The Good News

What is the gospel? The gospel is the good news that our God reigns for us in his crucified and risen Son, Jesus Christ. The gospel is not good advice about what we need to do to make ourselves acceptable to God. But it is the royal announcement of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose again to be enthroned as Lord over all. This is the gospel in a nutshell. But to fully appreciate what makes this royal announcement such good news, it must be understood within the context of a much larger story—the story of Scripture.

When the Apostle Paul summarizes the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15, he explains that Jesus’ death and resurrection took place “in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4; cf. Romans 1:2; Luke 24:44-47). In other words, the story that we read in Scripture has reached its fulfillment in the story of Jesus. And so, the good news can’t really be understood in any depth apart from this grand narrative that Jesus brings to a climax. This is the greatest story ever told. And here’s how it goes.

From all eternity God not only has existed but he has lived in perfect fullness, joy, and delight as one God in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This triune God who Christians worship and adore is the Creator and King of all things who needs nothing but gives everything (Acts 17:25; Romans 11:36).

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth as a gift to display his glory. He stretched out the great expanse of the sea, sky, and land and filled these empty spaces with light and life—sun and stars, fish and birds, trees and animals. And then, at the climax of his creative activity, God made the man and the woman as the crown of his creation to serve as his royal representatives. He fashioned humanity in his own image and likeness and called our first parents to participate in his mission of ruling and filling all things with his kingdom and glory (Genesis 1:26-28). He placed the man and the woman in a garden paradise and called them to work it and keep it (Genesis 2:8, 15), extending the boundaries of Eden to the ends of the earth.

Imagine! What must it have been like to be there with the Creator and King of all things when the world was utterly new? Far-flung forests, drenched with dew and pools of light, began to bud, swell, and sway for the first time. Living creatures freely moved on the land and in the sea, birds flew above the earth and across the expanse of the heavens. A bright river flowed out of Eden and divided into four separate headwaters that spilled into lands where gold, bdellium, and onyx were found (Genesis 2:12). And best of all, God himself was there, walking and dwelling with his people in the midst of the garden.

It’s important to imagine because this is the perfect environment in which the human race not only doubted God’s goodness but rebelled against his life-giving reign as King. A talking snake mysteriously appeared asking questions: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). Of course, the truth was just the opposite! Only a few verses earlier in Genesis we learn of how God blessed Adam and Eve by giving them every plant and tree bearing fruit with just one exception (Genesis 1:29; 2:16-17). But the serpent succeeded in planting the sneaking suspicion that God was not good but stingy and withholding. And so, in an act of treason and ingratitude, a piece of fruit was preferred to fellowship with the living God. And the result of this great rebellion against the Lord of life was death and disaster.

In Adam, our rejection of God’s kingship caused a rupture in the entire cosmos—a fissure between the Creator and his creation. Because of Adam’s royal and representative relationship to the rest of creation, humanity’s plunge into sin has affected the entire cosmos. The great song of creation was turned into a deafening moan so that all things are now said to “groan” under bondage to decay (Romans 8:20-22). And we can feel it.

What could be done? God could have decided simply to crush his creation as a frustrated potter crushes a newly formed jar that is disappointing, deciding to start over from scratch. But God took another way. Unlike Adam who lost everything by what he reached out to take from a tree, God sent his Son to reclaim everything by what he reached out to give by dying in our place for our sins, on the cross. As the Apostle Peter explains, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:23).

This is exactly what was promised all the way back in Genesis 3:15—a wounded king who would succeed where the first Adam failed. Immediately after the fall of humanity in the garden of Eden, God turned to the serpent who spoiled everything and said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

This freely promised gift of salvation through the offspring of the woman gradually unfolds throughout the biblical storyline and is ultimately fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ, “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:34). And so, it’s no accident that according to John’s Gospel, Jesus’ arrest (John 18:1), death, burial, and resurrection took place in a garden (John 19:41) or that he was mistaken for a “gardener” after his resurrection (John 20:15). Jesus came to reverse the curse, to succeed where the first Adam failed, and make “all things new” (Revelation 21:5).

At the climax of the biblical story is the victory that God has won for us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-5). And there is power in the announcement of this great victory that calls for a response of faith and repentance (Mark 1:15). To repent means to turn away from our sin and rebellion and to seek first God’s kingdom—his agenda. Faith means trusting and relying upon Jesus alone (not ourselves or anything that we can do) for the salvation that he alone can provide through his death and resurrection. Faith is like an empty hand that openly acknowledges that we have nothing to contribute to our salvation. To believe is to receive Christ as he is freely offered to us in the gospel. This good news is nothing less than “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

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