The Design of the Gospel
by James Smith
God's word is one of our greatest blessings, as it intended not only to inform the mind — but by leading us to Jesus — to give us peace, comfort, and everlasting life. It is the only essential book, others are useful, some of them are very precious — but this book contains all that we really need. Written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it is full of wisdom, and full of love. Every part of it is more or less necessary, it contains nothing redundant, nor has it any defects. God may have written much more — but it was not needed; for it contains all things necessary to life and godliness.
John's gospel is a peculiarly precious portion of the divine word, and I want to fix your mind on the design with which it was written; hear the apostle's testimony concerning the things recorded in it: "These are written — that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing — you might have life through his name." John 20:31. Here is,
A GRACIOUS RECORD.
It is the testimony of Jesus — of who he is: The Christ, the Messiah, the anointed One, upon whom the Holy Spirit rested in fullness and power, qualifying and preparing him for his glorious work. The Son of God, possessing the divine nature in union with the human, he is therefore both God and man in one person.
It is the testimony of Jesus — of what he did for man: Healing his diseases, forgiving his sins, and conferring on him innumerable blessings. Of what he did for man, in . . .
obeying the law,
offering up himself as a sacrifice for sin,
opening Heaven and making a new and living way to it, at once free, easy of access, and safe forever traveler.
It is the testimony of Jesus — of what he said: the conversations he held, and the sermons he delivered. Here we have a correct account of . . .
the doctrines he taught,
the precepts he gave,
the ordinances he instituted,
the promises he made, and
the encouragements he held out.
John's gospel is full of Christ! Here . . .
his person is clearly set forth,
his discourses and prayers are sweetly recorded,
and some of his wondrous miracles are attested.
Precious gospel, may I . . .
read it more,
understand it more,
love it more, and
practice it more!
ITS GRACIOUS DESIGN.
"That you might believe." Give credit to the great fact, that Jesus of Nazareth, is the Son of God. Confide in the faithful word, which announces, that he came into the world to save sinners. Rely on his finished work, which comprises — all that God can require; and all that we can need in order to our acquittal at God's bar and being entitled to eternal life.
Trust in him as the loving Lord, who has promised to forgive and perfectly save, all who come unto God by him.
"That believing you might have life." A right to live, and to live forever, and to live forever in the most blessed and glorious circumstances.
Life, under the law — was by doing; life, under the gospel — is by believing. Every believer shall live, that is — enjoy eternal existence without guilt or gloom; existence in peace and purity; existence in happiness and honor; existence with God and the glorified.
"That believing — you will have life in his name." Every believer has a right to expect this life. On every believer, God is pledged freely to confer it. And when he confers it, he invariably sustains and perfects it. Life, eternal life, is through Jesus alone, and through Jesus by believing alone.
Reader! You need life — eternal life. There is no alternative between eternal life — and eternal death. John wrote his gospel, and God by his providence has put that gospel into your hands, that you night believe on Jesus, and believing have life through his name. Life is in Jesus — and in Jesus alone. From him you may obtain it — but from no one else. He is ready to bestow it, and complains of many, as of old, "You will not come unto me — that you might have life."
Life comes into our possession only by faith. By believing we live — and by believing alone. God has appointed faith to be the instrument by which we shall receive life from his beloved Son; just as he appointed looking to be the only medium of healing, to the serpent-bitten Israelites of old.
Faith comes by God's word. Hearing, or reading God's word, is used by the Holy Spirit — to beget faith in the heart. We ought therefore to be swift to hear the gospel, ready to peruse the Scriptures, looking up to God to produce faith in our hearts.
The right use of the Bible is to believe it, and so believe it, as to obtain life through Christ. If we do not make this use of the word of God — then we do not make a proper use of it. And if we do not make a proper use of it — it will witness against us at the last day.
Beloved, have you everlasting, life? Every believer has. Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and so believe, as to have life through his name? This is a most important question. You have the means of faith — but have you faith? You have the testimony of God — but do you receive that testimony, and so receive it as to witness that God is true? "He who believes on the Son of God has everlasting life; and he who believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him!" If therefore you are not a believer — the wrath of God abides on you! And as an unbeliever, it will abide on you forever!