The gospel is good news, not good advice. It doesn’t tell us what we must do but rather what God has already done for us. And what He’s done for us is so monumental and complete that we literally can’t add anything to it. In fact, the gospel is such good news that the prophet Isaiah asks with curious wonder, “Who has believed our report?” (Isaiah 53:1). Is it believable or unbelievable? Well, that’s the question, because we will be tempted to think it’s just too good to be true. And yet the paradox is it’s too good not to be true.
The Greek word for gospel is euangelion. During the time of Christ, the word was in common use in the Roman Empire. When Caesar would achieve a military victory, a messenger would be sent to the people with the proclamation, “Euangelion!” Good news! This meant that the war was won and Caesar was victorious. The response of the hearers was, “Caesar is Lord!”
The apostles made an extremely daring and dangerous move by laying claim to the word euangelion for what Christ had accomplished and declaring, “Jesus is Lord.” Doing so essentially equated to launching a political revolution. We know this is how their movement was perceived because Scripture records the response of their opponents: “These are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus” (Acts 17:7). It was clearly understood that the apostles were claiming that Jesus, not Caesar, is the true king and that His kingdom was triumphant over Rome and all other earthly empires.
There is a backstory called the Old Testament that makes beautiful sense out of the gospel as set forth by Christ and the apostles.
…the fall of Adam and Eve into sin was both a moral fall and a governmental fall.
God created Adam and Eve and gave them the earth as their home, charging them with the task of populating and beautifying the earth. They were given “dominion over the earth” (Genesis 1:26). They were the rightful rulers of the world. “The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s; but the earth He has given to the children of men” (Psalm 115:16). They were to govern the world as bearers of the divine image. “God is love” (1 John 4:16). Having been made in God’s image—made to love like God loves—Adam, with a whole lot of help from Eve, was to procreate in “his image” (Genesis 5:3). They were to govern from the relational premise of other-centeredness, while procreating the image of God from generation to generation, thus perpetuating a benevolent lordship of the world.
Clearly, then, the fall of Adam and Eve into sin was both a moral fall and a governmental fall. By violating the relational integrity of love between themselves and God, and between one another, they released into the world the governing principle of selfishness in place of love, and by doing that, they gave over their position of rulership to the evil one who is the originator of that principle. The earth was now under the control of Satan himself. This is why the Bible calls him “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4), and “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). Satan is the unseen spiritual force that feeds the selfish impulses of humanity for the formation of the cultural, social, economic, political, and ideological systems of selfishness and hate. “We know,” John says, “that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19).
After Satan took control of the world, God issued a prophetic warning to him in the presence of Adam and Eve: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). In this first gospel promise, God says He will send a warrior into the world to crush Satan and overcome his rulership of the world.
Jesus didn’t come to rule the world as God, but rather as man.
Fast forward to Jesus announcing His mission: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Clearly, Christ has come to reclaim the world from satanic dominion. The word kingdom is composed of two words: king, of course, and domain. A kingdom is a domain under someone’s rule. But here’s the crucial part: Jesus didn’t come to rule the world as God, but rather as man. He became a human being in order to take back the world as a human being for all human beings.
So, when the apostle Paul applies his studious Hebrew mind to the task of interpreting the gospel of Christ for us, he names Jesus “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45; Romans 5:12-20) and the “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15). John calls Him “the beginning of the creation of God” (Revelation 3:14). Jesus is the new corporate head of humanity, succeeding in covenantal faithfulness where Adam failed. Because He lived out the full image of God that Adam forfeited, He is the starting point of a new creation. He is the prototype of a new human order who exemplifies what humanity was meant to be from the beginning.
As the second Adam, Christ has taken the earth back from Satan. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Jesus explicitly stated this as the Father’s end goal: “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). By His life of perfect love for God and for humanity, Jesus re-introduced into the world the governing principle by which God intended the world to operate all along. And then, by His death on the cross, He defeated Satan by loving all others above and before Himself, even to the point of complete self-sacrifice. Explaining the significance of His upcoming death on the cross, Jesus said to His disciples, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:31). Paul said it like this: “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15, NIV). While it may have looked like Christ was defeated at the cross, He was actually triumphant by virtue of the fact that He died with God’s love fully intact within His human nature. Therefore, “by His death” He broke “the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). “God raised up” Christ from the dead “because it was not possible that He should be held by it” (Acts 2:24). The resurrection of Jesus was the triumph of the principle of love over selfishness.
In the light of His victory over Satan, sin, and death, Jesus explained that there is only one thing left to do:
…this good news is too good not to be true.
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
We carry to the world news that sounds too good to be true: Jesus is Lord! Love is triumphant! Human identity has been recreated in Christ. He has defeated the enemy and brought the world back under human dominion, just as God originally intended. The victory is not ours to achieve but ours to enjoy and proclaim.
Maybe it’s your first time hearing the good news. Maybe you’ve heard it a million times, and somewhere along the way it didn’t feel believable anymore. No matter where you’re at, we want to remind you this summer that this good news is too good not to be true.
This year’s convocation will be hosted in beautiful Collegedale, Tennessee. We will miss everyone in Oregon, but you can still join us online or in person. So mark your calendars and register today for this year’s convocation, July 6-10—a five-day journey through Scripture to reveal that the
unbelievable is believable.