“I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ”
|God's Promises to Bless All Nations.|
Bible card by Providence
Lithograph Co., 1906.
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
(1) SINCE the scriptures speak of those who preach a “different gospel” — an alleged good news — than that taught by the apostles (1 Corinthians 11:4), no apology seems necessary for our subject — “Which is the true Gospel of which the Apostle was not ashamed?” If time and thought may be profitably expended in the study of the earthly sciences — sociology, finance, etc., etc., built largely upon human inferences and conjectures — surely none could dispute the propriety of studying the science of divine revelation. If it is profitable to investigate the physical diseases of mankind and their causes, and the laws of medicine and of sanitation for the offset of these, it surely cannot be disputed that the Gospel which God has presented as the antidote for soul-sickness and soul-death, and as the science pertaining to life eternal, is worthy of still greater and more profound consideration.
(2) The greatest minds, the noblest specimens of our race, have admitted our topic to be the one above all others in importance; and have weighed it carefully — whether as a result they accepted or rejected it. We are not now discussing the weight of mental acumen enlisted for and against the Gospel. We are merely noting the fact that all men of ability have recognized that the subject is worthy of their careful consideration, and as having claims upon their attention paramount to any and all others. Indeed, it may be set down as a fact that whoever has given the subject of religion no consideration is one of three things, — a novice in mental exercise, or a near relative to “the fool who has said in his heart there is no Yahweh,” or a coward, preyed upon by fears, instigated by Satan to hinder honest investigation of the divine message of love and mercy. — Psalm 14:1.
(3) The fact that you are reading this indicates that you have given some thought to our theme; — though experience assures us that comparatively few have ever reached fully satisfactory conclusions on this subject. Hence your faith and love and zeal toward God and your zeal for the Gospel may be less strong than you could desire. We hope that this scriptural presentation many more, by God’s grace, will see more clearly than ever before which is the true Gospel — the one of which the Apostle was not ashamed, and of which, therefore, none of us need feel ashamed, — the Gospel, therefore, which should more and more move and energize us, as the power of God for salvation. — Romans 1:16.
(4) No one of intelligence will dispute the meaning of the word “Gospel;” it signifies “good/glad tidings,” good news, — a good message. According to Luke 2:10, the angel declared it to be "good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people." (American Standard Version) Nevertheless, often what many consider “a real gospel sermon” is understood to signify bad tidings — tidings of eternal misery to the great mass of our race — to all except the little flock of God’s faithful people who respond to a “gospel” of accepting Jesus or spending eternity in miserable suffering. As a consequence the preacher of a “gospel sermon” is expected to figuratively shake the congregation over an abyss of everlasting torture, making as strong an effort as possible to intimidate them thereby to a thorough reformation of life, in hope of thus escaping an awful eternity.
(5) True, this that we might term “the Gospel (?) of damnation” is not so generally preached as it once was, because more enlightened minds of cultured people repudiate it as a fetich of the past. Yet this perversion of the Gospel may still to be heard in some country places, at camp meetings, occasionally in the city pulpit, and universally in Salvation Army meetings. Nothing is further from our intention than a criticism of the consciences and honesty of intention of those who thus preach. And yet other preach a general gospel of damnation that is alleged be for most of the people that they will be eternally destroyed in Armageddon (or some other way) is they do not conform thier claims of leadership, etc. It is no part of our mission to criticize persons and motives, but with malice toward none and with love toward all we consider it not only our privilege but our duty to criticize doctrines, that thereby the truth may be more firmly established, and error brought into disrepute.
(6) Before we proceed to the consideration of the Gospel of which the Apostle was not ashamed — the Gospel set forth in the Scriptures — it will be expedient for us to take a glance at the different Gospels set forth by the various denominations of Christendom. It is not our thought that each denomination represents a different Gospel, for the differences in many instances are chiefly respecting ceremonies, forms, methods of government, name, etc., and not in respect to the message or Gospel held forth. Nevertheless, there are three distinct major lines of faith, or doctrine — three distinct Gospels set forth in Christendom, all professed to be “orthodox,” because these all contain as their fundamental the doctrine of the eternal torment of many, or most, of mankind, except the comparatively few “saved.” Each of these three Gospels have millions of supporters, divided into numerous denominations. These in point of numbers are:
-1- The Roman Catholic faith, or Gospel, in which concur the Greek Catholics and Arminian Catholics, and some of the high-church Episcopalians.-2- The Calvinistic Gospel, which is held by the various Presbyterian denominations, the Congregationalists, Baptists, and many Lutherans and Episcopalians.-3- The Arminian Gospel, held and chiefly represented by the Methodists of various names and connections, and by the Free-Will Baptists: however, many of other denominations at heart accept the Arminian Gospel, while their church connections identify them with the Calvinistic Gospel. Hence we may say, so far as Protestantism is concerned, that the Arminian and the Calvinist Gospels are about equally supported.
