*The preaching of this sermon formed a part of the graduation exercises of Candidate John Heys.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every man that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. Rom. 1:16-17

The apostle writes to his brethren at Rome that, as much as is in him, he is ready to preach the gospel to them also. For he is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. From the point of view of nature, there is reason for him to be ashamed of the gospel. There at Rome dwell the Greeks, the men of worldly wisdom, to whom the gospel is foolishness. They, therefore, ridiculed the gospel, when they hear it preached. There are also living in Rome Jews, to whom the gospel is an offence. They regard the gospel as God dishonoring in their unbelief. And in their false zeal and as constrained by their high but wrong regard for Moses and the prophets, whose graves they build, they will not mock the gospel but frown upon it, when they have it preached, and rend their garments in token of their horror and indignation. The apostle is aware of this. And he also foresees that these men of worldly wisdom will ridicule not only his gospel but also him and that these Jews will frown also upon him. For the apostle will preach Christ’s gospel. He will not merely present the gospel as detached from himself, but he will glory in the gospel, praise and defend the gospel, so that these Jews and these men of worldly wisdom will perceive that the apostle is deeply in love with the gospel. And so perceiving, these men of worldly wisdom will ridicule also the apostle for glorying in what they hold to be foolishness. And the Jews will say to one-another, “ye have heard his blasphemy,” and, so saying, they will pronounce him one accursed.

But this will not deter the apostle from preaching the gospel also to them that are at Rome. He will, as he has been doing, bear that reproach, ridicule, scorn and frown—the reproach of the gospel. But he will do so only by the mercy of God; for to be derided is always painful to the flesh. We do not like to be laughed at and ridiculed. We want to be esteemed and honored and well thought of by men. We want to be taken seriously. But by the mercies of God, Paul will endure this ridicule. He will even glory in it; for he will consider that the fault lies not with his gospel but with these men of worldly wisdom. Not his gospel but these men are foolish and their wisdom is foolishness. And not his gospel but these Jews in their unbelief are disgraceful to God. The apostle considers that his gospel is so far from being foolish that it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth. We speak to you on this truth or fact.

The gospel of Christ, the power of God unto salvation. Let us see firstly what this means. If we are to grasp the meaning of this statement of the apostle, it is necessary to know what we are to understand by the gospel. The gospel, as this very name signifies, is good news. It is the good message or glad tidings of God to His people and to His people only. An examination of the content of the gospel will bear out the correctness of this statement. Let us set forth this content as to its substance. This can be done in four brief propositions.

I. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ everlastingly knew His people in love—a people by nature dead in trespasses and sin yet altogether righteous and holy and this by virtue of its being sovereignly chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. No person of truly reformed persuasion will want to deny statement. Mark you, the statement does not simply assert that the people whom God in love knew were sinful but that, though sinful in themselves, they were righteous and this on account of their being chosen in Christ. The point is that the righteous God can only love such who are righteous and holy. It was only in Christ therefore that God could and did everlastingly know them.

This first proposition of mine centers on election. The glad tidings of God is first of all that everlastingly He chose His people in Christ. It is a glorious work of God with which we now have to do. That He chose His people implies that He everlastingly loved and desired them, and that He was eternally resolving to bring them into being as a people holy and without blame before Him in love. And He can never cease to choose His people, as His choosing them is His loving them. The bridegroom must continue to choose, to know in love, the one maiden of his choice as long as the both of them live. His ceasing to choose her would be to forsake, to reject her in his mind and heart. Doing so, he would commit the sin of adultery. The eternal and unchangeable God and Father of Christ will everlastingly choose, know in love, His people. And according as He has chosen them, He has also blessed them with all spiritual blessings in heaven in Christ, when He set them together with Christ in heaven. There are persons who always act upon sudden impulses, on the spur of the moment, instead of according to intelligent and firm decisions. Such persons are not to be depended on. They are changeable as they lack resoluteness. Now God is not such a being. In saving His people He acts according to an eternal decree, decision and as impelled by everlasting love. His people may therefore feel assured that they shall be saved.

