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Why We Need the Gospel (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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February 16, 2024 3:00 am

Why We Need the Gospel (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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February 16, 2024 3:00 am

The Titanic’s lifeboats seemed irrelevant since the ship was declared unsinkable. When it was sinking, however, it was a different story. Similarly, many disregard the Gospel—until they need a Savior. Hear more on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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When the Titanic headed out to the lifeboats. After all, the ship had been declared unsinkable.

But as soon as the ship hit the iceberg and was in fact sinking, it was a different story. It's like that with the gospel too. No one is really interested in being saved until they see their need for a savior. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg addresses the reality of God's wrath. Paul writes, "'For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, The righteous shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.

For his invisible attributes—namely, his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him. But they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.

Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions, for their women exchanged natural relationships for those that are contrary to nature. And the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless—though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die.

They not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Thanks be to God for his Word. We went to Romans 1 16 and 17 largely on account of the fact that it was an opportunity to stand with others on Reformation Sunday. And as we looked at those verses, we were made aware of the fact that Paul's great conviction about the gospel, which has upended his life and changed him, is the entire story of the book of Romans.

We noted last time that Paul, writing to a place that he's never been, told them that he was very eager to preach the gospel to these people in Rome. And he then explained that the reason he was so eager was because, verse 16, he says, For I am not ashamed of the gospel. And then he says, And the reason I am not ashamed of the gospel is it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, because in it the righteousness of God is made known to all who believe, and in short order God rescues those who believe. And so we were trying to encapsulate all of that by reminding ourselves of the fact that here we have the record of God's action in reaching out to rescue all who trust in Jesus by giving those who trust in Jesus an undeserved gift of a right standing before him, the holy God.

Now, I don't know if you had occasion to take that story out, as it were, from the seats into the streets this week, but I have, in my own mind, been imagining how a conversation might have gone if one of us had occasion to say to our friends or our neighbors, you know, we had Reformation Sunday, and we were thinking about what God has done in Jesus, and I thought I could share it with you. And they were polite enough to give us a chance to say something, and then they responded along these lines, Well, I'm very pleased for you. I can hear from your tone that it means something to you, but it's not for me.

It's not something I need. So then, what do you say at that point in polite conversation? I hope you don't immediately go to verse 5 of chapter 2, which reads, Because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.

You might get there after another couple of conversations, but I don't suggest that that is the immediate reflex reaction. But I think you ought to be prepared—we ought to be prepared—to say, Oh, well, actually, this good news is something everybody needs. The salvation provided in the gospel is the need of every person in the entire world.

Let me say that to you again. The salvation provided in the gospel is the need of everyone in the entire world. Well, our friends, if they're still listening to us, say, Well, you know, I don't know how you get there. And so you say, Well, you know, perhaps we could follow up and just read a little bit of the Bible together, and if they agree, then we can say, We'll meet, and we'll have coffee, and we're going to pick it up from verse 18. We're going to read all the way to the end of the twentieth verse in chapter 3 over a period of time, because in this section, this is where Paul says, This is why everybody needs the gospel.

In this section, he is explaining why the gospel is necessary. And so we're talking with our friends, and we say—and you can see it says here in the text—that we are by nature ungodly, and we are also unrighteous. Doesn't matter what background we come from, doesn't matter if you're Jewish in background or you're Gentile in background. Because, as you will see in the text—and it's good to have our Bibles open so you can see here it actually says that both Jews and Greeks are under sin. In fact, you will also see, if you're prepared to turn over and look at verse 11, that there is none who is righteous, no, not one. There is no one who is righteous. So the provision of the righteousness of God is necessary because no one has a righteousness of their own. The provision of the righteousness of God to be granted as an undeserved gift to those who believe is in order that the unrighteous in the righteousness of Jesus may be able to stand before God today and on that great day unashamed, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. In fact, God is at work in such a way to convince the whole world of this, verse 19 of chapter 3, because we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped and the whole world be held accountable to God. That no one will have anything to say in their defense, and that the entire world, which will be brought before Almighty God on that day, will have only ever one thing to plead—namely, that by the goodness of God they had been enfolded in the love of God provided in Jesus.