(7) It may not be possible for us to handle our subject properly and thoroughly without offering some criticism of these three Gospels which for centuries have entrenched themselves in Christian minds, each fortified by the decisions of its own Councils, backed by voluminous opinions from their several theological seminaries, but we can and assuredly will strenuously avoid saying one solitary word in criticism of those who we believe conscientiously uphold these several conflicting Gospels. We call you to witness that we are all Scripturally enjoined to “Contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints” (the true Gospel), at the same time that we are enjoined by the same authority to “Speak evil of no man.” (Jude 1:3; Titus 3:2) We shall endeavor to keep strictly within these admittedly proper lines, and, additionally, as the Apostle admonishes: ‘Speak the truth in love.’ — Ephesians 4:15.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ROMAN CATHOLICISM
(8) The Gospel according to traditional Roman Catholicism is that man was created with a body and an immortal soul, that all men fell into sin and their immortal souls are condemned to eternal torment — that Christ accomplished a redemptive work which, supplemented by the sacrifice of the mass, and by prayers and penances, permits all believers (Roman Catholics) to escape that eternal torment, which will be the sure portion of most non-Catholics (with few exceptions) and heretics, regardless of their good works or morals. As for its own people, it holds that even many its highest officials, including bishops and popes, go to purgatory for refinement, purification from sin and to be prepared for heaven. It claims that some will spend only a short time in purgatory, assisted out of it by the merit of prayers, masses, etc., on their behalf by their friends after death. But their expectation is that ultimately purgatory will be no more, its thousands of millions being prepared for a better and happier condition. But according to all the great theologians of papacy, and according to all the earlier papal bulls, the vast majority of protestants, rejecters of papacy’s teachings, will suffer endless torment. (Some have claimed that the Catholic Church has changed their attitude in the last century or so.) This is the traditional Roman Catholic “gospel” fairly presented, as we understand it. It does not seem to us to be very good news — not very good tidings, even to those who get the very best it has to offer, and it certainly would be very bad tidings to all out of harmony with papacy.
THE GOSPEL PRESENTED BY CALVINISM
(9) Let us next look at the great protestant doctrine represented in the word Calvinism — the doctrine of the election of the church and the reprobation of all others. Calvinism claims that faith in Christ is essential to salvation and it admits that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. (Romans 10:17) Calvinism requires more than a mere knowledge of Christ and belief in him as a good and exemplary man, who died a martyr to his too extreme convictions. It requires faith in Christ’s death as a sacrifice for man’s sin, and at least some manifestation towards righteousness of life before any could be recognized as being of the elect church. Consequently, according to Calvinism, the elect church could not include the heathen of the present time and all the way back through the past, who have never heard of the only name given under heaven or amongst men whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12) Stretched to its very broadest, Calvinism could not include more than one in twenty of earth’s fifty thousand millions that are estimated to have lived from Adam’s day until the present time. In other words, according to the broadest possible estimate of this view, more than forty-seven billions of humanity were, in the language of the “Westminster Confession of Faith”, “passed by” as non-elect in the divine plan.
(10) And what does this mean — “passed by” or “non-elect?” It means, according to Calvinism, that God, who knew the end from the beginning, before creating this world and mankind upon it, determined that he would “pass by” and not elect the great majority of those billions of his creatures to life and happiness, but would predestine them to an eternity of torture, and that carrying out this diabolical plan, he prepared a great place large enough to hold billions, and fuel sufficient to produce the necessary combustion there to all eternity — did all this with a full appreciation of all the awful facts and circumstances of the case.
