This I Believe: The Gospel

The Gospel
I believe that the gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ, utter folly to the world but the power of God to those who are being saved. God first spoke the gospel to Adam and Eve in the Garden after they had sinned. The gospel is of “first importance,” for it states that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead according to the Scriptures. The gospel is to be spread throughout world and it commands everyone to repent and believe in Jesus. The gospel is God’s appointed way for humans to be reconciled to himself so that they may glorify and enjoy him forever.

Gen 3:15; Ps. 16:5-11; Matt. 28:19-20; 13:44; Mark 1:15; Luke 2:10; Rom. 1:16-17; 1 Cor. 1:18; 15:1-5; 2 Cor. 5:20; Eph. 1:3-17; Phil. 4:4; Col. 1:22; 1 Pet. 3:18; 2 Thess. 1:9; Rev. 14:6

The Dark Exchanges of Romans 1

Paul wastes no time laying the smack down in Romans 1.  He has a mission: to preach the gospel.  The gospel is the good news that God has come to us in the person of Jesus Christ to reconcile us to God, remove the wrath of God from us, justify us before God, and forgive us of our sinful rebellion.  Jesus did this by living a perfect life, dying on the cross, and rising from the dead.

But Paul cannot preach the gospel if he doesn’t tell us why we need the gospel.  The hard truth that we tend to ignore is this: there is no glorious good news without terribly bad news.  If Paul wants to preach his gospel in this epistle, he needs to tell us the hard truth of what we have exchanged for joy in God.

The first dark exchange comes in verses 23-24.  Paul says that people have exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images of creation.  This results in God giving people over to what they want: a miserable life of impurity and dishonoring their bodies and lives.

The second dark exchange is in verses 25-26.  People exchanged the truth about God for the lie of idolatry — that is, worshiping creation rather than Creator.  People have chosen to worship something that is frail, finite, and dependent rather than God who is strong, infinite, and independent.  Because of this, God gives people up to their horrific passions.  Whatever they want to do, God lets them do it.

The third dark exchange arises out of the first two.  Because people have desired impurity and sinful passions, God gives them over.  Paul calls this dark exchange homosexuality.  Paul writes in verses 26-27, “For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another.”

Verse 28 sums up this whole mess: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”  But Paul is not just “picking on” homosexuals.  He includes every kind of vice in verses 29-32 you can imagine.  We are all guilty before God.  We have all exchanged the worship of God for something that is not worthy of worship.

That’s the terribly bad news.  But the glorious good news — for the  non-Christian and Christian — is that God still pursues sinners.  He still sails in with his mighty grace to rescue us from drowning in these dark exchanges.  The gospel is that we “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Rom. 3:24-25a).

Jesus Keeps Pursuing, Even When We are Ignorant

Many people have interpreted Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well as a model for personal evangelism for Christians.  That’s one way of looking at it, I guess.  Perhaps more significantly, however, we can look at this episode to see how we are like the woman, and how Jesus is our great Pursuer.  This passage shows us our immense need to constantly come to the Fountain of life and drink.

In John 4:4, it says that Jesus “had to pass through Samaria.”  He didn’t do this because it was the shortest route, but because he had an appointment.  He had an appointment with a woman who needed to be pursued — a woman who needed to be saved.

Notice the conversation in verses 7-25.  The woman is continually plagued by a lack of spiritual fiber in her bones.  She can’t handle spiritual realities.  She’s blind.  She’s ignorant.  She’s only able to think in terms of things she can see and touch:

  • She thinks Jesus can’t give her water because he doesn’t have a bucket (v. 11).
  • She thinks Jesus gives water so she won’t have to come to draw from this particular well anymore (v. 15).
  • She avoids her sin by starting a debate about where people should worship (vv. 19-20).

If we are honest with ourselves, we are the woman.  Even the disciples didn’t always digest deep, spiritual realities (e.g. John 4:33).  We continually need the great, pursuing Savior to tear away the blinders of spiritual ignorance and give us knowledge of himself.

Where do you see yourself in this woman?  Where are you ignorant of Jesus’ pursuit of you?  How will you respond?

The Splendid and Stern Gospel of John the Baptizer

In Luke 3, John the Baptizer’s gospel is hard, stern, and in-your-face.  He preaches a radical lifestyle of self-sacrifice, compassion, and justice (vv. 10-14).  He even goes so far to say that the Christ has an axe ready to cut down the unfruitful tree and winnowing fork ready to burn the worthless chaff (vv. 9, 17).

Luke didn’t see this latter part as unloving, unproductive, or un-Christian.  How did he see it?  He wrote, “So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people” (v. 18).

This is so unlike the good news we hear in Christianity today.  The “good news” is supposed to be soft, accommodating, and hippie-like.  C.S. Lewis thought otherwise about how we are to love people.  He said, “Love is something more splendid and stern than mere kindness.”  May we Christians be splendid and stern, like John, as we proclaim this good news to a dying and needy world.