Now, I'm assuming that our friend has already left, but if they were prepared to stay, they would say, You know, hold on a minute, hold on a minute, we need to slow down here. Let's just proceed at one verse at a time. Okay, well, then let's just try and tackle verse 18, shall we? For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Well, says the person, what in the world does that mean? And is it important for us to find out exactly what it does mean?

Well, the answer to that is, of course, yes. Because it is so clearly there in the text. The wrath of God is responded to malevolently, it's treated irreverently, it's treated speculatively, but it has to be faced. And so we have to say first to ourselves and then to those with whom we're speaking, no matter how unfashionable this may be, no matter how strong one's initial prejudice against it may be, the wrath of God is an unassailable reality, because it is the very identity of God himself.

Now, the response to the question, What does the wrath of God mean?, that comes not simply from the lips of those who have no interest in the things of God but, sadly, often from the lips of those who would claim to be the followers of God. I mean, the more I study this this week and the more I say to myself, you know, the hard part in this is not trying somehow or another to convey this to the unbeliever. The hard part in this is ensuring that we as believers actually believe our beliefs, and suddenly that we get an inkling of the reason that our friends and neighbors find it relatively easy to dismiss us—relatively easy to respond by saying, Well, I'm pleased for you. I can see that it matters to you.

But it doesn't matter to me. And the missing string to our bow is simply in this—that the good news of the gospel is actually bad news before it's good news. If you think about it in a very straightforward way, if somebody tells me, There are amazing heart doctors here at the Cleveland Clinic"—which is, of course, the case—they say, That's very interesting, but largely irrelevant to me, until all of a sudden I fall down.

And now that which is sort of at arm's length and remote and unrelated suddenly becomes a necessity. Suddenly I need a Savior. So they're going to say to people, You need a Savior, and say, What do I need a Savior from? I'm relatively a nice person, I've been doing good, and so on. They say, Well, I have something to tell you.

Here's something you need to know. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven. You're under the wrath of God. Society is. People say, Well, it's just an old-fashioned idea. It's anachronistic. People have been reading Charles Dickens books too much.

It's a projection from those old Victorian headmasters who were really beastly. And so we've projected that up, and we've created a God in that way. Someone else says, You know, if God exists, if he exists, I'm sure he's too merciful ever to judge anybody.

That's not unusual, is it? If he exists, I'm sure he'll just take care of it all. In fact, says somebody, the very notion is inadmissible in relationship to a God who is love. Now, if you read theology at all, you will know that by and large, people have arrived at these dismissive statements by an unwillingness to allow the Bible to be the Bible, without a willingness to acknowledge God as God has revealed himself. And so the phrase, the very phraseology, the wrath of God, is disliked because we have sentimentalized our conception of God and therefore have no way to put this into the economy of his redemptive purposes. And so theologians, in seeking to, quote, protect God—which is such a joke, isn't it? To protect God—see the notion of the wrath of God as somehow outside of that. They see it in a deistic way. Franklin, deism, the watchmaker, wound it up, let it go, he's got nothing more to do with it. So the wrath of God, if it means anything from that perspective, is it is just cause and effect in the world. He may have started it off, but he's not personally involved with it. So you can't hold a charge against the living God.

And of course, you run up against this all the time. Mercifully, in the goodness of God, particularly at the end of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century, where much of this material was arising out of Germany and German theologians, there were those whom God raised up to help us, to help me, to help you. Quite fascinatingly, one of them was a professor, Professor Tasker, at King's College, London. And he had begun to study the Bible and to teach the Bible, and from a perspective much along the lines in which I am mentioning. He then heard the late Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones preaching at Westminster Chapel. And suddenly, the clarity of Lloyd-Jones's unfolding of the text of Scripture gripped his heart, changed him.

And so he absolutely did a 180 in terms of his convictions. And Tasker, responding to that kind of mentality, writes in a quite masterful essay on the subject of the wrath of God in a Tyndale lecture series, responding to the idea it's just cause and effect. Tasker says, It is not that.

