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.
Discuss Galatians 2:20, 2 Timothy 1:8-10, and Titus 2:11-14. Answering the following questions will help bring the truth in these Scriptures to the surface:
When Christ was crucified, who was also crucified with Him? ____________________________.
What is the motive that drives the new life of faith in Christ? __________________________________.
God “saved us” (past-tense), and in that saving act He also “_________________________ us with a holy ____________________.”
What part do our “works” play in God saving us in Christ? ________________.
To how many human beings does the grace of God appear bringing salvation in Christ? ________________.
While our good works do not earn salvation, how does God’s saving grace teach us to live in this present world?
All Things New
The apostle Paul explains just how truly powerful God’s love is, and he articulates the transformative effect it has over those who come under its influence:
“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:14-19).
By His perfect life of love, His self-sacrificing death on the cross, His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father, Jesus achieved salvation as the new representative head of humanity.
As the first man, Adam was the representative head of the human race. Through Adam, humanity was plunged into sin, guilt, and death. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul explains that Jesus came to our world to be, as it were, “the last Adam . . . the second Man . . . the heavenly Man.” He came to redeem Adam’s failure: “For since by man (Adam) came death, by Man (Jesus) also came the resurrection of the dead.” Paul makes a comparison and a contrast between Adam and Christ as two representatives of two distinct human experiences: the first man, Adam, was the source of humanity’s Fall; the second man, Christ, is the source of humanity’s redemption. Each of us is free to identify with the first Adam or the second Adam. Regarding those who identify with the second Adam, Paul says, “as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man” (verses 21-22, 44-49). In other words, those who identify with Christ will be restored to His image.
By faith I choose to identify with Christ as my representative head before God and as the kind of human being I want to be by God’s grace.
It is clear to me from Scripture that God sent Jesus into the world to live the life of love I should have lived, to die the death my guilt demanded, and to rise from the dead victorious over sin on my behalf. From this day forward, I lodge my trust, my identity, all my relationships, my very life in Him.