A Broader Gospel
Reading Time: 28 minutes
A Broader Gospel
Reading Time: 28 minutes
A Basic Gospel
The Gospel of Mark opens with this verse “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1). The Greek word for ‘gospel’ is euangelion (εὐαγγέλιον), and it is used to refer to a message of victory, often a cryer who would announce the military victory of a leader or king.
The problem is this idea doesn’t normally feature in our most basic understanding of ‘the gospel of Jesus Christ’. If we were to break it down, for most people the gospel means four things;
- God loves us and made us to have a relationship with us
- Our sin separates us from God
- Jesus died for our sins and to bridge the gap between us and God
- We now get to have a relationship with God and live with him forever
The eagle eyed of you will notice there’s no mention of victory or kingship in this explanation. In fact, if you view these steps in terms of the Bible it skips from Genesis 3 straight to the gospels, with no mention of anything that happened in between.
Much of this condensed version of the gospel came from the early crusades; the likes of Billy Graham.
This isn’t a criticism of these men. They saw many people come to Christ through their ministries. Their view was that we needed to condense the gospel to its simplest form so that it could be communicated easily and quickly, and so others could easily understand it and respond to it.
The only problem with this is when this condensed version of the gospel becomes the only version we know.
The Gospel According to Acts
Now if you’re starting to get nervous that I’m adding to the gospel, and what I’ve highlighted above is the gospel in its entirety then I would encourage you to read through the book of Acts.
In this book we get examples of people sharing the gospel with others (Peter: Acts 2:14-36, Stephen: Acts 7:1-53, Paul: Acts 13:16-41). In each of these examples we get a much broader retelling of the story of the Old Testaments and the problems that it raised.
It’s then into the context of this Old Testament story that these early Christian bring in the good news of Jesus and explore how he is the solution to the Old Testaments problem.
And so if we want a broader understanding of the gospel we need to look at our whole Bible. To understand the story of the Old Testament and the issues it explores, and then the New Testament as we understand that Jesus is the solution to these issues.
This brings us back to the problem that leaders of the early Christian crusades were trying to solve. The Bible is a large complex book that most of us struggle to even read all the way through at least once in our lives, let alone understand.
A New Narrative
So my intention here is to provide a new narrative. One that covers much of the key notes of the Old Testament and explores how Jesus is the answer, while still being simple and condense enough to be able to understand.
My narrative is drawn from the ancient Israelite understanding of the Fall. When we think of the Fall we typically think of Genesis 3, Adam and Eve, a serpent, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and humans being kicked out of the garden of Eden.
For an ancient Israelite, the Fall is spread out across Genesis 3 all the way to Genesis 11. For them, the Fall goes through three phases, each showing a different aspect of what went wrong and the impact that it had.
So that’s what we’ll be doing here. We’ll look through each phase, through what happened, its significance, and how that flows through the rest of the Old Testament narrative. Then we’ll look to the New Testament to see how Jesus is the answer.
This is just one possible attempt at this. There will be many different ways you can unite this message in a way that can be understood, so if you don’t like mine try to find another one. The main goal is to try and expand our understanding so it covers more of the truth of the gospel than is covered in our more basic version of the gospel.
Before we can look at the Fall, we have to look at the context in which the Fall happened. Genesis 1-2.
In the beginning was God, and with God is a lump of clay, covered in water known as the earth. At this point the earth has no shape or design. Some versions of the Bible call this formless and void (Genesis 1:2).
So God begins to give this earth shape and form. To use language we’ll pick up later, God begins to establish his rule and reign over the earth by imposing his order and beauty on it.
He separates out day from night. He splits out the sky, the sea, and the land. He then begins to populate these spaces with plants, trees, and animals. Into the sky he places the sun, moon, and stars, which give us seasons.
Then as the pinnacle of his order and beauty, his rule and reign, God makes a garden, and in this garden he places humans, Adam and Eve.
And God challenges these humans to multiply and to spread this garden, this blueprint of God’s beauty and order, across the other. They are charged with spreading God's kingdom.
