The Gospel

We conclude our reflections on the Ten Commandments with a reflection on the gospel. The fact that God has to give us laws to live by says something negative about human beings. Let me illustrate this by looking at a classroom. You know how teachers sometimes put up rules on walls; such as no provoking, no threatening, and no aggression. Why does there have to be rules written out? Rules have to be written out because the people given the rules have a tendency to violate the rules. If kids in a classroom do not provoke each other, there would be no need for rules against provoking. There wonít be a need to write rules, if people by nature do what is right.

Some may object that people have an idea of right and wrong already. People have a conscience, a law within a person. That is true but there are still problems. First, the conscience is usually incomplete, not following all of Godís commands. A person whose conscience makes him resist doing certain things that are wrong is the same person who deliberately does things that are wrong. The person who would not think of killing anybody may have no inhibitions about having sex with different people. The person who gives to the poor could be ignoring God all his life. Second, people violate their own consciences. A person violating his own conscience is also violating Godís law (Romans 2). Therefore, everyone violates Godís law.

This tendency to violate Godís laws is a problem that has deadly consequences. The consequence is violence in Godís creation, people hurting people. Godís response to the violence in his creation was to restart the human race. He did promise that he would not do that again. Godís response to violence is also to free the victims at the expense of the perpetrators. Because all human beings have a tendency towards violence, Godís judgment is upon all human beings. All human beings have a terrible future story; we are all headed for destruction.

Some may say this is harsh because people learn violence from their upbringing and there are some people who are not violent at all. First, violence does not have to be something catastrophic as murder, rape, or assault. A person showing an attitude of contempt towards another person is committing violence, even though the other person does not know it. Second, God does not allow the past to be used as an excuse for violence. When somebody provokes you and you hit them, you are held accountable for your actions.

The good news is that our future story does not have to end in destruction. It does not have to end in destruction because somebody took upon himself our future stories of destruction. This somebody is Jesus Christ. How did Jesus take upon himself our future stories of destruction? He did this through the violence of the cross. It was on the cross that Jesus took upon himself the penalty for human violence. God poured out his displeasure of human violence on Jesus, thereby freeing humans from having Godís displeasure poured out on them. Through Jesusí death, humans died to the old future story of destruction. In earthly terms, Jesus was killed on the cross by human hands. However, behind the violence, there is a God who is intending to bless the human race.

Some may say that it is abusive that God used Jesus in a violent way to bless the human race. It is Christian teaching that God and Jesus are one, although not identical. Jesus prays to God and calls him his father. Here are a few examples of this oneness. Jesus forgives sins when God is supposed to be the only one who can forgive sins (Matthew 9). Jesus hung out with people who are outcasts during his time on earth and he tells parables that say that God is calling the outcasts to himself (Matthew 22:1-14). An author in the bible talks about a day when all persons will worship Jesus and there was a prophecy that someday all persons will worship God (Romans 14:11; Isaiah 45:23). Jesus and God are one; therefore they are united in their intention to free human beings from a future story of destruction.

What happens next? A few days after dying on the cross, Jesus rose from the dead. Through Jesusí resurrection, humans are given new life, a new future story. In this new future story, thereís no more death and suffering. Every person will still die but there will come a time when all who have died will rise and some will not experience death and suffering anymore. That some will be those who believe that through being connected to Jesus, they have peace with God, the one who holds their stories in his hands.

What does it mean to be connected to Jesus? When Jesus was on earth, he called people to follow him. To follow someone, it is assumed that you believe in that someone, that you entrust yourself to them. Where was Jesus going? Jesus was going to the cross and die. Therefore, the one who believes follows Jesus to the cross and die, not literally but figuratively. There is a verse in the bible that says, ďI am crucified with Christ and thin I live, not I but Christ that lives within meĒ (Galatians 2:20) What does being crucified with Christ mean practically?

  1. It means that the one who believes does not live for himself, because when Jesus died, he died with him symbolically. This may sound strange but think about how some people talk when their favorite sports team wins. They say ďwe wonĒ when in reality they did not even play. The duty of the Christian is to live in the reality of this symbolic death, as if he is dead. A dead person stops being preoccupied with himself; his rights, his pleasures, his issues. The believer dies to the old self that is preoccupied with its rights, its pleasures, and its issues.
  2. It means that the one who believes lets Christ, who has risen from the dead, live through him. Christ symbolically lives in his place. He is a new self having Jesusí values and goals. This goes beyond imitating Christ or following his teachings. A student does not necessarily have the same values and goals as the teacher. Imitation is doing what somebody does, regardless of the values and goals behind the actions. The believer lives Jesusí values and goals.

What was Jesusí goal? His goal was to fulfill Godís law, loving God and loving people. How did he love God? He cooperated with God in making people right with God. How did he love people? He served people by healing and teaching them. He ultimately showed his love for God and for people by dying on the cross to secure the future of those who believe in him. He rose again to assure those who believe in him that the future is secure. Death and suffering is not the end of the story.

What should be our goal? Our goal should be to dedicate our lives to loving God and loving people by obeying his commands.

Jesus and God are one from before creation. There is one creator but God and Jesus are said to have created the universe (Colossians 1:15-20; Genesis 1). They had a loving relationship shown through Jesus coming down to earth to accomplish Godís mission to make people right with him, and through God raising him from the dead (Acts2:24).

The goal of the individual is that he would reflect God. The goal of community is that it would reflect the harmony in God; between Yahweh and Jesus Christ his son. The individual and community must both be characterized by love because God is love (1 John 4:8). Love characterizes God in himself and also his attitude towards his creation, especially human beings. Love is the goal of the law.

How is the goal of love going to be accomplished? Is it by humans striving to follow the law? Not by human striving but by the influence of Godís Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). Godís goal, the development of the loving person and the loving community, will be accomplished through the influence of Godís Spirit in the hearts of people. May Godís Spirit influence our hearts so that we may become people who reflect the love that God has for creation and the love that God has within himself.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the gospel?
  2. Why is it important that Jesus and God are one?