Five years of blogging experience have taught me that my view count always suffers when I write about the gospel of Jesus Christ. So here I go again…
Here’s part three of my “gospel” series…a little late, with apologies. A Christian friend of mine is convinced that everything that happens has been ordained by God. I don’t agree, but in this case, it’s a good excuse: it’s late because it was “meant to be”.
One of my aims in this series is to free someone from the lie that you have to belong to the right organization and to follow its set of rules and regulations in order to gain everlasting life.
So how is the gospel of Jesus Christ significant to us, and what are the benefits it offers? My answer, or part of it, is based on Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.
1: WE CAN BE FREE OF THE PENALTY FOR SIN
“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).
So many efforts have been made by enemies of the true gospel to wipe this fact from history and the minds of men. Despots, communists, atheists and even large organizations purporting to be spreading the gospel have been attempting to destroy it. Why is the sacrifice of Christ so important, and why is his death so vital?
Our sin has separated us from a perfect holy God, because he cannot tolerate sin. He can’t wink at it or ignore it and live with it, and contrary to popular belief here in the politically-correct twenty-first century, he doesn’t change his views to suit ours. Neither do his standards evolve. God will not populate his heaven with people who are opposed to his ways. The end product of sin, according to Old and New Testament scriptures, is death, both physical and spiritual. This fact affects us all, no matter how good we may think we are: none of us can match up to God’s standards. God has to be true to his own nature, and he can’t deny his justice any more than he can deny his love.
However, God loved his creation, fallen though it is, and had a plan to destroy sin and ultimately its outcome, death. God’s plan was to send his son to earth as a man, and to die as a perfect sacrifice for sin. Only Jesus Christ could fulfill that mission, because only he was sinless and perfect. When he died on the cross he satisfied God’s holy justice, and paid the penalty, the “price” of our sin.
This doesn’t mean we don’t sin any more, it means that there’s nothing standing between us and our creator, except our own reluctance, and determination to continue in sin. If we turn from our sin we’re completely forgiven and in a right relationship with God. Paul said:
“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8: 1).
Other religions, denominations and organizations have piled more and more requirements, laws, regulations and commitments onto their followers, claiming that these are necessary to gain God’s acceptance, or that only commitment to the organization and its rules can ensure salvation and eternal life. According to the original gospel, which I wrote about in parts one and two, this is totally false and is really an attack on the gospel, because the death of Jesus Christ has entirely paid for our sin. It’s not possible for us or for any human go-between or organization to pay the price of our sin. It’s arrogant and futile to think that we can, and it is an insult to the sacrifice of Christ.
Jesus said “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11: 26). He did NOT say “whoever believes and goes to XYZ church and gives at least ten percent of their income…”! I’m not saying that we can live however we want to live and get away with it-we can’t-but if we turn from sin and to him we are completely forgiven.
“According to the Scriptures…”
The Old Testament scriptures foretold the sacrifice of Christ hundreds of years before it happened. As an example, read Isaiah chapter 53. An entire copy of the book of Isaiah, known to have been written before Christ’s life on earth, was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. There’s virtually no difference between it and what we have in our Bible today.
2: OUR SIN WAS BURIED WITH CHRIST
“…He was buried…”
Jesus “became sin” for us. He was buried in a tomb, contrary to many modern attempts to write another version of his life. You don’t bury someone who isn’t dead. His disciples witnessed his death, and the Roman guard sealed and guarded the tomb, at the request of those who wanted him dead and who gloated over his death. They would have all ensured that he was dead and buried, and had the disciples attempted to claim that he was resurrected when he wasn’t, the authorities would have displayed the body for all to see.
Our sin was buried with him, and baptism is symbolic of our association with him, and with the burial of our sin and our past sinful lifestyle.
3: WE CAN HAVE NEW LIFE NOW, AND ETERNAL LIFE IN CHRIST
“…he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…”
The doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus has been under constant attack, even from within the church. No wonder, because it’s one of the most essential doctrines, perhaps the most essential. Without it the gospel is empty. The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates his power over death, his divine nature, and his ability and willingness to give us eternal life with him as he promised very clearly many times. It’s the resurrection which gives us hope for the future, and which puts our earthly life into its proper context and perspective. Our present physical body is very temporary and weak, but our resurrected body will be full of eternal life force. Again, his resurrection was foretold in Old Testament Scriptures (see Acts 2: 27 – 31 and 13:34 – 37, with Psalm 16:10).
4: HE DEMONSTRATED HIS POWER OVER DEATH
“…and that he appeared…”
Paul listed those who had seen Jesus alive after his resurrection. Paul was the last to see him. Those who went about spreading the good news had nothing to gain except persecution and death. Yes, people do give their lives to become martyrs to other religions, but no-one will die for something he knows is untrue. Neither did they kill in order to spread their beliefs or agenda. Instead they risked and in many cases lost their own lives.
For example Paul, when converted, voluntarily gave up his position of influence and power to become a hunted and hounded man. His enemies complained that he had “turned the world upside down”. There was no timid “kum-ba-yah” type cowering in quiet corners for Paul: he wanted to tell the world, not that he had a new set of principles and rules to teach them, but that Christ had risen from the dead, and that he had seen him. He suffered multiple attacks and attempts on his life before finally being executed–such was his conviction that the gospel was true. He was prepared to die, as they all were, because they were convinced of Christ’s resurrection, and that His resurrection ensured theirs, just as Christ had promised. The promise is available to all who accept the gospel.