(11) Moreover, we remember the statement of Calvinism to the effect that God’s favor toward the elect is not because of any worthiness on their part, nor because of any works which they had done, but “of his own sovereign grace” he saves them from all the horrible conditions which he has predestined shall be upon the others. Now if the salvation of the elect is not because of their works or worthiness, but because of God’s sovereign grace only, the simplest mind can see that God might without any violation of principle have extended that sovereign grace to others — to all, since it was not because of worthiness nor because of works, but merely of his own volition that any are saved, — according to Calvinism.
(12) It is reported that the celebrated Jonathan Edwards, when preaching upon this subject in New England years ago, after picturing the awful torment of the non-elect, was asked the question: “Would not the thought of the anguish of the lost mar the bliss of God’s people in glory?” His answer in substance was: “No; you will be so changed that such matters will not affect you; you will look over the battlements of heaven and see in torment your neighbors and friends, and yes, your own parents and children, brothers and sisters, and turning round will praise God the louder because his justice is made manifest.”
(13) We are glad to note that many of our Calvinistic friends are repudiating this doctrine, realizing that there is in it a serious lack, not only as respects divine love, but also as respects divine justice. We are glad some years ago to note that some of our Presbyterian friends were so moved by higher and nobler conceptions of the Almighty that they wished to rid themselves of any part in so blasphemous a statement respecting his character and his plan. We are sorry, however, that when the matter of “the revision of the Presbyterian standards” was taken up it was found that only a minority was in favor of revision, and we are still more sorry to note that that minority of intelligent, godly people was willing to continue to confess to such a horrible mis-statement of their true views — willing to continue to “blaspheme that holy name” because a majority of their brethren were unwilling that such blasphemous misrepresentations should be discontinued.
(14) We are prone to believe that if this matter were brought to the intelligent attention of Presbyterians in general, a large majority would be found willing, nay, anxious, to undo the wrong and to make such reparation as would be within their power, by way of honoring the great Yahweh and attesting their appreciation of his love and his justice, as well as of his wisdom and of his power. This is just the point: Calvinism, in its anxiety to establish the wisdom and power of God, his foreknowledge and his ability to carry out his plan, has conceived of a plan which is far from the correct one, lacking both in justice and in love.
(15) It may be argued that Love is a virtue and that its exercise is not incumbent upon Jehovah; that all that could be asked or expected of him would be simple Justice, and some might be ready to claim that for God to eternally torment these untold billions “passed by” would be in strict accord with Justice. This we deny! We claim that having the power to create mankind would not justify their creation if the Creator saw that the result would be the everlasting torture of a single creature. Justice would say that power is not to be exercised to the injury of another, and that to exercise the creative power under such foreknown conditions would be injustice. And Wisdom attuned to Justice would say, Better a thousand times never to have created anybody than to have created one being to suffer eternally, for such eternal suffering would not be just, but unjust.
(16) We have endeavored that this statement be a fair representation of the Gospel according to John Calvin, and of the beliefs of those who subscribe to the Westminster Confession and their allies. This surely is not the Gospel of which the Apostle Paul, in our text, declared, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.” Paul would assuredly have been ashamed of such a Gospel, and so are all enlightened Christians, who have the spirit of love and justice, and also a developed knowledge of God's plan. Nevertheless, there are those who unfortunately, through circumstances of birth, etc., and hitherto without realizing what it meant, have been lending their name and influence to this great blasphemy against the divine character.
THE ARMINIAN VIEW OF THE GOSPEL
(17) Let us now examine the Arminian view. This view is growing in popularity. Its message or Gospel is: God is love — he loves you; he loves everybody; he is doing all that he can to save everybody; if you are lost it will not be God’s fault, but your own. On the surface, at least, this theory seems much more loving and much more just than the one already examined, but before we go far we will also find it very defective, very far from being either a reasonable or a Scriptural Gospel. We will find it inconsistent with its own statement — illogical.
(18) For instance, while it sounds nice theoretically to say that God is doing all that he can do to save the whole world at the present time, everybody knows that this is not true; that on the contrary you or I or any other intelligent human being if possessed of the one-thousandth part of the divine power and wisdom could speedily accomplish the evangelization of the whole world. Nor will it do to say that God has committed himself to a certain mode of procedure through his Church, and that if the Church fails to contribute with sufficient liberality both money and evangelists the heathen will not hear of “the only name given under heaven or amongst men whereby we must be saved,” but will go to eternal torment, etc. Neither will it do to say that God is doing all that he can do and is hampered by the lack of interest in the Church; because his wisdom and foreknowledge foresaw all these conditions as they are, and he could not justly be excused from the real responsibility of the matter, since he is the Creator, and in him is vested the all-power as well as the all-wisdom. Such a claim as this would be tantamount to saying that God has erred in wisdom when he thought to leave the conversion of the world to the Church, seeing that the Church has not accomplished this. Such a claim would be merely excusing God from doing all that he can do, instead of showing that he is doing all that he can do.
