The following is a chapter from my book – The Gospel According to the Gospel
A conversation with the Gospel writers
We now know and understand from scripture those of the Old Testament had a hope of salvation and the Law and the Prophets spoke of this hope. They were credited righteousness until they were made perfect with us by the blood of Jesus. Who was the fulfillment of the shadow of the law, a fulfillment of the gospel of scripture from which the New Testament saints preached.
Now knowing this don’t you feel bad for the Old Testament saints who had so much hope, but who had not received what was promised?
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.[i]
I am glad that God credited them His righteousness for such a faith. It would almost seem we should feel sorry for those poor unfortunate saps. They were born on the wrong side of history. They were not lucky like us and born on this side of history. We get to look back to Christ. They could not see what they had hoped in. They could only see a shadow of what was promised.
It was so bad poor Abraham, the father of our faith, couldn’t see what he hope in and he had to hope against all hope.
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”[ii]
Isn’t it nice we no longer have to have such a strong intense hope? We have been speaking about a gospel revealed to Abraham in advance proclaimed in the Law of Moses and the Prophets. But we can look back to the work of Christ and call on the name of our savior Jesus. Something the old covenant saints could not do.
What can we conclude then? Our faith is different than that of those of the Old Testament saints? That they were stuck with a promise and we have it fulfilled? We get to rejoice in our salvation, whereas those poor saints had to hope for it?
My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word.[iii]
But hold on a minute. If we can look back in history and see the gospel announced to Abraham, and given to those at Mt. Sinai, and lived by those who were commended for their faith, yet not receiving their promise, why does Paul talk to us about not having what we hope for? After all we are born on the correct side of history, the time after Christ.
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?[iv]
Wait a minute! We have been saved into a hope? Our salvation is a hope? We do not yet have it because it would not be hope if we already have it. What in the world is Paul talking about? Am I expected to believe that I was born again into hope?
No Paul you must be wrong because we can see the work of Jesus on the cross and we profess His name. We have made the profession of faith and said the sinner’s prayer. We have walked down to the altar. We have, we have raised our hands. We repeated the words of the pastor. Surly you can not be talking to us when you speak of our salvation as a hope.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.[v]
Wait now Paul, you and the writer of Hebrews are ganging up on me. What you are saying is contrary to the gospel I have already received. Are you expecting me to believe someone’s profession of faith is a profession of hope? Our faith is hope?
I know I have made the profession of faith, but I thought that it was a profession of the actuals not the hopefuls. How can I be certain of what I do not see when I feel I can look back on scripture and see the gospel from Abraham to Christ? I feel like I can see. What am I missing? You are telling me to be certain about what I do not see if I am to be a man who has faith. What is the writer of Hebrews talking about? And why do I not understand when Paul talks of this unseen hope we have been saved in? I feel like I can see them plain as the nose on my face. I am born on the right side of history. I can look back to my Savior.
Peter can you help me understand what Paul and the writer of Hebrews is saying? Just when I thought that I had a good understanding of the gospel from Abraham to today these two writers are throwing me into confusion all over again. Could you spread a little light on this for me?
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you,[vi]
What you too! How is it that now you too are preaching to me a gospel different than what I have already received? I was never taught I was born again into a hope. You even say it is a living hope. I was taught I had it when I made my profession of faith. I was welcomed into the family of God and told I have received eternal life. What do you mean born into a new and living hope? I though I was born again into salvation.
All these years I have been told to take confidence in the death and resurrection of Jesus from the grave. I was told now having done this I have eternal life. I am saved as it were. Now I feel confused. You’re talking about a hope of salvation through the resurrection of Jesus. Paul is confusing me about hoping for what we do not have. You say I am waiting for something kept for me in heaven. This can’t be right.
who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.[vii]
Peter, what in the world could you ever mean the coming of the salvation? I thought I already had it in Jesus. I was taught salvation came to men at the cross. I was taught believing in Jesus’ work on the cross had literally given me His salvation. I was taught when I got up from the altar I had crossed from death to life because I had salvation. And what is this last time? Do you mean like the last days? How can you mean in the last time when I thought my eternal life came to me the day I said the sinner’s prayer. It vexes me you say my salvation is ready to be revealed. As if it is waiting for the appropriate time. I thought that time was at the altar.
