What is the Gospel? Part 3

JESUS CHRIST

The focal point of salvation is Jesus Christ. Apart from Christ no sinner can be saved. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). There are two primary truths which are vital for us to understand concerning Christ and His work of salvation: Who Jesus is and What Jesus has accomplished on our behalf (that is, the Person of Christ and the Work of Christ).

1. Who Jesus is (or the Person of Christ)

Throughout the centuries, people have had a variety of ideas about just who Jesus really is. Some consider him to be a prophet, others a great religious leader, still others a mystical being. But what does God s Word says about Jesus?

(1) Jesus Christ is God

When the Apostle John opened the Gospel which bears his name, he began by identifying Jesus as the One True God. He used a term –Word– which was common in his day, to describe who Jesus is. By the identifying term the Word, John points to the One Who created everything that exists in the universe (see Genesis 1:1) and the One in Whom all mankind derives its life. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:1-5). If Jesus was a created being, and not infinite as is the case with God, then it would have been impossible for Him to create all things that have come into being, for He would be included in all things. The Creator cannot create Himself! This would be an impossibility!

In the book of Exodus, the Lord God revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush on Mt. Horeb by a most unusual name. Moses asked God to tell him the Name he was to use when addressing the children of Israel on behalf of God. What shall I say to them? Moses asked. And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”, and He said, Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:13-14). The name I AM refers to the eternality of God. He is the One Who has no beginning and no end. He is the eternally Present One. When Jesus was having a discussion with some of the Jewish religious leaders, He used the very same name to refer to Himself, which identified Him as being the Lord God of the Old Testament that revealed Himself to Moses on Mt. Horeb. Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am (John 8:58). The Jews understood exactly what Jesus was saying, that He is the same God that spoke to Moses at Mt. Horeb! Since they did not believe in Him being God, they tried to stone Him for using this special name for God.

When the Apostle Paul was writing to Titus on the Isle of Crete, he gave a marvelous description of the deity (Godhood) of Jesus Christ. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:11-14). The phrase he uses, our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, states in clear terms that Jesus Christ is wholly and absolutely God.

One of the clearest passages relating to Christ’s deity is found in Colossians 1:15-20. And He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation. The word, image, means that Jesus is in reality Who He represents. That is, He is in reality the invisible God. As first born of all creation Jesus is preeminent over all creation and He is preexistent and unique as the Son. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created by Him and for Him. Again, the emphasis is placed upon Jesus creating everything, even things in the heavens and things we cannot see with our eyes. He not only created all things but all things were created for Him. This means that the ultimate purpose of everything in creation is the glory of Jesus Christ! For it was the Father s good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him. All the totality of divine attributes and powers are found in Jesus Christ. And through Him to reconcile all things to Himself: having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. Jesus, Who is wholly God, by the sacrificial act of His death on the cross has provided the means to put sinners in a right relationship with Himself as God (i.e., to reconcile).

(2) Jesus Christ became man

Notice that there is a difference in these two points of emphasis on the Person of Christ. Jesus Christ is God, that is His infinite nature. But this same God became man that He might reveal God to sinful humanity and ultimately, fulfill all righteousness and pay the debt of sin the sinner owes God. The passage quoted previously, John 1:1-5, describes the deity of Jesus by the ancient term Word. John explains God becoming a man in that same chapter, And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, fill of grace and truth (John 1:14).

The act of God becoming man is known as the Incarnation. When the angel spoke to Joseph about the fact that his bride-to-be, Mary, was with child by a supernatural act of the Holy Spirit, he explained that Jesus would be the One to save His people from their sins. The story goes on to explain that Jesus was to be called Immanuel, which translated means, God with us (see Matthew 1:18-25). That s the great news of the Incarnation, God has come to man to bring about his redemption! As Thomas Watson put it, “The Word was made flesh , that through the glass of his human nature we might look upon God.”

Why did God come to man? Only God could fully satisfy His own righteous, just demands —demands based upon His divine nature and character. Man had proven over and over that he could never measure up to God’s Law. But since man is the one who has sinned, the demand of justice is that man himself would have to suffer for his sin. This is why Jesus became a man, so that He might fully obey God’s Law as a Man and that He might suffer the judgment of God on our behalf as a Man. “…It was God who was offended, and it was God who satisfied. Thus Christ’s person is in two natures” (Thomas Watson). Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren In all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people (Hebrews 2:17).

For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form (Colossians 2:9). All that God is, He is in Jesus Christ. The great God that mankind has offended with sin and rebellion came to dwell among us that He, out of His mercy and grace, might act redemptively on our behalf. Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives (Hebrews 2:14-15).

As man, Jesus Christ faced the limitations of humanity, yet He never sinned. He fulfilled every demand of the Law and all that pertains to righteousness. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15; see also Philippians 2:5-11). As the Sinless One, He became the perfect Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world (see John 1:29, 36).

2. What Jesus has accomplished on our behalf (or the Work of Christ)

Most people have heard that Jesus died on the cross. Why did Jesus Christ have to die such a horrible death? What implications does that act of His death have for sinners?

The death of Jesus on the cross relates directly to God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness. Because God is holy and just, He cannot ignore sin, nor let the sinner go unpunished. Every act of sin by man personally affronts God. As a creature affected by Adam’s fall, man must face the consequence of the Fall. God’s character demands that He punish to the full degree every sinful person. To do anything less than this would mean that God was not being God.. .and that is impossible!

