“Gospel” means “good news” or more specifically, “glad tidings”. Yet, to the modern person, including today’s Christian, it no longer even conveys its own definition simply because it is such an outdated word. In the days of the New Testament it was quite common in the language of the Roman Empire, being used to describe exciting victories and successes, both in writing and speech. Today, it has largely become mere religious terminology. Unfortunately, it has degraded, through underuse in society and overuse in sermonizing, into something that has no real meaning to those who otherwise think they know exactly what it is!
The best way I know to convey the bigger picture of what the Bible is talking about when it mentions, “the gospel”, is by simply giving you this illustration. Thanks to a couple of my Australian friends, Paul and Bunty Collins, I now have a better way of showing people exactly how GOOD the NEWS really is when it comes to what Jesus did for them as I share the Christian faith. Their book, “Back to the Gospel”, contains the complete teaching for anyone that wants to be a better witness. You can find it through their online Bible college here: http://www.onlinebiblecollege.com/new/
Many believers today do not realize their own lack of understanding when it comes to what Jesus actually accomplished. In fact, it seems to me that most only know the first part, which is critically important in that it serves as the foundation for the rest. Yet, no matter how you approach the building of any structure, the basement level ultimately serves mostly as a base of support on which higher levels can materialize. As we will see, this certainly is the case with regard to how the Gospel contains the potential for the releasing of God’s power to change the world!
We must take another look at the life and message of the Messiah if we want to grasp its full effect. This article will serve as the introduction to an overview of how the Lord’s big story can be broken down into smaller parts from which we can gain a more detailed awareness of what God has done in Him for us! If, at any time during this read, you are tempted to think you already know this stuff, harness your attention by taking a quick glance up at the illustration again for a reminder of just how much bigger the entire picture really is.
As you can see, the “whole” Gospel is made up of 2 halves, which are also easily divided into 2 parts. So, as we read the New Testament, we find that the exciting message about Jesus is made up of at least 4 subheadings. The Word of God is obviously infinite in its spiritual scope so I am not pretending this is the actual whole, just that it is a good place to take our nexts steps as Christians. I believe God wants to build His higher levels in our lives, churches and nations in this hour.
As I said before, most people familiar with Christianity on a basic level have heard of part #1 – the fact that Jesus died FOR us. This introduces us to the second motive behind His mission as accomplished at the cross, each allowing God’s Spirit to begin working true change within me. The “old” me enters into a process of deliverance, wherein, first, the power SIN has over my fallen human nature is negated through a divine “switch”. God Himself masterminded this on our behalf to deliver all of His creation from repeatedly falling into the SINS of the original satanic trap.
“For while we were still helpless, yet at the proper time Christ died for the ungodly. For only rarely will someone die on behalf of a righteous person (for on behalf of a good person possibly someone might even dare to die), but God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8
Part #2 of what the crucifixion of Christ did for me and you is connected to the first. Because my sins were inextricably woven into my sense of “self”, Jesus did something about my broken identity when He laid His life down for the sin nature of all mankind. Not only did Jesus purchase forgiveness and eternal life on my behalf, He also delivered me from seeing myself as that old sinner I’ve always been.
My favorite aspect of the “Good News” is the fact that Jesus not only died “for” mankind but the Bible reveals that He took a further personal step, which is hard to imagine from my human standpoint. Jesus quite literally died AS me and you! When he gave His life on the cross, scripture says clearly that we were actually there with Him in the legal mind of God, the great Judge of all things.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me, I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:19-20
The victorious report found in this truth is that, just as I can’t do anything to earn forgiveness and eternal life, I also do not have to win my own battles over my old selfish nature by myself. Although I still have a body of flesh and deal with a tendency in that part of my being to “come up short” (Greek meaning of “sin), Jesus already completed the work for me by acting as me! The way to freedom from all the effects of sin going forward as a believer is to believe what Christ HAS DONE. There has to be a past tense to the presence and power of God in the believer’s life.
This then unlocks the next series of truths we will explore in the 2nd Half of the Whole Gospel message. Now that we know the basic foundation of what God has truly done for us at the crucifixion we can now better appreciate those things which have also become available to us as a result of Jesus’ resurrection. Only after we know were really are “dead” in Him, can we really learn to let Him “live” in us! Although the Lord has done it for us in a complete legal sense, we have to act on what the Word says as if it were true to realize its full effects.
It is possible to have all this accomplished for us and then walk away from the mirror and forget who we are (in Christ) all over again. This is where so much of modern Christianity lives today – in the frustration of trying to do what Jesus has already done when He has instructed us to enter into a kind of spiritual “rest” attitude reserved for all this who believe the Gospel! Now you know why that old sinner, “Saul of Tarsus” could see the light on the road to Damascus and live to write these things to us as the “Apostle Paul.”
Meditate on these things and go over the following portion of scripture: Romans 1-8; Ephesians; Galatians; Hebrews 4; Acts 9. Don’t forget to buy the book – part 2 of this article is coming soon.