Sunday, April 15, 2007

And now for the GOOD NEWS!

If you have been following this blog, you may have noticed that I stated that I had yet to post a message on the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that I intended to do so. In my post entitled First, the Bad News I told you that I believe that in order to have any kind of understanding and appreciation of the good news of the gospel, that we first needs to see that we are guilty of breaking God's laws. In my second post on the subject, Just a Little More Bad News , I attempted to explain that being found guilty, we are under condemnation, and in realty should serve out our sentence in hell. Once a person is fully convinced that they are indeed guilty and deserving punishment, it is then proper to introduce them to the good news.

What wonderful, glorious good news it is! That God would lower himself to such an extent as to take on human flesh, live a sinless life, and then be sacrificed in our place! Once we understand the terrible condemnation that we have heaped upon ourselves through our sinfulness, then Christ's payment is so much more precious!

We can find the "gospel" spelled out very precisely in Paul's letter to the Corinthians. This is probably the clearest, most "compact" presentation of the good news in the bible. 1 Corinthians 15: 1-4 says "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:"

CHRIST died for our sins! Christ DIED for our sins! Christ died FOR our sins. Christ died for OUR sins! No matter which word we emphasize, there are many, many sermons that could (and no doubt have) been written on each aspect,

CHRIST died for our sins. Implicit in these 5 words are the fact of who Christ is. He is a man, and he lived a perfect, sinless life. He completely fulfilled God's law in every aspect; something no man before or since has even come close to doing. If he had not done this he could not have paid the price for anyone's sin, because he would have had to pay for his own. It is also necessary that he came and did this as a man, else he would not have been a suitable substitute for any other man. Just as we learn in Hebrews 10 that "... it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins",, neither could any other creature be a substitute to pay for a man's sins. Not a lamb; not an angel; only another man. (That Christ is God incarnate is also clearly taught in scriptures, so don't get the idea that I would in any way deny Christ's deity). This explains why the bible teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin, that there could be no shadow of doubt cast on the fact that God was his father. But that Mary herself was a sinful human is shown in Luke 1: 46-47: " And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." A sinless person has no need of a saviour. But just as important is Mary's humanity. If she were indeed part of the godhead as some would suggest, then Jesus, being born of God the Father and Mary the Queen of Heaven, would not be a man. We would all be undone, because if Jesus was not a man he would not be a proper substitute to die for us.

Christ DIED for our sins. He suffered and died a cruel death on the cross. Worst of all he suffered the wrath of God, culminating in the declaration of Jesus just before his death "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27: 46) Jehovah is a God of justice and judgement as Isaiah 53: 11 says: " He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities."

Christ died FOR our sins. As previously mentioned, Christ lived a sinless life. He had perfectly kept all of God's laws, so that he could be the spotless lamb of God, a blood sacrifice to atone for our sins. Christ died as a substitute for us. A perfect justice demands that a payment be made for offences. God is perfect in every way, including his justice. In order to fulfil perfect justice, Christ took the punishment that we earned by our breaking of God's law. Just as Jesus lived a sinless life in our place, he died to pay for sins in our place.

Christ died for OUR sins. Christ died because of our sins. It was the only way to satisfy God's justice without sending each of us to the hell we deserve. As I tried to emphasize in First, the Bad News we need to see our sins as personal, and just between ourselves and a Holy God. We need to see our sin as exceeding sinful! Our sins demand punishment. Jesus Christ took that punishment upon himself, that we might escape the judgement we deserve.

Christ died for our SINS. We are all sinners deserving punishment. I attempted to cover that in the two previous posts on bad news. Christ died not only to save us from the penalty for our sins, but as Matthew 1:21 says; "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins." This also is part of the good news. Not only are we saved from the judgement that our sinfulness demands, but we also are made free from the slavery to sin that we are under. Romans 6:14 tells us that sin no longer has dominion over us. That too is very good news!

Going a little farther in 1 Corinthians 15, we find the fact that Christ died for our sins is all according to the scriptures. When this letter to the church at Corinth was written, we did not yet have the New Testament. When Paul says "according to the scriptures", he is referring to the Old Testament. Jesus sinless life and substitutionary death was foretold in prophecy and foreshadowed in ceremonies throughout the Old Testament. The fact that Christ died on the cross for sinners is amazing. The fact that God revealed it beforehand through his word reinforces the truth of both the prophecy and of the act itself.

Continuing in 1 Corinthians 15; "And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:" Christ's burial and resurrection too were revealed in Old Testament. Jesus himself tells us in Matthew 12:39-40: "But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

This resurrection from the dead of our Lord and Saviour is not only a glorious event, but it is our proof that God the Father found Jesus' sacrifice for sins to be acceptable. Acts 17:31 says : "Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead."

Included in the good news is the fact that because Christ died for our sins, on the last day God will raise us up also. 1 Corinthians 6:14 says: "And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power." We will be resurrected to live with and worship God throughout eternity!

Now perhaps all of this elaboration that I have attempted on the gospel as it is stated in 1 Corinthians 15 has only served to confuse the issue. The simplicity of the gospel is this: We are all sinners who deserve punishment, but Jesus Christ took that punishment upon himself, that we might escape judgement and instead have eternal life. God the Father laid all of this out in the Old Testament, and showed his acceptance of Christ's substitutionary sacrifice by raising him from the dead.

THAT is wonderful, amazing, glorious GOOD NEWS!