On the other hand, a sinful man does not have any hope of persuading God to not punish him for his sinfulness. That man cannot make himself right before God because nothing short of perfection pleases God (see Matthew 5:48). Even if he tries his very best, man cannot save himself from the wrath of God.

This is where God intervenes in His great love and mercy! God came to man (remember, this is the Incarnation) in order to give His own life to redeem man from the curse of sin and the certain wrath of God. Jesus Christ conquered sin and death on our behalf which was verified by His resurrection from the dead. Now, through the sacrificial act of Jesus Christ, Who is God Himself: sinful man can be declared righteous before Holy God! The power of His death and resurrection can actually be applied to the sinner to save him for all eternity.

Just what did Jesus accomplish through His death?

(1) Righteousness of God

Jesus Christ fulfilled all of the righteous requirements which God demands of us. But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:21-23). Because all of us are sinners, we have no way in our own power to fully obey the Law of God. We cannot do anything to save ourselves. But what Jesus did on our behalf was absolutely righteous. He perfectly obeyed the Father so that His righteousness might be put on our account. He went to the cross, undeserving of the death He faced, and died a righteous death on our behalf. In other words, God did not change the rules in mid-stream concerning salvation. He did not cheapen His holiness or deny His justice by saving sinners. Instead, His Son totally fulfilled every demand of God’s righteousness, so that our salvation through Christ meets every requirement of God’s holy character and nature.

(2) Justification

The work of Jesus on the cross justifies the sinner who has faith in Him. Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24; see also Romans 3:25-28; 5:1-2)

The word justifies has both a negative and positive meaning. Negatively, it means that the sinner who put his faith in Christ has been declared not guilty by God. All of the charges against the sinner because of his sinfulness are certainly accurate. But Jesus Christ has borne the judgment of God against the sinner, so that now, because of what Christ has done on behalf of the sinner, God declares the sinner to be not guilty of his eternal crime.

But this word is also a positive one. God now declares the sinner to be righteous. How righteous is the new believer in Christ? Just a righteous as Jesus Christ! He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (II Corinthians 5:21). The righteousness of God cannot be imitated or manipulated. It can only be given through Christ. Jesus bore our sinfulness in His own body on the cross and imputed (credited) to us His own righteousness. When that believer stands before God, he will stand justified, declared not guilty and having within him the righteousness of God through faith in Christ. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law (Roman 3:28).

(3) Redemption

Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24). Redemption pictures an ancient slave market, where the slave stands on the block to be sold once again into slavery. But something amazing and wonderful happens! Someone pays the price for the slave’s freedom and sets him free! The utterly amazing thing is that the Redeemer pays for the slave by entering into slavery for him. That’s what Jesus did for us at the cross. While we were enslaved to sin with no hope of ever being set free, Jesus Christ became our substitute. He paid the debt we owe because of our sin (Romans 6:23). At the cross He experienced all of the horridness of sin’s wicked power and the wrath of God due that sin. Through His life He paid for our redemption that we might be free. Consequently, we were brought out of the slave market of sin, never to be held by its power again for we are set free in Christ. The believer never returns to that same old position of slavery to sin. For all eternity, be is free! If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed (John 8:36).

(4) Propitiation

Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:24-26). Propitiation may seem to be a strange word, but is one of the most important truths in the Bible. Remember that God’s righteousness has to be satisfied simply because He is God. To pardon a sinner without first satisfying His righteousness, would mean that God was contradicting His own nature, which is impossible. In order to forgive sinners, God satisfied His righteousness and justice through the death of His Son at the cross. That’s what propitiation means—a satisfying of God’s righteousness and justice, so that God might justly declare sinners to be righteous and forgiven through faith in His Son. In Jesus Christ’s death an actual sacrifice to atone for man’s sins occurred. Our sin was transferred to Christ at the cross and the full payment due because of our sin was met through His death. This means that God’s holy wrath has been satisfied through the substitutionary death of His Son. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people (Hebrews 2:17; see also Hebrews 2:14-18 and I John 2:1-2). It is only because Jesus satisfied all of the demands of God’s righteousness and justice on our behalf that we can enter into a relationship with the very God we have offended with our sinfulness.

(5) Adoption

When a sinner comes to Jesus Christ in faith, trusting in what Christ has done on his behalf to satisfy all of God’s demands, then he is adopted into God’s family. So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of he world But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God (Galatians 4:3-7). Our adoption takes place, not because God did not have a son, for He does…the Lord Jesus Christ. Instead, God adopts us because of our great need for Him. The price of adoption was the blood of His own beloved Son at the cross. As He adopts us, He gives us both His name (which earthly parents can do in adoption) and His nature (which an earthly parent cannot do; see 11 Peter 1:4).

Jesus Christ has accomplished for us what we could never accomplish nor ever deserve. Understanding who Jesus is and what He has done for us makes the truth of the gospel come alive in our hearts and minds.

THINK IT OVER

  1. Is Jesus Christ God Himself? If so, explain this through the use of Scripture.
  2. Did God come to man? Explain how He did this and why He did this.
  3. What does it mean to be justified? Explain how God justifies the sinner.
  4. What does propitiation mean? Explain how this affects our salvation.?
  5. Name the two specific things that God gives us in adoption. How does this affect you personally?
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About John
A follower of Christ and sinner who needs his grace everyday.

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