ELEMENTS OF THE TRUE GOSPEL
A well-known scripture says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. (John 3:16 NIV). We all have heard about salvation, but do we know the HOW of our salvation. Do we understand the procedure of our salvation hinted about in this verse? Do we know that for God to save man he had to go through a specific process in which he had no alternatives? Can you imagine an all-knowing, omnipotent, almighty God having no option?!! There was a specific HOW of our salvation and given that God is Love and we are human beings, there was no other means except for this specific procedure.
The apocalypse of Revelation chapter 5 shades a picture of the dilemma that God found himself in. I have just called it a dilemma because of the limited-ness of language, but we can all imagine what it meant to save man. God naturally is love; God characteristically is perfect and righteousness. In him there is no darkness, no mistake and no blemish. Because God is Love, love held him captive and he had to suffer the penalty set by himself in order to save man. The cross is the ultimate answer to the pain and woes we see in this world. Whoever doubts the Love of God should look at the cross, and look at a hanging, naked and bleeding God.
For God to save man, he had to go through a three-step procedure first God becomes man to represent man, then he deals with the cause of man’s problem and finally God solves the problem itself. Let’s look briefly at each of these procedures:
God becomes Man (The Incarnation)
God had to go through a specific procedure. Since God is not a creature but he wanted to save a creature, he had to first become a creature that he wanted to save and that creature was man. In all of creation, it is only man that God died for. But why man of all the beautiful things that God created? I will tell you why. It is man because of two reasons:
The first reason is that man is a supra-conscience being. Unlike all other beings with a conscience only man has the ability to reflect on his thoughts, to develop language and construct meaning. While other animals instinctively prepare for the future seasons, man preserves his history and utilizes it for his present and future. Finally man is a supra-conscience being because he has the ability not only to consciously choose against himself but also to choose against his creator.
For God to save such a being, it was not going to be the method he used in Genesis 7 in the time of floods when he commanded Noah to just lead seven pairs of clean animals and 3 pairs of unclean animals. With man, God has to always negotiate their salvation. He has to be frank and open with all the facts on the tree of Knowledge of Good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17) and let man choose without interruption (Genesis 3).
The second reason as to why God of all beings died for man is because only man in the entire creation is Guilty. The Bible says in Genesis 3:17-18 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
No animal and not even the land on which we dwell is guilty of their behavior. It is we human beings, who are guilty and because all creation was placed under our dominion (Genesis 1:28), all creation suffers not because it is guilty but because we are guilty. Some animals in the animal world might exhibit expressions of guilt but it is guilt based on the standards we human beings have set. On the other hand, man feels guilt with or without a set standard. Guilt is a universal experience. Everybody at some time or other has had the bad feeling of not doing what he ought to have done regardless of whether this is a law with a punishment or not.
Pastor John Piper said in one of his preachings that:
“Even people who deny that there is any such thing as right and wrong are trapped by the law of God written on their hearts. They set out to prove there is no such thing as right and wrong and that all ethics are relative and arbitrary, but wind up saying it is right for you to agree with them and wrong for you not to. No one has ever successfully erased the sense of ought which God writes in every human soul. Our moral sensibilities may be perverted so that they are the very opposite of God’s, but everyone senses that he ought to do certain things and not others. And we all know we have not done all we ought to have done, or felt all we ought to have felt. And at some time or other this has made us feel bad. The failure to do what we ought to have done we call guilt. And the bad feelings that often accompany it we call guilt feelings or a bad conscience.”
God had to save man from this constant guilt which was particular with the human race alone. The Bible says in Romans 3:19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. However, for God to save man from this feeling, he had to understand it and the only way for an eternal God to appreciate the situation of the object of his salvation was for him to become like him (man-creature).
This is what necessitated the miracle of the incarnation. It is a miracle because a virgin conceived: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (God with us) (Isaiah 7:14 NIV). Because no equally guilty man could save another culprit and yet it had to be a man to represent another man, God became man.
