"According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust" (I Timothy 1:11).
"Gospel" means "good news," and indeed it is, for this heavenly news tells of "the glory of the blessed God,” which, according to Paul, was entrusted to him.
There are many words which describe the gospel in all its glory, but for our purposes here let us look at only three: incarnation, propitiation, justification. Embodied within these words are deep doctrinal truths which are essential to a proper understanding of the one, true gospel.
Incarnation. As C.H. Spurgeon has so aptly stated: "No idea of the Lord Jesus Christ approaches to correctness which does not see in His one dear person the two natures of God and man united. In that person, wherein were blended, but not confused, the Godhead and the Manhood, a practical faith has its most ample help."
By incarnation we simply mean the "becoming flesh" of the Son of God. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth " (John 1:14). Note that in the incarnation Jesus the Christ was the glory of God the Father tabernacling among men! This is beyond human understanding, yet a cardinal truth of the gospel. "God was in Christ," said Paul (2 Corinthians 5:19). "God was manifest in the flesh" (I Timothy 3:16).
Apart from God the eternal Son becoming man we poor sinners could never find or know the living God. Though the gospel message is often scorned for its "narrowness," still it declares: "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 2:5). This means all other religions and religious leaders are false, and it means also that any preacher or church daring to preach "another gospel" comes under God's awful anathema/curse (Galatians 1:6-9).
Propitiation. No word more adequately describes the heart of the glorious gospel than "propitiation." The three occurrences of the word in the KJV are Romans 3:25, I John 2:2, and I John 4:10. In modernistic "Bibles" (as the RSV or NEB) the word "propitiation" has been removed, proving the distaste modern man has for the doctrinal gospel of the New Testament. While "expiation" is certainly involved in propitiation, the latter term means far more. Expiation denotes the covering or putting away of sin, but propitiation means the pacifying of the wrath of God against sin and sinners.
Other Bible words are pregnant with meaning also: reconciliation (peace-making after hatred and war), redemption (rescue by ransom), and sacrifice (the offering of a substitute). See Romans 5:10, Galatians 3:13, and Ephesians 5:2. These words all picture and illustrate the reality of propitiation, and do not imply variation of thought in the writers of the New Testament.
Here is the crucial point: there is only one divine remedy for human sin—the death of Christ at the cross. The sufferings and shame of the God-man alone satisfy divine justice against sinful men. Scripture verifies over and over that this is God's way of saving sinners: "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief" (Isaiah 53:10). "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (I John 4:9-10).
Justification. To be "declared righteous" is what the gospel of grace is all about. Without free and full justification there could be no "good news" in the gospel. But, because of eternal love and the blood-shedding of the Lamb of God, those chosen to salvation are eternally acquitted at the bar of God's justice. "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24). Leap for joy, child of God, for in that verse is your whole salvation! Christ Jesus, the mighty Jehovah, has accomplished salvation for all his people; it is all by his grace, and it is through his redemption/death. All merit is in Christ, therefore he receives all praise.
Justification is solely "by faith" and not by the works of the creature (any works, whatever they may be). "Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Romans 3:27-28).
Justification does not mean we are sinlessly righteous, only that we have been declared righteous. Nor does being justified mean that we are no longer sinners within ourselves, for we will ever be nothing but sinners by nature. But, this is where the glorious gospel continues to magnify God's grace: those whom God justifies he also sanctifies (that is, he gives them a heart to love God and hate sin). Holy desires within our breasts assure us that God is at work in our affections, and that we are justified (I Peter 2:9-12).
Do you thus see the glory of God in the gospel of grace: his power, wisdom, righteousness, truth, and love? In Christ's incarnation and propitiation do we as sinners have complete justification.