First post in series.
Ask yourself what is the summary or shorthand for the gospel. Go ahead, think for a second, what is the gospel……
My guess is that most would answer something like: the forgiveness of sins.
That is good news. It is gospel. But is it the full gospel or even a good summary?
If forgiveness is the gospel, where does the story start and where does it end? If I think of the gospel purely in those terms it starts when I sin and it ends with a sacrifice on the cross. Can you see anything missing in that or slightly off?
Here is my list. First it starts with us – the finite driving the infinite. We sin so God reacts. That doesn’t seem right. Second, in that scenario there is absolutely no need for the resurrection. All you need is the perfect sacrifice. [The resurrection might lend credence to the sacrifice i.e. be proof that it was accepted, but it is not necessary.] Third, the story doesn’t seem to go anywhere but a repeating loop. I sin, God forgives, I feel good until I sin again. Rinse, Wash, repeat. That is one of the most boring and mocked lines ever. If you are trapped in that boring story, no wonder some Christians just want to be raptured. Is that really all the gospel is?
I did a simple search on the word forgiveness in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Take a guess as to how many times the word forgiveness is used in the gospels? Go ahead, even with having read the above take a guess…7. There are seven passages in the gospels that use the word forgiveness. Let’s widen it a little bit and include the verb forgive, not just the reception of forgiveness but the action of forgiving. That adds another 17. Total mentions in the gospels of forgiveness – 24. So it is not unimportant. And some of those passages are key understandings, but 24 mentions in four books can’t be the sum total. Ask a different question. How many times in the gospel is life mentioned? 72 verses. Three times the number of verses as forgiveness.
If you start in genesis 3 with the fall you only need to read until Matthew 27. But that is a shortened gospel. The scriptures start with Genesis 1, with God creating life. They end in Revelation 22 with God re-creating the heavens and the earth and the River of Life flowing from the throne. The gospels include a resurrection and one of them the ascension. The gospel, the good news, is something more. The gospels tell a bigger story.
Two verses from the Gospel of John. John 10:10 – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 17:3 – “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you , the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
God created you. But the thief – Satan, our accuser – came to steal you and kill you and destroy you. Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, so death spread to all men (Rom 5:12). The gospel is that Jesus Christ has come to give life, life in the full. You might ask what is this life? The sent one’s answer – that you might know God. The life of the world to come is build around the throne of God and the lamb in the midst of their people (Rev 22:1-2). That life starts now. Those waters of life flowed in baptism. The church, the people of God, gathers around Christ – body and blood.
We might know God not just because Jesus has forgiven us, but also because he has won our victory over death that covered all and cast that thief into the pit. Sin, death and the power of the devil have been broken through the advent of the Kingdom of God. More on that next time.