The plan for this was for Adam and Eve to apprentice under God. They weren’t meant to go it alone. Instead, in the mission of spreading God’s order out from the garden, God would guide them. He would advise them on what works and what doesn’t work. What things they should try and what things they should avoid.
This is the setting that we then enter into Genesis 3.
Fall Phase 1: Broken Relationships
Broken Relationship with Self
As we’ve said, the plan was for Adam and Eve to apprentice under God. But there was another way. Within the garden was a tree of the knowledge of good and evil. By eating of this fruit Adam and Eve would then have all the knowledge of what was good and what was bad, and theoretically could then go spreading the kingdom on their own.
In fact, a serpent comes on to the scene to persuade Adam and Eve that this option was better. He explained that with this knowledge, they could basically be like God, and so design this kingdom as they saw fit.
Adam and Eve take the bait, and the Bible says that “the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Genesis 3:7).
This always seemed strange to me. Are we meant to believe that Adam and Eve were walking around as naked as the day they were made without a care in the world, and it’s only now that they’re realising it?
But in some ways this makes sense. Those that have young children, typically young boys, will know that they have very little issue with getting naked. In fact, in a lot of cases it is preferred.
The reason is, they don’t have any knowledge or understanding of what could go wrong. They’re not thinking about what others are thinking, or potential threats that it might bring. They are just enjoying existing and being free.
Compare that to the adult experience. My wife and I got married last year (11th June 2022), and in the weeks running up to the big day I started to get nervous. It became very clear that soon I would have to be naked in front of this woman, and this wasn’t something I’d done before.
My head was filled with all of the potential things that could go wrong. What if she didn’t like what she saw? What if she laughed at me? If she rejected me? This was the person I loved and trusted above everyone else, and yet because of the knowledge of what could go wrong I was filled with insecurity and shame.
This is what Adam and Eve are experiencing at this moment. They are suddenly aware of the threat and risk that comes with laying yourself bare before someone else and they are filled with insecurity and shame. The healthy relationship they once had with who they were has now gone, replaced with cover ups and hiding.
Broken Relationships with Others
So Adam and Eve cover themselves with leaves and hide. Then God enters the scene and calls out to them and asks them where they are. Out come Adam and Eve,, and they admit to hiding because they were naked and ashamed.
When God asks them how they knew they were naked Adam uses this as an opportunity to throw his wife under a bus. “The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”” (Genesis 3:12)
Because of the new found insecurities within Adam he needed to justify and protect himself. His wife had gone from loving partner to collateral damage all to serve his own personal safety.
Needless to say, this excuse doesn’t fly with God, but the impact is clear. Where Adam and Eve were once united as one team, now they’re individuals who serve themselves first. Their relationship with one another is broken.
God even names this problem. “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband” (Genesis 3:16). For the first time in history, Adam and Eve would disagree. This has never happened before. A once happy couple would now find themselves at odds with one another.
And as we know this broken relationship isn’t limited to just couples. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament we read of countless examples of people at odds with each other; fighting, bickering, and even murdering to get what they want.
Broken Relationship with God
The ultimate consequence of this fall is that Adam and Eve are cast out of the garden, never to return. The constant and intimate access they had to God was gone.
The impact of this echoes throughout the Old Testament for many they continue to turn from God and move further and further away. For others, even when they want to be close to God they have to jump through hoops. When Moses, one of the greatest of all the prophets, meets God on a mountain he has to cover his face so he doesn’t see God directly (Exodus 33:18-23).
The priests, those who are chosen to spend time in God’s presence have to perform multiple rituals to prepare themselves, and they are heavily punished if they get it wrong (Leviticus 8-10).
And so, Adam and Eve, who had previously been experiencing healthy relationships with themselves, one another, and God, are now gripped by insecurity and shame, at odds with one another, and far from God.
This is the first phase of the Fall and we see its impact cascade through the rest of the story of the Old Testament.
Fall Phase 2: Polluted Spirituality
A Polluted Land
And so we come to the second phase of the Fall, and this phase is all about pollution and corruption.
The very next story after Adam and Eve in the Garden is the story of Cain and Abel, Adam and Eve’s first sons (Genesis 4:1-16). These two brothers bring offerings to God, but only Abel’s is pleasing to God.
