The Rest of the Story

We’ve learned that the Gospel is the story of Jesus coming to rescue His people from their sin and its consequences–eternal separation from God. He did this by living a perfectly sinless life, dying for our sins on the cross, and rising from the dead, which proved that His sacrifice was pleasing to the Father. However, there’s more.  There’s more, you ask? Yes, much more. The Gospel is much more than just a ticket to heaven. The Gospel is not just another way to live with its own set of “rules.”

Jesus told the people of His day, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The central concept of the Gospel is life. The word used for ‘life’ in this verse is the Greek word zoe, which denotes spiritual life (as opposed to purely physical or biological life). It is the ‘life’ that Christ has in Himself (John 1:4) and the life He offers to those who receive Him (John 1:12-13). What are the elements of this life?

First, we are united with Christ. The phrases “in Christ” and “in Him” occur some 150 times in the New Testament.  The Bible tells us that when we place our faith in Christ, we are united with Him in His death, burial and resurrection. Those things that happened to Christ can now also be said of us.  His righteousness becomes ours. We are told, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death . . . . For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:3-5). The baptism Paul mentions here is not the physical act of baptism. Rather, it is what happens to us at the moment of salvation; we were ‘immersed’ into Christ, sharing in His life, death, and resurrection.

Second, we are given a New Identity – The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Once we are saved, we are “in Christ,” and are remade into a new creation.  We’ll go into more detail about what this means later, but for now, it is enough to say that once saved, we are not the same.

Third, We are released from Sin and Death – When we “died with Christ,” that death released us from sin’s power over us. Before we were saved, our only inclination was to sin. We could not choose to live righteously. (Even our “good acts” were and are polluted by sin and the flesh.) Now, we are no longer slaves to sin, we have the ability to to obey God–indeed it is now our inclination to do so.

The Gospel changes everything.  Including who we are.


Jesus: Our Rescuer

As we have seen, Jesus is the Son of God (fully God) and the Son of Man (fully man). Some call Him the God-Man.  By itself this would (or should) make Jesus the most important person in all of history. But, that’s not all….

It’s not just who Jesus is that makes Him so important, it’s also what He did for His creation. As we learned previously, all of us were born into a fallen world, and we are fallen. Sin has corrupted the entire human race–and all of creation is fallen because of the curse (see Romans 8:19-22). The penalty for sin is death (according to Romans 6:23). No matter how hard we try, no matter how “good” we try to be, we could never escape the curse of the law, because we are not only fallen, we have all sinned. Jesus did three primary things for His people to rescue them from the curse of death:

First, Jesus lived a perfectly righteous, perfectly sinless life. This is attested many times in the New Testament. 1 John 3:5 tells us, “In him there is no sin.” Jesus Himself declared, “I always do what pleases [the Father]” (John 8:29, the emphasis being on “always”). His life of complete obedience to the Father is supremely important in understanding His mission to the world.

Second, Jesus paid the penalty for sin by dying on the cross. There are many references in the Bible of Jesus paying the penalty for our sins. Though too numerous to list them all, we learn from the Bible that “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us . . . . For as by the one man’s [Adam’s] disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s [Christ’s] obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:8 and 19); “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).  It’s like this:  Suppose I had a lot of money, and further suppose you and many others were in jail, having been duly convicted of breaking the law. I tell the jailer, “I have enough money to pay for their freedom. If any wish to be released, put it on my account and release them.”  Now, if you or anyone else takes the offer, you are free and clear, as your penalty has been paid.

Third, Jesus rose from the dead, securing our salvation. Despite what you might have heard, the Resurrection is a rather well-attested fact of history (claims of the pseudo-historians notwithstanding). Why is the resurrection so important? Because it proved that Jesus is who He claimed to be and that He accomplished the mission He came to do.

That’s it. That’s the essence of the Gospel. We have a Rescuer. He came to set us free from death and sin. Yet…  there’s so much more.