He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). At the heart of the gospel — at the heart of what happened on the cross to Jesus Christ — is substitution. It is Jesus taking the place, and therefore the punishment, of sinners who deserved God’s wrath. At the cross, Jesus got what we deserved. Isaiah 53:5 gives us this clear insight into Jesus’ death.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). Salvation means “to deliver” someone out of danger. Salvation, especially in the Bible, implies then that people need to be saved. It also implies that someone is able and willing to save the person who needs to be saved. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the only source of true salvation for any human being.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). Paul is speaking here to Christian believers, to those who have trusted their past, present, and future to Jesus as their Savior and Lord. And Paul reminds Christians that the Holy Spirit within us now gives us the true witness that we are his. The Spirit, it is important for us to recognize, is not lying to us. This is not merely some pep talk that the Spirit gives us, in order to make us feel better:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Nothing could be more purely practical than this passage, this claim by Jesus! Yes, it is a theological claim, but it should be far more than another point of orthodoxy for us as Christians.
Your righteousness is like the mountains… (Psalm 36:3) My family and I traveled to Denver, Colorado some time ago for a series of preaching appointments. During our stay, our generous host took us around to see some of the nearby sites, including several parts of the majestic Rocky Mountains. There is something all at once breathtaking, terrifying, and exhilarating about the mountains.
In John 10:16 Jesus says, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” When you hear these words, what is your gut reaction? Are you offended that Jesus is just as concerned about homeless people and third-world gorilla fighters as he is about you? Or do you feel unconcerned for “other” people, because they’re totally different than you, although Jesus loves them also?
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6). It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s true. You have seen someone trying to clean up their own mess before, and that this just ends up making things worse as long as they continue doing more of whatever caused the mess in the first place.
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). Paul’s expression of the Christian gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 is well known as one of the chief apologetic passages in the New Testament.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin… (2 Corinthians 5:21). On one hand, of course, Jesus’ excruciating death on the cross was wholly undeserved. The only perfect man to ever live should not have been tortured and then executed as a criminal.
In a worship service in which I recently participated, we sang this beautiful hymn by Charles Wesley. I believe it was my first time to be acquainted with it and the words struck me powerfully. Too little thought is given, and too few messages and songs are devoted, to the marvelous and gospel-centering truth that salvation now and forever is found only in the substitution of Christ on the cross, for sinners.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Although there is of course more to the fullness of Christian teaching than the brief creed the apostle Paul shares here, this what comes “of first importance”; this is the heart of the Christian gospel, the essential truths that separate Christians from non-Christians.
I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Notice that Paul couches the amazing Christian claim that “Christ died for our sins” in both Scriptural and historical language: “in accordance with the scriptures.”
I was blessed some time ago by Greg Gilbert’s book What Is the Gospel? This quote in particular struck me as helpful for Christians to consider, as we contemplate our motivation and message when it comes to evangelism: