The Crux of the Gospel


21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. – Romans 3:21-26 (ESV)

The above portion of text comes at the climax of the apostle Paul’s opening section of the letter to the church in Rome. In the run up to this text, it is made clear that the wrath of God is literally hovering over the ungodly of this world, and could fall at any moment. What is worse, we are made to see that not one of us, whether Jew or Gentile, would not be counted in the number of the ungodly who are destined to face the coming wrath of Almighty God. But to those with an ear to hear, and whose soul has been crushed under the weight of their sin, revealed by the Holy Spirit at work upon their heart; the Gospel of Christ crucified for the forgiveness of our sins begins to reveal itself to those who have been given faith to believe. As revealed by Christ Himself, those who believe this message of redemption by His blood will be saved, but those who reject it will be condemned [Mark 16:16 , John 3:18].

If we are to take our faith in Christ seriously, and indeed defend what we believe before those who would oppose the Gospel, we need to be certain of what we believe and why we believe it.

I’m not talking about every aspect of Christianity here, but about the core of the faith, namely why Christ had to come to save us, and what He actually acheived by His life, death and resurrection. Let us not make the same mistake as countless well meaning but decieved Christians, who think it sufficient to simply “live the Gospel” or “be the Gospel”, in order to win others to Christ. Obviously it is essential that the love of Christ is manifest in our lives towards others, but this is the fruit of the Gospel, not the Gospel itself. The Gospel is a message that is to be believed or rejected, and as I’ve already pointed out, the result of belief is everlasting life, whilst the result of unbelief is everlasting destruction. Therefore, is it not utterly crucial that as Christians, we devote ourselves to becoming acquainted with that which makes this message such “good news”?

Many times, even amongst those who profess to be Christians, objections can be heard towards the need for Christ to be sent as a literal sacrifice that satisfies the wrath of Almighty God. In liberal circles, the thought that Christ was actually punished by God in our place is not just doubted, but actually rejected with gusto. In fact, some such as Steve Chalke liken this scenario as “divine child abuse”, and feel that it has no place in Christianity at all. The truth is however, if we are uncertain of why his statement is untrue, then it is in danger of beginning to make perfect sense to us. And once that happens, we will be in no danger of finding many others to agree with our unbelief, until we are finally convinced to believe the lie and be eternally condemned. This may sound harsh I know, but if what Christ says in Mark 16:16 and John 3:18 is true, then no doubt what I have said here is true also, for to believe a false gospel, is not to believe the Gospel of Christ at all, the result of which is to eternally perish.

To understand the necessity for the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf, we must look back right to the dawn of history, and the original fall of Adam and Eve. As God created all things in the beginning, He also issued commands to all His earthly creation to be fruitful and multiply. All of the animals were given the right to eat of every green plant for their sustenance, and Adam was instructed to tend to the garden, and given the right to eat of every tree in the garden, except for the one in the midst of the garden, called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He was told that in the day he eat of it, he would surely die [Gen 2:17].

We know from the text that Adam did transgress this command, and the whole of creation fell under the curse of God as a result. This led to death becoming a reality, for God removed Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden, lest he should eat of the tree of eternal life [Gen 3:24]. At this time of the fall of Adam however, when speaking to the serpent (Satan), God reveals for the first time His plan of redemption, whereby the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent, even though the serpent would bruise His heel [Gem 3:15]. This was prophetically speaking of the way in which Christ would utterly crush (destroy) Satan, even though Satan would deliver a mighty blow to Christ, which happened upon the Cross.

As we work our way through the Old Testament, we see God progressively revealing more and more of His ultimate plan to redeem a people for Himself. Through Abraham, God separates a people from the nations of the earth, and causes His blessing and favour to rest upon them [Gen 12:1-3]. By doing so, God prepares a lineage of the flesh that would ultimately lead to the incarnation of the One to be sent according to His promise to Adam. From there we progress to the giving of the Law through Moses, which further reveals the demand for perfect righteousness that God demands of His people.

We see from Gal 3:19-24 , that the Law was given, not to bring life to those who could keep it, but as a way of recognising that it was impossible to keep, and the way in which the only way out from under its curse, would be through the mercy and grace of God. In the Old Testament, God made provision for the cleansing of His people through the ritual sacrifices established through Moses. But it is clear that a New Covenant was to be looked forward to that would replace the Old Covenant once and for all [Jer 31:31-34] , which Christ is confirmed as the mediator for, initiating the covenant through His own blood [Heb 9:15]. The confirmation this covenant has been ratified, deemed acceptable to God, is the fact that Christ as been resurrected from the dead. Christ is now seated at the right hand of God until all His enemies are put under His feet, and His once for all sacrifice “has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” [Heb 10:14].

This truth may well seem wonderful news to the offspring of Abraham, but “what relation does it have to those outside of Israel?” , you may ask. The answer to this can be found in the promises initially made to Abraham, where God declared:

4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojourning’s, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” Gen 17:3-8 (ESV)

Through the writings of the New Testament, we come to understand that the true offspring of Abraham, destined to enter an everlasting possession, are those who shall enter into that possession by faith in Christ alone. We are told that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, by becoming a curse for us [Gal 3:13]. In other words, as I pointed out at the beginning of the post, Christ became the “propitiation” (acceptable sacrifice) for our sins, not just for the Jews alone, but for all who will believe upon Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
The conclusion of our faith, and the crux of the Gospel message that must be believed in order to be eternally saved is this; that Christ died in the place of sinners, bearing the full wrath of God against sin for those who will believe upon Him, both Jew and Gentile alike. This message is best summed up with this portion of Scripture that I shall end with:

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 5:12-21 (ESV).

John Dunning