I now pass on to my second proposition. God gave His only begotten Son, Who, in His assumed human nature, bore away the sins of His people through His suffering and death. By virtue of its possessing Christ as its legal head, this people was legally crucified, buried, raised with Him, their Christ, and set together with Him in heaven and there blessed with all spiritual blessings. Thus Christ’s committing His spirit in the hands of the Father, now approximately nineteen hundred years ago, marked, in a legal sense, the completion of the work of redemption. All God’s people, the sum and total of the elect, that great family of God, as to every one of its members, do have the victory, are in heaven, are saved to the uttermost, have received the adoption and the redemption of their bodies. True, the members of the church militant still lie in the midst of death; they have but a small beginning of true obedience. Yet legally, the whole church, as to every one of its members, is in glory, saved to the uttermost. The believer therefore must and will persevere in His faith. He will of a truth come into the full possession of that which is His in Christ, to wit, the inheritance that is being preserved for him in heaven. It is this finished work of Christ that we preach.

I now come to my last and final proposition. The life of God’s people is hid with Christ in God. When Christ shall appear, then shall this people also actually appear with Him in glory. The earth will then be cleansed from the race of men that now corrupt it. There will be new heavens and a new earth where God will everlastingly tabernacle with His people.

Now this is the gospel as to its substance. A preaching that does not set forth the truths contained in these four propositions does not do justice to the gospel, the good tidings of salvation. It is to be noticed also that to preach the full gospel is to preach not merely Christ and Him crucified but also Christ raised unto the justification of His people and His people set together in heaven with Him, legally saved to the uttermost in Christ on the very day of His ascension. Thus to preach the gospel is to preach a finished work of God—finished in the legal sense. Now this is precisely what the Arminian refuses to do. And the reason is plain. The proclamation of the truth and fact of a definite people set together with Christ in heaven brings one under the necessity of at once conceding that election and grace are sovereign. If God’s people are in heaven, their actual salvation must follow with absolute certainty and can therefore depend solely on God and not on a capricious human will. Examining the content of these propositions, we see also how true it is that the gospel is particular in the sense, that it is the good tidings of God unto His people and to His people only. And this, as was said, no person of truly reformed persuasion will want or will dare to deny. It is hardly necessary for me to prove from Scripture that the above-cited propositions set forth the nucleus of the full and true gospel. I will nevertheless quote one passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (1:3-12), “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he has chosen us in him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise and glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace; wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence. . . .”

Now this gospel, according to my text, is the power of God unto salvation. How great this power! The weary and heavy laden sinner loads upon this gospel all his sins, and this gospel bears them all away and the weary one knows himself as freed from all his guilt and has peace toward God. It is not, to be sure, the gospel as such apart from the Spirit that frees the weary one from his load of sin. The gospel as such apart from the Spirit is but a word, the written record of God’s works which He accomplished and will accomplish through Christ. The gospel without the Spirit is the letter that killeth. It is the gospel as dwelling richly in the heart of the weary one that frees him before his consciousness from all his sins, which is but another way of saying that it is through the gospel that the Spirit of God justifies the believer in his heart, genders in him the assurance that his sins are forgiven. But the Spirit not only justifies but also sanctifies the believer, through his applying the gospel unto his heart, so that the believer not only knows himself to be freed from sin but hates sin as well, hungers and thirsts after righteousness, and seeks that which he knows to be his in Christ, to wit, the things above. Thus to hear a man jubilantly exclaim that he is justified is to witness the power of God which is the gospel. To see a man forsake his sins and turn to the living God is to witness the power of God which is the gospel. To see a man seek the things above, witness for the truth, confess the name of Christ, glory in tribulation is to witness the power of God which is the gospel.

This gospel is God’s power, not man’s. It is God who causes the gospel to be a power in His people, through His causing it to dwell richly in them. If it were true that man of himself had first to decide to accept the gospel offered him, before God could do anything for a sinner in the way of saving him, the gospel would be man’s instead of God’s power unto salvation.

