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What the good news tells us.
The gospel is not something which we should try to move beyond.
As Philippians 3 opens, Paul admits that he doesn’t find it a “grievous” or irksome thing to “write the same things” to his audience (Phil. 3:1). In that particular context, the apostle is referring to the incalculable joy that’s found in Christ alone. Paul’s fervor to commend to that church, and every church since, the joyful life of humility in union with Christ is not lost on our ears. We, too, need to hear those “same things” over and over and over again. Such is why I am given to writing, expounding, and sharing the timeless truth of God’s “grace upon grace” (John 1:16) — which is to say, it’s no irksome thing for me to continue crafting posts which extol the infinite mercies of Jesus’s gracious salvation because I readily recognize my dire need for such news.
In a letter entitled, “Faith — The Gospel — Assurance,” which is found in a compendium of letters called Truth and Error by the Rev. Horatius Bonar, we are greeted with a dazzling paragraph of this very kind. These are lines which, perhaps, might sound like “old news,” but they a replete with the good news, which is ever fresh, ever new, and ever glorious. What does this good news of God tell us? Well, I’ll let Dr. Bonar take it from here:
Having said this much as to faith itself, let me add a few words as to that which it receives, “the glorious gospel of the blessed God.” That which we preach, and that which faith believes, “is the glad tidings of great joy.” It is God’s testimony to his own character, his declaration of his gracious mind towards the sinner, the utterance of his manifold yearnings over his lost and long-wandered offspring. That which we make known is the story of divine love. We tell men that there is such a thing as love in God towards the sinful; that this love hath found vent to itself in a righteous way, and that to the participation and enjoyment of this love all are welcome. We show them how God has opened up his heart, to let them see what riches of grace are there; and how he has done a work upon the earth by which we may measure the infinite dimensions of that gracious heart. These are the news we bring. These are the tidings which we present to sinners to be believed, and to be rejoiced in with joy unspeakable and full of glory. These tidings are free: truly, absolutely, unconditionally free. They are without money and without price. They make known the exceeding riches of the grace of God. They show us how these riches are pouring themselves freely out upon this fallen world. They tell us that not only is there grace in God for sinners, but also that that grace has found vent to itself, and is flowing down in a righteous channel to unrighteous men. They tell us that the darkness is past, and the true light has risen upon the world. They tell us that the veil is rent from top to bottom, and that every sinner may go freely in. They tell us that there is forgiving love in the bosom of the Father, of which every sinner, without exception, is invited to avail himself. They point each wandering eye to the cross, that it may read there the Divine compassion, the yearning tenderness of Him who made us, towards the lost, the rebellious, the unholy. They come up to every man, and invite him to partake of all the fulness of God: they make no exception, but address themselves, in all their gladness and amplitude, to each man as he stands. (108–10)
I pray that I never tire of hearing those words. I pray that I am continually enamored by the inexhaustible and unfathomable amplitude of God’s merciful tidings towards such wrecks and wretches like myself. As the “chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15), my wobbly faith clings to nothing but what this “glorious gospel of the blessed God” tells me (1 Tim. 1:11) — namely, how that my deliverance from a certain eternity in hell was effected by the death of God’s own Son, who gifts me my pardon freely, “truly, absolutely, unconditionally free,” though at great cost to him (his very life). I believe in my bones that the heart of worship is found there: in the contemplation of this news. The gospel is not something which we should try to move beyond, nor is it something from which we can graduate. The infiniteness of the gospel necessarily involves a perpetual pursuit of all its immeasurable knowledge and truth and grace. May we never grow weary of hearing this news.
Grace and peace, friends.
Horatius Bonar, Truth and Error; or, Letters to a Friend on Some of the Controversies of the Day (Edinburgh: W. P. Kennedy, 1847).