Now I have cause for concern. What you three are advocating is not the gospel I have received. Never was I taught to put my hope in the salvation that I would receive in the last time. I am no fool; I know you are making reference to the coming of our Lord who will be revealed in the last days. It is all very vexing to me. All this talk of our coming salvation, being saved into a hope and being born again into this same hope.
Oh thank God you are here Jude. I feel like Mr. Bailey after he wished he had never been born, nothing made sense anymore. Paul, Peter and that writer of Hebrews are trying to confuse me concerning my salvation. They keep talking about this hope. Jude can you help me? Can you help set me straight again. I need to know that I have eternal life.
Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.[viii]
What you too! What is this Invasion of the Bible Snatchers? This is not the gospel I have already received. I was taught I had already received mercy and His eternal life. Why are you telling me to wait for His mercy to bring me to eternal life? I thought I already had received His mercy and had received eternal life?
I know that I am not the only one who thinks this way. You four are preaching a gospel different than not only what I have received, but the church as a whole. Go ahead Paul. I dare you, go to a local church and ask those believers if they have received eternal life. Ask those in choir. Ask those teaching Sunday school class. Ask those who work with the youth. Don’t be shy ask the board. Heck, ask the one who preaches the gospel Sunday after Sunday. They will all tell you that they have received their salvation. They have received their eternal life.
I have been told over and over again to come forward to receive eternal life, to raise my hand to receive salvation. What am I not understanding? Am I and all those who said the sinners prayer saved or not?
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.[ix]
You have got to be kidding me mystery man who wrote the book of Hebrews. You sound like Paul and in fact Peter talking about this hope again. I thought I had a done deal. I thought I was a shoe in. Now you are telling me to show diligence to the very end! What am I to be diligent in if I am to make my hope sure? Frankly it bothers me that you say to make my hope sure! To make my hope sure? Do you mean my hope, my faith, the ground I stand on for salvation has the potential to not be sure in my life?
I don’t know if I particularly care for you guys right now. It was one thing to talk of hoping for mercy to be given me when Christ returns. Again it is one thing to speak of being born again in the hope of this future salvation and eternal life being given me. But now you shake me to my core by saying I have to be mindful of my hope being sure. It is one thing to say I have to go against everything I was ever taught to accept my salvation of hope. Now you take pleasure in taunting me about my hope needing to be sure.
I have never been taught to show diligence to the very end, meaning the very end, to make my hope sure. This is not the gospel I was saved into. I was taught I had already received the mercy of God because Jesus went to the cross. I was told to confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and I would receive eternal life. I was at that point born again. It was a done deal, case closed. Now you are going contrary to what I was taught by saying all I have is a hope and I had better make sure I am diligent to the very end. That is if I want to give myself a surer hope of a future mercy, a future salvation and eternal life kept for me in heaven. Did you have to use the words “diligence” and “to the very end”? It all sounds like hard work. It sounds like you want a major commitment.
Sorry Peter, did you want to add something?
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.[x]
Well that helps clear it up a little concerning what I need to be diligent about, but do you still have to beat the drums about the hope. Well in light of everything you are all saying, I guess I should call it my hope. Let’s see, I should be prepared for action by setting my mind on God’s word. Which you all are so very kind in helping me understand. I should furthermore be self controlled and not given into sin, right? And this hope, my hope, should be in Jesus bringing me grace when He is revealed, right?
Do you guys have any idea how disturbing this is to me? You say I have a hope of grace, but I was taught that grace was given me when I first believed.
We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.[xi]
What, are you sure? I thought I had come to share in Christ when I prayed with the person on the television to receive Jesus in my heart. All of a sudden I don’t feel so smug about my faith. Great did I have to use the word faith? Couldn’t you have written what I was taught in church? That we have come to share in Christ the day we went to the altar and said the sinner’s prayer. You see this whole thing bothers me!
