This post is the first in a series of five, unpacking some concepts I didn’t have time to explore in a 35-minute sermon.
One of the reasons that the sermon I shared still causes me to laugh is that the concept of the Gospel (which literally means “good news”) is like a diamond. It seems to have a limitless number of facets. As I told my wife, Dani, as I was trying to trim the sermon down to a manageable length, this could easily be a 6-week series. If I had the opportunity to do a series on the subject of the Gospel, one concept would get a great deal of attention.
The Gospel is both personal and cosmic, about humanity and about all of creation. I shared a definition of the Gospel I shared in my sermon was “the good news of what Jesus accomplished and its impact on humanity and all of creation”. Because the primary focus of my message yesterday was the personal nature of the Gospel (the humanity part), this definition was helpful. However, I wanted to make sure I examined the “all of creation” part too.
The Gospel in its personal nature involves four stages.
First, our creation in the image of God, with a calling to steward all of God’s creation.
Second, our fall into sin, depravity, and brokenness, as a result of rejecting God and going our own way.
Third, our redemption and reconciliation with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God.
Fourth, our restoration to our original purpose in creation and our ultimate co-ruling with God the Father in the new heavens and new earth, as described in Revelation 21-22.
The Gospel in its cosmic nature involves the same four stages, with some unique nuances.
First. God created everything from nothing and called it all, culminating with the creation of mankind, which he called very good.
Second. Men and women rebelled against mankind, unleashed the power of sin and destruction into creation. Every part of creation now bears the impact of brokenness and longs for stages three and four. (see Romans 8:18-25)
Third. God sent his son, Jesus Christ, whose crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection defeated the power of sin and death that had victoriously reigned over creation until that point.
Fourth. God renews and restores all of creation, culminating in the emergence of a new heaven and new earth, and the New Jerusalem. (see Revelation 21-22)
While it is very important to discuss the personal impact of the Gospel, we must never lose sight of the cosmic nature of this good news. I grew up hearing a cliched statement – “if you were the only person on earth, Jesus would’ve still come to die for you.” As I got older, this statement bothered me more and more. I understood the sentiment of God’s heart as a lover of Prodigals. But, this hypothetical hyperbole muddied the waters. The Gospel and the work of Jesus Christ are about something so much bigger than just me and my sin.
Others recognize this important tension – between personal and cosmic. In their abridged version of the Bible called The Story, Zondervan introduced some helpful verbiage. The Story editors use the terms Upper Story and Lower Story. The Upper Story describes what God is doing on a cosmic level, in all of creation. The Lower Story describes what God is doing on an individual level, in the lives of persons. In his book, The Explicit Gospel, Matt Chandler gets at the same theme with his terminology – the Gospel on the Ground (cosmic) and the Gospel in the Air (personal). (If you’re looking for more helpful reading on this subject, I recommend Ron Martoia’s Static.)
As we recognize the inescapable importance of the Gospel in the foundation of our identity and our reading of Scripture, we must fight the narcissism and self-absorption of our age. The good news of what Jesus has done is not only for humanity but for all of creation. That’s why the Scriptures don’t end with a giant nuclear bomb going off blowing up and wiping everything out like God’s giant eraser. Beginning with God’s response to Adam and Even in Genesis 3 and continuing with his statements after Noah and the flood in Genesis 8, we see God commit Himself to the path of redemption and restoration, not the path of destruction and recreation.
Like most things in the Scriptures, there is a dynamic tension in play here . When the tension is solved instead of managed, something is lost and an incomplete picture is the gift to future generations. The Gospel is about what God has done to make all of creation new, including you and me. And that’s ridiculously good news for all of us.
I hope you will join us for the rest of this series and capture a sense of how big and grand the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for all of us (and all of creation).