Earlier this year, I preached a sermon entitled, “What is the Gospel?” In that message, I attempted to provide the essence of the gospel, explaining it with six words (grace, man, God, Christ, faith, hope), then one sentence (“Our sin is imputed to Christ and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us so that we can enjoy God forever”), and finally, one word (substitution).
Many of these elements are contained in one concise statement in Galatians 1:
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.” (vv. 3-5)
This is the Gospel in miniature in which Paul reveals that the essence of the gospel is substitution — Christ died for us sinners, in our place. Further, he died to liberate us both from the penalty and power of sin.
But notice more particulars about this great gospel and God’s work in it, as revealed in this verses —
- Lord — We tend to think of our Savior by His earthly name, Jesus, alone. But He is also the Lord, the sovereign and master to whom every knee will bow.
- Jesus — Our Savior also was a man — fully man. He did not merely assume a similarity to man without being man, but in every sense was a man. He was born from a woman after a 9-month gestation and He knew intimately through real experience the physical limitations of manhood (like hunger, pain, tears, and weariness).
- Christ — The author of our salvation was also by title the Messiah. Sent from God, He also was and is fully God — the eternal and infinite God-Man.
- who gave Himself — Christ’s life was not taken from Him. He was not crucified against His will. The Jewish Sanhedrin, the Roman soldiers, and Satan did not kill Him. As an act of the will, He gave up His life (see Jn. 19:30).
- for our sins — This is the great doctrine of substitution. Christ died in our place. For us, He willfully and fully absorbed and satisfied the wrath of God so that God has nothing more against us. The debt of sin against a holy God has been paid. So our sin was imputed to Him and His righteousness was imputed to us — He was treated as if He had lived every part of our sinful lives, and we are treated as if we had lived every part of His righteous life (2 Cor. 5:21).
- so that — There is a further purpose in Christ’s death. He died as our substitute, liberating us from the penalty of sin, but there is even more that accrues to us through His death.
- He might rescue us — He also died to free us from the power of sin. He died to sanctify us in this present life so that we would no longer live for sin, but that we would also live for righteousness (see Titus 2:14). And notice that this is His work for us — we don’t cleanse ourselves and by our works make ourselves pleasing to Him. No, He rescues us. This is the component of the gospel that is often forgotten or overlooked. Frequently, Christ’s work to free us from the penalty of sin is emphasized and Christ’s work to free us from the power of sin is diminished, resulting in a “gospel” that becomes what is commonly called “fire insurance.” Such a gospel is no gospel.
- from this present evil age — We must live in this world, but we are not to live for this world (Jn. 17:15-17).
- according to the will — This was all the plan and purpose of God. The death of Christ and the gospel was not an accident, but part of the eternal plan of God.
- of our God and Father — This is the relational aspect of the Gospel. Because of Christ, God is not only God, but He is our God. We belong to Him and He belongs to us. But even more, He isour Father — He has adopted us so that we are His sons and He is our Father and Christ is our brother. The Old Testament refers to God as Father less than ten times, and the Jewish religious grew particularly angry when Christ referred to God as His Father — in their minds, there was nothing more blasphemous than when Christ made those assertions. Yet because of Christ, we also are now in a unique relationship with God as our Father, as Christ told Mary in the Garden (Jn. 20:17).
- to whom be the glory forevermore. This infinite gospel plan was designed to reveal the glory of God. In that sense, the gospel is not ultimate, God is. The gospel is designed to get us to God and to glorify God. Nothing reveals the greatness of God like the gospel of God. And we fulfill the purpose of the gospel not only when we are saved by the gospel, but when we glory in and honor the God who has designed and effected the gospel. The ultimate purpose of the gospel is God’s glory.
So in these verses, we have the gospel in miniature. But we also have the gospel in magnitude — the revelation of some of the fullness and depth and richness of the greatest gift ever given to sinful men.