Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Gospel -the way back to God

The Gospel

Previously I have outlined the letter to the Romans as the ‘Way to God’. In this presentation of the Gospel, I am drawing from 1 Corinthians 15. The Gospel Paul preached was direct and clear – Salvation was available through the once crucified, now risen Lord Jesus.

The very idea of ‘salvation’, ‘being saved’ is important. It is popular today to grow in knowledge about God to become ‘Kingdom children’. And that is not altogether bad, so long as we all face the reality – we need to be saved from our ‘sins’. The problem of separation from God by sin is real and so great; it takes the intervention of God to cure it. “Christ died for our sins” – this precise statement changes the whole story of the cross from any idea of accident, or moral cause or even martyrdom. The death of the Lord Jesus was deliberate and for a defined in purpose – according to God the Father’s will, the Son became the sacrifice to take away the penalty of our sins.

Paul the writer is very quick to link this claim to the Old Testament Scriptures and the most obvious one is Isaiah 53 (see Acts 8). Let me quote from that old prophecy.

Verse 5 – ‘But He was wounded for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with His stripes we are healed’. This puts it so clearly that we, like wandering lost sheep, have gone astray. Instead of punishing the sheep, the shepherd bears the guilt of the undeserving sheep. 

This message of Christ dying for the ungodly is confirmed by Peter -
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God –  
             1 Peter 3:18.
It is God who wants to reconcile us to Himself and He has paid the price – are you willing to be at peace with God?      
 But Paul has not finished. After asserting that Jesus was buried (real death), he then announces that Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day. For evidence we could see the circumstances surrounding this claim, but first Paul again draws from the authority of the Old Testament to verify that the Lord Jesus crucified must rise from the dead.
Again in Isaiah 53:10...after it is said of the Messiah that ‘His Soul was made an offering for guilt”  it then  goes on to announce the victory..’ He shall prolong His days’...’He shall divide the spoil with the strong’...’He makes intercession for the transgressors’. 

Peter quotes from Psalm 16: 10 to confirm that Jesus was indeed risen from the dead. A sacrifice to take our sins away is indeed good news, but a living Saviour to make it real to us is even better. There have been and still are many who deny the idea of resurrection.  So Paul calls into focus some of the witnesses. 1st is Peter (Cephas) then the Twelve apostles and then  a group of five hundred people. 
A special appearing to James seems to have changed him from unbelief to faith.

 The final reference to Paul himself is significant. It is a couple of years later that the proud Pharisee is struck down to the ground on his way to Damascus. He rightly asks the question –‘Who are you?’ – The answer is given – ‘I am Jesus”. From that moment Saul is completely changed by the fact that the Jesus he thought was dead is very much alive.

And so this Gospel not only deals with the guilt of our past ,but has very real implication for the future.  If Christ is risen, then He will raise His own people to eternal life. If Christ is risen, then He is appointed to be the judge of the living and the dead.

Today is the day of opportunity to be saved - be reconciled to God by the death of His Son.

John McKee

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