Good News: A Biblical Exposition of the Gospel Pt 2
The Good News About God’s Mission
The Bible gives us a broad understanding of the Gospel as good news about the Triune God’s historic mission of redemption for the restoration of his fallen universe and in particular his fallen human race. The Scriptures teach that the good news of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ is as wide as creation, reaching beyond the redemption of souls to the redemption all things.
The Gospel is good news about the Triune God’s historic mission of redemption for the restoration of his fallen universe and in particular his fallen human race.
Therefore, the Apostle Paul, Augustine, Calvin, and Bavinck taught that the essence of salvation in Christ is the Triune God’s transformation of all things – seeing the Father’s creation as formation, the Fall of humanity as deformation, and Christ’s redemption and the outpouring of his Spirit as reformation. The gospel is more than a set of propositional truths to believe. It’s also a unified, unfolding story in real history by which God tells us how to shape our lives.
Read the first chapter to Good News: A Biblical Exposition of the Gospel below.
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Chapter 1: The Good News About God’s Mission
A Biblical Exposition of the Gospel
Drs. John M. Frame and Steven L. Childers
The Bible gives us a broad understanding of the gospel in four unfolding, historical events that reveal the Triune God’s purpose for the whole universe and in particular the human race:
- God’s creation of the world and humanity,
- the fall of humanity and the world into sin,
- the redemption of all things lost in the fall through Jesus by his Spirit, and
- the restoration of all things when Jesus returns to establish God’s kingdom on earth forever.
These events give us a broad biblical and historical definition of the gospel as the good news that the Father’s creation, ruined by the Fall, is being redeemed by Christ and renewed by His Holy Spirit into the Kingdom of God.
This is the good news that there is one infinite, personal God who exists in three persons and who created and rules over all things as Triune Lord. And his rule, his kingdom, uniquely entered the world two thousand years ago through the person and work of Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, to make all things new.
Therefore, the gospel is more than a set of propositional truths to believe. It’s also a unified, unfolding story in real history by which God tells us how to shape our lives. He brings our lives into it by drawing us into its plot and calling us to align our life purpose with his for the world. It’s the story about God’s lordship over everything. It starts with God and finds its goal in God. It reveals God’s ultimate purpose for humanity to know, love, serve, and glorify God as Lord in all of life.
God’s Mission of Restoration
This understanding of the gospel includes a robust biblical doctrine of creation that far transcends a narrow focus on what happened at the beginning. It’s a vision of God’s lordship over the whole universe he has made, both at the beginning, and for all time. It is a view of God’s salvation that is as wide as creation, reaching beyond the redemption of souls to the redemption all things.
The early church father Augustine (354-430 AD) describes the essence of God’s saving work in Jesus Christ as restoring all things lost in the fall by using a series of Latin couplets that describe God as “Former and Re-Former,” “Creator and Re-Creator,” and “Maker and Re-Maker.” Augustine presents to us the essence of salvation in Christ as transformation, seeing creation as formation, the fall as deformation, and redemption as reformation.
Likewise, in his theological writings from the late nineteenth century, Herman Bavinck concludes from Scripture that the essence of salvation is “Grace restores nature.” Consequently, human beings are restored image bearers flourishing on the earth as God intended in creation. Bavinck writes,
Grace serves, not to take up humans into a supernatural order, but to free them from sin. Grace is opposed not to nature, only to sin … Grace restores nature and takes it to its highest pinnacle.
Bavinck’s view of grace is not abstract or philosophical. Unlike the Greek philosophers, he does not see human beings as a lower order of being, and our need as the need to reach higher levels. Rather, we are persons, reflecting the tri-personal character of God. Our need is not that we are finite creatures of God; that is a good thing. Rather, our need is for God’s forgiveness, after we have sinned against God.
Our need is not, as many philosophers have thought, to ascend to a higher level of reality, to transcend our finitude, to rise above our humanity and become god. That can never be. God alone will always be God, and we will always be his creatures, nothing more. Rather, our need is for God to restore us to the relationship he always intended, to become again obedient, devoted servants of the Lord.
So, the essence of salvation is the restoration of God’s original purposes in creation. What needs to be restored is primarily our broken relationship with God. And through the restoration of our broken relationship with God is meant to come the restoration of our broken relationships with ourselves, others, and creation because of the Fall.
