"What Is the Gospel?"
E.J Waggoner. Bible Echo May 1 1893
This question is answered in a few words by the apostle Paul, in Rom. 1:16, 17: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of CHRIST; for it is the power of GOD unto salvation to every one that believeth; . . . for therein is the righteousness of GOD revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." But, although the question is answered in so few words, the answer comprehends so much that it will take all eternity to unfold the depth of its meaning.
The above text sets forth two points for our consideration: 1. Salvation from sin; and 2. The power of GOD exerted to accomplish that salvation. We will briefly consider them in order.
The apostle says that the gospel is the power of GOD unto salvation, because therein the righteousness of GOD is revealed. This shows that is the revelation of the righteousness of GOD, that bring salvation. That salvation has reference solely to sin, is shown in the fact that it is the revelation of the righteousness of GOD that saves. Now, since unrighteousness is sin (1 John 5:17), and sin is the transgression of a law (1 John 3:14), it is evident that righteousness is obedience to law of GOD. The following text also show it: "Thou shalt call his name JESUS; for He shall save his people from their sins." Matt. 1:21. "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that CHRIST JESUS came into the world to save sinners." 1 Tim. 1:15.
Since sin is the transgression of a law, it is evident that to save one from sin, or from the transgression of a law, is the same thing as making and keeping him obedient to law. Therefore the gospel is the revelation of the power of GOD to work righteousness in man-to manifest righteousness in their lives. The gospel, therefore, proclaims GOD'S perfect law, and contemplates nothing less than perfect obedience to it. Let it not be overlooked that it requires no less a power than the power of GOD, to exhibit righteous acts in the lives of men. Man's power is a wholly inadequate. This is easily seen when we recognise what the righteousness is, that is to be revealed in the life. The text says that it is "the righteousness of GOD." The righteousness of God is set forth in His law. Isa. 51:6, 7. Now who can do of the righteousness of GOD? That is, who can do acts that are righteous as those that GOD does?-Evidently only GOD Himself. The law of GOD sets forth GOD'S way. Ps. cxix. 1, 2. But the LORD says, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isa. 4:9. Therefore man's effort to keep the commandments of GOD must fall as far short as the earth is below the heavens.
Man is fallen; the work of the gospel is to raise him to a place at the right hand of GOD. But can man lift himself from earth to heaven? A man can as easily raise himself from the ground to the sun, by placing his hands under the soles of his feet and lifting, as he can raise himself by his own actions to the height of the requirement of GOD'S commandments. Everyone knows that when a man tries to lift himself by placing his hands under his feet, he is only holding himself down, and that the harder he lifts, the more he presses downward. So with all of a man's effort to make himself what GOD'S law demands. He is only adding to his guilt, for "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." Isa. 64:6. That which man does himself is from self; that is, it is selfishness; and selfishness has no place in the plan of salvation. That which is of self is of Satan; it is wholly evil. See Mark 7:21-23. The gospel proposes to save man from himself; therefore the man who proposes to do either wholly or in part by himself the work that GOD requires, proposes to do the best he can to thwart GOD'S plan. Many do this the ignorantly, but the result is the same. It was because the Jews were ignorant of GOD'S righteousness that they went about to establish their own righteousness. Rom. 10:1-3. Whoever realises the infinite depth and height and breadth of the character of GOD, which is summed up in His law, will readily see that nothing short of the power of GOD can produce that character in man. Only GOD Himself can do the works of GOD. For a man to assume that he himself is able to do GOD'S righteous works, is to make himself equal with GOD; and that is the very "mystery of iniquity" itself.