THE CROSS UNVEILED
Last Update: 7/2014
"Religions are man’s search for God; the gospel is God’s search for man. There are many religions, but only one gospel." - E. Stanley Jones
The Good News of the Gospel
The Gospel literally means "good news" and the good news of the Gospel is the amazing love and grace of God is culminated in Jesus’ victory on the cross at Calvary. As we contextually study the Bible, a love story for all humanity is unveiled. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This truly is good news, but to understand this good news, the bad news must first be realized. But first, let’s quickly start from the beginning with what the Bible reveals to us about God.
Character and Nature of God
God has eternally existed (Psalm 90:2; Genesis 1:1; John 1:1), is the only God (Isaiah 43:10, 44:6,8; Deuteronomy 4:35), is a spirit (John 1:18, 4:24; Luke 24:39; Romans 1:20; Colossians 1:15), is unchanging (Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19), and created everything visible and invisible by His word (Colossians 1:16; John 1:3). The Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit exist as three separate co-equal and co-eternal persons in one Being (1 John 5:7; Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). God created humanity for His own pleasure and glory (Isaiah 43:7; Revelation 4:11; Colossians 1:16).
Wages of Sin
Adam chose to disobey God bringing sin into the world, and death by sin; and so death was passed on to all men because all have sinned (Romans 5:12). Our sin nature is inherited through Adam and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). No matter how good we feel we are, we will not be judged according to our scale, but by a far more righteous scale. God’s judgment is unambiguous; perfection leading to life (heaven), or sin leading to death (hell) (John 3:36; Matthew 25:46; Revelation 20:15). The bad news is we all sin (1 John 1:8), none are righteous (Romans 3:10), and no one is good (Romans 3:12).
According to scripture, the law was added because of transgression; to show us a reflection of God’s holy standard and our sin until the seed (Jesus) came to whom the promise was made (Abraham) (Galatians 3:19). The law was not given for removal of sin, but to reveal our sin convicting us guilty (Romans 3:20; Galatians 3:24). It shows us our desperate need of a Savior. The law protected, guided and bridged us to the revealed promise of justification by faith (Galatians 3:24). Now that we are under a New Covenant of justification by faith alone, we are no longer subject to the law (Romans 3:27-28; Galatians 3:25) though we do retain the discipline and character it taught us as it is now written in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33; 2 Corinthians 3:3; Hebrews 8:10, 10:16).
Paul tells us adherence to the law (works) is powerless to play any role in our salvation (Romans 3:20-28, 11:6; Galatians 2:16, 3:21, 5:4; Titus 3:4-7). Following the letter of the law only changes our actions, but Jesus revealed it was our hearts that needed to be transformed (Psalm 51:10; Ezekiel 36:26; Matthew 5-7; Mark 7:21-23). Since all are guilty of breaking the perfect standard of the law (Romans 3:12, 5:12), we are dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1,5; Colossians 2:13), not just sick or weakened by sin, but dead, meaning there is nothing we can do about it. Enter God and His loving mercy and grace.
God's Mercy, Love and Grace (The Good News)
God knew we could not fulfill the righteous requirement of the law, so He was manifested in the flesh in Jesus (1 Timothy 3:16, John 1:1,14) and took this condemnation on our behalf, being nailed to the cross, shedding His blood in death, thereby fulfilling the demands of justice (death) and forever satisfying God’s wrath against sin. Our inability to keep the laws and ordinances condemns us to eternal death, but through trusting alone in the vicarious atonement by Jesus, God canceled the debt owed and nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:14). Christ reconciles us to and makes peace with God on our behalf by the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20). Through belief in Christ, we are protected by the power of His shed blood on the cross (Revelation 1:5; 1 John 1:7; Hebrews 9:14).
God loves us so much He offers this free gift of grace to anyone who believes because Jesus filled the righteous requirement of the law, and because we are now in Christ by trust in Him alone for our righteousness, we have fulfilled the law (Romans 5:18-19, 8:4, 10:4, 10:9-13). Christ liberates believers from the law, which is a curse (Galatians 3:13) and a yoke of bondage (Galatians 5:1). We have been delivered from the enslavement of the law by the blood of Christ (Romans 7:4) for freedom to serve God more effectively in the newness of spirit, not by the oldness of the letter of the law (Romans 7:6). We are in Christ by trusting in his work alone, and since the Father does not condemn Christ, He will not condemn those in Christ (Romans 8:1).
Since Christ lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died, when we transfer our complete trust in him, we receive not only the benefits of his death, forgiveness of sins, but also the benefits of his perfect obedience in life, his perfect robe of righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). These benefits are described as a free, unmerited gift so we have no reason to boast in our own efforts (Romans 3:27-28, 4:2-3; Ephesians 2:8-9). This brings about a deep humility as the believer understands Jesus accomplished for us that which we could never do for ourselves. Only when we stop trusting in our own morality and works and rely completely on the works of Jesus can the motivations of our hearts be transformed from selfish to selfless. This inner transformation is what Jesus preached from the Sermon on the Mount and cannot occur through obedience to laws and ordinances or the Pharisees would have been declared righteous. Moses and the Apostle Paul described the transformation as a circumcision of the heart (Deuteronomy 10:16; Romans 2:29).