If you say that someone is the incarnation of a particular quality, you mean that they represent that quality or are typical of it in an extreme form. God therefore was a typical man. To save man you need to be man, share their experience. Speak their language and persuade them. So no beast can represent man, and no supernatural being (be it God himself in his substantial celestial nature) could qualify to save man. So God had to qualify to be our savior by becoming one of us.
This is what the Bible wants us to understand when the scriptures in Philippians 2:5-8 say: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! Jesus was God who had become like one of us. He was he who was in the very nature of God but who took on the nature of man. He is the God who stooped too low to reach man.
The Bible continues to say in John 1:1, 14 that: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
It is this very God of all the beginning that became flesh and dwelt among us. So the man we know as Jesus Christ was 100% God and 100% man. The Bible says in Colossians 2:9 that: For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. How this could be? The Bible says it is a mystery of godliness, as it is in 1Timothy 3:16: Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body.
The theological or technical term for this process is known as Incarnation. What sets God’s incarnation from all other reincarnations of other small gods of cults and religions is that our God never began. He was God from the beginning (Revelation 5) but again a real man, born and raised with real life experiences and limitations like all other men, not some sort of spirit or ghost or other reincarnations that appear in beasts like cows, elephants, etc. or in specific places and events like the Hindus and other Eastern religions believe.
The incarnation of God, is the qualification of him as the savior representative of man. So we were not just represented by any other fellow man but by the very God who created us. For no man could save fellow men, but only God incarnate. That is why the Bible says in Hebrews 2:14-15 that: Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil–and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
Dealing with the Cause.
After God had qualified to be man’s representative, he moved on to the second procedure which was dealing with the cause of man’s problem. According to the Bible, the cause of man’s problem is SIN. Without sin, man cannot die. Now sin is commonly known to be the transgression of the law as Apostle John puts it: Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (1John 3:4 KJV).
This however, is a prescriptive definition. It is a definition that tells us what sin does but not what sin substantially is. Sin is not substantially what we do, but a cosmic power over all creation, and that is why even nature suffers. Scripture says that: For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. (Romans 8:22 KJV). We therefore can see that the whole creation does not suffer due to transgression of the law but because of sin.
The descriptive definition of sin ought to look at sin as substantially a cosmic power which is antagonistic to who God is, his will and his entire creation. Sin is a will-power opposed to divinity, divine prerogatives and all creation. So, substantially Sin is a power that infused itself in the perfect creation of God that it became impossible to separate the creation and us from this thing known as sin.
King David understood the depth of sin when he said: Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5), we all know that babies have not violated any of the Law. Well one could argue from the Original Sin theory and say that babies suffer the sin of their parents, but Ezekiel says: The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him. (Ezekiel 18:20 NIV). David then knew the cosmic power known as Sin and it is the one he referred to in Psalms 51.
Sin is primarily not what we do but fundamentally who we are. It is just part of us, unfortunately. The Bible metaphorically puts it this way in Jeremiah 17:1: “Judah’s sin is engraved with an iron tool, inscribed with a flint point, on the tablets of their hearts and on the horns of their altars. And he goes ahead to explain the condition of the heart in verse 9 by these words: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Sin is a problem to us regardless of what we do. In fact we do what we do because of the Sin which is part of us.
Apostle Paul further explained the situation of man and Sin in Romans 7:15-16, 17-20: I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
The sinning we exercise (prescriptive) is due to the Sin in us (descriptive), Apostle Paul puts it better when he says: for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. (Romans 5:13 NIV). As you can see, Sin is not described by the law but rather sinning is. Because of how deep and infused Sin is with us and the entire creation, God cannot clean the heavens and earth of it (Sin) but he has to create new ones: For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. (Isaiah 65:17 KJV). We are so damaged that we cannot be fixed but replaced. Apostle Paul lamented: Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24 RSV). Man has a problem before he even does anything.
It is this Sin that results into our ultimate problem which is Death. The Bible says: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23). It is Sin that causes death. Paul goes ahead to say: The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. (1Corinthians 15:56). It is this sin that Jesus dealt with. He overthrew it and liberated us from its power. As I speak today: death, I mean death eternal, is a choice.
