I don’t ever want to get over the gospel. I don’t ever want to get beyond the gospel. You might think that’s rather childish or that I don’t want to go deeper in my understanding and knowledge of the faith I proclaim. You would be wrong. You see, I believe there is nothing richer, more profound, or more beautiful than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul reminds us, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved (1 Cor. 1:18).” How could I ever exhaust the wonder of the power of God? How could I ever plumb it’s depths?
I think the mistake many Christians make is believing that the understanding we have of the gospel at the moment we surrender to Christ is all there is, as if the entire point of God’s revelation to humanity is to get us to the point of salvation. It is certainly not less than that, but it is so much more. Whenever Paul addresses the issues facing the Corinthian Christians he always makes his way back to the gospel. Why? because it is meant to penetrate every area of our lives. It has something to say about our spiritual well-being, our eternity, our marriages, our interpersonal relationships, our jobs, our hobbies, our education, our churches, and on and on.
Do you want to know something else? The gospel itself is not one-dimensional. We often get hung up on one aspect of what Christ did. Some theologians in the “Modern” stream of influence say that Jesus was just an example of how to live a life totally abandoned to God, or as one famous theologian described it, live in our “God-consciousness.” Did Jesus set an example for us to follow? Absolutely! That wasn’t the extent of his life, death and resurrection though – I can assure you of that.
Much ink has been spilled over the nature of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as well. What actually happened? Did God pay our ransom? Did Jesus take our punishment for us? Was the atonement vicarious or substitutionary (C.S Lewis says that these “theories about Christ’s death are not Christianity: they are explanations about how it works” (Mere Christianity.)? The answer the Bible gives is that our salvation is a rich, multilayered reality, it isn’t as simple as one cause and effect. Just as diamonds look more brilliant when they have more facets, and food tastes better when it has many layers of flavor, so the gospel becomes more beautiful and wondrous as we see it’s many aspects. This can only happen as we savor it and continually discover it throughout our lives.
1 Peter 1:10-12 should help us grasp the incredible privilege and unending task of exploring the gospel. Let me quote it in its entirety;
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who prophesied about the grace that would come to you, searched and carefully investigated. 11 They inquired into what time or what circumstances the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when he testified in advance to the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you. These things have now been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven – angels long to catch a glimpse of these things.
The prophets of old spent their lives investigating what they were given regarding God’s plan of redemption. Now we have the full revelation and “angels long to catch a glimpse of these things.” These things that angels long to see, we take for granted. The things that the prophets dedicated their lives to understanding we think can be completely comprehended by the “ABC’s of salvation.” When we lose the wonder of the gospel we lose the ability to see it in all its beauty and glory.
Yes, we are called to have “faith like a child” in order to receive what Christ offers us. That is part of the beauty of it – it is simple enough for anyone to believe. But we are not called to remain children. Don’t misunderstand me though, and fall into the error of the Gnostics who believed there was “secret knowledge” required for salvation, we do not grow out of the gospel or beyond the gospel, we grow into it. An infant needs milk and is not ready for creme fraiche though they are made from the same thing. A child may need pureed beans before being able to enjoy haricots vert at a fine restaurant. Gerber and Julia Child are miles apart, but if you follow Julia close enough you will see she uses only a few simple ingredients to make mouth-watering dishes.
The Corinthians church had a number of issues; divisions, immaturity, pride, unrepentant sin, and lawsuits among believers to name a few, and when Paul tried to get them back on the right track he always sent them right back to the gospel. In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul rebukes them for having trivial lawsuits among brothers that they were having the civil court judge. This behavior is decidedly unchristian and the apostle tells them as much. Then he reminds them about the gospel and just a few of the facets of their salvation. 1 Corinthians 6:11 says, And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. He doesn’t just say, “You are saved so you’re going to heaven when you die. So shape up.” Instead Paul points out three specific aspects of what it means to someone who has been changed by the power of God in the gospel. As such, they “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified.” While these three elements are certainly interconnected (every aspect of salvation is) their different offers a depth of understanding to what it means to have experienced salvation.
There are people in this world who have an unbelievable ability to appreciate wine. Those who make a profession of this sort of thing are often called “sommeliers” or “wine stewards.” What amazes me, and probably because I have precious little experience tasting wine, is that these people can detect the faintest hints of different flavors in wine. “Oh, this has a floral aroma with a oaky finish.” To the untrained, like myself, various wines might be described as sour grapes, less sour grapes, and sourest grapes. The sommelier has spent time with wines. They love and appreciate them, and because of their familiarity they can taste the complexity and richness of them. That is how I want to be with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I want to spend time with it, enjoy it, savor it, and with each passing day become more and more enamored with it and the beauty of a God who would offer it to me.