The Gospel is Grace

The Gospel of IS Grace

“From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”     John 1:16 – 18

The Gospel is sometimes referred to as the gospel of grace. There is a tremendous amount of truth in that label, but it can also lead to a diminishing of the fullness of the gospel. Our elementary school grammar lessons taught us that a preposition connects a modifying word, an adjective or adverb, to a noun. The purpose of this construct is to give the reader or listener a more detailed definition of that down. This is why it is so important to be cautious in selecting those words that we attach to gospel. The Good News needs no modification. That God, in his great mercy, intervened in history to reconcile humankind to himself is the greatest news that one could ever receive. That this invitation to reconciliation is addressed to everyone takes your breath away.

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life…”     John 3:36

The Gospel is power; power to save, power to regenerate, power to make holy that which is unholy. (Rom 1:16-17). The Gospel is not just words or an idea or a theological concept, the Gospel is divine power. It is the incarnation of God’s grace, it is alive and growing. The apostle Paul writes to the church at Colosse, “all over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.” (Colossians 1:6)

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”     Matthew 6:45

The grace of God is made manifest in his benevolent care for his creation, despite the fact that it has rebelled against Him. The result of this common grace should be the universal recognition that God is present and active in the world. It should result in gratitude as God demonstrates his goodness to all but the rebellious mind is devoted to denying these truths by any means possible.

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”     Hebrews 4:16

Our greatest need has been addressed in the Gospel. Salvation comes by grace; salvation comes by the power of the gospel. The Gospel is God’s merciful grace embodied.  The Gospel IS grace.

 

 

 

Gospel By Faith

The good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ, is anchored in faith. This is incredible news for many reasons, not the least of which is that it removes the giving or receiving of this gift of grace from our hands. The apostle Paul speaks about the result of the good news, the power of the gospel and our utter dependence on God for its application; “for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8 – 9) We must hear the good news in faith, respond to the gospel in faith and continue to believe in faith for the gift of salvation to have its effect on our life.

It is good news that the gospel of Jesus Christ is anchored in faith. This means that on our part we take no action that we can claim as our own. This means that nothing on our part is worthy of note. We hear and respond to the gospel of Jesus by faith alone. This means that

  • we do no preparation to make ourselves worthy of the gospel
  • there are no works that we perform their worthy of the good news of Jesus
  • there is no ritual that we must perfect and perform for the gospel to have its effect
  • there will be no wondering on our part whether we have done enough, or done anything properly for the good news to be good news

In the midst of the magnificent “Hall of Fame of Faith”, the author of Hebrews cements this good news:

“(And) without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

What sets this chapter apart is that the heroes of faith listed all exercise that faith before the gospel of Jesus Christ was realized in full. Their faith was rooted in the promise of the care and the mercy and the benevolence of God, all of these fully realized in the gospel: that Jesus Christ, God incarnate came into the world of man, lived and gave his life as the atonement for sin for those highlighted in Hebrews, those in our day and those who will come after us until that glorious day when Jesus returns again.

The good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ, is anchored in faith. We believe the incredible news that God has dealt with our greatest problem – our separation from him by sin – in Jesus. We believe in the full sufficiency of the Lord’s sacrifice to atone from our sin, no matter its degree. We believe that on that earth-shaking Sunday morning the Lord rose and lives again, continuing to this day his ministry of intercession and care for those who have placed their faith in this good news. We believe and keep on believing.

I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16

Gospel Square 1The gospel that the Apostle spoke of is good news, stupendously good news. God had intervened in history, entering personally into the morass of human rebellion against Him and making a way out, a way to be freed from the entanglements that drew them to destruction. Jesus Christ entered the world in purity, lived a life of perfect holiness and died as the sacrifice for the sins of the world. His death atoned for all sin. When Jesus was then resurrected on that third day, He demonstrated indisputably that He had overcome death and broken the entrapping bonds of sin. The long-awaited promises to Israel were fulfilled and the blessing of God extended to all who would believe that Jesus was their only avenue of freedom from the bondage of the Fall.

That is fabulously good news. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:15

The Apostle quoted the prophet Isaiah in this assuring statement. The prophet communicated to God’s people Israel that their exile would end, that they would be released from their captivity in Babylon, that freedom was imminent. Good news to be sure, fantastic even. Except, the power sin remained and, while physically freed, people were still held in its vise-like grip. Better news was still to come.

