This summer has been one marked with many personal transitions and new beginnings. In chronological order, I graduated business school, moved back to NY, began the membership process at our local church, married my beautiful wife, moved into our first apartment, was baptized, and next week will terminate my stay-at-home husband status and start working again.
I’d like to write posts on topics related to the above in the future. For my first post, I’ll reflect on:
What is the gospel?
Two Sundays ago, I got baptized in Long Beach, NY. My wife and I, along with around 15 others from our church and a nearby church plant, shared brief accounts of Christ’s work in our lives. The backgrounds varied widely, but it was the same gospel that had markedly transformed our lives. As these stories repeatedly pointed me to the gospel, I remembered the joy and healthiness of coming back to the gospel often.
For I know that my heart is prone to wander. I’m quick to forget where my identity lies and who purchased it. It’s easier for me to think about how to live a Christian life rather than to be in awe of and give thanks to the one who has shown me ultimate grace.
As a Christian, I have turned from sin, a life of worship of my idols, and turned to Christ as my lord. In this new life, I’m called to honor Christ in all things (Philippians 1:20-21). However, I’m unable to do this if Christ drifts to the recesses of my thoughts. I must regularly come back to the “Author of life, whom God raised from the dead” (Acts 3:15) so that I remember to who I am to bring glory and why.
We see an example of this in 1 Corinthians 15. Here, Paul brings the Corinthian church back to the gospel, reminding them of what he preached to them. I recently listened to an old sermon in which John Piper preaches on the first few verses of this chapter. I’ll attempt now to recap Piper’s recap of Paul’s recap of the gospel.
1) The gospel is a plan according to the Scriptures.
The gospel events were foretold in the Old Testament and occurred “in accordance with the Scriptures” (v3 and v4), reflecting God’s sovereignty. For example, Isaiah 53:10 prophesies Christ’s death and resurrection: “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.”
2) The gospel is an event in history.
The gospel is an actual occurrence of a death and resurrection – “He was buried” and “he was raised on the third day” (v4). Paul further emphasizes this by recalling the eyewitnesses that attest to these events – Peter, the disciples, Jesus’ brother James, more than 500 others, and Paul himself (v5-8). This recollection reminds us that the gospel is not a hypothetical occurrence. It is not a fairy tale to bring us false comfort. In fact, if Christ did not really die and then rise, Christian faith and life would be meaningless and to be pitied (v19).
3) The gospel is an accomplishment.
There was a purpose of these real events – “Christ died for our sins” (v3). All people have sinned (Romans 3:23), and the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We have merited death, no matter how relatively good we may think we are.
The good news is that “God put forward [Christ] as propitiation” for our sins (Romans 3:25, Hebrews 2:17). Christ was a sacrifice for us, paying the penalty for our sins, and taking on God’s wrath (Romans 5:9). The “record of debt” that we owed because of our sins was “[nailed] to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).
4) The gospel is a free offer.
Paul reminds that accepting the gospel is a matter of “belief” (v2). It is not an invitation to a self-help guide of how to gain salvation by obeying certain steps. Rather, it is a free offer to believe – “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
5) The gospel is an application of what Christ accomplished.
The accomplishment of Christ is applied to those who believe, allowing Christians to “stand” and be “saved” (v1). The believer’s sins were imputed to the sinless Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21), and Christ died for those sins (v3). From this application, believers gain much:
- Forgiveness – “…all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43)
- Righteousness – “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:5)
- Reconciliation – “More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:11)
- Adoption – “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons” (Romans 8:15)
- Sanctification – “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” (Romans 6:22)
It is in this good news (‘the news that changes everything’) that Christians base faith. As Christian faith is marked not just by believing but also by a turn to Christ in repentance, a Christian life is one of living to serve God in praise of his glorious and gracious work. For this reason, Paul encourages the Corinthians in their work: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (v58). In the same manner, contemporary Christians aim to live out the gospel in all areas of life, aiming to honor Christ through developing and engaging a gospel worldview.