The Gospel, first and foremost, is not an idea, or a theory, or even a message. The Gospel is a person.
The Good News starts with Jesus, it’s filled with Jesus, and it ends with Jesus. He is the Author and Perfecter (Heb 12:2) He is the All in All (Col 3:11)
When thinking about the Gospel we can’t divorce our ideas or our theologies about it from the person of Jesus. He is the Gospel.
The Gospel is so much more than God doing something. Jesus was not a tool in God’s divine tool belt used to fix a leaky faucet in the morality of humanity. The Gospel is Jesus, because the person of Jesus perfectly provides all the means, and all the joys for the good news. He’s the bartender for the divine party!
Lamb, and wine is all that’s on the menu for this Gospel Party!
It’s of course important to know what happened to the human race through the doing of the Gospel, but it is all the more important to know who happened to the human race.
As a person, the Gospel is primarily not something you are told, or that you read about in the news paper- the Gospel is something you encounter.
The Gospel is an encounter. All of our evangelical methods and formulas are great starts for the Gospel, but they will always fall short when they fail to provide a living encounter with Jesus- the savior of the world.
Before we get into the ‘what’s’ and the ‘how’s’ of the Gospel, let’s get into the Who.
Jesus came to earth by the eternal resolve of God to save the human race from sin. In the moment of His incarnation (His becoming human) He forever fused together Divinity with humanity. He, in that moment, announced God’s passionate refusal to exist without us.
When Jesus was born He announced the unwavering resolve of God to love us, and have us as His own. The beautiful truth of the Gospel starts with a baby Jesus laying helpless, and human in a manger.
The Incarnation announces the truth: God refuses to give up on His dream for us.
God, since before time began, was dreaming about us. We are the love-dream of God.
Out of Joy, God made the world. Out of love, humanity is born. We aren’t created to perform religion, to be moral, or even to be Christians. We are born to be loved by our Father.
This is the beautiful dream of our Triune God . He wants us. He wants to include us in His life.
This resolve of God is the adoption of humanity into the life of the Trinity-the very life of Father Son and Holy Spirit- and what C Baxter Kruger calls the Great Dance. God is this great dance, and His eternal love dream is to have us join in the fun.
When Jesus came to the earth, His coming declared this infinite resolve of God. “I refuse to exist without my beloved.”
Jesus came, He lived, He died, and He rose again for us. This is a wonderful truth. However, the Gospel is multifaceted in it’s Glory. While it is true that God came in Jesus and died for us, rising on the third day for the forgiveness of sin- this is only half the story.
Jesus came, He lived, He died, and He rose again as us. This is what is called the Vicarious Humanity of Christ. Renowned theologian T.F. Torrence is best known for coining this phrase.
The Vicarious Humanity of Christ means that when God became a man, He took upon Himself not just a single man- but all mankind. In Christ every single one of us are represented. Jesus became human, and in becoming human He took up all of humanity.
What this means is that when Jesus lived out His life, He wasn’t living it out as a perfect spiritual example for us to follow. He lived His life as us-as the perfect human life. He came and accomplished everything that we were unable to do on our own. He came and lived as a man, under the rule of Adam’s fall, and He successful lived a perfect life in relationship with God.
Jesus didn’t do all these things so that we could try and follow after His impossible example. Jesus did all these things as us, knowing that we never could.
What Happened on the Cross
What then happened on the Cross?
The Cross was the collective work of the whole Trinity- Father, Son and Holy Spirit- to undo the fall of Adam, and to remove the transgressions of mankind.
This is done through the death of Christ, as a vicarious human. Which essentially means when Jesus died you and me and all the rest of the world died with Him.(See Romans 6, 2 Cor 5:14, Gal. 2:20, Col. 3)
God knew that the only way to fix our fallen state, and to reconcile us back to Himself was by crucifying our old nature, and re-creating humanity.
