Further Thoughts on the Glory and Scandal of the Gospel

Here's a little thought experiment: could your version of the gospel get you thrown in jail, beaten, accused of treason, or killed? Could you start a riot by publicly proclaiming the gospel? Could any pastors today be accused of turning the world upside-down like Paul was in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9)? What's so scandalous about the gospel anyway?

As American society becomes more openly hostile to biblical Christianity, we will have an opportunity to see just how potent our gospel is---or isn't.

In addition to the three glorious and scandalous aspects of the gospel that I described last Sunday (7/22/2018), here are a couple more important points to consider.

The God Who Comes Near​

In Colossians 1:15-19 Paul proclaims the that God has come near in Jesus, who is the perfect image of God. Jesus is fully God and fully reveals the Father to us. The eternal Son, who has eternally existed with the Father, took our human nature upon himself and became incarnate as the God-Man Jesus. The fullness of God dwells in Jesus, which is why Jesus can say, "If you've seen Me, you've seen the Father." But Jesus didn't act like anyone expected God to act. Jesus was born as a baby, and gladly endured the agony of the cross to defeat death and save us.

The trouble is that sinners don't want God to get too close, and nobody wants a God who suffers. Sinners like to hide in the darkness. The blinding light of God's presence exposes our deepest, darkest sins and leaves us with nowhere to hide. Sinners are comfortable in sin and would prefer for God to stay away. It's much safer to keep God at a safe distance behind all sorts of veils and barriers. It's too unsettling for God to rip the veil in two and come among us—much less invade our lives and take up residence in us by His Spirit. That sort of God is no good luck charm. That sort of God—a living, incarnate God—is a threat to our autonomy and our own personal desires. A living God is dangerous. Idols are much safer and more manageable.

The glory of the gospel is also its offense: God became flesh so that He could die for our redemption. The suffering of the cross is not out of character for God. The cross shows us exactly who God is and who we are called to be as His people.

The God Who Makes Us Beloved Children

If that weren't enough, the gospel reveals Jesus Christ as God the Son (the second person of the Trinity) and the beloved Son of God (a royal title given to Jesus, the son of David). Needless to say, it was and still is scandalous for God to have a Son, who is himself God. The doctrine of the Trinity has always been a stumbling block to unbelievers and those cannot conceive of unity in diversity and diversity within unity.

But this is also one of the most glorious aspects of the gospel. The fact that Jesus is eternally the beloved Son of the Father (Col. 1:14) means that we who are united to Jesus share in His status as beloved children of God (1 Jn. 3:1-2). The very first thing we hear the Father speak to Jesus in the Gospels is a declaration of complete approval and acceptance: "You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased" (Lk. 3:22). When God baptizes us into His family, we are called to believe and trust that our heavenly Father makes that same pronouncement of approval and blessing over us. Our baptism is ingrafting into Christ and adoption as sons of God and co-heirs with Jesus (Gal. 3:27-4:7). We are now God's beloved children (Eph. 5:1), who are loved, approved, and accepted by the Father just as Jesus Himself is loved, approved, and accepted by the Father. This may seem too good to be true, but this is what makes the gospel so glorious and so powerfully transformative. 

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The Cross of Victory