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Salvation in the objective sense is that finished work of Christ. It is God’s people saved from all their sins and glorified with Christ legally. Salvation in the subjective sense is God’s people actually saved, that is called, justified and glorified in Christ. Unto this salvation the gospel is in the believer a power—the power of God. Through His applying this gospel to the believer’s heart, he works and sustains in the believer the assurance that he is freed from all his guilt and that eternal life is his in Christ. And as standing in this faith he by the mercies of God seeks this pardon and this life and through this seeking comes into ever fuller possession of it.

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth. Just so, says the Arminian unto every one that believeth. No one is here excluded. The reprobated as well as the elect ones have a chance to be saved. Christ paid the penalty for all. No one was appointed to perish in his sins. This Arminian reasoning is false. The gospel is God’s power unto salvation. If to this be added that all are not saved but that some perish in their unbelief, then it follows that everyone who believeth is every one whom God in His sovereign mercy appointed to be saved.

It is only unto every one that believeth that the gospel is a power unto salvation and this for the same reason that a child who is not hungry and will not eat cannot be fed. Food that is forced down the throat of such a child, will do it no good. The child who will not eat is ill and must not be forcibly fed but must be taken to a doctor. Consider that man is by nature dead through sin. Being spiritually dead, he hungers not after the true bread, Christ Jesus, set forth in the gospel. He loathes this food. Its very savor affects him with nausea. It is only to the believer that the gospel can be and is the power of God unto salvation,—to the believer, that is, to him who, on account of his having been brought under the conviction of sin, hungers and thirsts after righteousness, is joined to Christ by a living faith and abides in Him, and loves potentially the heavenly. Natural bread is a power unto the man who is alive and well. Having partaken of bread, this man is nourished and feels fit and physically able. Bread to him is a power unto the daily task. But the gospel nourishes a man’s soul. It fills him with the blessed assurance that he is God’s child with sins forgiven and thus God’s heir. As sanctified to his heart, it impels him to seek the things which are of the Spirit of God.

Even the word of a mere man has power. It required but one word from the German chancellor, Hitler, to set in motion that great and terrible German war-machine. Tell a man on the street that his house is in flames and he will hasten home as driven by the doleful message that was implanted in his soul. Words have power. The mob is worked into a frenzy by the word of its leader. The written word is the power of the press for the molding of public opinions. But the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. It is not the power of the servants of God who preach it but the power of God. And it is a power unto salvation. It frees a man from the guilt of sin; and impels him to seek the heavenly.

A power unto salvation is the gospel to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. The Jew is the Old Testament Church, the natural olive tree (Rom. 11), filled with fatness on account of its root, Christ Jesus, being holy. This tree, its salvation, was first in time. The calling, the actual salvation of the Greek, the elect gentile humanity, it second. This humanity, the wild olive tree, was grafted in among the natural branches of the olive tree that was first. Salvation is out of the Jews. Christ was a Jew. All the prophets and the apostles were Jews. And it is at the feet of these teachers that the New Testament Church is seated through the ages.

The power unto salvation is the gospel as therein is revealed the righteousness of God. Righteousness is one of God’s attributes. It belongs to the very essence of His being. He is the righteous God. Yet it is not this attribute of God whereof the apostles here speaks but he has reference to the righteousness that God prepared for His people through Christ Jesus. What is righteousness? Of what man can it be said that he is righteous? Of that man who is on a level with the law of God as to all his words, deeds, thoughts, volitions, desires, strivings and aspirations. Man by nature is unrighteous, he being dead through trespasses and sin. This man is pitted against the law in all his works. Every word of His is sin, every deed, thought, and desire. The natural man can do nothing but sin. In all that he does he is in conflict with the law. His position over against the law is always wrong. His legal status therefore is solely that of guilt. The implication of these observations is not that the natural man is without natural affection. This man loves his wife, if he be married. He loves his children, if he has any.

Among unbelievers are to be found persons of deep sympathy. They are kindly and agreeable. The suffering of others brings tears also to their eyes. Doesn’t this show that there is common grace? It would seem so. Yet it doesn’t. The love, sympathy, kindness, honesty, in a word, the virtue of the natural man is sin, totally corrupt. This the exponents of the theory of common grace deny. The view is that the natural man, at least to a degree, is on a level with the law of God in his works of benevolence. In these works, so it is maintained, there is an element of true goodness, as at their root operates a principle of (common) grace. If this were true, a man would be righteousness of himself and could therefore dispense with Christ.

