The Gospel of Salvation
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The Scriptures are “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus,” wrote Paul.1 Since their purpose (or the purpose of the divine author who spoke and speaks through them) is to bring us to salvation, and since salvation is in Christ, they point us to Christ, as we have seen. But their object in pointing us to Christ is not simply that we should know about him and understand him, nor even that we should admire him, but that we should put our trust in him. Scripture bears witness to Christ not in order to satisfy our curiosity but in order to draw from us a response of faith.
There is much misunderstanding about faith. It is commonly supposed to be a leap in the dark, totally incompatible with reason. This is not so. True faith is never unreasonable, because its object is always trustworthy. When we human beings trust one another, the reasonableness of our trust depends on the relative trustworthiness of the people concerned. But the Bible bears witness to Jesus Christ as absolutely trustworthy. It tells us who he is and what he has done, and the evidence it supplies for his unique person and work is extremely compelling.
As we expose ourselves to the biblical witness to this Christ, and as we feel its impact—profound yet simple, varied yet unanimous—God creates faith within us. We receive the testimony. We believe. That is what Paul meant when he wrote: “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”2 …
The whole Bible is a gospel of salvation, and the gospel is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”3 So it points its many fingers unerringly to Christ, so that its readers will see him, believe in him, and be saved.
The apostle John writes something very similar at the end of his Gospel. He has recorded only a selection of the signs of Jesus, he says, for Jesus performed many others. He goes on: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”4
John sees the ultimate purpose of Scripture (“what is written”) just as Paul sees it. John calls it “life,” Paul “salvation,” but the words are virtually synonymous. Both apostles are further agreed that this life or salvation is in Christ, and that to receive it we must believe in him. Both present exactly the same sequence of steps: Scripture—Christ—faith—salvation. Scripture testifies to Christ in order to evoke faith in Christ, in order to bring life to the believer. The conclusion is simple. Whenever we read the Bible, we must look for Christ. And we must go on looking until we see and so believe.—John Stott5
Seeing Christ in all of Scripture
It’s appropriate that at the end of Luke’s Gospel,6 Luke recounts the interaction Jesus had with a couple of His disciples walking along the road to Emmaus.
Jesus—the Messiah—has been crucified, and the disciples are perplexed, unable to piece it all together. How did the Savior just die? But along comes Jesus, disguised as He has been throughout Scripture, and He opens their eyes to see that the whole of Scripture is really about Him:
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.7
Luke recounts that their “hearts burned within them”8 as their minds were opened.
Luke reveals to us an important fact: Knowing God’s plan and gift of salvation is deeply rooted in knowing the entire story. The good news doesn’t just reside in Part 2 of the Bible, the New Testament. The entire story of the Bible is about one person, one plan, one goal. That person is Jesus, that plan is redemption, the goal is the glory of God. It’s really a pretty simple storyline.
When we read Scripture, we need to look to see how the text relates or points forward to Christ. … The Bible is an eclectic book. It’s filled with books about history, poems, wisdom, songs, prophecy and in-depth narratives. If you read them only in part, you could miss out on a lot of what God wants to teach you. If you camp out only in your favorite parts, you’ll miss the fullness of the story.
The point of such a diverse group of perspectives and genres is to engage with a God who is not normal. Nor is He routine. Nor is He interested in simply giving us a list of rules and regulations to follow without passion or desire.
He desires to engage with you, to relate with you and to walk with you. So, approach the Bible eager to see what God is like. And knowing that God is exactly like Jesus, perhaps you can begin to look at the Bible with fresh eyes. When you understand that God has been pointing to Jesus from the very beginning, your study of the Bible becomes a whole new adventure.—Tom Hudzina9
God’s salvation promises fulfilled
There are over 70 mentions of “the kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of heaven” in the Gospels. The first-century Jews understood this to mean that Jesus would lead a movement that was going to defeat the Romans and bring about all the blessings God spoke about throughout the Old Testament. From things said in the Gospels, it seems that some of the disciples were thinking in these terms as well.
But that wasn’t God’s plan at all. The fulfillment of God’s promises that salvation would come through Israel to the rest of the world was going to happen in a manner that was completely unexpected. It was going to come through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Their messiah was going to look like a failed messiah, someone who had made big, bold promises, only to be executed by the authorities. But this “failed messiah” rose from the dead and never died again, and in doing so, He defeated death. Never before had someone died, been resurrected, and not died again eventually. There had been a few people who were raised from death, such as Lazarus, but these eventually died again. Jesus did not. In Jesus, God did a completely new thing.
Everything the Scriptures had foretold about the salvation of the world came to a climax through these events. There was a fundamental change which ushered in a new age, known as “the last days”; an age which started with the resurrection of Jesus and will end with His return, when the victory over death is completed, and those who have chosen to be His will be raised—body and spirit.
Jesus’ death and resurrection fulfilled the promises and covenants contained within the Jewish scriptures, and in doing so changed everything! With His death and resurrection, the temple was no longer needed, for sins would no longer be forgiven yearly through temple sacrifice, but would be forgiven eternally once and for all through the sacrifice of Jesus’ death. The temple was no longer to be the dwelling place of God, because after Pentecost, God the Holy Spirit dwelt in believers.
The gate that was closed after Adam’s sin has now been opened. The separation is no longer there. The opportunity to become part of God’s family is now available to all. Humankind has been given the right to become children of God through Jesus.10 God’s Spirit will dwell within and empower anyone who receives Jesus.
We, as members of God’s family, His adopted children,11 play a role in God’s great story, in His love for humanity, His love for His creation. For we are called to share this story with those who haven’t heard it, who don’t understand it, and who have trouble believing it. We are ambassadors of Christ, who have a personal relationship with God, and our commission from Jesus Himself is to share the message, to tell the story, to let others know that they can be part of God’s family. They can become part of God’s kingdom, of His new creation. Their sins can be forgiven, all for free, since the price of their entry into God’s family has been paid for. It’s theirs for the asking.—Peter Amsterdam
Published on Anchor August 2022. Read by Jerry Paladino.
1 2 Timothy 3:15.
2 Romans 10:17.
3 Romans 1:16.
4 John 20:31.
5 John Stott, Understanding the Bible, Scripture Union, 1978.
6 Luke 24.
7 Luke 24:25–27 NIV.
8 Luke 24:32.
10 John 1:12.
11 Galatians 4:4–7.