(19) But let us look more critically into this matter. If this view we are criticizing is correct, if God is doing all that he can to save the world, and if he has been doing this during all the past ages, then without question the world’s conversion is a hopeless thing, and we can never expect to see better results than at present. This theory presupposes a race or battle between the Almighty and Satan, each seeking to capture the human family, and to the discredit of the theory it shows Satan the victor thus far. Starting out with one pair, both on Jehovah’s side, the first 1656 (according to the Masoretic text) years ended with a flood in which the whole world of mankind was blotted out because of wickedness, and only eight persons reckoned sufficiently righteous to be preserved. Starting again with those eight persons counted sufficiently righteous for preservation, we find that there are in the world today over five billion people, and that out of that whole number there are about two billion professing Christians, and a very much smaller number of true “saints of God.”
(20) What would be the lesson from this if the Arminian theory be correct, that God is doing all that he can do to save the world? The lesson would be that with all his good intentions of love and mercy our God is thoroughly incapable of the work he undertook to do. In effect, this theory presents God as a very weak God. And if these are the results in six thousand years, what could we hope for in the future? How many hundreds of millions of years would it be before the whole world would be converted? We answer that according to statistics it would never be, for statistics show that the natural increase of population throughout the world is far, far beyond the proportion of even nominal conversions from heathendom. Indeed, according to some good reckonings, the percentage of Christians every year is decreasing, the births of heathen lands so far outnumbering the births of Christian lands — even counting all the children born in Christendom as Christians.
(21) Is any Christian, in view of these facts, prepared to claim that our God has been doing all that he could do for the conversion of the world? If so, that Christian may as well write upon his hopes at once the word “Ichabod” (meaning "There is no glory"). If we saw that the Calvinistic view magnifies the wisdom and power of God at the expense of his justice and love, we find on the other hand that the Arminian view magnifies the love of God at the expense of his wisdom and power. The true Gospel must show divine Wisdom and Power in full accord with divine Justice and Love: of any other we must needs be ashamed.
DISTINCTIONS WITHOUT PRACTICAL DIFFERENCE
(22) But we may as well now as at any time concede that there is comparatively little difference in the outcome of these two popular Protestant Gospels — the difference is merely a theoretical one respecting how the results are to be reached. The results themselves are the same in both cases — the eternal doom and torment of over forty-seven billion of human creatures. For our Arminian friends no less than Calvinists agree that there is no salvation aside from faith in Christ, the only name given; and they admit also that of those who believe in Christ only the sanctified are of the real Church; and their Gospel is also that only the real Church is to be saved and that all others are to be eternally and most horribly tormented; — some claim in literal flames, others say by the torments and gnawings of conscience and remorse, which they proceed to say will be worse than the literal flames, — and we respond, if worse, so much worse for the argument.
(23) All will surely agree as respects these two theories or Gospels held out to the world by Protestant Christendom that it would make no difference to the forty-seven thousand millions, whether they got into that awful state of hopeless woe by divine predestination and lack of love and justice, or by divine incapacity and lack of foreknowledge and proper arrangements. We believe that no true Christian will be ready after examining the subject thus far to say that he fully approves either of these theories, and that he is not ashamed of both of them.
CONSIDER NOW THE TRUE GOSPEL
(24) Let us now proceed to examine what is the true Gospel, presented to us in the Word of God — the Gospel of which the Apostle was not ashamed. The word “gospel” itself should be the clue — should save the intelligent Christian from being misled by the various theories of bad tidings of great misery for nearly all people, miscalled “gospel.” He who thinks it good news that one out of a thousand of the human family is to be saved and the remaining 999 to be eternally tormented, is either not a Christian at all, or he is decidedly undeveloped in Christian character, in mercy, in love, in justice. In our opinion he is at most only a “babe in Christ” who has need first of the milk of the Word and subsequently of the “strong meat” thereof, that he may grow up into Christ in all things, and be able to comprehend with all saints the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the love of God which passeth all understanding. — Ephesians 3:18,19.
