"Paul's Gospel- Is It Yours?"
Many there are who claim to preach the gospel as revealed in the Scriptures who differ on many fundamental aspects of the gospel. Some claim that fallen man has a free will and can lose salvation. Some claim man is not even a fallen creature but comes into the world a clean slate. Others claim man is a fallen creature with a will in bondage to sin but their gospel some how includes the law and they tell Christians that they are under the law as a rule of life. The many aspects are legion of those that profess to be proclaiming the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Although we do not claim to be able to answer all the questions as to why this is so nor would we claim to be infallible on all the aspects of the gospel of the blessed God, we will attempt to look into the Scriptures for an answer regarding the gospel as Paul preached it. Since none that acknowledge the inspiration of Holy Scripture would deny Paul's gospel was the true one, we will look at what Paul preached and see if what we preach can be weighed in the balances and not be found wanting.
In Paul's epistle to the Romans he deals with what we like to call "anticipated objections" to what he preached. What Paul does is bring up what he believes would be an objection to what he said. Some of these may have been actual questions some proposed to him or ones he would presume some would raise. There are a number of such in Romans and we will use a few to examine aspects of the gospel of the grace of God.
Lets start in Romans 6:1.
After Paul spent some time stating the fruits of free justification in the previous chapters he ended that by saying "where sin abounded grace will did much more abound" 5:21. It was in response to that statement that Paul raises the objection in 6:1. Since grace is so free that the sinner can bring nothing to God but his sin and that the more sin the sinner brings the more grace God pours out we have this objection:
1. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
There are two things we must look at in response to this. First, do we preach grace so freely as the hymn writer said "nothing in my hands I bring simply to the cross I cling" or do we say that the sinner must somehow do this or that in order for grace to "kick in" as one false preacher of human self sufficiency stated?
If we are preaching a gospel of free grace (and all grace is free) those outside who have not been taught of God will perceive that we preach such a false concept. Those not born of the Spirit will have no understanding of an effectual salvation that brings the sinner to not trust in himself but completely in God who raises the dead. When we teach no sinner has too much sin to bring to the cross of Christ and that it was for sinners that Christ came, not the righteous, this objection will be raised.
But so far this has not eliminated many that do preach a works gospel. Many will proclaim that salvation is all of grace but it is this second aspect that they prove to fail the test. When this objection is raised, as it is in words something like this "if salvation is not earned and it is a free gift than what you are saying is that one need not take sin seriously since he is forgiven," what kind of response to some give? Some of these false prophets will say that one cannot do that because this will ultimately lead to apostasy causing one to lose their salvation. But is this the answer that Paul gives?
Before we answer lets look at a few other responses that some would give. Some would say that this would cause some to lose their rewards in heaven and be a second class citizen there. Others would say, as someone we know has done, that you can sin and not worry about it all you have to do is ask God to forgive you and that is it. This individual's pitiful life is an example of such a false gospel.
But is this the answer that Paul gives? The subsequent verses in chapter 6 reveal that Paul has not taught such false doctrine. Although this is not an exposition of Romans 6 we will just note that Paul emphatically states that one who has "died to sin" can not live "any longer therein." Is he preaching sinless perfection? NO! What he is saying is that the old man was crucified and that as a Christian struggles with sin he could not live a life of godless rebellious antinomianism. He has died to sin and to do so is to deny that the work of salvation exists in the heart. There are struggles with sin as Paul will deal with in chapter 7 but he never resorts to manipulation in response to this objection. He does not try to scare someone by fear of punishment or hope of reward to cause them not to "sin that grace may abound" but instead resorts to the truth that shows one united to Christ will walk "in newness of life."
Now the next objection he anticipates is in verse 15 of the same chapter.
15 -- What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
This objection cuts right to the heart of the teaching that says we are saved by grace but we are saved in order to give us the ability to keep the law of God, namely the ten commandments. But will this objection square with such a teaching?
