In studying for this coming Sunday’s message in Romans 15:14-21, I have been reading James Boice’s sermons on those verses. At one point he says that the role of the preacher is simply to present “the gospel, the whole gospel and nothing but the gospel.”
The Gospel. The core message of the cross, or the Great Exchange, where Jesus bears the pentaly for my sin and I receive the merits of his perfect righteousness. This is what we call justification. It is at the center of the gospel, and as Luther said, is the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls. Simply stated, the gospel is all of grace.
The Whole Gospel. The core message of the gospel, when unfolded biblically, will reveal other doctrines such as predestination, regeneration, effectual calling, sanctification, glorification, etc. Again, the gospel is all of grace. It is about what God does that we can’t. What he gives that we can only receive.
Nothing but the Gospel. The gospel in all of its beauty and fullness must not be contaminated by adding anything to it. We must not say, Jesus plus anything, however good the anything might be. The formula for salvation is not Jesus plus obedience to the law, prayer, study, church attendance, etc. This is because the gospel is all of grace—200 proof. It is the cross plus nothing. Yes, when that kind of grace gets in us it changes us. But we are not saved by our change. Any change in my life is merely evidence of God’s saving and sanctifying grace. He receives the glory and the praise for raising a dead sinner to life and enabling him to walk.
And on a personal note, I am coming to realize that the only way to walk is to admit that I can’t. It is when we are weak that we are strong, as we begin to experience the sufficient grace of Jesus, whose power is made perfect in weakness.