Filled with insecurity and shame, Cain lets his jealousy get the better of him. He strikes down his brother, killing him. When God challenges Cain over what he’s done he says this, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10).
In this moment we see the impact of Cain’s sin. It pollutes the land with his brother’s blood. Our common understanding of sin is that we ‘miss the mark’ of what God requires from us.
This is true, but there are other factors to sin, and one of them is that it’s a pollutant. It contaminates the very spaces we find ourselves in. The book of Leviticus is devoted to this idea. Many of the rituals and sacrifices mentioned there are designed to cleanse away the pollution caused by the people’s sins.
And the problem is this pollution has a consequence. It was the ancient understanding that sickness, disease, and natural disasters were all caused by living in a world polluted by our sins.
We actually have a modern-day equivalent of this. Say you live in an area that has been exposed to radioactive waste. The more time you spend in that atmosphere, and the more toxic the space is, the greater the chance you’re going to get seriously ill.
Unfortunately, we live in a world polluted by centuries of people’s sin. God’s clean, pure planet has become a toxic wasteland.
The next key story appears at the beginning of Genesis 6, and it’s a weird one. We read of how the sons of God choose to breed with daughters of man (Genesis 6:1-2). Bare with, and I’ll unpack it.
The sons of God were rogue spiritual beings. Fallen angels for want of a better phrase, but we’ll stick with the term spiritual beings. The beings looked at the humans and noted that God had stopped giving them his immortality.
But they were spiritual beings. They were also immortal. Therefore, they could breed with human women, and create a new race called the Nephilim that would then share their immortality. They would then be like God to the humans.
Outside of the serpent of Genesis 3, this is the first concrete example we get of spiritual rebellion in the Bible. And the effect of this echoes throughout the Old Testament.
The Nephilim were a race of giants, and wherever they or their descendants pop up they represent spiritual opposition. So when the Israelites first go view their promised land they’re frightened because the land was filled with descendents of Nephilim (Numbers 13:33).
When David was a young boy, the Israelites were at war with the Philistines, who were led by a giant named Goliath (1 Samuel 17:4) who came from a family of giants (1 Chronicles 20:5).
So not only do we have to struggle with the pollution of the world around us, we also have spiritual opponents who are looking to corrupt and twist things against God’s ways.
Unfortunately, it goes one step further than that. Right after the story with sons of God and the Nephilim, we get this key verse, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5).
See not only does sin pollute the world around us, it also corrupts and twists our very hearts. The more the people sinned, the more corrupt their hearts became, and so the more they wanted to sin.
All of this meant that even those who wanted to live God’s way found their own hearts and desires working against them. The Apostle Paul names this problem in his letter the Romans. “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” (Romans 7:18).
The Israelites were perfect examples of this. In between leading them out of Egypt and leading them into their own land, God gives the Israelites guidelines for life. If they could only live according to those guidelines then they would thrive and prosper.
But they can’t, and time after time they find themselves far from God caught up in their own sin and destruction.
King David identified this problem in Psalm 51:10, and the prophet Jeremiah points out the corruption of our hearts in Jeremiah 17:9. Not only do we have polluted lands and spiritual opponents working against us, but even our own hearts betray us because of their twistedness.
Like David cried, we need God to give us a new heart, and the prophet Isaiah sees a time where God will do exactly that. There will come a time when God will give each of us a new spirit, and replace our hard, twisted hearts with hearts that are receptive to him (Ezekiel 36:26).
If phase 1 of the Fall was all about broken relationships, phase 2 is all about pollution and corruption working against us. Our sin leads to a polluted world that causes death, disease and destruction. We have spiritual opponents that are trying to corrupt and cause as much trouble as possible. And then our very hearts are twisted by sin, working against us to keep us from God.
Fall Phase 3: Fractured Kingdom
A Divided Earth
In the third phase of the Fall, the once united kingdom of God becomes fractured and broken due to humanity's repeated failures, corruption, and pollution of the land. One of the most significant manifestations of this rebellion against God is the construction of the Tower of Babel.
This tower, built as a monument to human pride and ambition, signifies their desire to make a name for themselves apart from God, ultimately leading to their downfall.