We are not saved by religious deeds, or moral actions, but by the death and resurrection of Christ. Robert Farrar Capon puts it this way, “Jesus came to raise the dead. Not to improve the improvable, perfect the perfectible..or teach the teachable, but raise the dead.”
Salvation is only possible through death, and resurrection. In the Vicarious Humanity of Christ we see ourselves as having died with Christ.
Everything sinful, evil, and corrupted by Adam was lost in the black hole of Jesus’ death. The power of the Cross was enough to erase all of the written evidence against us. (Col. 2:14)
Our fallen nature is gone. Lost. Dead. In Him.
We see ourselves as having died with Christ, and now living a new existence in the life of Christ. (Gal 2:20 paraphrase) Our lives were lost in our death with Christ at the cross, and now we share in the life of Christ.
This newness of life is the glorious message Paul proclaims in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “For if a man is in Christ he becomes a new person altogether—the past is finished and gone, everything has become fresh and new.” (J.B. Philips Translation)
The word here for “new” in the Greek is “kainos”. Kainos is one of the two words in the greek used for “new”. The second is the word “neos”.
Here’s a simple way to understand the difference between these two words.
“I bought a new pair of shoes today.” This is “Neos” new. Literally, new as in ‘fresh’.
“I used to ride a scooter to work, but today I bought a new jet plane. I now ride my jet plane to work.” This is “Kainos” new. It is new, as in, I have never seen that before- new. A newness in quality.
When Paul is saying here that we are a “new” creation he is saying that we are a “kainos” creation. We are not a new start on an old life, still running on the same old operating system (Adam OS 2.0). We have been given an entirely new life, one that is entirely different from the old life.
If our old life was found in Adam, then our new life is found in Christ. What an upgrade!
It’s like the difference between walking and teleporting. Teleporting makes walking obsolete (in a strictly practical sense).
Likewise, the new life with Christ is not at war with the old life. Our new life has replaced the old!
We are not who we once were. We are NEW!
You are a saint!
So let me ask you: Are you a sinner, or are you a saint?
The right answer is that you are a saint!
You have been recreated in Christ Jesus. Your old nature was crucified with Christ. It is entirely gone!
You now have a new existence with Christ and in Christ. You are not an evil sinner who hates God. You are a happy saint who loves God!
You are effortlessly enjoying relationship with God in this new life. You have awakened to life, and life abundantly- Christ!
He is your life!
You are not a sinner in the hands of an angry God. You are a saint in the hands of a happy God!
Your nature has been rewired in the death and resurrection of Christ. You are now a perfect, blameless, and holy creation living in perfect union with Christ Jesus, and sharing in His life! Wow!
Woah woah, hang on now. Am I saying that believers are perfect?
Here’s how the dictionary defines perfection: having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.
Now check out these great verses.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)
You have been made clean already.. (John 15:3)
So let’s see. The bible says that you have been given every spiritual blessing, that you already have been made clean, and that you are a holy nation.
Could we be crazy to believe that Jesus’ cross was enough to actually finish the job? Was Jesus actually successful in His work on the cross?
I believe He was! I believe that His work was more than enough to re-create you, and to make you perfect.
You have been made perfect, in Him!
The underlining theme is that we are now in UNION with Jesus. This is the source of our perfection, and the source of our new life as well. We have been fused together with Christ. We have been made one with Him.
Paul used the phrase “in Christ”, or “in Him” a total of 216 times.
This wonderful truth is hard to contain in any language!
The Gospel is not an announcement of one day getting close to God, nor is it the announcement of eternally trying to “catch God”. The Good news is that God has caught US.
He hunted us down in the Incarnation and He ambushed us at the cross. We have been joined together in union with His son, and placed into an inescapable union with His life.
We simple can not escape God! There is no where we could go where He is not!
The wonderful truth is not that God is near to us. The wonderful truth is that God is IN US.
He has fused Himself with us. He is closer to you than the air you breath. He is closer to you than the skin on your bones.
God is closer to you, than you are to you!
Seated in Candy Land
The wonderful announcement of the Gospel is not a means to an end with the end being some cloud in the sky we call “heaven”. Heaven ultimately is not a location, it is a person!