(25) When occasionally we come across some one who gives evidence of being a Christian, and who still entertains such horribly blasphemous views respecting the Heavenly Father’s character, we feel like quoting to him Jehovah’s words through the Prophet, “My ways are not as your ways, nor my thoughts as your thoughts, for as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my plans higher than your plans.” (Isaiah 55:8,9) And part of our object in this study is to have those, whose eyes are anointed of Yahweh, that they may see spiritual things, discern some of Jehovah’s higher ways and higher plans which he presents to us in his Word under the name “gospel” — good tidings.
NOT “UNIVERSAL SALVATION TO IMMORTALITY”
BUT A SALVATION OF ALL DYING IN ADAM TO
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR ETERNAL LIFE
(26) The Apostle tells us that God preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham, “beforehand” signifying before it was due to be preached with its full understanding; please note that the actual preaching of the Gospel did not begin with Abraham, but with our Lord Jesus Christ, as the apostle again declares, this salvation “began to be declared by our Lord and was confirmed to us by them that heard him.” (Galatians 3:8; Hebrews 2:3) All that ever went before our Lord’s preaching was not the actual full preaching of Gospel, but merely types and promises which foreshadowed it. Let us notice next what, according to the Apostle, constituted this forestatement of the Gospel to Abraham: he says that it was couched in the words, “In you and in your seed all nations will be blessed.” (Galatians 3:16,29) Note this carefully: it does not say, In your seed one out of a thousand out of the families of the earth will be blessed, and the remainder be doomed to an indescribably horrible eternity, but that the whole Gospel is a Gospel of blessing, applicable to all the families of the earth — through Christ, the true seed of Abraham.
(27) When our Lord Jesus was born into the world, the Heavenly Father sent a message respecting him, and the angels who bore that message declared that it was a Gospel message. Let us hearken to what the angels said about the eternal torment of the vast majority of our race. They said to the shepherds, “Behold we bring you good tidings [gospel] of great joy, which shall be to all people.” (Luke 2:10) Let it be distinctly noted that the Gospel of the angels, like the Gospel communicated to Abraham, contains no reference to the damnation and eternal misery of any of Yahweh’s creatures, and that consequently our friends of the Salvation Army and others, who in ignorance preach eternal damnation and call it the Gospel, are doing so in utter violation of the meaning of the word and of all the uses of that word throughout the Scriptures. However well they may mean, they are in this certainly committing a wrong, a grievous wrong, and we long to see the light of the knowledge of the goodness of God shine into their hearts and relieve them of this blindness which comes not from God nor from his Word, but from the prince of darkness. — 2 Corinthians 4:4.
(28) It will require all the Millennial age (the age to come -- Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; Hebrews 6:5 -- which is to follow this Gospel age in which we live) to bless all the families of the earth with the joyful knowledge of divine grace in Christ. Just so surely as the estimated more than forty-seven thousand millions went down into death without hearing of the Saviour, without coming to a clear knowledge of the truth, without the good tidings of great joy reaching their ears, — just so surely must they all come forth from the grave that this very Gospel message of “good tidings” may be declared to them, and that they may be tested thereby and either be accepted to eternal life or destroyed, as unworthy of life, in the Second Death. We say just so surely, for three reasons:
-1- The announcement of the Gospel to Abraham says, “In your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed,” and all of these forty-seven billion belong to this very class specified, the families of the earth — and they have not yet been blessed with this knowledge of the only name wherein is the blessing.
-2- The same is true of the message by the angel, — the good tidings of great joy is for all people, and these forty-seven thousand millions of humanity are surely the great bulk of all people.
-3- We are sure that this testimony must be given to them in the future because the Scriptural declaration is that “Christ died for the ungodly;” “he tasted death for every man,” and as a consequence every man must have an opportunity granted him for benefitting by that death, and of availing himself of the privilege of eternal life which was secured by our Lord’s ransom sacrifice.
DID CHRIST DIE FOR THE CHURCH ONLY?