Exasperated by humanity's persistent defiance, God decides to take drastic action by disinheriting the nations. In an effort to put an end to their rebellious endeavours, He splits them up, spreading them across the earth like a parent having to separate naughty children.
Then God gives them unique languages so they will remain divided, unable to communicate with one another. Finally, he chooses to leave them to their own devices, no longer being their God.
The world, which was once under the sole reign of God, now experiences division and disunity. The unity that once existed under God's rule has been shattered, leaving humanity to navigate a new landscape of discord and strife. God’s kingdom is broken.
A Broken Kingdom
But we see a new plan appear in the very next chapter, Genesis 12. God chooses a man named Abraham (Abram) and promises to walk with him, guiding and mentoring him in the same way he had initially intended with Adam and Eve.
Abraham would then have children, who would have children, and so on and go on to become a new nation, and God would mentor and guide them all. The plan was that as this new group of people learnt to live in partnership with God, they could lead the rest of the earth back to him.
So Abraham has a son named Isaac, who has a son named Jacob, who has twelve sons. Those twelve sons have descendants, and over the course of 400 years end up as twelve separate tribes that together make the Israelites.
God then leads the Israelites to the promised land and guides them in how to partner with him.
However, their corrupt hearts and sinful nature prevent them from consistently following God's guidance. In their quest for stability and prosperity, they decide to establish a human kingdom, believing that this will solve their problems and secure their future.
Unfortunately, this kingdom is plagued by human leaders who frequently fall short of God's standards, resulting in further disarray and turmoil.
Their first king Saul doesn’t achieve a huge amount and is more interested in doing his own thing than what God wants. King David, considered the model king, ultimately succumbs to temptation and sin, tarnishing his legacy by seeing a naked woman, killing her husband and claiming her for himself. He nearly loses his throne because of it.
His son Solomon, renowned for his wisdom, uses his knowledge to accumulate wealth, power, and wives, rather than seeking to honour God and promote justice. To support his own luxury and his large army he taxes the people within an inch of their lives.
This meant that when he died, the people had had enough. The northern tribes decide to split off and do their own thing, unwilling to submit to southern kings. The nation of Israel, splitting it into two separate kingdoms – the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah.
Here we have the people chosen by God to be his representatives on earth, completely unable to keep their own kingdom together. As the Old Testament story continues, we witness the decline and eventual collapse of both the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel.
The Need for a New King
All this leads us back to the prophets, who see this fractured world and broken kingdoms and look forward to a solution. A new king.
If the earth is ever to be restored under God we’re going to need a new king. He would be like king David, but better. He would not only restore the kingdom of Israel to its former glory, but he would also bring all the earth together. (see Isaiah 9:6-7, Jeremiah 23:5-6, Micah 5:2-5, Zechariah 9:9-10).
This is the hope we’re looking forward to.
A Recap of the Fall
As we’ve journeyed through Genesis 3-11, and the Old Testament as a whole we’ve seen some clear areas where something needs to change.
In Genesis 3 we see the brokenness of relationships; with ourselves, with others, and with God. Once where there was unity, relationship, and intimacy, now there is self-preservation, insecurity and distance.
Then in Genesis 4-6 we saw the polluting impact of our sin. Sin isn’t just missing the mark. It’s a pollutant that contaminates the world around us leading to death, disease, and destruction.
We saw the first examples of spiritual rebellion that show us we have spiritual opponents working against us to corrupt what God intends for our good. Then, if that wasn’t enough, our own hearts have been polluted and twisted by sin, meaning our own desires work against.
Finally, in Genesis 11 and onwards we see the breakdown of God’s kingdom over the earth. What were once meant to be one people are not separate nations spread out and with different languages.
The new nation, who were meant to be led by God and guide others back to him, ended up destroying their own kingdoms, and we’re left with a strong need for a new king.
Broken Relationship. Polluted Spirituality. Fractured Kingdom. As we turn our attention to the New Testament, we will see how Jesus Christ is the answer to these problems and the ultimate solution to the issues raised throughout the Old Testament narrative.
