire class. I knew at the same time that if I didn't tell the truth in my answer, I would be provoking the wrath of Christ for my disloyalty. And so I answered her question, do you believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God in a muffled mumble?

Yes. She said, what did you say? I said, yes, I do. Well, she was enraged, and she looked at me and she said, that's the most arrogant, conceited, selfish statement I've ever heard from a student's mouth.

Your way is the only way. And I just sort of wilted underneath her chastisement. After the bell rang and class was dismissed, I went up to her. She was still at her desk, and I said to her, ma'am, I said, there's something I want you to understand. If I believed that Jesus was the only way of God because it's my way and that if anybody dared to differ from my view, they would be absolutely wrong, then I could understand why you would consider that conceit and arrogance. And I said, but I just want to tell you why I believe that Jesus is the only way. And I asked her a question before I gave my answer. I said, do you think it's possible that even me in my unenlightened state could be persuaded as a student that Jesus was one way?

She said, yes, I could understand. Some people would believe that. But you said He was the only way. And I said, yes. I said, well, if I'm convinced that He's one way and I study what Jesus says, and Jesus says that He's the only way. When Jesus says I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me. I am the door through which men must answer.

There's only one name under heaven through which men can be saved. I said, that message isn't from me. I didn't make that up.

I'm not the source. I said, that's what Jesus said. And she said, yes, I see that that was what Jesus said. And so she apologized for unloading on me in front of all the students and said she was not fair to treat me like that. She says, but this I have to tell you. And I said, what? She said, how can you believe in a God that only provides one way of salvation?

And I said, I know that that mystifies a lot of people that there's only one way, but the thing that most amazes me is that there is one way. I can't imagine that there's any way why God would take the initiative to reconcile a world that is hostile and rebellious and disobedient to Him at any moment. This was the beginning of a lengthy time of dialogue. I'd like to tell you that the story ends where she became a Christian. No, it doesn't end like that.

But she certainly toned down her anger towards me and towards other Christians. But this is what the debate Paul is having here. He says, I didn't learn this from men. I didn't learn it in college. I learned it on the road to Damascus. And let me refresh your memory of one of the records that we get in Acts, one of the three records and narratives recounting Paul's conversion, where we read in chapter 9, for some days he was with the disciples at Damascus and immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, He is the Son of God. Saying, He is the Son of God. And all who heard Him were amazed and said, Is this not the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon the name of Jesus? Has He not come here for this purpose to bring them bound before the chief priest? But Saul increased all the more in strength and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

And when many days had passed, they plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to him. And while they were watching, Paul was let down from a basket and escaped their hostility. Now this immediately follows the appearance of Jesus to Saul on the road to Damascus, where Christ in His blinding glory has Paul thrown from his horse, and he speaks to him in the Hebrew tongue saying, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? Isn't it hard for you to kick against the goat? You're like a stupid ox.

Then when he's prodded to move along and resists that prodding, takes his feet and kicks backwards, and there were spikes in the in the carrier of the ox cart so that when the ox would kick against the spikes, he would hurt himself even more and become more furious, more obstinate. And that's what Jesus is saying. That's what you are, Saul. The more you resist me, the more you persecute me, the more furious you become and more zealous you are to carry out this persecution against my people and against me. Well, Paul in his letter to the Galatians reminds them of these things, where he says, You've heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many my own age among my people.

So extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my father. Elsewhere, Paul describes his former life as a Jew and as a Pharisee, a Pharisee of Pharisees, a Pharisee in the superlative sense. It's been said that Saul of Tarsus was the most was the most educated Jew in Palestine. He had studied under the great Rabbi Gamaliel and was the prized student of Gamaliel.

Some have even argued that Paul had the equivalent of two PhDs by the time he was twenty-one years of old. But he still hadn't yet attended the academy of Jesus. And when he became a student of that academy and was blinded on the road to Damascus, he cried out, Who is it, Lord?

I don't know who you are, but I know you're the Lord. And Jesus said, It is I, Jesus, whom you persecuted. And when Jesus revealed Himself to Paul, He was revealing the gospel of Christ to Paul. When the word gospel is used initially in the gospels with their written accounts of the life of Jesus, the central motif of the preaching of John the Baptist and then the preaching of Jesus throughout the gospels was His gospel of the kingdom. It was the gospel of the kingdom of God. But when we get to Paul's epistles, the reference to the term gospel changes ever so slightly even though it still means the same thing because now he speaks of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Initially, Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom. Now Paul's preaching the gospel of the King of the kingdom because the gospel is about Jesus. And he said, This is great a student that I was of the Old Testament.

I loved the traditions of the fathers. I was prepared to lay my life down for the traditions of Moses, for the teachings of the Old Testament. What do you think motivated me in this being the scourge of the nascent New Testament church? I saw Christianity as a rank heresy, and I wanted to exterminate it personally to wipe it off the face of the earth.

