LET ME GET THIS STORY STRAIGHT
INTERSECT (Where the Bible Meets Life) is a regular column of ONE Magazine featuring Dr. Garnett Reid, a member of the Bible faculty at Free Will Baptist Bible College. Email Garnett firstname.lastname@example.org
It has been around for 2,000 years. You would think that after such a long time and seeing its power change millions of lives we’d have it straight by now. What am I talking about? The gospel—the good news of how Jesus Christ changes lives.
Sadly, though, many still discount or even distort the simple message. In our age of political correctness when we act as though no one has the “right” to be offended, some want to blunt the edge of Christ’s gospel.
“Cosmic Child Abuse”?
Consider, for example, Steve Chalke’s approach in The Lost Message of Jesus:
“How then, have we come to believe that at the cross this God of love suddenly decides to vent his anger and wrath on his own Son?” If this were the case, he suggests that God would be guilty of “cosmic child abuse” in “punishing his Son for an offense he has not even committed.” If Jesus suffered for our sins, the cross would be “a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son,” making “a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil” (182-183).
So just how have we come to believe that Christ died for our sins? We have received it from the very mouth of God in His own infallible word, that’s how. The fact is, He is an absolutely holy God who will not excuse our sin, our violation of His holiness. Indeed, God’s wrath falls upon us in our sin. “The wrath of God abides” on all who do not trust Christ, John’s Gospel teaches.
If that offends our smug, fragile pop culture sensibility, where no one’s to blame for anything, so be it! God is angry with sin, and He will pour out His wrath upon sinners—unless . . . .
Saved from Wrath
Enter the gospel of Christ. Jesus’ death was not a “sudden” decision, as Chalke claims, and to label it “a form of cosmic child abuse” borders on blasphemy. He, God, made Jesus to be sin for us—the Jesus who never sinned—so we might be made the righteousness of God in Jesus, Paul explains.
The formal word describing what Jesus did is “propitiation.” He suffered God’s wrath for us, satisfying God’s demand for total holiness in the punishment of sin. That’s how much God loves us; but that’s also how much He loves His holiness. When we trust Christ, His righteousness becomes ours, shielding us from wrath and judgment. God returns evil with grace, not with more evil.
That’s good news—the best news a person will ever hear! Paul said in the first chapter of Galatians that we had better get the story straight. Eternal destinies are at stake if we veer off course about the gospel just as certainly as if we never took the message to those who need it. An altered gospel, like one withheld, is no gospel at all.