Man by nature is altogether unrighteous. It is through His sanctifying this truth unto the hearts of His people that God causes them to hunger and thirst after His righteousness, which He prepared for them through Christ. There is, then, a righteousness of God, which is at once the righteousness of Christ. During all the time that He walked among men on earth, Christ was righteous. Verily, as to all His words, deeds and thoughts, he was perfectly on a level with God’s law, will. He loved God with all His heart, and with all His soul, and with all His mind. His position over against God’s will was wholly right. His legal status was solely that of innocence. He knew no sin. He was righteous. And His righteousness was the aggregate of all His good and holy works—His deeds, words, thoughts, desires, love, strivings, and aspirations—and included of necessity His suffering and dying for the sins of His people. Hence, to preach the righteousness of Christ is to preach His good deeds, words and thoughts, and is thus to preach His vicarious atonement, His bearing the burden of God’s wrath against sin. Rightly considered, in all that He did, spoke and thought, He was atoning sin.

Now the righteousness of Christ—the sum and total of ad His good works—was perfect, flawless. It coincided at every point with God’s will, law. It therefore fully satisfied all the demands of the law and was thus received as payment for all the moral debt of His people.

This then is the righteousness of Christ. That it is called the righteousness of God has great significance. Christ, such is the implication, is, according to His human nature, the Christ of the triune God, Jehovah. It is He who brought this nature—the man Jesus—into being through the agency of the virgin Mary. Of the righteousness, the good and holy works of this man, God was the source and fountain. The proof of this is Christ’s anointing. The Spirit of the Lord rested upon Him, “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” (Isa. 11:2). It is wholly and absolutely true that Christ, His righteousness, was God’s gift.

Now this righteousness is revealed, set forth, in the gospel. Looking into this gospel we see Christ walking, as impelled by pure love ,in perfect conformity to the law, doing, as consumed by the zeal of God’s house, God’s will—a will that spelled for Him the cross. We see, in a word, the righteousness of Christ. But it is to be considered that the gospel reveals this righteousness as adorning, that is, as placed to the account of, that very people that by nature of its being legally included in Him, with Him was crucified and buried and raised. The point I now make is of extreme importance. In the gospel the people of God appear as legally and mystically included in Christ, as thus robed in His good works, perfect righteousness, and in consequence thereof as possessing the whole fruitage of His obedience, to wit, the cancellation of the guilt of all their sins and life eternal. So, what we behold in the gospel is the new earth, as peopled by the family of redeemed. Hence to preach the righteousness of Christ is not merely to preach Christ’s good works, the suffering and dying Savior, but it is to preach this righteousness as adorning God’s elect. It is thus to preach the elect as saved to the uttermost.