The Solution Phase 3: A New Kingdom
Jesus is King
As we turn to the New Testament, the very first book we find is the Gospel of Mark. It was likely the first gospel written. In the very first verse of the very first chapter we get this “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1)
It’s not obvious straight away, but the word Christ comes from the Greek Christos (Χριστός), which is the equivalent of the Hebrew word Messiah (מָשִׁיחַ). The word Messiah means anointed one, and the primary person to be anointed in the Old Testament? Kings
Just in case you missed that the linguistic flow is Christ > Christos > Messiah > Anointed One > King.
In other words, Mark opens his gospel with “The beginning of the gospel of King Jesus, the son of God”. This understanding lines up pretty well with what we mentioned about the Greek word for gospel, euangelion (εὐαγγέλιον), at the start of this article.
In short, Mark wants his readers to know from the beginning that Jesus is the king that the prophets were speaking about. The one that’s going to come and restore the kingdom of Israel, and bring all nations together underneath it.
Then, as if to affirm this, we get Jesus’ very first words of his ministry just a few verses later. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15).
Jesus’ primary mission is to restore and bring about the kingdom of God. That’s what it is all about. So as we fast forward through Jesus’ ministry to his death on the cross and resurrection, we need to look at it as more than just a payment for sins.
It is that, and we’ll explore more of that later. But in light of Jesus’ mission to restore the kingdom of God it’s also him establishing his authority as king.
Who better to be king over all the earth than the one who defeated death and sin? Who was killed but rose to life? In dying and rising again Jesus has cemented his claim as king.
Restoring the Kingdom
Which is why in the book of Acts, as king, Jesus now goes about reclaiming his kingdom. And what’s his plan for this? You and me.
Before going back to heaven, Jesus lays this challenge before his disciples. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Again, his plan is clear. To reclaim the ends of the earth. But perhaps the most surprising part of this is that he entrusts this plan to his disciples, and followers. To us.
Then when we jump to the next chapter we see the plan begin to unfold. Jesus’ disciples are gathered together, waiting for the Holy Spirit to come upon them.
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” (Acts 2:4-8)
Let’s skip back to Genesis 11 where the earth was first fractured and God’s kingdom broken. Got split up all the people into different nations, gave them different languages to speak so they couldn’t understand one another, and told them he would no longer be their God.
Now, in Acts 2, we have God pouring out his Holy Spirit, a clear declaration that he will be their God. We see Jews from every nation gathered together in one place, and we see the Holy Spirit give out spiritual tongues so that everyone who heard could understand the gospel that was being shared with them.
Acts 2 is a direct undoing of the works of Genesis 11. If somehow you’re still not convinced we can dig a little deeper. Here’s the next part of the passage.
“Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2:9-11)
Let’s say you were to take all the places mentioned in this passage and highlight them on a map. Now put that map to one side a moment and jump to Genesis 10.
Genesis 10 is a listing of all the nations that God would split the people up into in Genesis 11. Take all those nations and highlight them on a map. Now compare your two maps. They’re the same.
Jesus has come as king over all the earth. The king that was spoken of by the prophets of the Old Testament. His death and resurrection displayed and affirmed his authority to be king. Now as king he’s come to restore all the earth under himself, and is commissioning us and his followers to make it happen.
I started with this ‘solution’ first because in many ways it is the most important. In a typical gospel understanding Jesus died to save and redeem ME. In this understanding, Jesus came to restore his kingdom and our role is to help him do this.
Don’t get me wrong, when a good king reclaims land captured by a foreign nation he will set free any captives. You are saved and redeemed. But our focus should be not on ourselves, but on his kingdom.
Solution Phase 2: Spiritual Cleansing
So Jesus is reclaiming his kingdom. But we still have the problem of pollution. The earth has been polluted by our sin. We have spiritual opponents working against us.
And to top it all of Jesus entrusted his plan to broken humans who have twisted hearts that are constantly trying to pull us away from God’s will.
Fortunately, Jesus has got that covered too. Going back to the Gospel of Mark, after announcing the coming of God’s kingdom, Jesus’ next act (after calling some of his disciples) is to go to the synagogue and read scripture (Mark 1:21-28).
