The first intention of the gospel is not the solace of men but the glory of God. The good news is that God will be glorified and the process is such that in the achieving of that man will be saved.
When the Saviour was born in Bethlehem the angels sang “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will”. That’s what the birth of the Lord Jesus really was all about.
We all remember the narrative of the people of Israel in Egypt and how they were delivered by God through Moses and crossed the Red Sea and saw their enemies overwhelmed in the waves. When they came to the border of the Promised Land after this wonderful deliverance they lost courage because their faith wavered and instead of taking God at His word and preparing to go in and possess the land they wanted to give up and go back to Egypt. God was very angry with His people for overturning His purpose with them at this vital moment in their destiny when He would have made the promised land His kingdom and would have filled the land with His glory.
At this moment fearfully Moses interceded with God for His people and asked God to pardon them. The record is in the Book of Numbers and it includes a vital statement:
That is a vital sentence for in it is declared the purpose of God with the earth. God swore by Himself that although His people had thwarted His intention to fill the Promised Land with His glory, the day would still come when not only the land of Israel but also all the earth will be filled with the glory of Yahweh.
That is the good news – the gospel in a nutshell.
Now the situation is this. God’s glory cannot fill the earth whilst there is war, murder, and oppression, whilst there is evil and destruction, whilst there is starvation and sickness, whilst there is sin and death.
· In order for God to be glorified in the earth a great change has got to be effected in the condition of mankind socially and individually.
· Bad government has to end; good government has to be established;
· Evil has to be halted; righteousness has to flow over all the earth;
· Sinful, broken men have to be renewed and cleansed;
· Sickness has to be halted …;
· Death has to be conquered;
· Life in all its fulness has to be made available to such as have never really lived in the divine sense at all, so that to the population of the world – who are now war-weary, fear-filled, sin-dominated and death-stricken -there shall come the peace of God.
· When the peace of God comes it will fill the earth with the glory of Yahweh. In the fulfilment of that blessed purpose men are to be blessed superlatively.
The good news – the gospel – is that God has initiated the process which will ensure that at last His will shall be done on earth as it is done in heaven – the coming of His Kingdom. The purpose was focussed, concentrated and realised in the birth of the Promised Child – the Son of God …
Jesus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. In him the promises of God were made incarnate. He overcame sin – having faced it, and having been tempted as never any man was tempted. Yet he never once was subverted from the path of righteousness. The Lord Jesus was obedient unto death; yes the death of the cross. God’s will to beat sin was accomplished in His own child. Jesus overcame death because he overcame sin.
The Apostle Peter, referring to the eventual outcome of the life of Jesus said, with a fine touch of scorn:
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves also know – him, being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that he should be held by it” (Acts 2:22-24).
· Jesus rose from the dead having destroyed the very forces which lead men to the grave.
· Men are sin-stricken – by their own folly at first – and now by their misfortune.
· Men are death-stricken, because they are sin-stricken.
The results of the fall of man are undeniable – men are mortal and sinful. The doctrine of the immortality of the soul is a false doctrine that robs men of the truth about themselves and about their predicament.
In one Man – the Man of Nazareth – God has triumphed over the forces which enslave and curse mankind. Because of this great victory, God is able to pardon men who have sinned and to justify them – acquit them of their guilt. It means that through Jesus Christ and through their faith in him men and women can be counted as righteous in the sight of God. What they could not do for themselves, God has done for them through His own Son. This is good news indeed.
Jesus is not just an example of how we ought to live. He is a Saviour. The gospel equips men to overcome the very forces which once enslaved them makes them righteous where once they were bad. It is not a matter or argument. Changed lives and new people demonstrate the truth.
Looking at the world today a man might be forgiven for thinking that the mission of the Saviour has failed. But such a view could only arise because of misunderstanding. His first coming was wonderful but preparatory. The truth is that he is coming again to raise the dead and to establish on earth the government of God, in place of the failing and faltering governments of men.
There are abundant promises in the Word of God that Jesus will come again to complete the mission be began 1900 years ago. When he returns, his faithful disciples – both living and dead – will be made like unto him. They wiil be endowed with life which is eternal; untarnished by sin and death.
That is the gospel in a nutshell, but each of us has a vital need not just to understand it, and believe it, but to do something about it, in preparation for the day when God’s glory fills the earth, and His purpose can be seen for what it really is – gracious and merciful through and through.