The gospel then reveals the righteousness of Christ as adorning His people and thus His people as legally and actually saved to the uttermost in Christ. Hence, God does not offer His salvation to His people, but He places it in their actual possession and admonishes them to seek what is legally and actually theirs in Christ. Now it is this gospel that must be preached, namely the gospel wherein is revealed the righteousness of Christ as imputed unto His people and this people as glorified with Him. For it is this gospel only that can be and is the power of God unto salvation unto every one that believeth. And the reason is that it reveals Christ’s righteousness, reveals this righteousness as robing God’s people. It is only this gospel that, as made by the Spirit of God to take root is in the heart of the believer, genders in him the assurance that he is righteous in Christ now and everlastingly, that thus all his guilt is cancelled and that the fruits of Christ’s righteousness are everlastingly His. It is the only gospel through which the Spirit of Christ can and will testify with his spirit that, being righteous in Christ, he is God’s child and thus God’s heir and co-heir with Christ and that the Father therefore has given him all things. It is the only gospel that, as sanctified to the heart of a man, will impel him to seek the things which are above; for, being assured in his heart that he is robed in the righteousness of his Savior, he knows that the things which he seeks are rightfully his. Compare with this gospel the pseudo-gospel of the Arminian. According to the Arminian tenet the true faith of the believer on earth can cease. The believer, according to this tenet, can fall from grace, so that he knows not at any time whether he will be ultimately saved. Looking into the gospel he, the Arminian, sees the believer in heaven with Christ, set there on the day of Christ’s ascension. But whereas he holds faith to be destructible, he, the Arminian, knows not whether he is that believer. The result is that the gospel to the effect that the church was crucified, raised and set together with Christ in heaven is no glad tidings to him, the Arminian. From this tiding he can derive no comfort whatever. It is altogether useless therefore to come to him with this gospel. The Arminian preacher of the word, realizing this, does not. In his preaching he concentrates solely upon Christ and Him crucified. He does not preach God’s chosen people raised and glorified with Christ. The burden of his message is that Christ died and that He died for all and now lives to save whomsoever of his own will comes to His outstretched arms. This is his gospel; but it is not the gospel of God but of man. In his gospel, preaching, the Arminian tears asunder what God in His gospel and counsel has joined together, to wit, Christ, His righteousness,

Christ’s people and the fruits or reward of Christ’s righteousness. It means that in this Arminian gospel, preaching, God’s chosen people do not appear as sovereignly clothed in Christ’s righteousness, and as possessing the fruits of this righteousness, to wit, forgiveness of sin and life eternal. The significance of this is that the gospel of the Arminian does not reveal the righteousness of God. How can the Spirit through such a gospel gender in the heart of a man genuine peace toward God? He cannot. How can such a gospel strengthen faith, enliven hope, in a word, be the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth? It cannot be. The gospel which the believer has need of is the gospel in which he can behold Himself as clothed in Christ’s righteousness and thus as set in heaven with Christ. Looking into this gospel and seeing the believer as so saved—saved to the uttermost, he exclaims, as standing in his faith, “that believer am I,” and he has peace and joy unspeakable. Hence, in those circles where this pseudo-gospel is proclaimed, we find not faith but doubt and deterioration of spiritual life. It should not be imagined, therefore, that this the Arminian gospel represents but a small and insignificant departure from the truth. The rioting of the Arminian in the Christian church should not be made light of. This rioting is heinous sin. The pseudo-gospel of the Arminian is the bane of the church.

As to the gospel of God, to return to it, therein is the righteousness of God revealed “from faith unto faith,” that is, by faith alone and exclusively. The question is, how does a man before his own consciousness become the possessor of this righteousness of Christ, of God? And the answer: Only by faith—faith in God who raised up Christ from the dead. This being assured of being clothed with God’s righteousness springs from faith; for faith takes hold of Christ, Who is the righteousness and thus the sanctification and redemption of His people.

“Out of faith unto faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” What is it to live? It is to be assured of being clothed in God’s righteousness, thus assured of being freed from the guilt and the power and pollution of sin, from the curse of the law. It is the assurance of possessing the right of approach to Christ’s God, and the fullness that dwells in Christ. To live further is to partake of God’s nature. It is to. see God as He is in the face of Christ. It is to have fellowship with God through Christ and to be satisfied by His likeness. This is life eternal. And the just live by faith. The just live and they only, the just, those just in Christ, those who are robed in His righteousness. And they live out of faith. For faith takes hold of Christ, Who is the righteousness of every one that believeth.

Now this gospel—the gospel of Christ—you shall preach. Doing so, you will also have to bear the reproach of this gospel. For this gospel is still being frowned upon, derided and ridiculed by men and this in circles where one would least expect it. Are they not saying of the God Whom we preach that He is a monstrosity because He can love such men only whom He beholds in Christ and can desire to save only such whom He has set together in heaven with Christ ? Are they not frowning upon us because we insist that the only righteousness of man is Christ in that man, being totally depraved, is devoid of all righteousness? Bear this scorn—the reproach of the gospel of Christ—which you will be able to do only by the mercies of God. Consider that the fault lies not with the gospel but with those who frown and scorn. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation unto every one that believeth.