Why couldn’t you guys have talked about our fact in Christ, not faith in Christ, when you wrote your letters to the churches? What do you mean we have not been born again into a fulfilled promise but only a hope of a promise?
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.[xii]
Do you realize what you are all saying? We who profess the name of Jesus and His work on the cross have only been extended another promise. Dang it, this smacks of Abraham! A man given the promises of God and he believed God and he was credited a righteousness not his own.
No no no it can’t be. I wasn’t the unlucky sap born on the wrong side of history. I wasn’t taught to be the one who had to hope in the promises of God to bring me the salvation promised before hand to Abraham. It can’t be! Who has turned the tables on me? How is it that I find myself with nothing more than what Abraham had, except I can name the one from whom my future salvation, grace and mercy will come?
Are you really saying that even though I have the blood of Jesus that brings the new and better covenant for the forgiveness of sins, I still to this day do not really have eternal life? I would be more than happy if you would say I misunderstood you. I would be very happy if you were to say I took you out of context and the gospel I received from other men is what you are saying. But somehow I don’t feel this is what you are saying.
Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.[xiii]
See I told you! Your saying Jesus came the first time to bear the sins of the world and do away with the old covenant which was a shadow of the good things to come. And when He comes again He will not come like He did the first time to bear sin. When He comes again He will bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him. His believers, who like Abraham believe God is able to do what He promises concerning us. I get it, faith! We have faith in God not only because He has bore our sins, but we have faith in God’s promises to bring us to eternal life. We are to wait for God to bring us salvation when His Son comes again.
But before I get all excited, I have to pause. By accepting what you guys are teaching me it throws me into conflict with those of whom I had received the gospel. If I accept your teaching I stand in opposition to those who have taught me about faith and salvation. I have never been taught that Jesus first coming was only to bear sin. Nor when He comes back again He comes to bring His salvation to those who put their hope in Him. I was taught Jesus bore our sins and He has given me His salvation. Never was I told to wait for it. I didn’t go down to the altar say the sinner’s prayer, get up and here the pastor say now hope for your salvation. Or wait patently for His salvation to come to me. I was told I now had received salvation.
I am in awe. Jesus bore the sins of the world but has not brought us His salvation yet. That is yet to come. This is all so amazing and eye opening. Now I really understand what is meant when it was said,
But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.[xiv]
It is not to those who have who are saved, but to those who believe. Those who like Abraham believe God’s promises to us. Promises given to us through the covenant made with Abraham and revealed through the Law of Moses and the Prophets. If I shrink back I will not be diligent to the very end. If I shrink back I will not have the confidence I had at first.
Is all of this scriptural? I mean it sounds so convincing. Are you sure you meant what you wrote? I mean this all goes right in the face of everything I have been taught to believe. This is definitely not the gospel I had formally received. Nor is this the gospel I had affirmed to me in Bible College. And I hate to say it. Please don’t make me say it, but I am compelled to. This is not the gospel I have shared with my friends and loved ones. Yikes! Now what do I do?
Give me a minute to think on this for a second. I was told to invite Jesus into my heart and I too could be saved. I was invited to come forward to receive salvation. I was led to believe that all I needed to do was look up and look the pastor in the eye to receive eternal life. It was never ever sold to me as a hope. I was told that I was born again, but never into a new and living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Just simply born again like I had crossed some finish line, I had finally arrived at my destination. Never was I told I was to believe Jesus at His word, so in the future He could bring me to eternal life when He comes back to show me mercy.
Did you want to add something Paul?
And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring–not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed–the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”[xv]
Paul what you have said is so profound. I want to cry and worship and the same time. When you spoke of Abraham you also spoke of us. We are Abraham’s children only if we walk in the same footsteps of faith. We too need to put our hopes in the promises of God concerning the salvation we hope for. Our promise is righteousness that comes by faith just as Abraham was credited his righteousness and this promise comes by faith. To now know I am on the same journey of faith as my father Abraham. I now have to walk in the footsteps of faith as my father Abraham had.
