The Heart of the Gospel

What is the heart of the gospel?

By W.W. Prescott

Proposition One.— In the original creation, in which Jesus Christ was the mediator (1 Cor. 8: 6; John 1: 1­3), man was endowed with the capacity of communion with God through the indwelling Spirit. Gen. 1: 26, 27; 2: 7.


Note.—" In the cleansing of the temple, Jesus was announcing His mis­sion as the Messiah, and entering upon His work. That temple, erected for the abode of the divine presence, was de­signed to be an object lesson for Israel and for the world. From eternal ages it was God's purpose that every created being, from the bright and holy seraph to man, should be a temple for the in­dwelling of the Creator."—" The Desire of Ages," p. 161.

Proposition Two.— It is the purpose of the gospel to renew man in the image of God, and thus fit him to be again the temple of God. Rom. 8: 29; 1 Cor. 15: 47-49; 2 Cor. 6: 16.

Note.—" Because of sin, humanity ceased to be a temple for God. Dark­ened and defiled by evil, the heart of man no longer revealed the glory of the Divine One. But by the incarna­tion of the Son of God, the purpose of Heaven is fulfilled. God dwells in hu­manity, and through saving grace the heart of man becomes again His temple."— Ibid.

Proposition Three.— From the first promise of the gospel (Gen. 3: 15), the hope had been kept alive through promise and prophecy (such as Gen. 22: 17, 18; Deut. 18: 15-18; 2 Sam. 7: 12-16; Isa. 9:6, 7; Jer. 23: 5, 6; Micah 5: 2; Mal. 3: 1) of a coming one who should be in the fullest sense the anointed of God, the mediator between God and man, and the Saviour of men. Luke 1: 67-69; 2: 10, 11.

Note.—" In the doctrine of God as taught by the prophets we have the preparation for that which distin­guishes the Christian from every other form of theism, namely, the incarna­tion. The study of the Old Testament discloses a manifold anticipation of this truth, which, indeed, is the master-key to the mysteries of the Old and New Testaments alike."—" The Incar­nation," G. S. Streatfield, p. 30.

Proposition Four.— It was necessary that the Son of God should assume hu­manity in order that He might become a perfect mediator between God and men, " a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God." Heb. 2: 14-17; 1 Tim. 2: 5.

Note.—" Mediation became a neces­sity if there is to be any relation be­tween God and the creature. The Son of God has ever been that mediator; naturally, since all creation is through Him. He bent across the gulf, we doubt not, from the first, in loving condescension toward His creatures; who could only know God, and draw near to God, and draw life from God, through Him and in Him. Yet was not mediation perfect until He could be in them (John 17: 23), as well as they in Him."—" The One Mediator," P. G. Medd, pp. 113, 114.

"As Adam never could have brought us under the power of sin and death if he had not been our father, com­municating to us his own nature, so Christ never could save us, except by taking our nature upon Him, doing in that nature all that we would need to do, had it been possible for us to deliver ourselves, and then communi­cating the fruit of what He effected as a nature within us to be, the power of a new, an eternal life. As a divine necessity, without which there could be no salvation, as an act of infinite love and condescension, the Son of God became a partaker of flesh and blood."

—" The Holiest of All," Andrew Mur­ray, p. 96.

Proposition Five.— It was necessary for the Son of God to take the flesh in order to provide a sacrifice which could really atone for sin. John 1: 29; Eph. 5: 2; Heb. 7: 26, 27; 9: 14, 26; 10: 4-12.

Note.—" A sacrifice which shall truly take upon itself the punishment of another's guilt must, first, be able to bear the same sufferings as ought to have been borne by the guilty per­son, therefore, not a merely bodily pain or death, but an inward suffering of the man endowed with a rational soul. A true sacrifice must, secondly, after having as a substitute endured the suffering, be able to remove again the element of substitution, i. e., to place itself in a relation of internal oneness with the party represented; it is thus that the merit of Christ's suffering is appropriated by us, inasmuch as, al­though we stood beside Him as other and different persons when He suffered (so that He did all that was necessary for us without our assistance and co­operation), we now no longer continue to stand beside Him, but, by His Spirit on His part, and by faith on ours, be­come members of Him, to whom all now really belongs that belongs to Him. For we become righteous, not as individuals, the descendants of the first Adam, but as those who by faith have given up themselves to the death, and are now willing to have any merit before God only in so far as these be­long to Christ and He belongs to them. Both these conditions were impossible in the animal sacrifices."—" The Epis­tle to the Hebrews," John H. A. Ebrard, pp. 303, 304.

