Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Gospel—simple, yet profound

Midweek in Lent1
February 17, 2016
During Lent we are contemplating the Gospel. The Bible is a good-sized book. And yet, the Gospel is simple. God loved the world in this way: He gave His only Son to die so that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life. The Gospel is not complicated. It is simple. It is God giving salvation in His Son to fallen people. Simple.

And yet, the very nature of the simplicity of the Gospel means that it is profound. We believe the Gospel but we can’t fully understand it. It is beyond our reason. We believe by faith, not only by understanding. The Gospel is vast. It can never be fully comprehended. The love of God is profound.

It is an aspect of the grace of God that we are not saved because we understand. How could one ever understand the love of God? The pure grace that He loves sinners, His own people who rejected Him? And that He Himself is the one who accomplishes our salvation? That He Himself is the one who received the punishment of eternal damnation in our place? This is beyond reason and something we could never begin to think of to ask for. By His grace, even though we can’t fathom such grace, we believe it because the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies us in the one true faith.

On Ash Wednesday we saw how the Law of God convicts us of our sin. By the Law we can never be saved. By the Law we come to the realization that we need to be saved. By the Law we are drawn to repentance. By the Law is paved the way for the Gospel. In the Catechism, then, that is what comes next, the Gospel.

It comes in the form of the Creed. The Apostles’ Creed is not found in the Bible. The phrases of it are taken from the Bible and based on the Bible. It is a distillation of the pure Gospel that is taught in the Bible. In the Creed we confess who God is. He is the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is the one true God; three Persons in one God, one God in three Persons.

When we confess Him, we are confessing His work of salvation of us. God the Father sent the Son who sends the Holy Spirit. Jesus accomplished salvation in His suffering, death, and resurrection and the Holy Spirit brings that salvation directly to us in the proclaimed Gospel and the Sacraments administered to us. The Creed teaches us the utter simplicity of the Gospel. It teaches us that the God who reveals Himself to us in the Bible is the God who loves us so much that He saves us. He doesn’t make it a maze of obligations that we must do. He does it. It’s simple. He saves us, it’s not complicated.

It is very likely that the first creed of Christians was the three-word creed found in 1Corinthians 12:3, “Jesus is Lord.” God has made Himself known in a personal way, in His Son. He is Lord, no other person, no other god. As the Church continued to teach what it means that Jesus is Lord, it expanded the confession of faith to what we have in the Apostles’ Creed, He was conceived by the Holy Sprit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried, He descended into hell, the third day He rose again from the dead, He ascended into heaven. He did all of this for sinners.

The more you meditate on what our Lord did the more you see the profoundness of the Gospel. When you confess, “Jesus is Lord,” as is written in 1Corinthinas 12, you are confessing all of what is stated in the Apostles’ Creed. It is truly profound that Jesus is God even as He became flesh. He was a man who lived and who suffered, died, and rose. He ascended bodily into heaven and continues to be flesh and blood even though He is fully God. It’s a mystery that is not meant to be comprehended but to be believed and rejoiced in.

The Gospel is profound. How could God love the people who chose to listen to Satan instead of Him? How could God continue to love us when we continue to sin against Him, acquiescing to temptations? Some people think it’s incomprehensible that God exists. If you see the Law of God for what it is, the truth, and that you fall completely short of it, then you will see that the truly incomprehensible thing is that God loves us.

The profoundness of the Gospel is not just in God loving us even though we don’t deserve it. It is also in making us aware of our need for salvation. We are by nature sinful and unclean. We sin against God in thought, word, and deed. That God brings the hammer of His Law down upon us is actually a gracious, loving act on His part. In the same way that we warn someone if they are about to harm themselves, God warns us of the harm we are in by our sinning against Him.

The confession of our sinful, fallen nature is that of what we hear in the first reading, “Jesus is accursed.” Paul says that this confession of faith is not of the Holy Spirit. It is of our own sinful flesh. But the Holy Spirit does produce in us a confession, “Jesus is Lord.” We are unable to make this confession of faith on our own. This is the profound nature of the Gospel. We not only are saved by God, we are brought to faith by God, and by His power we believe in Him.

In the Small Catechism, we confess this of the Third Article of the Creed, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” This is what the apostle Paul was getting at in saying, “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Sprit.”

And so we see what it is the Holy Spirit brings to us. Faith in Christ. Belief in Jesus as Lord. The simplicity of the Gospel, Jesus is Lord, saving us by His suffering, death, and resurrection, is profound in that it cannot be contained in a simple formula. What it means that Jesus is Lord is that, from John 14, He is the way, the truth, and the life. From John 11, He is the resurrection and the life. From Psalm 103, In Him God has separated our sins from us as far as the east is from the west.

From Isaiah 53, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted. It was the will of the Lord to crush Him; He has put Him to grief; when His soul makes an offering for guilt. He poured out His soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

From John 6, He is the bread of life. The Israelites ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. Jesus is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. He is the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that He will give for the life of the world is His flesh.

From Romans 3, All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith.

From Ephesians 2, By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

From Acts 4, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who was crucified, whom God raised from the dead, is the stone that was rejected by the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

From Colossians 1, And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him.

From 1Corinthians 1, Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

From 1Peter 1, Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.

From Galatians 2, You have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer you who live, but Christ who lives in you. And the life you now live in the flesh you live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave Himself for you.

From 1John 4, In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

And from the second reading this evening, in 1Corinthians 15, Now I would remind you, brothers, of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

This is our confession of faith and to it we say, “Amen.”


No comments: