The Gospel of Jesus Christ – Article Series
1. What is the Gospel?
2. What does the Gospel mean? (Part 1)
3. What does the Gospel mean? (Part 2)
4. How should we respond to the Gospel?
5. Non-Gospels and False Gospels
In the last post we saw that the central importance of the Gospel is that it reveals who God is to all people as they see the salvation that is secured for God’s people. This is the most significant reason why the Gospel matters. In the Gospel we find the power of God’s salvation, and we also see clearly who God is. Before we look at the main content of this post, let me clarify some terminology related to salvation that we didn’t get to in the last post.
Salvation is a big term that includes a lot of aspects of what we have been saved from. Ultimately, we have been saved from the wrath of God through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. There are other terms that the Bible uses in order to help us paint a picture of what His work (seen most clearly in the cross and resurrection) have achieved. These include:
- Redeem (e.g. Galatians 3:13, Titus 2:14) – to be ‘redeemed’ means to be purchased from one owner to another, or to be brought out of one situation and into another.
- Ransom (e.g. Mark 10:45, Hebrews 9:15) – a ‘ransom’ price is some payment that must be paid in order to redeem a person or an object.
- Forgive (e.g. Romans 4:7, Hebrews 8:12) – to ‘forgive’ is to have an action condemned and covered over, such that the person responsible no longer has to bear the consequences of that action.1 The goal of forgiveness is reconciliation.
- Reconcile (e.g. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, Ephesians 2:16) – ‘Reconciliation’ is what occurs when two or more persons/groups who were previously separated or opposed to each other are brought back together.
- Sanctify (e.g. John 17:19, 1 Corinthians 6:11) – to be ‘sanctified’ means to be cleansed and set apart for a special purpose.
- Justify (e.g. Romans 3:30, Titus 3:7) – to be ‘justified’ is to be declared righteous.
- Atonement (e.g. Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2) – ‘Atonement’ is a sacrifice that brings humanity and God back together. It comes from the Old Testament sacrificial system that foreshadowed the ultimate act of Jesus’ death that would bring humanity and God back to a state of ‘at-one-ment’ (i.e. to being united as one).
All of this has been achieved for us, in multiple dimensions, through the Gospel of our crucified and risen Lord and Saviour. It truly is astounding how deep and beautiful the scope of our salvation is, especially when we think about how many ways we can look at, and understand, it.
We’ve previously said that the entire New Testament is, in a real sense, an attempt to understand the meaning and achievements of the Gospel. What I want to do in this post is to provide 12 examples of that. The order of these 12 examples will be determined by their order in the New Testament (so, they will not be arranged logically). But my purpose is to demonstrate that there are an incredible number of ways that we could speak about the significance of who Jesus is and what He has done.
At the end of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus reveals to His disciples that all that He has done, especially in His death and resurrection, was in fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures. In other words, God had made promises to the people of Israel and these promises have been fulfilled in Jesus.
The Gospel shows us that God is the promise-keeper who is faithful to His word to Israel.
In this passage Jesus is speaking to His disciples about the fact that He is leaving them to go to the cross to die and be raised to life. He is leaving them so that He can send the Advocate/Helper (i.e. the Holy Spirit) who will bring knowledge of sin and righteousness. We see this confirmed clearly in Acts 2 when, after Jesus had ascended into heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to His disciples.
The Gospel means that the Holy Spirit can be sent to God’s people to convict them of sin, regenerate them, and empower them to serve God in righteousness.
Paul has been explaining the problem that all of humanity faces, and then shifts his focus to talk about how in Christ Jesus sinners can be justified freely by His grace. Jesus is the sacrifice of atonement who redeems His people and allows them to be justified by faith apart from works.
The Gospel means that sinners can be declared righteous by no merit of their own, but by faith alone. It also means that sinners can be rescued from slavery to sin and death.
1 Corinthians 15:12-58
Towards the end of this letter to the Corinthians, Paul rebukes those who teach that there is no such thing as resurrection from the dead. In fact, since Jesus has been raised from the dead then we know that resurrection from the dead is a reality. Furthermore, there is a great hope for the future resurrection body that Christians will receive when Jesus returns that will be immortal and free from death.
