(From my article in the local paper last week.)
If there’s something I’ve learned about faith, Jesus and Christianity it is this: the gospel is something we need every second of every day. As I open up the Scriptures and study the life of Jesus and the theology of the New Testament, I conclude that we are all on a journey and have to revisit the good news over and over again. We never outgrow our need for the gospel, nor do we move on from it. It applies to every situation, circumstance, thought, action and opportunity.
Furthermore, Tim Keller once said that the gospel is not the “ABC’s” of Christianity. It’s the “A-to-Z.” What Keller was getting at was the reality that for many Christians, the gospel is simply that thing you believe when you first become a Christian and after that you move on to bigger and better things (whatever that means). The biblical vision for the gospel, however, is that it is the news that sustains you until God sovereignly takes your life.
Before we look at the implications of the Gospel in the next few weeks, I want us to define it. The Apostle Paul defines the Gospel this way in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 (ESV), “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”
According to this passage the gospel consists of 5 things: (1) It is “according to the Scriptures”—which means that the Old Testament is an integral part to this news; (2) It is the climactic story of Jesus—his death and resurrection being the central part to that story in the overall story of Israel; (3) It is the grounds for our justification—“in which you stand” is Paul’s way of assuring the Corinthian church that Jesus is the bases for salvation (not our good works!) and that we are “declared right” in the eyes of the Judge because of Jesus’ substitutionary death for us; (4) Jesus “appeared”—thus showing his followers that God has vindicated him (through resurrection), and showing the world Jesus is who he says he is; (5) You must receive it (Paul reminds them of the gospel that they “received”).
The first reaction we should have towards this good news is a repentant heart. The Offended Creator of the Universe has chosen to intervene in the Story He is telling by crucifying His Son. This cannot be responded to with ambivalence—no, we must respond confessing our sin, trusting in what Christ has done (Romans 10:9). Salvation begins and ends with the realization that we are sinners, but God intervened refusing to allow us to have the final word of sin. That’s the gospel we glory in (1 Timothy 1:3).
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