And I gave myself to that task with every ounce of strength in my being. Does this not sound like Morton Luther, who in the sixteenth century said, If anyone could ever go to heaven through monkery, it was I. He was a monk among monks. He dedicated himself to every procedure that he could learn in order to gain what was necessary in merit to enter into the kingdom of God. He said, I loved and adored the pope.

I loved the councils and the traditions of the church, the encyclicals that had been passed down. John Huss, where he was later called a Hussite. Huss was martyred about a hundred years before Luther when he was burned at the stake after the Council of Constance. And Luther said later, he said, I hated John Huss so much that I personally would have lit the match to burn him at the stake.

And this is what Paul is saying. Don't talk to me about your love for tradition. Don't talk to me about Old Testament Judaism Judaism, you Judaizers who want to preserve those traditions.

I wanted to preserve them more than any of you ever dreamed of. And as I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I of the tradition of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart after he realized I would be a great candidate for selection in the kingdom of God, where God said, hmm, who's the most vocal opponent to the Christian church? Maybe if I could convert him and turn him around, I will be able to use him as a convincing witness to the Gentiles and to the rest. And that's not what Paul says. It wasn't that God looked down from heaven and saw the hostility that Saul was breathing out with the fire that he was using to destroy the nascent church. Paul says to the Galatians, but when he who had set me apart before I was born, he wasn't converted because he was such a plumb candidate. He wasn't converted because of anything that he had done. He was converted from the foundation of the world through the sovereign predestinating grace of Jesus Christ, which is the only way any one of you or I am converted. And he reminds us of that. He who called me by His grace was pleased to reveal His Son to me in order that I might preach Him among the Gentiles.

He was pleased to reveal His Son to me. You know, a question I get all the time, you know, do you believe in predestination? Of course I believe in predestination. I'm a Christian. John Calvin didn't invent it. Paul didn't invent it. The Bible, Jesus teaches it. The New Testament filled with the concept of predestination. People want to change it and undermine it and distort it, but the idea is there.

We didn't invent it. And so when Paul writes Ephesians, he talks about election and predestination. And what's the basis for your election or for mine? The good reputation of my life? No.

What does the Bible say? It's the grounds. Your merit? No. Your decision? No. Your choice? No. Your will?

No. But the good pleasure of God. You know, sometimes the Holy Spirit stoops to our weakness and stutters, and others redound cease. Why would the Holy Spirit ever have to inspire the term good to be used as an adjectival qualifier for God's pleasure? What other kind of pleasure does God Almighty have? Does He have any evil pleasures? You do, and I do. Is there any such thing as a wicked pleasure in God?

No. The only kind of pleasure that there is in God is good pleasure. And what God is saying about His good pleasure is that the reason why I have been chosen and you have been chosen is for some reason I will not understand until I get to heaven, is that it was pleasing to the grace of God to do that. And so Paul is just simply underlining boldly what he teaches everywhere else in his epistles. This gospel is not from me. It's from the revelation of Jesus Christ.

I've been set apart from the foundation of the world by God's grace because it pleased him to open my eyes in a way that he didn't open up the eyes of Caiaphas or of Pontius Pilate. And while he was blinded, then Saul was sent back to Damascus to visit Ananias who was to lay hands on him so that he would restore his sight. And then Paul goes on to say, I didn't immediately, not I didn't ever, but I didn't immediately consult with anyone, nor did I even go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me. Now he did finally go up to Jerusalem, but it was after many days it passed, after three years it passed. But in the meantime, he went to Arabia.

And then Paul goes on to say, I didn't immediately, not I didn't ever, but I didn't ever go up to the desert, the classic meeting point between God and His prophets, where Christ put him through three years of seminary and revealed the fullness of the gospel to him before he ever went to Jerusalem to meet with the other apostles. But now let us in the electing sovereign mercy and grace of God who revealed through Christ His gospel and anointed the apostle to proclaim it to the Gentiles. What a glorious gospel it is. And yes, we must not dare change it.

But why would we want to when it truly is the best news? You're listening to Renewing Your Mind. I'm your host, Nathan W. Bingham. Today's sermon was preached by R.C. Sproul at St. Andrew's Chapel, a Presbyterian church in Sanford, Florida. Dr. Sproul's sermons in Galatians and his decades of study formed the basis of his expositional commentary on Galatians.

You can own the hardcover edition when you give a donation of any amount at renewingyourmind.org or by clicking the link in the podcast show notes. Not only will your generosity be used to help bring the truth of the gospel and trusted exposition of God's word to the nations, you'll be able to take a deep dive into Galatians, walking through it verse by verse. So give your gift today at renewingyourmind.org. And this offer ends at midnight. Next time, R.C. Sproul will move ahead to chapter five and will consider Paul's warning not to use our freedom in Christ as an opportunity for the flesh. So be sure to join us next Sunday here on Renewing Your Mind. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-26 02:41:56 / 2024-05-26 02:52:16 / 10

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