The better news is Jesus. Jesus, the savior who died for the “sins of the whole world” 1 John 2:2. The amazing news is Jesus who overcame death and its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55-57) and gives all who will believe that victory. Jesus not only makes the way of atonement, He shepherds believers along the path of life (Hebrews 7:25) until they are rejoined with God in perfect communion.

This is good news. This is the gospel.

 

Satan’s Defeat at the Cross – Christus Victor

From a purely human perspective, Jesus’ hours of agony upon the Cross appear to be the very inverse of victory. Rejected by His people, abused nearly to point of death, accused and convicted of crimes for which He is known to be innocent and then cruelly affixed to the tortuous tool of death, our senses struggle to see Jesus as being victorious in any context. Time—in this case a couple of days—proves that there is more than meets the eye however. Christ rises, and a new epoch of history follows in his wake.

Atonement has not been explained by a single theological position. At various times in this history of the Church, different theories have attempted to corral the revelation in the Scriptures and explain what was achieved by Calvary. Salvation is a constant, for certain, but humanity is also the beneficiary the multi-faceted view of God’s character that comes into sharp focus. Evil suffers defeat as well. Though often disregarded as the theory of atonement, Christ’s victory over  the powers of evil is an aspect of the cross that has far-reaching implications for the lives of Christians today.

The name of this view, Christus Victor, is often attributed to Gustav Aulen and his book of the same title. In this tome he challenged the legal and moral views of atonement as inadequate and proposed a restoration of the view he called ‘classic’, saying that it was “the ruling idea of the Atonement for the first thousand years of Christian history.” (Aulen)

God’s plan for the defeat of evil is a lengthy, multi-faceted process that will not be fully consummated until the parousia, but offering benefits attainable by believers today. The Father set to work immediately after evil entered the world, stating that it would be defeated at a time in the future:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. (Gen 3:15)

The Messiah is in view as the one who will defeat this enemy, crushing his head, foreshadowing the ministry of Jesus. The Wicked One knows that the arrival of Jesus predicts his end and, as the Conqueror begins His ministry, he makes every attempt to destroy Him. Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness, he leads Herod to murder the boys and deceives Peter into attempting to dissuade Christ from the completion of His objective (Get behind me, Satan! (Mt 16:23).

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and the authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Col 2:13-15)

Conquest is achieved on Golgotha, the strong man is overpowered and bound. As the passage in Colossians attests, Christ accomplishes the disarming of powers and authorities, triumphing over them on the Cross. While the Evil One may have wanted to continue in his deceit, victory is announced and confirmed at the Resurrection (Acts 2:24, Eph 1:20-23). The church on mission extends the conquest, preaching Christ crucified as Lord, summoning others out of bondage through repentance and renewal.

While we avoid the language of triumphalism, victory should be a part of the vocabulary of the believer. As John Stott says “The victory of Christians, therefore, consists of entering into the victory of Christ and enjoying its benefits.. We can thank God that ‘he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’” (1 Cor 15:57). Caution remains in order though, as the Deceiver continues his self-deceit. He is defeated but has not conceded and continues to seek out ways to derail the Christian treading the narrow path (1 Jn 5:18, 1 Pet 5: 8).

Grace and peace to you…

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The Justice of God in the Cross

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In expressing his moral shock at God’s decision to destroy the good with the bad in Sodom, Abraham voiced what many believers have wanted to yell throughout history, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Indeed! The slaughter of the righteous and the wicked and the continued prospering of the wicked so many centuries later perplexes us. Some, believers and non, are tempted to the point of labeling God unjust based on what they see around them.

There are numerous warnings in the Bible that turn people away succumbing to this belief. Over and over, the Holy Spirit inspires the authors to record prohibitions against belief that the current reign of the unjust will continue forever. God will mete out justice at an appointed day in the future; “..do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Rom 2:3b-4; see also Acts 17:30-31, 2 Pet 3:3-9)

The more observant will note the theodicy evident in the Cross. The clear language Paul uses in Romans 3:21 – 26 forms the foundation of this understanding. God present him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies the man who has faith in justice.

Divine Justice is on full display. God judges sin, requiring the ultimate penalty in death. He also extends mercy to sinners, paying this ultimate price himself. As Stott says “For now, as a result of the propitiatory death of his Son, God can be “just and the justifier” of those who believe in him.” His justice is defended against the limited understanding of man and the questions that pour forth from it.

Grace and peace to you..

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