RISEN SAVIOR, LIVING GOSPEL
BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
JULY 23, 2012
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10)
Sometimes, it may seem that God has looked away and allowed murder and mayhem to run amok in the world, but when things are really grim and life seems out of control, that is when the Gospel shines, for the Gospel, according to Paul, encapsulates the promise God made to Abraham, that in his seed (Christ), would all nations be blessed. As we saw in Part 3 of this series, the promise is a unilateral covenant made by God, not a man, which means we can count on it, for, “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Num. 23:19). In other words, no matter what it looks like, feels like, or appears to be, God’s promises found throughout scripture are as good today as they were when the prophets and/or Christ first voiced them. God is STILL our “ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (Ps. 46:1-2). What a blessing this promise is, now and forever!
Lenny and I were fellowshipping about the Gospel earlier this week and I remarked to him that it seems to me that some who believe in universal reconciliation have just added it as one more thing in their “bag of religious ideas.” The foundational basis for belief in God’s reconciliation of all is the Gospel itself, God’s promise to Abraham. Since it was a promise not based on a condition mankind had to meet, but only upon the Word of God Himself, we can rest in its validity today. The Law was a bilateral covenant (two party agreement), and it’s efficacy rested upon the ability of the Jews to keep it. Even a quick read through the Old Testament reveals what a sorry record they had on that score. The Babylonian captivity lasting 70 years was His punishment for their continuous and blasphemous disobedience. From the time Hezekiah was ripped from the throne of David and hauled off to Babylon, blinded and shackled, Israel was never a sovereign nation under her own rule from that time (586 B. C.) until she was made a nation in 1948. The Law, though perfect itself (Ps. 19:7), “made nothing perfect.” (Heb. 7:19) That is the sad legacy of the bilateral covenant God made with Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai. He always knew it would fail to make men whole, which is why Christ was the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8) Christ’s atonement was not Plan B, but always in the heart of our Father.
Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the Unilateral Covenant God made with Abraham, “lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Heb. 7:24)
It has seemed to me for some time now that the only reference many Christians have to the Gospel is that it saves us from hell when we die. But sadly, they have heard it as a bilateral covenant, a two party agreement, like the Law, by which they win or lose depending upon their works. That is truly an oxymoron, because the Gospel depends solely upon God’s finished work through Christ on the cross, NOT on the puny efforts of men. Paul said about that, “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, GRACE WOULD NO LONGER BE GRACE.” (Rom. 11:5-6) What I’m saying is that many Christians subscribe to a doctrine of what has been called “Cheap Grace,” meaning they must earn their salvation by their works. Anyone who depends upon his own works is foolhardy at best and delusional at worst, because all men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:3). That’s no problem for the Gospel, because it does not depend upon man’s efforts, but only upon God’s accomplished work in Christ.
One of my “glory passages” is Eph. 1:4-5: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” So tell me, dear brother or sister, IF you are depending upon your own works to lead a good life and get to heaven after you die, which works did you do BEFORE the creation of the world that qualified you to be chosen? When I was at Medicalodge, I would ask the old dears if they had anything to do with getting themselves born. Were they consulted before their parents brought them into the world? They would smile, shake their heads, and answer, “No.” Then, I would ask what they think they did to get themselves born again, and they would just look at me. Jesus told Nicodemus that “no one can SEE the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (Jn. 3:3), and then in verse 8, “no one can ENTER the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”
Being born again is and always has been a “God job.” It is our ticket into the Kingdom, which Jesus said is “in you.” After the last writing about the Good News God preached to Abraham, a friend commented that Jesus never talked about the atonement during His earthly ministry until the end. The rest of the time, He talked about the Kingdom. In the gospels alone, the Kingdom is mentioned, made the subject of a parable, or referenced in some way, 115 times. That was Jesus’ focus. Somehow, or so it seems to me, the kingdom has taken a back seat to the church. Since Christendom is divided in many often times warring camps about which church is “the church,” the kingdom gets lost in the chaos of doctrinal arguments. Some Christians project the kingdom out into the future and believe Christ will come back and reign from a literal throne of David in Jerusalem.
I no longer believe that, for several reasons. The Kingdom Jesus spoke of is “within you,” He said (Lk. 17:21); John’s disciples asked for proof that He was the Messiah (whom the Jews believed would bring the Kingdom of God to earth), “And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.” (Lk. 7:22) He told the Jews who doubted Him, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Lk. 11:22) Remember also that Jesus told His listeners, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” (Mt. 16:28) Either the Kingdom has already come, or there are some really ancient Jews still living here on earth.
Besides, David’s actual Throne has never been found and if it had been, you can be sure it would have been turned into a money making Tourist Attraction, like so many other sites in Israel. They haven’t even found his Tomb, though they take tourists to a place where someone had a vision of David’s burial place. When you take the scriptures literally, you limit yourself to the time and place and people to whom they were written. Spirit is never confined by time or space or circumstances, which is why we are told to listen to Him, rather than to a man (I Jn. 2:27).
What constitutes a kingdom? For starters, you must have a King, and we do. I used to ask the old dears at Medicalodge if there was anywhere on earth where God does not reign, and they would usually guess “hell,” but that’s not right, because the Psalmist said “If I make my bed in hell, I will find thee there.” (Ps. 139:8) The King is on His Throne, and WE are living in His kingdom, under His protection and care. Our God reigns, and there will come a day when His power is manifested more so on earth than it is now. I take Isaiah’s prophecy very seriously: “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh will see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.” (Isa. 40:5) It is the living Gospel that will bring this glorious event to life, the Gospel, the “Christ event” which is the power of God unto salvation, both to the Jew (believer) and the Greek (unbeliever) (Rom. 1:16). The living Gospel, God’s Good News, is a bondage breaker, a cell door opener, a deliverer of slaves, a healer, a peace bringing, joyous, foot tapping, life affirming, Hallelujah shouting event. “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28)
Our Deliverer rides a white horse. He is called “Faithful and True,” and “On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Rev. 19:11, 16) He reigns over all: “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.” (Rev. 19:6)
Father, we worship at Your throne; we call Your name glorious, and by Your grace and in the power of Your Spirit, we will share Your Living Gospel with anyone You bring to us until all will know You, from the least to the greatest and Your glory shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Amen and amen.