It is not that. It is rather a personal quality. Personal to God, that is, without which God would cease to be fully righteous. His wrath is not wayward, fitful, and spasmodic, as human anger always is. His wrath is as permanent and consistent an element of his nature as is his love. Now, when you read your Bible in light of these things, you would say, All right, then, let me allow the text of Scripture to either reinforce such a view or to dismantle such a view. And if you start at the beginning of the Bible, you will discover that the Scriptures are unashamed from beginning all the way to the end to say that God is provoked to anger by the rebellion of his creation.

The Scriptures are unashamed to that. We're not gonna go through the whole Old Testament, you'll be glad to know, but for example, you take the flood. The flood? What is the flood, apart from the reaction of God in wrath to the absolute manifold chaos and rebellion on the part of those whom he has made?

In his wrath, remembering mercy. Hence Noah, and seven others with him. And if you wonder, and you're already in your mind beginning to say, Yeah, but that's Old Testament stuff, and so on.

No, no, no. Because remember Peter, the apostle Peter, when he writes his second letter, and he's speaking about these things and what is before us, he pictures it directly in terms of the flood. And if you want to somehow or another excuse Jesus from the party, then you remember what Jesus said as it was in the days of Noah. So it shall be at the coming of the Son of Man.

Now, we cannot dodge this. The stubbornness of God's people—you read of it in the Exodus, all into Deuteronomy. Take, for example, Sodom and Gomorrah. What is Sodom and Gomorrah? Apart from the expression of the wrath of God against the fact that those whom he has made made to love him, made to know him, made to serve him, they decided, We will love ourselves, we will not serve you, and we will do whatever we want.

Now, what do you want? Indifference to that? An indifferent God?

Oh, that's okay, whatever you want to do. How could that be an expression of love? No, he loves them so much so as not to tolerate that, so as to explain how important it is. Now, Paul, here in Romans, is dealing with this very expressly. When you think about all of the fears, all of the anxieties, all of the neurosis of our contemporary world, and you realize that on that great day, when the apostle John gets a glimpse into the future, and he describes this amazing picture—how when the books are opened and the final judgment is to be conveyed, then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and the rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated upon the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of their wrath has come, and none of us can stand.

We would rather be swallowed up in an earthquake than we would stand before Almighty God. That is the situation of humanity. That's why the gospel is for the whole world, and for every person in the whole world—for those who find themselves, you know, just malevolent in their reaction, and for others in our kind of context, far more dismissive. Nice people, as it were, C. S. Lewis says, nice people, lost in their niceness.

Lost in their niceness. I'm too nice for such a message. What are you going to tell me about this? Bruce Milne, whose book we studied some time ago as elders, know the truth. He says, Besides the wrath of God, all other human dreads and fears are mere bad dreams. All our other needs, however acute or extensive, pale into relative insignificance.

That is so true. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life, with the message he's titled, Why We Need the Gospel. We'll hear more on Monday's program. As we are working our way through the opening verses of Romans, the Apostle Paul makes it clear here that he is not ashamed of the gospel, that the gospel is the power of God for salvation. The question is, how can we be just as bold as Paul when we share the gospel in a world where people are increasingly dismissive of God's authority? One way is to spark your motivation by requesting a copy of the book called Death in the City, available from us at Truth for Life. Death in the City draws from two incredible books of the Bible, Jeremiah and Romans, to give us both the courage and compassion to share the gospel with those around us who, as the Bible tells us, are perishing. Request the book Death in the City when you give a donation to support the teaching ministry of Truth for Life. You can give a gift through your mobile app or online at slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. And if you'd rather mail your donation along with your request for the book, write to Truth for Life at P.O.

Box 398000, Cleveland, Ohio 44139. I'm Bob Lapine. Hope you have a restful weekend and are able to worship with your local church on Monday. We'll discover the only way to avoid God's wrath. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-16 06:46:09 / 2024-02-16 06:54:11 / 8

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