Pop Quiz: What is the Gospel? Part 2
By Dr. Steven L. Childers
“It is hard to believe that after two thousand years the Christian church is still discussing, even debating, “What is the gospel?” The gospel, the “good news,” is the fundamental truth of our faith, what we believe and proclaim to the world. If we don’t know what the gospel is, and if it doesn’t motivate everything we think and do and say, then what’s the point in claiming to be Christian at all?” – Dr. John Frame, Theology of the Gospel (Pathway Learning book and course coming soon)
The heart of the gospel of the kingdom is about the King!
In this article, you’ll learn how the heart of the gospel of the kingdom is three things about God’s King and three promises God makes to all who will follow him in repentance and faith.
Learning Tip: Go deeper by reading the extensive footnotes.
Pop Quiz: What is the Gospel? Part 2
A Biblical Exposition of Mark 1:1-15
Dr. Steven L. Childers
At the heart of this Good News about God’s kingdom is the good news about God’s King – Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1) The Scriptures present Jesus Christ at the center of this biblical story of salvation.
In the first century, God entered the cosmic battle for the restoration of all things lost in creation in a new and amazing way through the person and work of Jesus. In the New Testament, the good news of Jesus Christ is described in three primary ways. First it’s:
I. The good news of what Jesus did
Jesus’ apostles proclaimed that there were five major historic events that Jesus did in the first century that they proclaimed as good news, including:
- his birth–as the eternal Son of God who humbled himself and took on humanity
- his life–as he lived the life that Adam, Israel, and all of us failed to live
- his death– as he died the death we all deserve to die, for our sin, in our place
- his resurrection– as he conquered death and inaugurated God’s kingdom on earth
- his ascension: as he ascended back to heaven where he rules from God’s right hand.
In Mark’s first chapter, he does not begin with Jesus’ birth, but with two dramatic scenes in the early part of Jesus life–his baptism by John and his temptation by Satan. In Jesus’ baptism he shows us how all three persons of the Trinity are at work in this story of salvation. Mark tells us that Jesus “…saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. Then the Father’s voice comes from heaven saying to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Mark begins his gospel by calling Jesus Christ the Son of God. The phrase Son of God refers to God’s promised Messiah, his Anointed One, in the line of King David who would be God’s new Son of David and new Israel, Son of Abraham. The New Testament picks up this same concept by referring to Jesus as the new Son of Adam. This good news that Jesus is God’s Son takes on great meaning when we see what happens next in his life.
In verses 12-13, Mark tells that “The Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.” Matthew tells us that Satan seized Jesus’ vulnerable state of severe hunger and said, ““If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
When the first man, Adam, was tempted by Satan in the garden, he failed to obey God resulting in eternal death for humanity. But when the Son of God, the last Adam, Jesus, was similarly tempted by Satan both in the wilderness and throughout his life, he perfectly obeyed God resulting in eternal life for humanity.
The good news is that Jesus saves us just as much by his life as by his death. Jesus faced every kind of temptation known to humanity from the world, the flesh, and the devil. But unlike Adam, Israel, and us, by the power of God’s Spirit he never sinned, so that through his suffering to obey, he could earn a perfect righteousness for us, obeying all of God’s commands in thought, word, and deed.
Only then could he die the death on the cross that we all deserve to die, for our sin, in our place. And be raised from the dead inaugurating God’s kingdom on earth, and then ascend back to heaven where he rules from God’s right hand until he returns.
But the Bible teaches that the good news of the gospel is not only what Jesus did, but also
II. The Good News of who Jesus is because of what he did
Because of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection, the Bible tells us that God has now made him Savior and Lord. When the apostle Peter preached at Pentecost, he said that Jesus had been “raised from the dead and . . . exalted to the right hand of God.” This symbolic statement that Jesus is now at the right hand of God teaches us that Jesus is presently reigning and ruling in heaven as both Savior and Lord.
As Savior, he alone has the authority and power to deliver people from sin’s penalty and power over their lives. As Lord, he alone has the authority to demand that everyone, everywhere, submit to his rule over their lives. Paul writes, “God now commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.”
But the climax of this good news is not only that Jesus is Savior and Lord, but that God makes some amazing promises to all who bow before him. The promises of a 1) new standing before God of forgiveness, 2) a new heart from God by his Spirit, and 3) a new world from God when he returns.
III. The Good News of what God promises because of who he is
1) New standing of forgiveness before God,
We see in verses 4-5 that John is already proclaiming that God promises he will forgive the sins of Israel as Covenant breakers for all who repent and draw near to this coming King confessing their sins: Mark writes, “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” Here we see God’s promise to give the gift of a new standing of forgiveness to all who repent.