The Gospel is proof that there is hope for a future resurrection in which death will be no more.
2 Corinthians 1:20-22
Paul is trying to assure the Corinthian Christians about his travel plans but in doing so he reminds them that all of God’s promises are ‘yes’ in Jesus Christ. He follows this up by reminding them of what they share in Jesus, namely the seal of the Holy Spirit. This is a gift that was foreshadowed in the Old Testament in Ezekiel 36:24-32.
The Gospel means that God is the promise keeper who always keeps His word to His people.
Paul has just spoken about how we can be saved by grace, through faith, apart from works. But the achievement of the Gospel is also seen in how access to God is now available to Gentiles as well as Jews. The separation between nations is removed – both Jew and Gentile can be brought near to God through Jesus Christ. A consequence of this is that racial reconciliation on a horizontal level finds its ultimate basis in the vertical reconciliation found with God.
The Gospel means that any notion of racial superiority in terms of our standing with God (as well as in terms of inherent worth) is to be completely rejected.
Having overviewed the magnificent achievements of the Gospel for our blessings, our salvation, and the unity of Jews and Gentiles in chapters 1-3, Paul turns his attention in chapters 4-6 of Ephesians to focus on how we should live in light of this Gospel. In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul explains how the shape of marriage is modelled after the relationship between Christ and the church, with the clearest example of sacrificial, self-giving love seen at the cross.
The Gospel means that we have a clear and final picture of what marriage is meant to functionally look like.
After declaring the absolute supremacy of Jesus Christ as the Son of God in His person and work, Paul then says that the Cross achieved the reconciliation of all things in heaven and earth. This means that Jesus is absolutely ruling over all creation. But Paul then orients himself to declare that the Colossians Christians are also reconciled to Christ and presented holy in His sight.
The Gospel achieves a restored relationship between us and God through Jesus Christ who is king over all.
The writer of Hebrews writes about how Jesus’ person and work have achieved an eternal salvation for all who obey Him, and how He is now a high priest. Jesus being a high priest (as seen throughout the rest of Hebrews) means that He prays for us, gives us access to God, and has provided an eternal sacrifice that results in our total forgiveness of sins forever.
The Gospel means that we have complete forgiveness of sins forever in Christ. It also means that Jesus is our great High Priest.
1 Peter 2:19-25
Peter wrote his letter to a suffering group of Christians. How are we meant to act when we are suffering? For Peter, one of his answers was to act like Jesus did when He suffered. Like Jesus, we are to endure suffering by avoiding sin, entrusting ourselves to God, and knowing that He is the one who will judge justly.
The Gospel means that Christians have a model of what it means to faithfully endure suffering.
1 John 4:8-10
John writes to his readers and encourages them to love one another (a response to the Gospel!). But he makes an appeal towards the Gospel to remind them that we know true love because we have seen how God sent His son into the world so that we might live through Him. In other words, we know love because we have been loved.
The Gospel means that we have been loved by God and that we know God is love. It also means we have a basis and model upon which to love others.
John writes about how he saw the crucified lamb (Jesus) as being the bridegroom of the people of God. He will bring in a new heaven and a new earth and live with His people forever, judging and removing evil and its pain forever. This is a hope that Christians are to look forward to and know is the consummation of all our longings and desires.
The Gospel means that our crucified king is also the God who will bring in a new creation for us to live with Him forever. We have a hope that will not disappoint us.
What an amazing set of truths we find in Scripture that point us to the meaning and achievements of the Gospel. There are so many more and we could spend a lifetime delving into the riches of our glorious Lord and Saviour. In our next post we’ll focus on what our response to the Gospel should be. But for now, let me end this post by directing our attentions to praise and thank God for His wonderfully sweet blessings that are found in Jesus Christ.
1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3 Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. ~ Psalm 100
- For more on forgiveness, you can read the first of a two-part series on forgiveness here: http://www.thelas.info/2015/11/forgiveness-part-1/ ↩