Jesus didn’t die just to get you to heaven some day in the future. Jesus died to get you to into heaven NOW.
Ephesians 2:6 says this, “and (He) raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”
We are seated in Heavenly places through our Union with Christ!
We have been placed into the center of all goodness, delight, pleasure, and fun. We have plunged effortlessly into the gooey center of the whole Twinkie. We have been placed in heaven NOW.
Stop waiting to go to heaven when you die. Wake up to reality! You are seated in heavenly places right now. There is no distance between heaven and earth. There is no separation between you and God. There is only bliss and forevermore bliss! Joy and more joy. Glory and more Glory.
We are living in Candy Land!
Can you see it? Can you feel it? This is the good news!
You have been accepted into the beloved. You have been joined in union with Christ Jesus.
You are one with Christ- the One who this whole deal is all about! Jesus is the joy of heaven, He is the prize, and He is the treasure.
We have been seated in Him, joined with Him, and in our union with Christ we are now enjoying a new existence.
This is the Gospel, and this is what makes it GOOD NEWS!
Now I know what you may be thinking. “but Stephen. What about faith. What about repentance. What must I do to be saved?”
What room have I left for self efforts? NONE! Because the Gospel leaves room for none.
The good news is that God has saved us single-handedly! He didn’t need our help. He just went ahead and arranged the whole thing for us, free of charge!
There is no human effort, or response necessary to enjoy or receive this salvation. It is a gift!
Now granted, I will admit that there is that one thing: faith. But even then, faith is not a work. It simply will not be allowed to mean anything else apart from simply trusting Jesus.
Faith is acceptance of the truth. The truth of your acceptance! Faith says “yes” to the gift of Gods outrageous grace. Faith does not earn salvation, faith enjoys salvation.
We don’t suddenly become God’s children when we have faith, we simply wake up to the reality that we have always been His! He’s always been our Papa whether we knew it or not!
So if I must give you something to do I will give you this: Shut up. Quite religion. Stop trying to hold onto your rotten life. Just give up already, and trust in the only life that is truly Life- Jesus!
Trust in Jesus.
That’s it. Just say “yes” to Jesus, and the party is all yours.
When the Prodigal son comes home he isn’t embraced with a scolding, or a big fat “try better next time”. He is thrown an outrageous party!
And this my friends, is what it has always been about. The Party.
When we talk about God, we are talking about a relationship. This relationship is the love-union between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This union of joy, laughter, and love is what we call the Trinity.
The Trinitarian life is the life we have been included into through the vicarious humanity of Christ, His death on the cross, His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father.
Here’s the deal. The Trinity is The Party.
The Trinity is Candy Land.
The whole enchilada, the whole package is all wrapped up in the relationship of our Triune God. This is the resolve of God, to have us and include us into His life.
This life is the source of all joy, pleasure, goodness, Glory, and love. This is the Party.
The Gospel does not call for tears and sorrow. The Gospel calls for champagne! It is the celebratory news of a God who is having such a great time existing that He is literally dying to share it with us.
Robert Capon words it beautifully in his commentary on the parable of the prodigal son:
The Fatted Calf proclaims that the party is what the Father’s house is all about, just as Jesus the dead and risen bridegroom proclaims that an eternal bash is what the universe is all about. Creation is not ultimately about religion, or spirituality, or morality, or reconciliation, or any solemn subject; it’s about God having a good time and just itching to share it. … If ever once we woke up to the fact that God finally cares only about the party, then the solemn subjects will creep away like pussy cats, and the truly serious subjects would be brought on..
The Good News is the invitation to enjoy the Party. Accepting the invitation is the most effortless thing you could ever do. It’s a no brainer.
Have you heard the music? Have you seen the smile on the Divine DJ’s face?
Have you joined in the Great Dance of God’s free acceptance?
You are living in Candy Land. Wake up and smell the Glory of His Grace! Hallelujah!