Ken Buck, Pastor of Lewes, UK GCI
The gospel usually proclaimed these days by traditional and many evangelical Christian churches goes something like this:
God is Holy. Mankind has sinned against Him and incurred the penalty of death. God is just and justice demands punishment. But God is also love so He sends Jesus Christ to pay the penalty and take our punishment upon Himself. The moment when Jesus cries from the cross "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" is interpreted as the time when the Father, being too holy to look upon sin, forsakes Jesus as He takes our sin upon Himself. The agony of this forsakenness translates into Jesus receiving the ultimate punishment for our sins as He also pays the death penalty for us.
If this were true, it would drive a wedge through the unity of the Trinity and stand the incarnation and the work of Jesus on its head.
Nowhere does the Bible state that Christ came to reconcile the FATHER to us. Neither does it say that Christ came to placate the Father's anger or satisfy the Father's demand for punishment so He could forgive us. Quite the opposite, the Bible states that Christ came to reconcile US to the Father, to change OUR attitude not the Father's. It was the Father who sent His Son, and it was to "reconcile the all things TO HIMSELF through Jesus Christ" (Col1:20). It was OUR state of mind that needed changing, not the Father's. Jesus did not come amongst us to make it possible for the Father to have mercy on us, to change Him from demanding justice to loving and forgiving us. It was the Father's unrelenting love for us that sent His beloved Son amongst us because He was totally opposed our destruction. The Father sent Jesus because He loves us, not because He demanded punishment. It is by the Father's will that we are forgiven and brought close to Him and it was the Father who sent Jesus Christ to carry out His will. The Father's will was for Jesus to enter into our fallen existence and remove everything that separated us from Him and bring us home. And that is exactly what Jesus did. "It is finished" (John 17:4 & 19:30). If the gospel is that the Father is too holy to look upon sin how is it that the Son actually became sin? Is the Father holier than the Son? Is the Trinity so split that the Son has to somehow rescue us from the Father's holy anger? This would push the notion that the Father "cannot" forgive us until His demand for justice is satisfied to the Father "will not" forgive us until His anger is appeased by bloody sacrifice. This puts the church and all mankind hiding from the Father's anger behind Jesus Christ's blood and drives an ugly wedge through the Trinity.
The idea that the Father is so holy that He cannot be near to sin and demands just punishment for those engaged in it harps back to the understanding that god is unapproachable and unknowable, an abstract singular entity. Standing above the creation in unapproachable holiness, he is in control and omnipotent. His relationship with mankind is remote and mediated through the law. He is a god of rules and justice, keeping account and exacting due payment and penalty before there can be forgiveness. This is the "legalized" god taught to many sincere Christians and of whom they live in fear and anxiety. I have seen many Christian churches which have a notice board declaring that "All are Welcome", but most also proclaim on other notices that "Your sins will find you out" or "Be prepared to meet your God" and similar scary epitaphs designed to provoke us into entering their church. This is hardly "Good News". It certainly does not proclaim the God of the Bible and mostly drives people away from Christ rather than drawing them to Him.
The Trinitarian God of the Bible is the exact opposite of this horrendous picture. The Father, Son and Spirit live in unimaginable, joyous, loving, creative fellowship and unity. So close is their mutual and reciprocal love that it can only be expressed as being "in one another". Their thoughts and motives are identical so that all are involved in every action of God. The underlying nature of the Triune God is one of self-giving love flowing out into the determined purpose of sharing life and drawing us into this beautiful relationship as His adopted children (Eph 1:3-5). He planned for us to be at one with Him, re-created in Jesus Christ to be perfect for Him and sharing everything He is and has. It is this unswerving purpose and the love of the Son for the Father that drove Jesus to the cross to bring about the Father's will for us.
The Gospel, the "Good News" is that Jesus completed this work that the Father gave Him to do (John 17:4).
At the Father's decree, Jesus entered into our wretched human condition, took our fallen and alienated human nature upon Himself and turned it back to the Father in faith and obedience. During His sacrificial life He defeated Satan, and then took the old fallen humanity inherited from Adam to the cross and destroyed it. The Father resurrected Jesus as a new creation, a new humanity. He ascended and now sits incarnate at the right hand of the Father. The really great news – the real Gospel – is that we are "hidden WITH Him in God" (Col3:3). If we can only see ourselves, as the Gospel of the Bible tells us, a new creation, hidden with Christ at the right hand of God, as His adopted children, sharing in all He has and is through the communion of the Spirit then we have perhaps the greatest gift that God bestows upon us – total assurance. Resting in Christ, accepted, cherished and loved in Him; at peace, assured and blessed we are free to go out of ourselves and give of ourselves to others. Released from any ulterior motive, self-centeredness, and obsession with our own life and anxiety we can care for others and turn to God in free, unrestrained love and joy. We are released from the burden of being "good enough" and the restraints of trying to achieve that which Jesus has already accomplished in our place.
The legalized god and the fear gospel often preached from the pulpit today have little relevance to our every day life; in our marriages, our work and play and they provide no answer to our inner anxieties. The legalized gospel gives no assurance and no peace and no joy. It's not Good News, but bad news.
Are you Saved? What does it really mean to be saved? You can listen to lots of people's opinions and thoughts about salvation. But ultimately this is one of those decisions that was just up to God. And he grace made the terms pretty clear.
What are you Saved from? Are you Saved from your sins? Are you Saved from eternal death? Are you Saved from what scripture refers to as Hell? Yes, you are Saved from all of those thing. But most importantly you were Saved from a life of alienation from God.
We all must die, this is true. That is one sure thing about our existence.But there is another sure thing. You have been saved by the accomplished work of Jesus Christ.
Long before you were ever born, long before the earth was created God the Father determined to adopt us (Ephesians 1:3-5). In order to adopt us He had to create us. After creation man fell into sin. But that fall and that sin - did not change God's plan to adopt us.
When Jesus was born, he was the Father's Son living in our fallen flesh. Over 33 1/2 years Jesus reversed the fall by living perfectly (as we could not) and then dying - atoning sacrifice for the sin that resulted from the fall.
There is nothing you need to do to be Saved. Whether you like it, know it, or even accept it you are ALREADY Saved.
There is a stark difference between objective truth and our subjective response to that truth. I could tell you that the earth is round. We know that to be objectively true. However; you could refuse to believe it and therefore live in fear of falling off the edge of the planet.
The objective truth is that all things have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:19-20)
Nowhere does the Bible ever say that we must "get saved" or "become saved" the Bible says "BE" saved. It is much like telling someone to "be a man!" In that statement we are not telling them to become a man only to act like a man or experience true manhood.
Paul says, "shall be saved." Speaking of those who confess Jesus as Lord and believe in His resurrected life. He also says that we are reconciled and then says "be reconciled" because he is urging people to act out and live like they know they are freed, saved, and reconciled. At Richmond Grace Fellowship we refer to this as the Shared Life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That Divine Life is what God the Trinity determined to share with you and me in our adoption. Our adoption was free to us without us even asking. We can live in joyful experience of our adoption or we can live in darkness and refuse to participate in the Life of Triune God. In any case our adoption is free and un-earned by us.
So it is with salvation. It is yours. It was yours all along. If you will just believe in Jesus then you may experience the Shared Life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! And you can even experience that life for eternity.
If you want to know more just e-mail me or call me at (804) 239-2027 . I would love to talk to you and help get you started on a new exciting journey with Jesus.
Sincerely, Pastor Bill