What is the Gospel? God’s love for unfaithful people

Sitting in a restaurant one day, my friend asked me, “So what is Christianity all about?”

He was a friend I had often talked with about Jesus and now he was asking me point blank in simple terms what do you believe?  My answer was, “Christianity is about the Gospel of Grace”, but my answer was really a foreign language to him.  The word Gospel was not really in his vocabulary and had only come into mine since I had become a Christian the previous year.

The word “Gospel” in Greek simply means, “a message of good news.”   The Christian Gospel then is Good News from God to man about Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.  Let me explain that from an Old Testament book of Hosea.

The Love of the Redeemer

Hosea is a book in the Old Testament of the Bible which records the story of the prophet Hosea.

Hosea was told by God to marry an unfaithful woman called Gomer.  They had several children together, but then Gomer decided to leave her husband and children for the luxuries provided by other men.

In simple terms, Gomer cheated on her husband, Hosea, with lots of men:

Hosea 1:5  “For their mother has played the whore:  she who conceived them has acted shamefully.  For she said, “I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.”

How God tells Hosea to respond to Gomer’s unfaithfulness is both surprising and challenging. God tells Hosea to take Gomer back and love her again, just as God loves his people even though they are unfaithful to him:

Hosea 3:1  “And the Lord said to me, “go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love the cakes of Israel.”

This woman left Hosea and her children, causing him embarrassment and shame, but now he is to go and love her again. This is the opposite response than what the Old Testament law called for.  In the Mosaic law the penalty for adultery was death (Deuteronomy 22:22).

Hosea’s love for Gomer pictures God’s love for us

God’s response is not, “go stone her”, but “go and love her.”  Why?  Because this is how He loves Israel and here is where we see Gospel love on display.

Let me explain.

In God’s eyes mankind is very much like Gomer. We are sinful.  This means that we do, think, say things which are against the laws of God (1 John 3:4)  What does that mean?  It means that there is a moral disease that affects the whole human race of every rank and class and name and nation.

The disease of sin is one from which no one is born free or lives free of (Romans 3:23).  Before God the Just Judge we are all in the same boat: Morally guilty.   The just punishment for our sins is death.  So what is God’s response to us in this life. Not punishment but Love.

John 3:16  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

God’s response came at a cost, but this cost was borne by God for our benefit. In the next post, I’ll explain some more of what the Bible says about the cost of redemption, which God bore for our sake.

What is the Gospel? The price God paid for our redemption

The Book of Hosea in the Bible’s Old Testament paints a picture, from the life of Hosea and Gomer, of how God extends love to people who have rejected Him and been unfaithful to Him.

It also paints a picture of the cost of that redemption.

The Love of the Redeemer

After leaving Hosea, Gomer sunk deeper and deeper in the social scale of the day eventually hitting the bottom and being sold as a slave.  She was being sold to pay depts she was unable to pay.

The slave auctions of those days would have stripped the person being sold of all dignity.  Before the auction Gomer’s clothes would have been removed so that the men might see what they were buying. There she was before the world standing naked, guilty, and unable to free herself from the blocks.

How does God respond to Gomer’s situation?

God commands Gomer’s husband, Hosea, to redeem her in her nakedness and guilt.

Hosea 3:2  “So I bought her for 15 shekels of siler and a homer and a lethech of barley.”

Why would God command a good man like Hosea to redeem his guilty and continually unfaithful wife, Gomer?

Because redemption is an act from God’s nature. Redemption demonstrates that God is love ( 1 John 4:8-9).

God sent Jesus Christ to the world to redeem people who are slaves to sin.  Jesus did this at a cost much higher than 15 shekels of silver – with his own life and blood.  Notice what these verses say about God’s work of redemption.

The Cost to the Redeemer

We have all gone astray, but God placed our sins upon Jesus:

Isaiah 53: 6-8 “All we like sheep have gone astray;  we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the sins of us all.  He was oppressed and he was afflicted ye he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent so he opened not his mouth…..he was cut off out of the land of the living stricken for the trangressons of my people.”

God shows us his love in sending Jesus to die in our place:

Romans 5:6-10  “For while we were still weak, at the right time,  Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely  die for a righteous person though perhaps for a good person one whould dare even to die but God shows his love for us that in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Redemption can’t be made through perishable things like silver but with something more valuable. … The death of Jesus took our punishment:

1 Peter 1:18 “You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed but with the precious blood of Christ.”

True Redemption always comes at a cost.

To redeem someone is to pay a cost to free them from an obligation.

We all owe a debt to God, which we cannot satisfy, for our sin and rebellion against him. Jesus’s death was God’s love in action to pay the cost of salvation for a people unable to save themselves.

How much does God love you? Enough to buy those you back from the blocks of slavery to sin by the blood of his own son.

This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus’s work on the cross is sufficient for any person to be saved and to have his life changed.