This is precisely why Paul informs us he glories in nothing but the cross (Galatians 6:14) and preaching the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but for those who are saved, it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). Jesus gives us our righteousness and justifies us before God based on His perfect adherence of the law, not ours (Romans 5:19; 2 Corinthians 5:21). As a display of the richness of His loving mercy and grace, He does this while we are sinners, justifying us before God by His blood (Romans 5:8-10; Ephesians 1:6-7). This is the power of the cross and the good news and entire meaning of the gospel. The cross is where the justice and mercy of God intersect in a show of ultimate love for humanity.
In Romans 5:18-19, Paul tells us by the disobedience of Adam, all are made sinners and under condemnation, but by the obedience of Jesus, all who believe will receive the free gift of righteousness unto justification. Again, it is the work of Jesus Christ on the cross which gives us our righteousness, justifying us before God. This payment by Jesus is described as a propitiation for sin, meaning a complete and satisfactory payment through faith on His blood (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2, 4:10). It is not a refinancing of debt because then it would no longer be a gift, but still a debt owed. By trusting in the finished work of Christ on the cross alone we can know right now we have the free gift of eternal life (1 John 5:13).
A New Creation
When a person repents and transfers their complete faith and trust to Jesus, relinquishing their own attempts at self-justification through acts of personal righteousness, we become a new creature created in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). Repentance is when we change our mind, confessing to and trusting God that Jesus is the only solution to our problem of sin (Luke 18:9-14; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9). We become children of God by faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:12; Galatians 3:26, 4:5-6; Romans 9:8). Our spot in heaven is guaranteed by the seal of the Holy Spirit as we are just awaiting the redemption of His purchase (Ephesians 1:13-14). We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ so when God sees us, He sees us as perfect and holy (2 Corinthians 5: 21). The old us has died and the new us is alive in Christ, but we do not use this grace as a license to sin (Romans 6:1-2,15-16; Galatians 5:13) nor to prop our feet up and do nothing. This grace did not come cheap as it cost the life of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and so this grace is rich beyond all measure, covering all sin forever as God remembers it no more casting it into the depths of the sea (Jeremiah 31:34; Micah 7:19).
Baptism is an important part of a new Christian's walk with the Lord. We are baptized not as a saving ordinance, but as a public declaration of our new faith in Christ. Christian's are baptized into Christ, becoming a member of His body (the universal church), and not into a particular organization or church (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). Baptism is symbolic of dying to our former life of sin and being raised with a new identity as a new creation in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:3-8). The believers who put their complete trust in Christ’s work alone on the cross represent the church of God, which He purchased with His shed blood (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5; Colossians 1:18,24).
Effect of Saving Grace
Works are important as they are an outward manifestation of the free gift of eternal salvation we have received. Works are the effect of saving grace, not the cause of saving grace (James 2:14-26). We are created in Christ Jesus for good works and not because of good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). Attempting to earn our justification before God through works, personal righteousness and obedience to laws and ordinances actually separates you from God (Romans 3:20-28; Galatians 2:16, 5:4) as your wages are not counted as a gift, but as a debt (Romans 4:4). Works done to earn God's favor only develop a heart filled with pride and self-righteousness. You reject God’s free gift of grace through the finished work of Jesus Christ in favor of your own works, which are nothing but filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6). However, when you know your eternal life is secure from Christ's work alone, your motivations and works are being driven by a selfless and pure heart because you are saved and not to be saved.
The Temple and the Priesthood
God no longer dwells in temples made by hands (Acts 17:24), but within His believers (1 Corinthians 6:19), because the temple veil, which separated man from God, was torn in two (Mark 15:38) thereby allowing believers direct access to God through our only mediator, Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). The Old Testament Priesthood served as a 'type' (picture) of Christ and His coming ministry. The temple served as a place for sacrifices for a sin offering for the people by the appointed High Priest. This method of animal sacrifice to 'cover' sin, the temple and need for the Priesthood is no longer necessary as by the once-for-all sacrifice, Christ takes away all sin for all-time (Hebrews 10:10-12) and is now our High Priest forever (Hebrews 7:21-28). Peter tells us believers in Christ are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). We are commanded to present our bodies as living and spiritual sacrifices (Romans 12:1; 1 Peter 2:5) sharing the good news that Jesus’ victory on the cross brings eternal life to all who believe. Believers have authority by the power of Christ’s word because He commands us to 'go' and share this good news with the world (Matthew 28:19).
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35)? Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:38-39) as those who put their trust in His finished work alone for their eternal salvation do the works of God (John 6:29) and fulfill the will of the Father (John 6:40).
God’s message and promise to us in the Bible has always been with us, has never changed and will never need to be changed (Isaiah 40:8; Psalms 100:5; Matthew 16:18, 24:35; 1 Peter 1:23-25). As prophets of old gave partial revelation, Jesus Christ is the full and final revelation of God (Hebrews 1:1-2), and the only mediator of our New Covenant (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 8:6, 9:15, 12:4), which is why we no longer need prophets today. Everything the Father wants us to know and understand is fully revealed in and through Jesus Christ (His birth, ministry, life, death, message, church, and return).
The good news of the gospel is a message of love and grace and God is calling us to humbly come to the cross and see what He has done for us through the work of Jesus Christ. Jesus promises us rest from our labors as His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30). His gift to us is grace, liberty and peace in the knowledge that our eternal salvation is secure in His shed blood on the cross. Even though we do not have all the words of Jesus, John assures us we have all we need to know about gaining eternal life (John 20:30-31).