Here in verse 15 Paul uses a different tense when speaking of sin. In verse 1 he used the present tense "shall we CONTINUE in sin...." But here he used the aorist tense "shall we commit acts of sin." would be a literal rendering. After having shown that a Christian because of his union with Christ in His death and resurrection cannot live a life of sin, as we stated in the first objection, the question comes up as to whether or not we can excuse acts of sin. After all if we are not under the law but under grace, what's the matter with an act of sin here and there? The logic is that since we have the power now being under grace and not being able to fall under sins continuous dominion we can take acts of sin lightly.
We need to ask ourselves if anyone ever brings that objection to our gospel? Those that preach that the law is the rule of conduct of the Christian claiming that the Christian may not be under the law for salvation but they are for their daily living would have trouble with Paul's answer. How would these law mongers respond to this objection? This is what Paul says:
16 -- Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
He is doing the same thing here that he did in the objection of verse 1. He doesn't resort to legal motives to deal with this but instead goes right to the heart of Christian experience as to what takes place when a person is truly born of the Spirit and saved by God's free and sovereign grace. Something supernatural actually took place.
Is this your experience and is this your gospel that you preach? This is the important question that needs to be answered in each and every conscience of those naming the name of Christ and preaching the gospel.
The next two objections we want to deal with is in Romans 9. These are the two that are the most devastating to the free will work mongers that perpetuate this idea that man is autonomous and he is the ultimate one who decides his own destiny. The first is in verse 14 of Romans 9.
14 -- What shall we say then? [Is there] unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
After Paul states that God loved Jacob and hated Esau he brings that objection. Some say that the word hate in this passage is merely saying that he loved Esau less than he loved Jacob. All one has to do is ask themselves is that idea would raise an objection as Paul states here in verse 14. Why would anyone ever ask if there is unrighteousness with God because he loved someone a little more? After all we can all identify with that since there are people we love more than others.
The important question in response to this is whether or not anyone ever accuses us of saying God is unrighteous. If not we are probably not preaching like Paul did. One only needs to read how Paul responds to that objection.
15 -- For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16 So then [it is] not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
Would you ever dare to say to someone in response to God being unfair that he can do whatever he wants to? Is your gospel one that puts God on a throne and would not be embarrassed to say what Paul said that God can do what he wants? If not you are not preaching the gospel Paul preached. And if that objection is raised and you could not answer as Paul did in verses 15 and 16 you are preaching a gospel that is different than Paul's.
The next objection in verse 19 is in response to this statement:
18 -- Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will [have mercy], and whom he will he hardeneth.
Now here is the objection:
19 -- Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
Does anyone ever ask you why God would ever find fault with anyone since no one can resist his will? That objection can only be brought against someone preaching irresistible grace. When those preaching free will say that a sinner can resist the work of the Holy Spirit what they are saying is foreign to anything Paul proclaimed as the gospel of the grace of God. We have asked many of those that deny the gospel of free and sovereign grace whether or not what they preach has ever brought about this objection. To this day this question has gone unanswered. Freewillism will never bring this objection and if it did the freewiller would never respond as Paul did:
20 -- Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed [it], Why hast thou made me thus? 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
If we are preaching the gospel that Paul preached we would generate the objections that Paul anticipated and we would have similar answers. If we are concerned as to whether or not our gospel is truly a gospel of grace we will honestly ask ourselves these questions proposed here. Do we preach what Paul preached. If not why not?
In closing let us look at our prayers.
When we pray do you say something like this "I thank thee God that thou did wait until it pleased me to come to thee; and that thou did knock until I was good enough to open the door of my heart to thee and that thou kicked in that grace when I decided to receive it"?
When a true child of God thanks God in prayer for his salvation it is something like this: "I thank thee Lord for thy grace that overpowered my rebellious will and took away my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh. Had you let me alone I would have perished in my sin."
Now which one is closer to how we pray?
The first is closer to what free willers claim to believe but the second, which is not a free will prayer, is basically the prayer of all truly converted people.
If you pray like the first you are probably unconverted and if you pray like the second one than you probably are a believer in free and sovereign grace in the heart and need only to have your head catch up to you heart.