What’s our Message?
In the midst of the information age and the advent of 21st Century technologies, we are literally bombarded with messages on a daily basis. Frankly, it takes much work to sift through and determine what messages are important, what messages to engage, and ultimately what messages to act upon. Yet, one message is singular, transcendent, powerful, and life changing. In fact, amidst the noise and clutter of a message-saturated world, it is simply the most important message of all and the message we as God’s people are commanded to bring to the world.
What is that message? It is the gospel of Jesus.
In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Paul articulates the foundation of the gospel message when he wrote,
“For I deliver to you first of all, that which I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried and that he rose again on the third day according to the scriptures.”
The gospel is about Jesus’ life and what He accomplished on our behalf. Namely, He paid our sin debt, providing a means of forgiveness, so that through faith, we could be reconciled to God and receive the gift of eternal and abundant life. And while we only touch upon the core of the gospel in this limited post, we ought continue to plumb the depth of this glorious truth of God, the truth that sets men free.
The three main components of the gospel message are the Scriptures, substitutionary atonement, and the resurrection.
When Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthian Church, the Scriptures referred to the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament). The letters comprising the New Testament had not yet been compiled. And when we think about understanding and articulating the gospel message, we’ll be more grounded when we understand the foundations of the gospel message as first revealed in the Old Testament.
Jesus declared in Matthew 5:18 that He came not to “abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill.” Talking with two men on the Road to Emmaus in Luke 24:27, the Lord “…beginning at Moses and all Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Finally, Jesus reiterated this truth to His disciples in Luke 24:44-46 just before His ascension, adding in verse 46, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ (Messiah) to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.”
The New Testament makes the gospel clear, building upon the Old Testament. This understanding has helped my witness in sharing the good news about the Messiah with my Jewish people over the years.
Perhaps you’ve heard, “The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.” To fully understand the one it’s imperative to study it in light of the other. The two testaments make up the whole counsel of God.
Substitutionary atonement is first illustrated for us in the Garden of Eden after the fall when God clothed Adam and Eve with tunics of skin — the skin representing a slain animal. Adam’s and Eve’s covering of fig leaves was an unacceptable sin covering, for atonement was found in God’s provision rather than man’s efforts. Substitutionary atonement, ancient Israel’s means of forgiveness found throughout the Old Testament, is particularly highlighted in Leviticus 17:11 where the Scriptures state, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.”
Additionally, Isaiah 53 is a powerful messianic prophecy of the Suffering Servant’s sacrifice on behalf of mankind:
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all
Substitutionary atonement finds its culmination in the person and work of Jesus, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). As the Apostle Paul declared in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
The concept of resurrection is also found many places in the Old Testament. For example, Daniel 12:1-2 states: “At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (See also Hosea 6:2, Psalm 16:10, Job 19:25, and Isaiah 26:19). Jesus, in rising from the dead on the third day, demonstrated His authority and victory over sin and death.
It’s worth noting that Abraham believed in resurrection. “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come” (Hebrews 11:17-20).
And in John 11, when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, Martha affirms her belief in resurrection. After Lazarus had been in the grave four days, Martha comes out of the house to meet Jesus. When Jesus says to her, “Your brother will rise again” in verse 23, He’s talking about the present. As Martha responds, “I know He’ll resurrect at the end of days” (John 11:24) she’s thinking about the future. For she believed in resurrection from the revelation of the Hebrew scriptures or Old Testament.
As Ambassadors for Christ, “we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel” (1 Thessalonians 2:4). Therefore, study the message, understand the message, thank and praise God for the message, and share the message, for His Glory and for the building of His Kingdom!
“Sing to the LORD, bless His name. Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.” Psalm 96:2