(29) But some one would perhaps say: “Christ died only for the sins of the Church and not for the sins of the world, and consequently the sins of the world cannot be forgiven them.” We answer, No; the Scriptural declaration most positively is that “Jesus Christ by the grace of God tasted death for every man,” “to be testified in due time.” (Hebrews 2:9; 1 Timothy 2:6) And, additionally, the Apostle says, “He is a propitiation [satisfaction, atoning sacrifice] for our [the Church’s] sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) The "world" in 1 John 2:2 is the same "world" spoken of in John 12:47, where Jesus says that he came not to condemn the world (which has already been condemned in Adam -- Romans 5:12-19), but save the world (from the condemnation in Adam -- 1 Corinthians 15:21,22).
(30) What could be plainer than this? If the price for the sins of the whole world has been paid to satisfy God's Justice, we may rest well assured that His Justice will furnish opportunity through the Redeemer whereby all these whose sins were atoned for may come to a knowledge of Christ, and to an opportunity of accepting divine grace through him.
(31) But some one will say, Why should God adopt a plan which would necessitate a resurrection of the dead, and a post-resurrection trial for eternal life except for all the elect Church of this Gospel age? We answer,
-1- It is not for us to inquire why Jehovah adopts certain plans which differ from those which our poor finite minds might arrange for him: rather it is for us to acknowledge that our wisdom is insufficient on such a subject and that we should come humbly to Jehovah to hear from his Word whatever he may be pleased to inform us respecting his purposes.-2- As a matter of fact only those who approach the question from this standpoint need expect to see the truth or to “comprehend with all saints the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the love of God.” — Ephesians 3:18; 1 Corinthians 2:12
(32) God has been pleased, however, to reveal to us some of his reasons for arranging his plan as we see it. He assures us of his full wisdom and power to manage every feature of his own work according to his own good pleasure, assuring us that he knows the end from the beginning, and that the end will fully justify every step that he has taken. His Word, no less than observation, shows us that during all these six thousand years the world has been getting a lesson respecting the exceeding sinfulness of sin and its wages of sorrow and death. His Word assures us also that during the next age, the Millennium, the whole world will be brought to a knowledge of the way of righteousness and love and peace, and will see the divine law in practical operation, and witness its beneficent results in all those who will come into harmony with the great Mediator.
(33) Thus mankind learns the lesson of evil and its consequences first in the present life, and the lesson of righteousness and its blessed results under divine providence, in the Millennium; and when thus fully equipped with knowledge on both sides of the question and instructed by the Royal Priesthood, (the completed and glorified elect Gospel Church), mankind will be ready for the tests, that will be applied by the Lord Jesus, under which the obedient and faithful will be granted full perfection and eternal life, and the disobedient and incorrigible will “be destroyed from amongst the people.” — Acts 3:22,23
“IF YOU ARE CHRIST’S,
THEN YOU ARE ABRAHAM’S SEED AND HEIRS”
(34) Another matter, really the key to the whole question which we are discussing, is revealed in God’s Word, viz., that in the divine purpose the promised “Seed of Abraham” that should perform the great work of blessing all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; Romans 4:13,16; Galatians 3:8,16,29), is to be one, in the sense of one kind, but not in the sense of one person — that is to say, that the seed of Abraham will consist of all who believe the promise in faith (Luke 20:37,38; Romans 4:3,13,16; Galatians 3:6; Hebrews 11:13,17,39); in this Christian age, it thus includes all who belong to Christ. — Galatians 3:7,29.
(35) This Gospel age intervening between the time of the great sin offering and the time when the blessing of earth’s billions will commence, God has set apart for the work of selecting or electing the seed of Abraham who are to bless all the families of the earth. The scriptures speak of those being selected as the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), “the church” (Acts 2:47; 5:11; 20:28 — King James Version), the “little flock,” (Luke 12:32) the “royal priesthood,” (1 Peter 2:9) the spiritual “children of Israel” “by faith,” (Revelation 7:4; Romans 4:16) “heirs of God” (Romans 8:17) and “sons of God.” (Galatians 3:26) The salvation provided for these heirs and sons of God is higher than that which God purposes for the world in general, as they all, if faithful, receive an inheritance in the kingdom. But an even greater purpose is also revealed in selecting these heirs of God, and that is the selection of “joint-heirs” with Christ. (Romans 8:17) The ones who receive joint-heirship receive the highest rewards in the kingdom. The selecting of these heirs and “joint-heirs” and trying them and proving them, fitting them and polishing them for service in the Kingdom, and it is to these, as the Apostle Peter declares, God has given “exceeding great and precious promises [far beyond any promises given to any other of his creatures] that by these [promises] we might become partakers of the divine [Strong’s Greek #2304 – godlike] nature [Strong’s #5449 – growth],”* and receive the inheritance of the kingdom in order to bless all the families of the earth.