2) New heart from the Spirit of God
But John promises those who repent, more than a new standing of forgiveness. He’s also promising them a new heart by receiving the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. In verses 7-8 Mark tells us John proclaimed, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
This is the same message of the Apostle Peter at Pentecost when he promises all who will repent these same two miraculous gifts from God. Peter says: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ – for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
By a miracle of divine grace, God promises not only to forgive you, but to plant a new life in you by his Holy Spirit. And that life is the life of God himself – a divine opposition God implants in your soul to counter the power of sin, a new nature, a new set of desires, and a new set of dispositions to know him, please him, honor him and to enjoy him as our Triune God.
3) New World from God
But to all who will bow before King Jesus as Savior and Lord, God promises more than the forgiveness of sins and the gift of his Holy Spirit. He also promises a new world when Jesus returns to “restore everything” that has been lost in creation because of sin by re-establishing God’s kingdom on earth forever. In Acts 3 Peter proclaims that Jesus “… must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.” Jesus called it the “new world.”
So, what is the gospel? It’s 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 on earth. And it’s the good news about the King: Through Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension, God has exalted him as reigning Lord and Savior, promising all who follow him in repentance and faith–the forgiveness of sins, the gift of God’s Spirit, and a new world when King Jesus returns to make all things new.”
Your ultimate hope as a follower of Jesus is not that one day when you die you will go to heaven to worship Jesus as a disembodied spirit –as wonderful as that will be. This is because everyone who goes to heaven is making a round trip. Instead our ultimate hope is in another day when Jesus will return and bring heaven back down to earth, and unite our souls with our resurrected bodies so we can finally and fully know him, love him, enjoy him, and serve him on a new earth forever.
The good news is that then – all our relationships that were lost because of sin will finally be restored–not only our broken relationship with God but also our broken relationship with our selves, others and all of creation—“as far as the curse is found.” Revelation tells us, “The kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
So in the meantime, in verses 14-15, Jesus calls us, by his Spirit, to keep repenting and believing that the Kingdom of God is near. His voice calls us to repent of wasting our lives in the pursuit of worthless idols so we might more radically align our lives around Him and His purposes for the world in the brief time we have remaining.
The gospel is not just a gate we must pass through one time, but it’s also a path we must walk each day of our life. In repentance we keep pulling our affections away from our heart idols, things we wrongly look to for happiness, so that by faith, we can keep putting those affections back on the ascended Jesus Christ in worship.
This is how God means for us to find the streams of living water that alone can quench our soul’s thirst until that final day. John tells us one day Jesus cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever keeps believing in me, as the Scripture says, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
As we learn to keep drinking deeply from this well that is Christ, Jesus promises us that we will experience the transformation of our lives into his image and find the living waters of his Spirit flowing through us into the lives of others. This well never runs dry. Here the old hymn-writer calls us to respond:
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Behold, I freely give
the living water; thirsty one,
stoop down and drink, and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank
of that life-giving stream;
my thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
and now I live in him.
 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…” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). 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) 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 so that God would be “all in all.”
 Paul 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).
 This good news is that God, as judge, forgives us through Jesus’ blood and accepts us through his righteousness. This means that God now considers the horrible record of all our sins to be on Jesus, and the perfect record of all Jesus’ obedience (his righteousness) to be ours. God, as Father, now promises to forgive, accept, and love those who believe in Christ just as He accepts and loves his one and only Son. Our broken relationship with God is restored.
 This good news is that God promises to deliver those who believe in Christ from sin’s domineering power by not only breaking the crippling power of sin (Rom. 6), but also freely giving them a new heart and a new Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to empower them to know, honor, and enjoy Him forever. Our broken relationship with ourselves is restored.
 This good news is that on that day we will be made new in both soul and body and delivered not only from sin’s penalty and power, but also its influence and presence. Creation will be restored and God will dwell with his redeemed people in a new heavens and new earth. God will redeem and restore this fallen, corrupt world and then rule over it with his people forever. Our broken relationship with creation (e.g. our work, our vocation) is restored as we serve God with the fullness of our gifts and passions forever.
 The Apostle Paul teaches that the highest blessing of the gospel for believers is being united to God “in Christ.” From this mystical union with God flows all the riches of Christ’s redemption including God’s multi-faceted promises of a new status with God as forgiven (propitiation), accepted (justification), and adopted (adoption), a new heart (regeneration) from God that is freed from sin’s dominance (sanctification) by his Spirit, and a new world (glorification) from God in the age to come. When we are united to Christ through faith, we’re given a very rich and remarkable spiritual inheritance in him. Like a child born into a royal family, it takes time for us to realize the full extent of the riches of our birthright. Faith requires a continual rehearsing and delighting in the many promises and privileges that are now ours because we are in union with God in Christ. Each doctrine related to the gospel helps us understand the many facets of all the spiritual blessings we now have in Christ. In the gospel we see the multi-colored splendor of our new life in Jesus Christ and find the divine remedy for our broken lives and world.
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