Explaining the Gospel
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
2. The Fruits of the Gospel. This subjective experience living out what Christ obtained for humanity through the gospel is what the Holy Spirit produces in the life of the believer who has been justified by faith, who has peace with God, who has experienced the new birth, and who is walking in the Spirit.
Galatians 5:16, 22, 23:
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. ...But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
In saving us from sin, Christ not only saved us from death to life, or from condemnation to justification, but also from sinful living to a life of good works.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
Hence, the gospel is not only the means of our salvation into heaven but is also the basis of holy living and good works.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
This holy living or fruit bearing the Holy Spirit produces in the life of believers is referred to in Scripture as sanctification, which is also experienced by faith. These fruits do not contribute one iota towards our justification, which entitles us to heaven, but witnesses or manifests the salvation we already possess in Christ. We must ever keep in mind that the Holy Spirit is not a co-redeemer with Christ. His part in the plan of salvation is to communicate or make real in our experience the righteousness of Christ. Consequently, sanctification must not be equated with the gospel, even though it is good news, but defined as the fruits of the gospel.
Failure to distinguish justification (the means of our salvation) from sanctification (the fruits of salvation) has produced the insecurity common among so many Adventists. We must never forget that the justification of the believer, which brings peace with God, is based on a finished work, the gospel.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ....
But sanctification or holy living, as a subjective experience produced by the Holy Spirit, is an ongoing process that will continue as long as life will last or until the second advent, which ever comes first.
Through the gospel, the believer stands perfect in Christ; this is the basis of assurance. But the good works or holy living demonstrates that the believer’s faith is genuine and not a sham.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder.
You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
True justification by faith will express itself in Christ-like behavior, and this godly behavior is included in the salvation we have in Christ. Genuine justification by faith, therefore, always produces good works, even though these good works have no merits per se, and may not be apparent to the believer himself.
“But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’”
It is for this reason that the New Testament teaches that we are justified by faith alone, yet judged by works.
For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.
...Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out — those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.
2 Corinthians 5:10:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
The works being not the means, but the evidence of justification by faith.
You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
Further, as mentioned above, justification is entirely God’s doing and a finished or completed work which is received by faith alone; while sanctification does involve our human cooperation, “walking in the Spirit,” and, as already indicated, is an ongoing process, “the work of a lifetime.”
Faith, according to the New Testament, is more than a mental assent to truth, but involves a heart obedience to the gospel what God did for and to our corporate humanity in Christ.
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.
Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?
2 Thessalonians 1:3-8:
We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
Such obedience of faith means a total surrender of the will to the truth as it is in Christ. Thus, in justification by faith, the believer identifies with Christ and Him crucified, which is the true significance of baptism.
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Unlike any other religion, Christianity is more than following a set of rules, do’s and don’ts; it is participating in Christ’s life and death. The believer is reminded of this in the Lord’s Supper, in partaking of the bread and wine.
1 Corinthians 10:16-18:
Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?
With Paul, all Christians must confess:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
This is true justification by faith, the fruit of which is holy living.
3. The Hope of the Gospel. This refers to the ultimate reality of salvation, which will be experienced by all believers at the second coming of Christ. It is at this time when:
1 Corinthians 15:53:
For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
The Bible calls this experience glorification.
While the experience of conversion and the process of sanctification does brings about a change to the Christian’s character, no change takes place to the believer’s basic nature, which remains sinful throughout his or her earthly existence or until the second advent. It is for this reason that Christians groan within themselves, waiting patiently for the redemption of their sinful bodies.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Like sanctification, glorification must not be equated with the gospel but is the hope of the gospel. For while the gospel is the good news of salvation that God obtained in Christ for all humanity, glorification is “the blessed hope” only for the believers who are rejoicing in the saving power of the gospel and looking forward to the second advent.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,
To the unbelievers, those who have deliberately, persistently, and ultimately rejected the gospel, the second coming of Christ is “the great day of His wrath.”
I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”
It is for this reason that a distinction must be made between the gospel as an objective truth (what Christ accomplished for mankind in His birth, life, death, and resurrection) and salvation as a subjective experience (what the Holy Spirit does in the believer). While the gospel is the unconditional good news of salvation for all humanity, salvation as an actual experience is conditional. In fact, the New Testament makes it clear, all three experiences of salvation — the peace that comes through justification by faith, the victory over sin and holy living through the process of sanctification, and the ultimate reality of salvation at glorification — are conditional.
Thus, to experience the “justification to life” Christ obtained for all people by His perfect obedience, the condition is faith or belief.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
Hence, “the just shall live by faith.”
And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”
Secondly, to experience the sanctified life Christ accomplished for sinful humanity in His holy history, the condition is walking in the Spirit.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him....
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
And finally, if we are to receive the glorified body of Christ that He was resurrected with and which He took to heaven, our faith must endure unto the end.
You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
As long as we stand under the umbrella of justification by faith we have full assurance of salvation. This, incidentally, does not imply “once saved means always saved,” a heresy that is based on the false Calvinist doctrine of double Predestination (God has predetermined some to be saved, and others to be reprobates). Scripture repeatedly warns believers that to reject Christ through unbelief is to reject salvation in Christ.
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
This is the peril of apostasy.
When we look at these three experiences of salvation, which are communicated to us by the Holy Spirit, we can rejoice in the fact that God dealt with every aspect of our sin problem when He sent His beloved Son to redeem mankind. It is in view of this full, perfect, and complete salvation that Christ could cry on the cross, “It is finished.”
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Having defined and explained what the good news of the gospel is all about, we must now consider the two pillars or fundamental truths of Scripture on which the everlasting gospel rests — the love of God, which is the ground of our salvation, and the in Christ motif, the means of our salvation. It is essential that God’s people understand these truths if we are to be fully established in Christ and our faith is to become unshakable. This unshakable faith is what the seal of God is all about and which will prepare the last generation of Christians to survive the great tribulation.
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”