Without the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the term "good news" would be meaningless. The word "gospel" comes from the Old English phrase göd-spell, meaning good news, and perhaps it's best to imagine some magnificent bearded Anglo-Saxon preaching salvation to his clansmen to really grasp the glory of the Gospel.
Ironically, the Viking, Germanic, and Celtic tribes initially rejected the Gospel as vigorously as they later defended it. They saw the Christ of Scripture as a weak deity unfit for worship by such mighty warriors as themselves. In this, they demonstrated a much deeper understanding of the true Gospel than many modern-day Christians, but they also got one fundamental thing wrong.
What they got right was that Jesus of Nazareth was God, and that he came as a servant to set his people free, a man of sorrows who humbled himself to enter the created world that he himself had made in order to redeem it. What these fierce Northerners didn't understand was that the God-man Jesus was also the same God of the Old Testament and St. John's Revelation who conquers his enemies and brings all things into submission to himself.
Today, we see similar trends in what people are willing to accept and what they reject. No one seems terribly opposed to the idea that Jesus was a servant-leader, a humble man who suffered much, or even God become man (though increasingly few are willing to exert much energy to defend these doctrines).
Almost no one, on the other hands, wants to admit that Christ was Yahweh himself in human flesh, the same God who commanded the Hebrews to systematically destroy the pagans inhabiting the Promised Land, the same God who ruined almost all human life in the flood, the same God who will judge both the living and the dead at the end of time.
Without both aspects of Jesus's identity, however, the beauty of the Gospel becomes worthless and its power is negated. If the same God who saves his people from their sin and from death is not the same God who can throw body and soul into Hell, what is there really to worry about? Why would we fear such a God? At the same time, why would we love and serve a God who only threw people in Hell and exacted judgment?
The fact is, all of us deserve the judgment and wrath of God. We are all born dead in sin, at war with God, struggling with every breath to dethrone the Lord of Heaven and put ourselves in his place. This is all pathetic, of course, but that doesn't keep us from doing it. We are all dead in our first father Adam, and we perpetuate the rebellion in our weakness and evil. For this, we deserve God's wrath, and this applies as much to the busybody and gossip as to the murderer and pedophile.
There is no rescue except through the God who made us. It only follows that the only one able to extend grace to rebels is the one to whom those rebels are opposed. He obtained our rescue through blood, but instead of our death, he became one of us and died in our place, suffering not only physical torture on the cross, but also spiritual separation from God.
But how could God be separated from himself? Only with great agony and horror, which is exactly what Jesus endured on behalf of those who would believe in him as the only worthy sacrifice. But he didn't stay dead, because death is not natural, and because God is the God of the living and not the dead. Instead, he rose from the grave and ascended to heaven.
From there he rules the world. One day he will return to exact final judgment on the world, and to bring his resurrected sons and daughters into eternal paradise on the new earth. If this all sounds a bit like mythology, that's because it is—but it's mythology that is completely true, and provides the only legitimate lens through which to understand life, the universe, and everything.
The Gospel is the most important thing, both to those who believe and for those who don't. Christians are called to understand everything and to organize their lives according to its principles, to repent daily for their sins and turn from them, and to share the good news of Jesus Christ with those who haven't heard it, or who don't understand it.
What many people fail to realize, however, is that the Gospel is just as important for those who reject it as for Christians. It is that which condemns them—those who choose to turn from God's call to repentance through belief in Jesus Christ, those who turn from his grace, are thereby turned over to his wrath and judgment.
It is essential, therefore, that the Gospel in all its biblical power and glory be preserved. This was the impetus of the Protestant Reformation, whose leaders saw the church of their day turning in droves from the essentials of the faith and chasing vain religion that could only condemn. This trend persists in our own day, and it is the task of every faithful believer to stand firm in the way of truth. The books and materials in this category are designed to arm and equip Christians for this task.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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