While there he is challenged by a man with an unclean spirit. A demon. So we have a spiritual being, entering a human, for their own personal gain. Does that sound like Genesis 6? Spiritual beings, entering humans, for their own personal gain?
Here in the New Testament we see the continuation of the spiritual rebellion that started back in Genesis 6. But Jesus’ response? He tells the demon to be silent and to come out (Mark 1:25-26).
In that moment Jesus establishes a clear precedent. While we do have spiritual opponents they have no authority or control when faced with Jesus.
There was no wrestling or fighting. Jesus didn’t have to work hard to overcome this demon. He merely spoke and they had to obey. In Luke’s gospel we see Jesus give this same authority to his believers (Luke 9:1-2).
Then in the next chapter we see them come back to Jesus amazed at the authority he had given them. (Luke 10:17-20)
In his letter to the Ephesians the apostle Paul summarises this idea, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12). Each of these is a term for spiritual beings.
Spiritual opponents defeated? Check.
What about the polluted earth? Well next in Mark 1, Jesus visits the house of his friends Simon and Andrew, and there we see Simon’s mother-in-law ill with a fever. Jesus reaches out and heals her. Then later that night many who are ill come to him and he heals them too.
The reason this is significant is because, at this time, if someone was ill you kept them at a distance. You didn’t want to be contaminated by the very thing they had been.
But Jesus doesn’t worry about this. Why? Because not only is he immune to any pollution caused by sin, his very life washes it away.
In Leviticus, they sacrificed animals to cleanse pollution. The understanding was that blood was the source of life. Liquid life if you will. The best way to cleanse the pollution of sin was to wash it with blood, this liquid life.
Jesus is the embodiment of life (John 1:4), and like the animals of Leviticus Jesus was killed and his blood poured out at the cross. Unlike the animals of Leviticus, Jesus' death did the job once and for all.
His life and death is enough to cleanse all pollution and contamination from this earth. While in Leviticus the priests were the ones to spread the blood around to cleanse things, now it’s our job (1 Peter 2:9).
Spiritual opponents defeated? Check. Cleaning out all pollution? Check.
The only thing left is our twisted hearts. How can we possibly be expected to reclaim God’s kingdom and help him cleanse it if our own hearts are working against us?
Well we’ve actually already covered that. Going back to that prophecy from Ezekiel 36:26, God says he will give us a new spirit. In Acts 2 we saw God pouring out his spirit on his people.
We already have the thing needed to renew our corrupted, twisted hearts. The Holy Spirit.
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4)
Remember, the law wasn’t able to help the Israelites in the Old Testament. Even though they knew what to do, their hearts kept leading them astray.
But now, because Jesus has defeated sin we are able to not live according to our flesh, our hearts, but according to the Spirit.
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he makes it very clear what it means to live according to the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
The more we allow the Spirit into our hearts the more he helps renew them, allowing us not to follow our own corrupted ways, but in ways that spread love, joy, peace, and more.
Not only did Jesus come to reclaim his kingdom, he came to cleanse it. In many ways that starts with us allowing the Holy Spirit to renew our hearts.
The more we do this the more we can live in a way that produces the fruit of the Holy Spirit. This in turn allows us to go out in Jesus’ authority, rebuking any spiritual opponents that come to cause strife, and to undo the pollution that impacts our world.
In groups that are filled with bitterness, anger, and disunity, we get to spread joy, peace, and love.
Like Jesus, not only are we responsible for reclaiming God’s kingdom, we also participate in cleansing it.
Solution Phase 1: Restored Relationships
Finally, we come back to the beginning of the fall, and the area most of us are familiar with. The Gospel of Jesus Christ leads us to restored relationships with God, with others, and with ourselves.
John’s Gospel opens with a line about how Jesus restored our relationship with God, “But to all who did receive him [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
Because of what Jesus did, when we call out to God we can call him father (Galatians 4:5-6). Where Adam and Eve were separated from God, we now have access to him and are part of his household (Ephesians 2:18-19).
When it comes to our relationships with others, we’re all considered family in God, removing all need for hostility amongst ourselves (Ephesians 2:14-16).
In fact, the entirety of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians explores this idea, that because God has united us all in him, we must maintain that unity with one another (Ephesians 4:3).