Proposition Six.— It was necessary that the Son of God, after He took the flesh, should lead a sinless life, in order that His offering should be " without blemish." Heb. 9: 14; 7: 26, 27 (Cf. John 8: 46); 1 John 3: 5; 2 Cor. 5: 21.

Note.—" The animal that was offered in the Jewish sacrifices was to be with­out blemish. (See Lev. 1: 10; 22: 19­22.) It was not to be lame, or blind, or diseased. The word which is here used and rendered ' without spot,' re­fers to this fact, that there was no defect or blemish. The idea is, that the Lord Jesus, the great sacrifice, was perfect."—" The Epistle to the He­brews," Albert Barnes, p. 202.

Proposition Seven.— Fundamental to the mediatorial work of Christ in be­half of sinners, there was a moral ne­cessity for His death. John 3: 14, 15 (observe the significance of the word " must " in verse 14) ; Matt. 16: 21; Mark 3: 31.

Note.—" The inward necessity which Jesus recognized for His death was not simply the moral solution which He had discovered for the fatal situation in which He found Himself. An in­ward necessity is identical with the will of God, and the will of God for Jesus is expressed, not primarily in outward conditions, but in that Scrip­ture which is for Him the word of God. We have seen already that from the very beginning our Lord's sense of His own vocation and destiny was essentially related to that of the serv­ant of the Lord in the book of Isaiah, and it is there that the ultimate source of the ' must' is to be found. The divine necessity for a career of suffer­ing and death is primary; it belongs, in however vague and undefined a form, to our Lord's consciousness of what He is and what He is called to do; it is not deduced from the malignant necessities by which He is encom­passed; it rises up within Him, in divine power, to encounter these out­ward necessities and subdue them. This connection of ideas is confirmed when we notice that what Jesus began to teach His disciples is the doctrine of a suffering Messiah. As soon as they have confessed Him to be the Christ, He begins to give them this lesson. The necessity of His death, in other words, is not a dreary, incompre­hensible somewhat that He is com­pelled to reckon with by untoward cir­cumstances; for Him it is given, so to speak, with the very conception of His person and His work. When He un­folds Messiahship, it contains death." —" The Death of Christ," James Den­ney, pp. 30-32.

Proposition Eight.— Because of sin the whole world is under the condem­nation of God, and the death of Christ was the only means of deliverance from this condemnation. Rom. 3: 9-19; 5: 16-18; Eph. 1: 7; Lev. 17: 11; Heb. 9: 22, 23; Rom. 3: 21-26; 8: 1-4.

Note.-" The gospel is the revelation of God's redeeming love, made in view of a certain situation as existing be­tween God and man. Now what is the serious element in that situation, as Scripture unfolds it? Is it man's dis­trust of God? man's dislike, suspicion, alienation? Is it the special direction of vice in human nature, or its debil­itating, corrupting effects? It is none of these things, nor is it all of them together. What makes the situation serious, what necessitates a gospel, is that the world, in virtue of sin, lies under the condemnation of God. His wrath abides upon it. That wrath is revealed from heaven against all un­godliness and unrighteousness in man; and it is in view of this, it is as the exact counterpart of this, that the righteousness and love of God are re­vealed in the gospel. . . .

"If there is any idea with which every New Testament writer would have been at home, it is this, that be­cause of sin the world lies under con­demnation, and that this is the situa­tion with which the gospel deals. . . . It is this condemnation, then, as a real and serious thing—it is sin in this especial character of that which draws down God's condemnation on man ­with which Christ deals. And He deals with it in a great and serious way. He does not treat it as if it were merely subjective,— an illusion from which man has to be delivered. He does not put it away by disregarding it, and telling us to disregard it. He puts it away by bearing it. He removes it from us by taking it upon Himself. And He takes it upon Himself, in the sense of the New Testament, by sub­mitting to that death in which God's condemnation of sin is expressed. In the Bible, to bear sin is not an ambig­uous expression. It means to underlie its responsibility, and to receive its con­sequences: to say that Christ bore our sins is precisely the same thing as to say that He died for our sins; it needs no, other interpretation, and admits of no other."— "Studies in Theology," James Denney, pp. 102-104.