Now that I have discussed the cause of man’s problem which is Sin. I have to answer the question: How did God deal with the Sin problem? The only reason as to why we are saved by grace through faith, is because we are sinners even before we sin. Our body and mind are both corrupt and cannot be fixed. The only thing God can do is to forgive us. But God has no right to forgive us before he bodily rectifies our guilt. And for God to rectify our guilt, he had to do in the same body and nature what man had failed to do and that is obedience to the law.
Christ is the second perfect Adam who obeyed the law in thought and deed, exactly what the first Adam failed. Romans 5:19 says: For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. Jesus as a man was guilty of nothing and he openly challenged anyone who accused him of any sin by these words: Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? (John 8:46 NIV).
Jesus in the body was equally as vulnerable as all of us are. That is why we see Satan tempting him on several occasions both directly like in Mathew 4 and indirectly through Pharisees and other incidences recorded in the New Testament. However, though he was as vulnerable as we all are, he never sinned as we do. Not in thought or even in behavior. The Obedience that is required by the law is perfect obedience and nothing less. Whoever attempts to obey his way to heaven must understand that he must obey in thought and deed. And it is exactly this that Jesus provided in flesh.
The Bible says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery. ‘But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Mathew 5:27-28). By obeying the law perfectly, Jesus dethroned sin, and dis-empowered sin for the law is the power of sin. The power of sin is the law. (1Corinthians 15:56 last phrase). Paul wrote to the Colossians that: you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:13–15 ESV).
So Jesus fixed our sin problem, first by perfect obedience, then he had the audacity to forgive us. After all that is what could be done. You can now obey the law for your social good, but the obedience by which we are saved by is the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ that is credited to the account of whoever believes that Jesus obeyed the Law for you.
Dealing with the Problem.
God vicariously took on the Sin and guilt of the man he came to save. The Bible says: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2Corinthians 5:21 RSV). Jesus never committed any sin (not in thought or action), he just took on our sin and guilt. This is what we call Imputed Sin and Guilt.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6 NIV).
As Mark ghost-writes for Apostle Peter, he recited these words when he said: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (1Peter 2:24 NIV).
Deductively, then, we can argue that since Imputed Sin resulted into Christ’s Death, Imputed Righteousness will definitely give eternal life to whosoever believes this gospel. This is news flash to whoever depends and has faith in obedience to the law. What we see here is that even the most obedient Pharisee, and all the historical saints, like Mother Theresa, the virgin Mary, the pure Eastern religious leaders, Mohammad, and all venerated saints died. Even Jesus himself who was just a representative, died.
This is how big our problem is. It cannot be solved by obedience however perfect it can be. What the Christian world-view presents to the world that other worldviews stumble upon is the ultimate solution to man’s ultimate problem which is Death.
After Jesus had disarmed sin through obedience, he went ahead and solved the problem of death (caused by Sin) and the solution to this was none other than the ‘Resurrection’. Jesus Christ of Nazareth qualifies to be our exclusive savior from death because him alone in the history of the world died, was buried and, after three days, resurrected. Resurrection is the ultimate solution to death, and resurrection is the gist of the gospel. In fact Paul said: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. (1Corinthian 15:14 KJV).
Resurrection is victory over death as Paul asks: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1Corinthians 15:55). Jesus fixed our nature-problem that was brought by sin. He did this by disposing off this body and dressing us with a new one in the resurrection as 1Corinthians 15:52-54 puts it:
In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
Jesus resurrected with a new perfect, immortal and sin-free body (John 20:19-27). This is about your resurrection and my resurrection. This is our future we’re talking about here. This is our story. This is a sure thing that will happen to you and I if we believe in Jesus Christ. This is very personal. This looks ahead to what the Lord has prepared for them that love Him. The Church does not have mere permission to celebrate the Resurrection, it has a mandate to proclaim the truth that God died and resurrected to usher not only a new eon but a new creation.
This is not just the true gospel of our salvation but the only gospel. For that matter the Bible warns you and I by these words: But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1:8 NIV) For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. (2Corinthians 11:4 NIV).
Friends I cannot say more.
God Bless you; I invoke Truth, Wisdom and Faith
Am Pr. I.T.WHITE
The Gospel Hawker