But wait! This all sounds so different from the gospel I ever received. This is way different, I mean it as if it were a completely different gospel. But I like the other gospel I am so familiar with it. It’s comfy and not scary. Who wants to be told they only have hope. Who wants to be told not to waiver or you will be destroyed. The other gospel comforts me by letting me know I have salvation today. Can’t I keep the gospel I was taught? I really do not know if I want to know or be accountable to what you are saying.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.[xvi]
Wow Paul did you have to come out shooting both barrels? I know you say that you were not taught the gospel by men like I have been. And I have to accept the fact that you received the gospel by a revelation from Jesus just as the prophets did by the spirit of Jesus long ago. But this hostility, saying a person should be eternally condemn for preaching something different than what you taught. Is this kind of intolerance called for? You seem kind of pig headed. Are you sure you want to be so quick to say those kinds of things about those who don’t quite preach the same gospel as you do concerning our hope. After all there are a lot of good people preaching the gospel… well not your kind of gospel but… If it’s not the gospel you received from Christ what is it?
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”[xvii]
Thanks for that reminder Peter. I guess if we only have one source or hope of eternal life in Jesus in whom we must be saved, we do not want to mislead do we. I guess you do not want to poison the water hole if it is the only water hole. In fact, I would go so far as to say we need to defend the gospel so it continues to be the source of hope for all mankind. Like we would a water hole if it were the only source of life for us in the desert.
“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.[xviii]
Jesus when did you get here? Oh yeah, that where two or three gather together thing. Wow is this sobering. No that is not how I want to say it. It is very heart breaking. My heart is mournful at the prospect that many will try to enter through the narrow gate and not make it? I thought only those going through the wide gate were not going to make. Dang it! Again I find myself saying I was never taught this from those who taught me the gospel. Or should I say the other gospel. I was taught only those going through the wide gate were doomed to destruction. No one has ever warned me as a man heading towards the narrow gate not to miss it. I have always considered myself, the churched, as people going through the narrow gate. But Jesus you are saying many of us trying to go through this gate will not make it.
Not only do I now have to acknowledge the gospel announced in the Old Testament, I feel so grievous in my heart I want to put on sackcloth and ashes like those in the Old Testament. Lord how you must feel knowing that many will try to enter the narrow gate. And those many will not be able to. It is not just those who are going through the wide gate who are going to their destruction. Many who are confident of their present course towards the narrow gate will not make it. And what if we do not listen to the gospel preached by your prophets and apostles? Lord what about me!? I think I am one of those going through the narrow gate.
What was that Peter? No I do not remember, exactly what was it that you preached on the day of Pentecost?
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you–even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.[xix]
Well I must admit I really do not hear the word repent at alter calls anymore. But let that not stop me now. Jesus please forgive me for not reading and understanding your word better so that I may know the hope you have given me through the promises made to Abraham. Please forgive me for relying on a man to teach me and not your Holy Spirit as I read your word for myself. Please forgive me for accepting a different gospel than what you have declared in your word. Please forgive me for thinking I did not have to live by the same faith and hope as Abraham, as if I believed in a different hope than him or had a different promise than him. I repent Lord. I will turn from my former way and study your word myself and ask your Holy Spirit to teach me. I will no longer just accept what a man tells me. I will only be moved by the gospel according to Your word.
Lord I must pause and stand in awe of your Word. Lord you deserve all praise as I can now see how your word is totally consistent. Your Word is wholly complete and without error. Again I have to remember it is a reflection of you Jesus.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.[xx]
Now I can have that better confidence and surer hope. Peter as you said on the day of Pentecost when you spoke of God sending the Christ who has been appointed for us. Being sent only because Jesus must remain in heaven until a certain time comes for God to make everything as He promised long ago, even our very own promises under our new and better covenant. So we can expect to see Him again and now I know it will be to fulfill His promises towards us to bring us into eternal life. That is if we hold confidently till the end the confidence we have in God’s promises like we did at first. Not wavering in our faith so that He will not be displeased.