How? Not by doing.  Not by following the rules.  Not by anything but faith and repentance.

Faith

Faith means transferring your trust and hope from anything you can do to make God pleased with you, and instead placing your trust and hope in Jesus’s sacrificial death as the only reason why God is pleased with you.

Repentance

Repentance means more than just saying “sorry God”. It means hating those things with God hates and by his strength turning from them to him.

God’s promise is that whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but will be welcomed into the family of God. In the next post, I’ll look some more at the love God clothes us with when we repent and place our faith in Jesus Christ.

Worshipping God in the Face of Disaster

Why does God permit tragedy?

Last week someone forwarded me a video of a pastor named Rob Bell who was interviewed by CSNBC concerning the Japan earthquake.

The interviewer opened by asking this question:

Which is true: God is all powerful and does not care about the people of Japan, or he does care about the people of Japan but He is not all powerful and not able to help?

If we examine the question, the interviewer was really proposing that when we look at tragedy (like the earthquakes in Christchurch and Japan) we see two reasons not to worship God.  Either he is too weak to worship or he is just an uncompassionate ogre in the sky who doesn’t deserve my worship.

The Pastor’s answer was this: “When we shed a tear God sheds a tear.”  When asked a second time he replied: “it’s a paradox.

When I heard this interview I was both angry and sad becauset he had given the world no reason to worship God in the midst of tragedy.  Soft answers like this come often, not just  from Rob Bell, but from many Christian pastors I have heard interviewed, including those at the Christchurch Memorial service.

How do we give Biblical answers to tragedy so that people are led to worship God instead of rejecting him?

In such times of tragedy God has given us wonderful answers found in places like Psalm 33.  In this Psalm of worship David gives us six different commands to worship.  He says, sing joyfully, praise, make music, sing, play and shout for joy in worship to God. Then he tells us why we should worship like this.

One reason David gives to worship is God’s word and His work:

For the word of the Lord is upright and all his work is done in faithfulness.  He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.

Notice, David puts God’s words and his work together and says they are upright and done in faithfulness.  So all God’s words and works are right and are in faithfulness to his people.

God’s words and works bring about justice and righteousness, and fill the world with His steadfast love

David then gives us a wonderful result of God’s words and works: they bring about justice, righteousness and fill the world with his steadfast love.

What does that mean?  It means that God has a purpose in everything He does to show the world these three things:

  1. His righteousness so they understand they are sinful;
  2. His justice so they believe sin has eternal consequences; and
  3. His love displayed on the cross so they might know He has provided free forgiveness of their sins.

That brings us back to the original question that so few evangelicals really want to answer.

Are earthquakes the work of God, or is He just up in heaven crying for us when Mother Nature wills another quake?

The Bible is very clear. No earthquakes or other natural disasters are attributed to Mother Nature or Satan, but many are attributed to God:

he commands even the winds and the water and they obey him.”  Luke 8:25

He sends forth his commands to the earth…he gives snow like wool…..He scatters frost like ashes…He hurls down ice like crumbs….he makes the wind blow and the waters flow.”  Psalm 147: 15-18;

He shakes the earth out of its place and its pillars tremble.”  Job 9:6

He looks on the earth and it trembles…he touches the mountains and they smoke.”  Psalm 104:32.

God is sovereign over nature.  He permits tragedy for a purpose.  Earthquakes and other natural disasters happen because God cursed the world in response to sin. Romans 8 tells us the world was subjected to this futility in hope and in accordance with God’s plan to save sinners. This means that although God permits suffering, we know He has purpose in it, for righteousness, justice, and to show the world his love.

Let me illustrate through an example:

Several years ago there was a newspaper story about a tragic traffic accident.  An auntie was driving with her two nieces when she was hit by a drunk driver.  The girls’ father, a paramedic, was minutes behind and stopped to help.  When he opened the door the youngest daughter fell into his arms, and the other died on the way to the hospital.

If this man came to you for answers how would you move his heart to ever worship God? There are two choices with which we are faced:

  1. The first is the easy road of saying God is not involved and this happened by chance, but He is up in heaven crying for you.  What this answer really means is that tragedy is random and meaningless.
  2. The second answer is to believe the Bible.  God is never the author of evil, but He is sovereign over all things including tragedy.  If He permitted tragedy to touch your life then there is purpose in it, and we have a promise that He will bring forth righteousness, justice, and love from it.  So practically the Christian is able to hate the evil behind tragedy and the hurt involved in tragedy, while pointing hurting people to hope in the purposes of a Sovereign God.

I realize this is not a complete answer for such a question but it is a biblically honest answer that points people towards a God who is worthy of their worship.

 

 

  • Contact us

    Starting December 25, 2016, Sunday Morning Worship takes place at 10am in the Piano, located on 156 Armagh Street. Free parking for GPC attendees is available off Oxford Terrace.