This is part 3 of a Gospel and Students series.
The Gospel is complex, and cannot be taken apart from its other pieces.
- It is not a hope, though in it, believers find hope.
- It is not a life, though through it, believers are brought to life.
- It is not supreme, though it is sent by the One who is.
The Gospel, at its core, is a message – one of power and one of hope. The Gospel has many aspects, and is incomplete and insufficient as a message apart from the whole. Having seen the need for a message of hope, what are the key components that comprise the message of the Gospel? In this post, I’ll go through three of the six key factors of the Gospel message…
THE GOSPEL CENTERS ON THE CROSS.
THE GOSPEL TRANSFORMS.
Throughout Scripture, specifically in Paul, one finds a distinct theology of new creation. Clearly outlined in Ephesians 2:1-10, Paul describes humanity as being dead, desire-seeking children of wrath. Being dead necessitates that one is incapable of bringing oneself to life, even if one willingly, momentarily, strayed from seeking self-pleasure. The message of the Gospel is not one that says the dead are aided and the broken patched. It is not an external aid or symbol (Gal 6:15). Instead, the message of the Gospel is one that brings newness, transforming death into life, old into new (2 Cor 5:17). The Gospel does not tarry with attempting to hold the shattered pieces of broken life in just the right place to resemble wholeness. Rather, as one is raised with Christ and brought to life, one becomes an heir of God and “fellow heirs of Christ” (Rom 6:17).
It should be noted while Scripture affirms the transformation from death to life the moment one is called by God, Paul carries with him what has become known as the “Already/Not Yet” soteriology and eschatology. Believers cross from this age to the next when brought from death to life. However, they still find themselves in tension with the past age (the world we live in physically). As a result, not all of the promises of new life see fruition in this age, as Paul struggles with in Romans 7:14-25. Believers still see temptation and must still strive to live a life pleasing to God (1 Thess 4:1-8, Romans 6:19-22).
Only the Gospel transforms the hopeless to the hope-filled, the broken to the whole, the dead to the living. How is this transformation accomplished? As noted previously, those who are dead in their trespasses live in sin and rebellion, stirring God’s wrath. The sin and the wrath cannot go unaddressed! The solution through the Gospel message comes in a two-part exchange. Christ takes the sins of those brought to life and justifies them through His atoning sacrifice. At the same time, Christ gives His righteousness to believers, imputing into him/her a righteousness he/she cannot attain.
THE GOSPEL JUSTIFIES AND ATONES FOR SIN
The purpose for Christ’s resurrection, as Paul states in Romans 4:24-25, is that trespasses be paid for and for the justification of those who believe. The term “justification” carries with it the idea of an account being paid. When one carries a debt, the debt is justified, or fulfilled, when payment has been made. Often in Paul’s writings, the verb form of dikaio is used, indicating that “justification” is more than a status, but an action with God as the initiator. Humanity’s debt, through faith in Christ, is paid (Gal 2:15-16).
Justification is not simply announced as a new status, changing the ledger books as it’s spoken; sin cannot go unpunished. Instead, justification is made possible as a result of Christ’s atonement. Under the old Covenant, offerings and sacrifices were required as a means of cleansing the Israelites of their sins (Lev 9:7, 16:30, 17:11). This is not discontinued by Christ, but rather, perfected (Rom 5:9, 1 Cor 15:3, 2 Cor 5:15, Heb 9:15-28)! Jesus, the perfect sacrificial lamb, willingly accepted the sins of humankind as if they were his own (1 Cor 5:7), and thus the sins of humankind were atoned. In that moment, my ledger was paid down…I no longer owe.
The message of the Gospel is that humankind’s identity shifts from that of the thief, reviler, drunkard, and swindler to one washed clean (1 Cor 6:11). As Isaiah prophesied, Jesus was crushed for our sins that the sins may be atoned – not by law, but by His death (Rom 3:21- 25). On the cross, the one who knew no sin at all took on the full weight humanity’s sin. The ultimate debt that could not be paid was atoned for by the One who owed nothing, motivated by eternal love and enduring grace (1 Tim 2:5, Titus 3:7).
When it comes to Student Ministry, the Gospel is often implied but never explicitly communicated.