My friend Garrett Ventry is a church planting intern at Vintage 21 in Raleigh and responsible for many church planting training initiatives in the RDU area. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him in recent months, and he has asked me to write on his blog about the message of the church planter (the gospel). Below is my answer, originally posted yesterday on his website.
THE GOSPEL MESSAGE
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of uniqueness and universality. The former speaks of the subject matter; the latter addresses the subject’s supremacy over all things. Jesus Christ is the sum and substance of the Christian faith. He is the exact revelation of God—His character and His ways. As the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), Jesus displays all the manifold perfections of God’s character, and through His incarnation brings it down to our neighborhood for us to behold (John 1:14). In profound irony, the radiance of the glory of God that transcends what any human eye can be allowed to see (Heb. 1:3), and yet at the same time God sent His Son to earth so that through the eyes of faith we could see such glory in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6).
The Gospel is a message of uniqueness. It separates Christianity from all other religions of the world. It has divine origin. In the covenant of redemption, God the Father planned salvation before the world begin through the sacrifice of His Son that would be supernaturally applied through the regenerating work of His Spirit. It is preeminently God’s gospel. He came up with it, and therefore we are not authorized to edit or censor it.
The Gospel is also unique because it is an announcement. While all other religions tell us what we must do, the gospel tells what God has already done in Christ. While religions tell us we must work ourselves into acceptance with God, the Gospel tells us we are accepted through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Religions are centered on good advice (what we must do); Christianity is centered on good news (what we must hear and believe). Therefore, unlike what many have mistaken Christianity for, it is not a religion of do’s and don’ts. Rather Christianity is a family whereby sons and daughters are adopted because our elder Brother took our place and in love brought us into the Father’s presence. He came down to rescue us precisely because we could never come up to Him.
The Gospel is unique because not only because of it’s Author but also it’s Subject. It is about who Jesus is and what He has done. Jesus is the eternal Son of God, and in Him the fullness of the Godhead deity dwelt in bodily form (Col. 2:9). He was sinlessly divine, fully God. And yet, Jesus came into the world through virgin birth, taking on human flesh and clothing Himself in humanity (Phil. 2:8). Jesus fully took on the frame of humanity, growing up in the world He spoke into existence (John 1:3), subject to the same temptations and trials we all have experienced. The difference is that Jesus never once failed to perfectly obey the Father’s will and fulfill the law’s demand. Jesus lived the life we could never live.
But not only that, Jesus’ life was purposeful and missional. He came, as His name explains, “as the one who saves His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). The fulfillment of that mission was to freely offer His life on the cross (John 10:18), suffering beating and execution as the worst of criminals. Jesus died the death we should have died, took the punishment we deserve to bear for all eternity. On the cross, Jesus drank the bitter cup of God’s wrath and absorbed in His body the full vent of God’s anger against our sinful rebellion. In His death, Jesus waged the great battle against sin, death, and hell, and in what appeared the greatest moment of weakness and defeat, Jesus whipped the devil and death died (Col. 2:15). As the focal point of all history, judgment and mercy mingled, wrath and love kissed, and the righteousness of God was vindicated (Rom. 3:26) in what appeared to be the greatest act of injustice the world has ever known.
For sinners whose condemnation was canceled, mercy was procured.
For lawbreakers whose rebellion was judged, righteousness was given.
For slaves in bondage to sin, freedom was found.
For idolaters whose idols were crushed, forgiveness was purchased.
For prodigals too afraid to bring their sin, the Father demonstrated His love.
And to vindicate all the purposes of God, God sealed the victory of sin, death, and hell through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave. Everything Jesus said and did had been validated. Because Jesus is risen from the dead, we can know for certain that the life we all long for is uniquely found in the crucified, risen Savior, Jesus Christ – God’s own Son.
The Gospel is all about who Jesus is and what Jesus has done. But why does that matter? That leads to the second part—universality.
The Bible makes it unmistakably clear that no one can come to the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6). There is no other name given among men whereby all men must be saved (Acts 4:12). There is one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5) who is for all who believe our Prophet, Priest, and King. Jesus is uniquely qualified to reconciled God with man, being the God-man. But the uniqueness we find in the Gospel is complimented with the universality of its message. In God’s divine plan, He intends to save people from every nation, people, tongue, and tribe (Rev. 5:9, 7:9). At a time when the Jews thought they had unique privileges to the kingdom, Jesus said it is all who receive Him, who believe on His name, that have the right to be called children of God (John 1:12).
The good news of the Gospel is that salvation is available to all. God calls all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). The good news is that no one is so bad that God cannot redeem. In fact, He did more than make bad people good; He came to make dead people come alive. Never is anyone beyond the reach of God’s saving grace. No matter the story, God can rewrite it. No matter the circumstance, there is more mercy in Christ than there is sin in us (Rom. 5:20). This is a trust worthy statement, that Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). Truly He is a great Savior of great sinners!
This is good news! Sinners do not have to bring any goodness or righteousness of their own to the table. In fact, they cannot, and God will not accept any offerings other than what Jesus has done for us. Only with Jesus is the Father well-pleased. But when you bring your sin to the cross and in exchange you receive the righteousness Jesus earned for you, God looks upon you the way He looks upon His Son—one with whom is well-pleased! This is the great exchange—Jesus takes your sin upon Himself on the cross and gives you His righteousness as a gift (2 Cor. 5:21)!
Because the gospel is good news, it inherently must be told. The gospel is a message of first importance (1 Cor. 15:3). There is no hope of salvation, of eternal life, of forgiveness of sin apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Positively, it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe (Rom. 1:16). The power does not lies in the messenger but in the message itself. The word is the good seed that springs up eternal life. The gospel is what God uses by His Spirit to open blind eyes, break hard hearts, and unstop deaf ears.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the message uniquely centered on Jesus Christ with universal implications—universal not only in worldwide scope but also in personal growth. The Gospel is not just the message we must embrace in repentance and faith at the point we embrace Jesus as our Savior. It is the message we embrace every step in the journey (Col. 1:6; 2:6-7). We simply grow in greater strides of repentance and faith with ever-deepening roots in the Gospel. The result of such gospel growth is that every area of your life becomes unavoidable affected and transformed by the message of Jesus Christ. For the rest of our lives, we will experience the gospel’s transforming power in all of its implications and applications, and for all eternity, we will tell and retell stories of the gospel’s power to save us from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and ultimately the presence of sin.
This is the Gospel of the kingdom (Mark 1:15) where the presence of the King is established. With an ever-deepening appreciation for and adherence to the gospel, the reign and rule of King Jesus brings heaven down to earth as He accomplishes His purposes through us. The kingdom is here, and the gospel is good news in that everything God has begun in us, He will bring it to completion (Phil. 1:6), and that ultimately complete conformity to Jesus Christ as renewed image-bearers basking in the presence of our conquering King (Rom. 8:29-30). In the Gospel, we have unfading hope and unfaltering assurance that God has fulfilled all His purposes in the law-fulfilling life, sin-substituting sacrifice, and death-defeating resurrection of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 1:19-20). Treasuring this message in earthen vessels, we will be filled with joy inexpressible, full of glory as we continue to revel in the sovereign grace we discover again and again to be so amazing (1 Pet. 1:8).