The Triune Lord carries out this plan of redemption in history to bring salvation to fallen humanity and creation. Therefore, the central message of the Bible can be summed up as “salvation belongs to the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). The goal of the Lord’s salvation is not merely to forgive and relocate believers to heaven, but to redeem and restore fallen humanity and creation so they will flourish on a new earth for eternity.
God’s Mission Through Christ
The Scriptures present Jesus Christ at the center of this biblical story of salvation. They proclaim the good news that God’s kingdom has entered the world through Jesus, to redeem and restore fallen humanity and creation from sin and all its consequences. And the ultimate goal of God’s redemptive plan is to restore all things in heaven and earth in Jesus Christ that God would be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).
The historical context for the biblical word “gospel” is the declaration of a news report about something that has happened, something both very big and very good. At its heart is the proclamation about something significant God did in the person and work of Jesus Christ by his Holy Spirit.
To understand what God did and why it’s good news, it’s helpful to know the gospel’s backstory in history. God’s plan of salvation did not begin in first-century Palestine, but in the garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned. In Gen. 3:15, God promised the tempter that the “seed of the woman” will one day avenge his evil actions.
Then God’s plan unfolded through covenants God made with his people like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets. The Old Testament prophets foretold the day when a great Messiah King would come and deliver them from their oppression. Isa. 52:7 speaks of those who bring the “good news” that “Your God reigns.”
In Jesus’ day the Jews had been greatly oppressed by the Roman government for many years. They longed for Messiah King to come, set up His kingdom, and save them from their oppression. So they were excited when Jesus began his public ministry calling them to “repent and believe in the good news” that “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:14b-15).
However, the Jews soon learned that the kingdom Jesus was inaugurating was not what they expected. The nature of his kingdom was more spiritual than political, as was the oppression from which Jesus came to deliver his people. And to their amazement, the citizens of this new kingdom were no longer limited to the Jews but included Gentiles from all nations.
When the Apostle Paul writes the Corinthian church, he quotes what seems to be a standard summary of the good news in the first century:
Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. (1 Cor 15:3-6)
Paul’s repeated use of the phrase “in accordance with the Scriptures” refers to God’s purposes revealed to Israel in the Old Testament Scriptures to rescue the world after Adam and Eve sinned. Here he builds on the good news of the Old Testament that “Your God reigns.” (Is. 52:7, Rom. 10:15) Then he describes how Jesus “appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me (1 Cor 15:7-8).
Jesus as the last Adam and the new Israel
Drawing from the Old Testament Scriptures, Paul later presents Jesus as the second man and the last Adam. (1 Col 15: 45-47) When the first man, Adam, was tempted in the garden, he failed to obey God resulting in eternal death for humanity (Rom. 5:12-14). But when the second man, Jesus, was similarly tempted throughout his life, he perfectly obeyed God resulting in eternal life for humanity. (Rom 5:18-19)
By God’s grace, he did not destroy humanity after the Fall, neither did he change his demands. Instead, God established a covenant of grace promising to send a second man, the last Adam, who would obey his demands and restore his people to his favor.
There is also a sense in which the nation of Israel was called to be the new Adam. God called Israel, like Adam, to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:27-28; 35:11) and to obey all his demands perfectly in order to have life (Lev 18:5). But God’s commands for Israel to make sacrifices for sin were reminders of their failure to keep God’s demands and their need to look ahead for God’s promised Redeemer.
The Bible shows several parallels between Israel and Jesus, including Israel’s temptation in the wilderness for forty years (Ex. 14, Deut. 8:1-2) and Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness for forty days (Matt. 3:13-4:2). So, Jesus is the new Israel, the second man, and the last Adam through which God is graciously restoring what was lost in the Fall.
But Paul’s explanation of the gospel extends beyond Jesus death and resurrection in the past (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) to include Jesus’ present and future rule as the ascended King over all things by the Spirit. (1 Cor. 15:25-28) Jesus will continue his rule until he completes the mission that God the Father gave him to make all things new:
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death…[W]hen all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself [Jesus] will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him [God the Father], that God may be all in all. (1 Cor 15:25-28)
In the rest of this chapter Paul proclaims the good news that what God did for Jesus, raising him from the dead, he promises to do for all his people when Jesus returns to re-establish God’s kingdom on earth forever (1 Cor. 15:35-58). This is why Paul describes Jesus as “the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom 8:29).
