Hi there!! It’s good to have you with us once again. Today we begin an exciting new journey dubbed THE GOSPEL series.
If you’ve been around Christians for some time you would have heard us use the term “gospel”. The average summary of the gospel message goes something like this; “God loves you so he sent his son Jesus to come and die on the cross for our sins, and was raised from the dead to rescue you from hell. And if you believe this message you will have eternal life. Others simply call it the good news of our salvation”. But how does the gruesome death and subsequent resurrection of an innocent man at the hand of the Romans and the Jews become good news for all?
The Bible tells us the gospel is God’s method of fixing what has gone wrong with us and with our world. To properly understand all this we have to go back to the very beginning of the biblical narrative. In the beginning, God, creator and supreme ruler of all things, created the earth as a physical extension of His kingdom. After carefully putting everything together, He handed the earth over to humanity to rule and reign over all the created order on His behalf. Hence the order was established. God at the top, man in the middle and the created order at the bottom. Humanity was to submit to God, subdue creation and serve and support one another. As long as humanity remained in submission to God there was harmony in the relationships we had with ourselves and the rest of the created order.
Just three pages into the story (depending on the font size of your Bible), things take a drastic turn around. Humanity yields to a tempter who incites them to rebel against God. They ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in clear contravention of a command given them by God. This act meant they were no longer going to submit to God. They would no longer let God define the parameters of right and wrong. Humanity in this act had decided to play God. This rebellion however, had lasting consequences. With the relationship with God severed, the harmony that existed earlier had been destroyed. The relationship between men amongst themselves as well as that with the rest of the created order was distorted. Nature would no longer submit to man except through sweat and toil would nature produce for mankind. Instead of serving and supporting one another men began to subdue one another. This nature of rebellion against God and choosing our way has been passed on generation after generation and is responsible for all the pain and atrocities we find in the world. Instead of submitting to God’s rule each and every one of us chooses to go their way. We choose the way of violence instead of peace, hatred instead of love, our selfish interest instead of the collective good. We are all guilty of this rebellion. This principle of rebellion and the propensity to rebel which has become part of our human nature is what the bible calls sin and the sinful nature respectively.
God being a righteous Judge cannot overlook the rebellion of man. This treasonous act had to be punished. The punishment was twofold; exile from God’s presence (spiritual death) and the certainty of physical death.
But God is not just a righteous judge, He is a loving father. In dealing with the rebellion He makes a promise to humanity in the process; that in the course of the human story, there’s going to come an individual who is going to confront the tempter head on. Where all others failed, this individual was going to succeed by crushing the head of the tempter, dealing with his power to incite us to rebel against God once and for all. But in the process this individual would also be crushed by the serpent in the process. This statement is what some theologians have called the “PROTO-EUANGELION”. Which literally means the first gospel. Isn’t it interesting that the first gospel was proclaimed by God himself?
Centuries later, God appears to a man named Abraham and enters into a covenant (a theme we shall explore at a later date) with him. In the covenant God, promises to make the then childless Abraham into a father of many nations. Most importantly God promises that through the family of Abraham all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Some 25 years after this encounter Abraham and his wife Sarah receive a miracle baby. Slowly this family grows and eventually becomes the great nation of Israel. God gave them their own land and soon they became a prosperous nation. This great nation was supposed to be a shining light and a beacon of hope to all humanity. God gave them laws and codes to live by that would teach the rest of the world how God expected humanity to live. Sadly the nation of Israel went the way of all humanity. They rebelled against God and broke all his laws, forsaking their end of the covenant. God however did not abandon His end of the covenant. God in his covenant faithfulness and love, raised special messengers known as prophets who were sent to call the nation of Israel back to repentance. Israel sometimes repented of their sins and God forgave them of their rebellion but most often they were bent on going their own way. They rejected these prophets and in some instances murdered them. They even went ahead to pledge their allegiance to the gods of the nations around them. As their punishment God exiled them from the land He had given them to the surrounding nations.
But all hope was not lost, God through His prophets foretold of a time where he would send a man who would restore God’s rule, repair the relationship between God and man and deal with the rebellion problem once and for all ( sounds familiar?).
Some two thousand odd years later, in first century Palestine, there appears the son of a carpenter named Jesus, from the lowly town of Nazareth. He went around healing the sick, working various miracles and preaching that in his appearance the rule of God had returned. Soon he attracted followers from all walks of life. He welcomed the social outcasts; those who the religious leaders had considered unfit for God. He taught the people with great authority by the use of parables. He trained some of his followers who would later be called apostles who went about proclaiming that in Jesus the reign of God had come.
In the most shocking statement of all, he claimed to be one with God. This claim of his infuriated both the religious and political elites. For in this one bold statement Jesus was laying claim to the allegiance of all men. Right on queue the nature of rebellion in humanity came to the fore. The religious leaders of the day were threatened by Jesus’ growing influence on the populace. After several failed attempts on his life, they finally conspired with their Roman overlords and put Jesus to death on the cross. A death reserved for the vilest political offenders. Unknown to them they were bringing to pass the words of the prophets. Jesus, the seed of the woman spoken about in the “PROTO- EUANGELION” (first gospel) was bruised by the serpent but in the process He crushed the forces of evil and with his life paid the price for the rebellion of all of humanity. At his death it looked as though the Jesus movement had come to an end. His disciples, scared that the religious leaders would also have them crucified, went into hiding. However, three days after his death Jesus rose from the grave (radical right?). He was seen by his followers and some 500 other witnesses. In raising Jesus from the grave God vindicated the claim of Jesus. The carpenter from Nazareth was really God in the flesh who had come to pay the price for the rebellion of mankind. God’s reign has really returned and He has been faithful to his covenant!!
This is the Gospel. This is the good news of our salvation. This is why the painful death and subsequent resurrection of an innocent man, is the greatest thing to happen to humanity. And this was the message the early followers of Jesus went about proclaiming so that all who heard and believed would return from their ‘exile’ to God’s presence and receive a new life which only God gives.
Throughout the course of his earthly life, Jesus saw himself fulfilling the words of the prophets. In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he declares that the gospel was promised by God long ago in the Holy Scriptures (the Old Testament) by the prophets (Romans 1:1-3). In our next post we’re going to explore the hope of the prophets which was fulfilled in and by Jesus. Until then, thanks for reading and stay blessed.