*See our study on The Divine Nature
(36) This true view of the calling and election of the Church is another feature of the Gospel — the true “good news (gospel) of great joy which will be to all the people.” (Luke 2:10) If it is splendid, good news to know that ultimately all families of the earth are to be blessed with opportunities for salvation through the Christ, it is still an additional feature to the good news to know that God has invited us to become members of the Christ company, “members in particular of the body of Christ.” — 1 Corinthians 12:27.
(37) This is the true Gospel, the one we find set forth in the Scriptures, set forth by Paul himself, and of which he was not ashamed. This Gospel shows the character of our Creator in a most wonderful light, — his Wisdom, able to discern the end from the beginning (Acts 15:18; Isaiah 46:9,10); his Power, able to accomplish that which he pleases (Isaiah 55:11); his Justice, squaring every feature of the plan from first to last (Acts 15:18), according to the most absolute features of righteousness (Psalm 145:17; Revelation 15:3); his Love, whose lengths and breadths and heights and depths we have not yet been able to explore (Romans 11:33); a love which sympathizes with his creatures in their fallen estate (John 3:16,17; 12:47,48); a love which provided a Savior, and “who is the Savior of all men” (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:10); a love which prompted that Savior to give his life as our ransom price (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; Romans 5:8; 1 Timothy 2:5,6); a love which met all the requirements of divine justice for us (Romans 6:18); a love which still pursues mankind, and in this Gospel age calls many to heirship as sons that they may share in blessing the world in the kingdom age. — Romans 8:14
(38) “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God.” (1 John 3:1) This divine love, still pursuing its original plan for man’s salvation, will use the “elect” glorified house of sons, of which Christ Jesus is the Head (Ephesians 1:22), in blessing all families of the earth with full opportunity of knowledge and full assistance up the highway of holiness (Isaiah 35:8) that so many as will may attain to the restoration of all that was lost in Adam by coming back into harmony with God through the great Mediator. — Acts 3:19-23
NONE NEED BE ASHAMED OF THE TRUE GOSPEL
(39) Surely of this Gospel we are not ashamed, “for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16) It has in our hearts a transforming and renewing power, a sanctifying power which no error could possibly have, and which all the theories of eternal torment have never equaled and never will. Let us more and more “show forth the praises of our God, who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light,” by renouncing all God-dishonoring creeds and theories, and instead hold forth the Word of life, and witness the good confession — the “good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” — 1 Peter 2:9; Colossians 1:13; Luke 2:10 (KJV)
(40) All who will declare the true Gospel will need to be well shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace (gentleness, patience, meekness) for, strange to say, they will find bitter opposition from professed servants of Christ who have been blinded and prejudiced by Satan’s misrepresentations of the Gospel, — by which he seeks to drive from Jehovah all who have a remnant of reason in their religious thinking. (Ephesians 6:13-18; Galatians 5:22,23; 2 Timothy 3:12; John 15:20; 1 Peter 5:8) All who have ears to hear, and who do hear the true Gospel, will quickly distinguish it from the miserable counterfeits which for so long have passed current among God’s people. (Matthew 11:15; 13:9,16) Let all such remember that ability to hear is an evidence of divine favor in this regard, and let them not be ashamed, but glorify God on this behalf. (1 Peter 4:16) Let such remember, also, that their acceptance of truth as due, in the face of unpopularity, is a part of their testing. (Revelation 2:10; 1 Peter 1:7) Jehovah puts his plan, his Word, as his representative, saying — He that is ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with his holy angels. — Mark 8:38.
(41) The call still goes forth, then, to “repent, and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 2:38) If you are not already a disciple of Jesus, are you ready to count the cost of being a disciple of Christ? (Luke 14:25-35) Are you willing to give yourself in full devotion to Jesus and his Godin appreciation of what he has done for you? (Romans 5:8; Ephesians 1:6-8) Then go to God in prayer and tell him of your desire to turn away from all that he hates and your heart’s desire to serve him through Jesus. — Hebrews 13:21.