The Objective Facts of the Gospel
The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news, not good advice. The difference between news and advice is that news proclaims the past and advice prescribes the future; news declares what has been done while advice dictates what must be done. Every religion and philosophy and psychotherapy system known to humanity offers moral or behavioral advice for self-rectification, self-improvement, self-help, and self-healing.
There are lots of sincere, honest people seeking repair in these systems. But the systems themselves all center on what the morally broken human being must do, ought to do, had better do to fix himself or herself. All of them are fundamentally oriented toward self as the solution.
But there is one exception: the gospel, or good news, of Jesus Christ.
READ AND DISCUSS 1 CORINTHIANS 15:1-4.
According to the apostle Paul, what is the basic content of the gospel?___________________________________________________________________________.
The gospel of Christ is a radically different kind of message, solution, and remedy than anything human beings have come up with (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). It turns the human attention outward away from self and rivets the focus on an intervening Savior who gives unconditional love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace as the relational climate in which deep and lasting transformation can occur from the inside out (2 Corinthians 5:14-21). The gospel tells us what God has already done for us in Christ and invites us to lodge our trust in Him (Titus 3:3-8). It is the good news of His accomplishments for us, not a mandate of what we need to accomplish for ourselves or for Him. And they are incredibly good and beautiful and complete accomplishments.
According to the gospel, the totality of human salvation is an accomplished, past-tense, historic reality in the person of Jesus Christ. In Him we see the objective facts of the gospel. He became a human being. Then, in our very same human nature, He lived a perfect life of selfless love, died for our sins in our place, rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven to the victory position at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 1:3-3-7; 2:1-10). He did all of this in our human nature, thus forging out a new humanity on our behalf (1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-47). This is why Paul describes the accomplishments of Christ in universal terms that encompass humanity as a whole (1 Timothy 4:10). In Paul’s thinking, the perfect life of Jesus was lived as a representative life for all human beings; the death of Jesus on the cross was a representative death for all human beings; the resurrection and ascension of Christ was a representative resurrection and ascension for all human beings (Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
• Paul speaks of the “redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23). Redemption is an achieved reality in Christ before it is an experiential reality in us.
• Paul also speaks of the new life that has been “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). The good works God has in mind for us are already done in Christ. We walk in them after the fact of their creation in Him.
• Paul says that because Jesus “died for all, then all died” (2 Corinthians 5:14). In His death all were represented. In His death Jesus suffered the total horrific reality of our corporate guilt as a race. As our Substitute He died for us, as us, in our place.
• And finally, Paul says that “God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-6). Jesus died, rose from the grave, and ascended to heaven, and because He is there, we are there in Him as our representative.
All of this, according to Paul, is “the gospel.” The historic, objective achievements of Jesus Christ in our very humanity constitutes the good news of what God has done for the entire human race apart from anything we had done to earn, merit, or deserve it—purely “because of His great love with which He loved us.”
The Subjective Faith Response
From the solid foundation of the past-tense historic accomplishments of Christ, Paul builds a natural bridge that crosses over into the realm of our present-tense relational interface with those accomplishments. The objective fact of redemption in Christ aims to become the subjective experience of redemption in our very hearts and lives. And faith, Paul explains, is the means by which the human agent engages with the achieved reality of redemption that exists in Christ. When human beings believe the gospel, they do not manufacture any new facts.