God’s Mission Through History
For Paul, the good news about what God has already done in history through Jesus points to the good news about what God will do to make all things new at the end of history when Jesus returns. Paul’s announcement of what God has done in the past is matched by what God promises he will do in the future, when
the Father’s creation, ruined by the Fall, will be redeemed by Christ
and renewed by his Holy Spirit into the kingdom of God on earth forever.
So we are living in a unique time in history, between what God has done in the person and work of Jesus Christ in the first century, and what God will do through the consummation of all things when he returns. In the meantime God intends for us to experience what he is doing in and through our lives today as we learn how to find our story in his.
 We will be unpacking this broad, historical definition of the gospel later, showing how creation includes humanity and the cosmos, redemption includes Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection, and renewal includes the Holy Spirit’s work in personal regeneration, etc.
 By renew we mean re-form reflecting Bavinck’s description of re-formation, not re-creation: “The re-creation that will take place in the renewal of heaven and earth (Matt. 19:28) is not the destruction of this world and the subsequent creation out of nothing of another world but the liberation of the creature that is now subject to futility … Christ, accordingly, is not a second Creator, but the Redeemer and Savior of this fallen creation, the Reformer of all things that have been ruined and corrupted by sin … sin is not part of the essence of creation; it pushed its way in later, as something unnatural and contrary to nature. Sin is deformity. When re-creation removes sin, it does not violate and suppress nature, but restores it.” “Re-formation, Not Re-creation, Reformed Dogmatics,Volume 4,Holy Spirit and New Creation, The Transformation of Creation, 716-727.
 Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006) 577.
 Ibid. 577.
 Most of us do not think of having a relationship with ourselves. Whether we realize it or not, we talk to ourselves constantly. Often it’s subconscious. Our self-talk is a reflection of being an image bearer designed by a triune God, who at creation revealed his intra-Trinitarian discourse in the heavenly court saying, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen 1:26a). On many occasions, the authors of Scripture write words to themselves. The Psalmists frequently speak to themselves. In Psalm 42 and 43 David talks to himself when he is experiencing fear, saying things like “Why are you cast down, my soul?” “In the narrative, God, in a remarkable conference with the heavenly host, makes a special announcement of this particular creative act (Gen. 1:26) …” John Frame, Systematic Theology, chapter 4, in the section The Edenic Covenant.
 Most of us do not think about “having a relationship with creation.” In Genesis 1:28 we find the first explanation of why God created human beings–to exercise authority over his creation as his representatives: “And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.’” In Genesis 2:15 we find a more direct explanation of God’s purpose for creation and humanity: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” As we compare and contrast the imagery in Genesis 1 with that of Genesis 2, we go from a picture of God exercising sovereignty through humans over all creation (Gen. 1), to God exercising this same sovereign rule through individual humans in very specific places on the earth–such as the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2). Here we learn that God designs us in his image so that we will cultivate and protect the realms of his creation which he places under our influence, to accomplish his will on earth. These realms or spheres include our marriages, families, work, education, politics, art, etc.
 “Paul teaches that God’s redemptive plan encompasses heaven and earth. Its penultimate goal is to restore cosmic wholeness by unifying heaven and earth in the Messiah (Eph. 1:9–10); its ultimate goal is that once again, God would be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). John J. Hughes, The Transforming Power of Christ’s Love, in Scripture and the People of God: Essays in Honor of Wayne Grudem, p 138
 Ridderbos 1975:48
 “The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.”, “Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the Covenant of Grace, whereby He freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved; and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.” Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 7.2-3
 Examples of Jesus and the kingdom he inaugurated seen as the fulfillment of Israel’s story include: 1) Jesus’ return from Egypt as a child mirroring Israel’s Exodus out of Egypt, 2) Jesus’ temptation in the desert wilderness alluding to Israel’s temptation in the desert wilderness, 3) Jesus’ twelve disciples remind us of the twelve tribes of Israel, 4) Jesus’ teachings in Matthew parallel Moses’ Pentateuch, 5) Jesus’ sufferings are linked to Israel’s call to be a suffering servant, 6) Jesus’ sacrificial death is tied to Israel’s sacrificial lamb, and 7) Jesus’ resurrection fulfills Israel’s long-awaited, promised hope for resurrection.
 See how Paul also refers to Adam as the “first man” and Jesus as the “second man” when teaching on the the future resurrection of the body: “Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being,’ the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.” (1 Cor. 15:45-47)
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