“The Vitals of the Gospel” by Jesse H. Pickett

The gospel of John begins by taking the reader directly back into pre-history, before anything existed….. anything except God that is! One need not be a Westminster Divine to understand where John is pointing his readers when he begins with the words “In the beginning”. The beloved Apostle is explicitly demonstrating in an irrefutable manner that Jesus Christ is God the Creator. He further develops his point by telling us that “all things were made by Him” (Jn. 1:3) and that Jesus was “in the world which was made by Him” (Jn. 1:10). An interesting transition is made in the passage, however, when one arrives at verse fourteen. There, John shows that Jesus the Creator came into the world to become Jesus the Redeemer. There is a beautiful parallelism between verses 1-5 with Jesus as Creator and verses 14-18 with Jesus as Redeemer. But what about those intermittent verses sandwiched between 1-5 and 14-18? They give us the bridge, if you will, between Christ the Creator and Christ the Redeemer. Creator God did not come as Redeemer in a vacuum. He came with a preparation and an introduction. In verses 6-13, we have that introduction coupled with a rich theology of redemption. In short, the gospel is correctly understood from this passage. As John prepares to show to his readers how the One who created everything that is came into the world to save His people, he constructs a bridge built with gospel truth in the span of eight verses. Specifically, three truths emerge regarding the gospel of Christ from these verses (and yes this IS JUST A REHASH OF MY SERMON FROM YESTERDAY, BUT FOR ALL OF YOU WHO SLEPT THROUGH IT OR WERENT THERE MAYBE THIS WILL HELP =-)

The first truth which relates to the presentation of the gospel Christ the Redeemer is that the gospel has man for its proclamation. In verses six through eight, we are told that a man was sent to bear witness to the light of Christ. Although God could save His elect through any means He wished, He had decreed that men be saved through “the foolishness of preaching”. What John (the apostle) highlights, though about John (the Baptist) was that ‘he was not THAT light’. John the Baptist was not the light of truth, nor is any other preacher for that matter. In my estimation, Count Zinzendorf correctly understood this when he said that the “role of the minister can be thus summed: preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten”. How striking is it that the man who Jesus called “a burning and shining light” (Jn. 5) and “the greatest man ever born” (Matt. 11) was the one who confessed that he was only “a voice crying in the wilderness” and “was not worthy to unlatch the sandal” of his Savior!! The author of Hebrews 13 further reiterates the primacy of Christ and secondary nature of the minister when he commands to “remember those who have ruled over you” (13:7) and “obey those who are ruling over you” (13:17) but counsels us that it is “Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever”. Elders and Pastors come and they go, but the immutable Christ who they proclaim is forever exalted. Let us not get so caught up in preachewr worship that we forget the Christ that they point us to.

The second truth relative to the gospel which emerges from this text is that the gospel has Christ for its substance. In verse 9 John tells us that Jesus, not John the Baptist is the phos to alethinon (literally LIGHT, THE TRUTH or more in our vernacular THE TRUE LIGHT). It may sound like a rather elementary observation, but it is certainly vital nonetheless: IF YOU DO NOT HAVE JESUS, YOU DO NOT HAVE A GOSPEL! Mankind’s greatest problem is not disease, the economy, family fracture, hunger, child abuse, murder or any of the like. Although those are serious and tragic issues, they are only symptoms of the real issue. Mankind’s greatest problem is that he is WANDERING IN A WORLD OF DARKNESS, ALIENATED FROM HIS CREATOR, AND DEAD IN TRESPASSES AND SINS. Only the One who is the True Light from Heaven can wash a persons filthy heart and illumine their dark mind to a saving understanding of truth. That is the gospel, and without Jesus that gospel does not exist.

Finally, the gospel has Gods glory for it’s goal. Verses 10-11 tell a sad story. The One who created the world came into the world, and the world did not even recognize Him (vs 10). Further, the One who created the world came to the special people to whom He had revealed Himself through the Old Testament prophets, and they themselves rejected Him (vs 11). Not everyone rejected Him, though. Some received Him, and were given the power and right to become sons and daughters of God (vs 12). The natural question which arises in the logical mind then becomes “how did that happen”? Or, “when the people He had made did not recognize Him, and the nation to whom He had given His word so long ago rejected Him, why and how is it that you and I have received him”? Obviously, the door is left open to congratulate oneself. After all most everyone else rejected Him, but I had sense enough to recognize His true identity and receive Him as my Savior. John makes short work of such thinking by reminding us in verse 13 that the only reason anyone is born again, and thus respond by faith in Christ is because they were born of God (vs 13). What is the point? The point is that the glory for anyone having recognized and received Jesus Christ as Savior should redound to God and God alone. A man can no more affect the new birth than he could his first birth.

Thanks be to God that He gives dead sinners life in the gospel of His Son- that very gospel which has man for its herald, Christ for substance and Gods glory for its goal.

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