Peter you said this was promised long ago through the holy prophets.
For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.’ “Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”[xxi]
Not only promised long ago, but I am an heir of the prophets and of the covenant God made with my spiritual father Abraham.
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,[xxii]
Why thanks Paul that was a very nice prayer. I too hope to know my inheritance in the saints as well. That this mystery that has been veiled to keep me from seeing would no longer be a mystery to me.
And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.[xxiii]
Well since you have been so kind to guide me with your written testimony concerning my hope in Jesus, I guess it is not such a big mystery anymore. So the mystery of my salvation, my eternal life, my Abrahamic faith which God has purposed in Christ will be put into effect in the last time. When the end of the age is complete, Jesus will in His good pleasure put into effect, cause to be not just a hope, my salvation and my complete adoption as a son of the living God.
It is nice to know that God has His will working in our hope and our faith in the promises we find in the Word of God.
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.[xxiv]
Well you guys may have been the first to hope in Jesus but lookout; I have a whole new understanding of what it means to have faith in the promises of God concerning my salvation.
You see, I can now finally believe the message of the gospel you guys wrote about to the churches. I am not stuck with the other mutated gospel.
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory.[xxv]
Let me tell you Paul I think you just made this whole gospel of hope, future salvation coming with our Savior thing, sink in for all the women. I mean what woman does not love to shop? And what woman does not know that if she put a deposit on something more is owed. There is more to come to the one for whom the deposit was given to. It wasn’t the whole deal. In fact all those men who have been such real estate moguls know if you put a deposit on an investment the rest is still due. So we too have only a deposit from God to us, the Holy Spirit Himself, as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance in the saints. The guarantee of this deposit is good till payment in full comes with the actual redemption of the saints. When Christ fulfills all the promises of God and brings us our eternal life.
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.[xxvi]
That’s right James, we have again another promise of our crown of life. We have to hold the same confidence we had at first and not shrink away and persevere under trial to receive our eternal life. Buy the way do you guys ever contradict each other? I didn’t think so.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.[xxvii]
Our hope is not disappointing to us because the result of our hope is the Holy Spirit and God’s love in our hearts. The same result of our hope in the promises of God given to Abraham, and confirmed by Jesus, that the Holy Spirit has become a deposit of. See guys I think I am catching on to it.
Thank you Jude, thank you Peter And James and you too mystery man who wrote the book of Hebrews, but you especially Paul for your unswerving devotion to the gospel. And yes thank you Jesus for your word. Thank you Paul for teaching me that everyone of us professing believers really need to have faith, a real hope in God’s promises towards us. Not just a religious faith that assumes we already have what we do not. Thank you for sharing your knowledge of the truth which rests on the hope of eternal life.
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness–a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,[xxviii]
Praise you Jesus for your gospel that was announced to Abraham and promised before time began concerning your coming back to us who are waiting for you to bring us eternal life. Thank you that you already came the first time and bore our sins. It is not a lie that we should hope and expect you to fulfill all your promises at the end of the age. Come quickly Lord Jesus come quickly.
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[i] Hebrews 11:39-40
[ii] Romans 4:18
[iii] Psalms 119:81
[iv] Romans 8:24
[v] Hebrews 11:1
[vi] I Peter 1:3-4
[vii] I Peter 1:5
[viii] Jude 1:21
[ix] Hebrews 6:11
[x] I Peter 1:13
[xi] Hebrews 3:14
[xii] Romans 8:24-25
[xiii] Hebrews 9:27-28
[xiv] Hebrews 10:38-39
[xv] Romans 4:12-18
[xvi] Galatians 1:6-12
[xvii] Acts 4:12
[xviii] Luke 13:4
[xix] Acts 3:19-21
[xx] John 1:1
[xxi] Acts 3:22-26
[xxii] Ephesians 1:18
[xxiii] Ephesians 1:9-10
[xxiv] Ephesians 1:11-12
[xxv] Ephesians 1:3-14
[xxvi] James 1:12
[xxvii] Romans 5:3-5
[xxviii] Titus 1:1-2