As disciples of Jesus we are meant to be known by our love, (John 13:35). We put one another first, trusting that as we look out for the best of others, they in return will look out for our best (Philippians 2:1-4).
And finally, we have restored relationships with ourselves. Where there may have been insecurities before, we can now have confidence we are made new and whole in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).
We don’t have to live out of fear and insecurity any longer, because God has empowered us with love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).
And any time insecurities do start to worm their way back into our lives, we’re encouraged to turn to God. To bring it all to him and allow his peace to make us whole (Philippians 4:6-7)
I hope you can see the significance of this broader view of the gospel. It turns the focus away from ourselves.
It’s no longer purely focused on Jesus as saviour, and how he saves ME, and makes MY life better, so that I might one day be in heaven.
Instead it is focused on Jesus as king, which means we have responsibilities. We’re responsible for spreading his kingdom and cleansing this world. For doing the work on ourselves, allowing the Holy Spirit to renew so that we can fulfil our responsibilities better.
And perhaps most importantly, it brings our focus away from a future heaven back to the here and now. What are you doing now to further God’s kingdom? How are you allowing the Holy Spirit to renew now?
The Gospel isn’t that you’ve been saved and now get to sit happy waiting for Jesus to return.
The Gospel is that the king has returned, and that we get to reclaim and restore his kingdom now.
The condensed version of the gospel mainly focuses on God's love, our sin, Jesus' sacrifice, and our salvation. The broader understanding includes the entire narrative of the Old Testament, which highlights the different aspects of the Fall, the problems it raised, and how Jesus is the solution to these issues.
The three phases of the Fall are broken relationships (Genesis 3), polluted spirituality (Genesis 4-6), and fractured kingdom (Genesis 11). Each phase reveals different aspects of what went wrong during the Fall and the impact it had on humanity and their relationship with God.
Sin acts as a pollutant by contaminating the world around us, leading to death, disease, and destruction. The pollution caused by sin also affects our own hearts, making them twisted and working against us in our pursuit of living in accordance with God's will.
The Tower of Babel signifies humanity's rebellion against God and their desire to be independent from Him. As a result, God confuses their languages and scatters them across the earth, and leaves them to their own devices, no longer being their God. We call this God disinheriting the nations.
The new king, as prophesied in the Old Testament, is expected to be like King David but better. He would restore the kingdom of Israel and unite all the nations of the earth under God's reign, addressing the issues of broken relationships, polluted spirituality, and fractured kingdom.
It means that Jesus is the one prophesied in the Old Testament to restore the kingdom of Israel and bring all nations together under it. His death and resurrection established his authority as king, and as believers, our role is to help him reclaim and restore his kingdom.
Jesus' life and death, represented by his blood, is enough to cleanse all pollution and contamination caused by sin. As believers, we are responsible for spreading this cleansing power through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit helps us transform our corrupted hearts by leading us to walk according to the Spirit rather than our flesh. This results in the fruit of the Spirit, such as love, joy, and peace, which help us fulfill our responsibilities in God's kingdom.
The Gospel restores our relationship with God by making us his children, removing hostility among believers as we are all united in God's family, and providing us with confidence and self-discipline to overcome our insecurities and grow in our faith.
Our responsibilities include spreading Jesus' kingdom and cleansing the world, allowing the Holy Spirit to renew our hearts, maintaining unity with fellow believers, and focusing on the present instead of just waiting for Jesus' return. We are called to actively participate in reclaiming and restoring God's kingdom now.
Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.
With a deep understanding of ancient religious texts, historical contexts, and original languages Bryn Joslin is a dedicated Christian author and teacher who is passionate about helping others understand the Bible better. He strives to cultivate God's presence in the world and curate His word for the benefit of all believers.
Bryn understands that expanding the kingdom of God involves bringing peace, love, and unity to every situation he encounters. He shares God's love and message in tangible ways to make a positive impact on those around him.
With an appreciation of the importance of daily Bible study, Bryn has dedicated himself to helping others develop a strong foundation in their faith. He believes that immersing oneself in the language, imagery, and themes of the Bible is crucial to understanding its meaning and message.