When you hear the word “gospel”, what typically comes to mind?
For many of us, we most likely think of salvation. We think about the amazing work God accomplished through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We are reminded of how Jesus died as our substitute—bearing the full weight of God’s wrath toward sin so that we could participate in the full measure of God’s grace. We are enamored by a God who pours out His favor abundantly through offering us this salvation, while also enabling us through His Spirit to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Php. 2:12).
According to Jesus, the “gospel” is so much more than only your salvation. It is the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan for this world foretold through the Law and Prophets of the Old Testament. It is the story of God’s relentless pursuit of hardened people in rebellion against Him. Its important for us to see the distinction between God’s story of redemption (gospel) and the effect that story has on the human heart (salvation).
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18 ESV)
The text describes how Jesus is bringing us to the climax of the redemptive story God foretold through the Old Testament Scriptures. He does this by making a brief, but bold statement. He says, “I have come to fulfill the law”. This is good news for humanity, and I don’t find it mere coincidence that the greek word used for gospel (euangelion) literally translates to “good news”.
According to Matthew 5:17 here is the gospel according to Jesus: I have come to fulfill the entirety of the Law and Prophets. This means Jesus has come to complete the entire redemptive story of Scripture and bring it to a designed point. This includes salvation, but isn’t limited to only mean salvation.
When we make the gospel out to be about salvation only, we are tempted to see it as something God is only doing for our personal good. The gospel becomes all about us and not about Jesus. This causes us to miss the essence of what makes the gospel so incredible. God is redeeming all of creation, not just you. He is calling us to join Him in the mission of spreading His reign on earth through the process of making disciples. When we limit the gospel to salvation only, we become people more focused on making decisions for Christ rather than being disciples of Christ (McKnight, 2011). There’s a big difference.
How does Jesus’ fulfillment effect the way we live?
Jesus’ fulfillment of the law causes us to receive the grace of God
We are made alive with Christ because Christ fulfilled the Law. Jesus has done what we could never do. He lived a perfect life in fulfillment of the Law and died a horrendous death in fulfillment of the Prophets. This life we never could have lived because our hearts are hardened by sin. The death he died mirrors the eternal punishment we deserve. Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law and Prophets is credited to us by the grace of God. Because Jesus did it, it is like we did it, and the eternal punishment we deserve is no longer ours to receive because he received it. We are recipients of God’s favor in salvation because Jesus fulfilled all that God required in the law and received all the wrath that we deserved. This is an incredible gift from God.
Realizing the depth of this gift must move us to a posture of worship. This should stir in us an awe worth sharing with the people in our lives. Understanding God’s grace in light of the gospel changes us to such a degree that we cannot help but share this “good news” with others.
Jesus’ fulfillment of the law causes us to receive the righteousness of God
We see in the Law, God’s standard for what it means to be righteous—being seen as good in the eyes of God. Looking at the heart, there is no one seen as good in the eyes of God (Rom 3:9-20). We are all under wrath and are going to receive it. Since true goodness is measured with our obedience to the Law, the only one who can be seen as good in the eyes of God is Jesus because he obeyed it perfectly. This goodness is referred to in the Bible as the “righteousness of Christ” (Rom. 5:18; 1 Cor. 1:30-31).
The righteousness of God has been shown to us by Jesus whom the Law and the Prophets point to. God knew we would never be able to ascend to the level of righteous by our effort to follow His commands. But Christ, ascended to the level of righteous through his own obedience to the commands of the Law. We have access to the righteousness of Christ through our faith in Him. This how we can be obedient to God now that we are in Christ. This is how we can regard the commands of Scripture as joyful and not a burden. We have received the righteousness of Jesus Himself. God has taken the initiative to remove completely the stain of sin in our lives shown through our hard hearts and replace it with the goodness of Jesus.
Jesus’ fulfillment of the law allows us to receive the promise of God
Since Genesis 3 when sin began it’s corruption of God’s perfect creation, God in his love for humanity made a promise to bring them back (Gen. 3:15). God promised to restore them and give them life. To give them hope and ultimately to give them Himself. The promise of God was always that his people would prosper. There is no greater way in this world to thrive, prosper, and grow than to know God. The promise to prosper is a promise to bring humanity back to a place where they can truly know God.
His love for us is incredible. It has cost God much to redeem us. But he paid that price, no matter how high, in order to unite us with him again. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. That whoever would believe in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life. (Jn. 3:16)
As you reflect on the beauty of the gospel, I pray your understanding of salvation is enhanced in light of God’s redemptive story. As we move into the life of Jesus as a faith family, I hope we would see the gospel with the same lens Jesus does: The completion of all God has planned since the beginning of time—communicated through the Law and the Prophets.
McKnight, Scot. The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.