Proposition Nine.— The cross, the symbol of a crucified and risen Saviour, occupies the central place in that gos­pel which announces deliverance from the condemnation due to sin. Isa. 53: 5, 6; Matt, 20: 28; 26: 27, 28; John 1: 29; 1 Cor. 1: 18, 23, 24; 15: 3; 2 Cor. 5: 14, 15; Gal. 3: 13; Heb. 9: 28; 1 Peter 2: 24; 3: 18; 1 John 2: 1, 2; Rev. 1: 5; 5: 9; 13: 8.

Note.-" Those only who realize that-the cross is the center of hope for the human family, can understand the gos­pel that Christ taught. . . . He alone could make atonement for sinners, and open the gates of paradise to the fallen race."—" Testimonies for the Church," Vol. VIII, pp. 206, 207.

"Our work in all its lines is to dem­onstrate the influence of the cross. . . . The plan that provided the influence of the cross provided also the methods of its diffusion. . . . Those who take part in God's work are to be led and guided by Him. Every human ambi­tion is to be merged in Christ, who is the head over all the institutions that God has established. He knows how to set in operation and keep in opera­tion His own agencies. He knows that the cross must occupy the central place, because it is the means of man's atone­ment, and because of the influence it exerts on every part of the divine gov­ernment."— Id., Vol. VI, pp. 235, 236.

"Keep before the people the cross of Calvary."—Id., p. 54.

"The true theology of the cross and its atonement is the solution of the world. There is no other. It is that or nothing."—P. T. Forsythe.

"Christ, through the shedding of His blood, takes away our sins, secures the forgiveness of the sinner, effects a reconciliation between man and God, is empowered to intercede for us in heaven, obtains for us the Holy Spirit. All these inestimable blessings are in the New Testament attributed to His death, as also are His own exaltation and the conquering power of His name. Philippians 2. Therefore, whatever men may say or think, whatever their predilections or antipathies, there can be no question tnat the cross is the central message, the dominating theme, the pivot of the New Testament."­" The Significance of the Cross," George H. Morrison, pp. 15, 16.

Concluding Observations

The purpose of the second advent movement is to be the perfection of all Christian doctrine, restoring those phases of gospel teaching which have been neglected, perverted, or set aside altogether, and fully developing all parts of revealed truth into their di­vinely intended consummation.

Inasmuch as the mediatorial work of Christ, with what is directly involved in it, which finds its center in the cross, is the central feature of the gospel of restoration, it would naturally be expected that a special effort would be made, under the inspiration of Satan, the great deceiver, to belittle its im­portance, or to misinterpret it, or to substitute a human invention in its place. Those who are familiar with present conditions in the religious world are aware that all three of these things have been done. Modernism makes the death of Christ a unique ex­ample of devotion to a lost cause, but denies to it any atoning value; and as far as " Jesus' vicarious suffering on the cross " is concerned, it declares that " any such notion is not only not a part of the essence of Christianity; it is es­sential to the well-being of Christianity that it be eliminated from the Chris­tian's belief." On the other hand, in the Roman Catholic Church we find that the mass, with its doctrine of transubstantiation and of the propitia­tory value of the wafer offered as a sacrifice, has been substituted for the true sacrifice offered on Calvary, and every priest is a mediator. So St. Alphonsus Liguori taught: " When He ascended into heaven, Jesus Christ left His priests after Him to hold on earth His place of mediator between God and men, particularly on the altar."

In view of these facts a special re­sponsibility rests upon those who have received clear light upon the media­torial work of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, so to present this central truth of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit that error shall be exposed in a spirit of love, and many shall be led into the full enjoyment of the new-covenant blessings which our Mediator at the right hand of God is ready to dispense to His believing disciples. Here is the foundation for " the hope of righteousness." Here we meet re­deeming love in action. Here we find the central doctrine of the threefold message. Let us give the message " unto them that dwell on the earth, and unto every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people."

College View, Nebr.

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By W.W. Prescott

April 1928

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