The Gospel that Sets us Free
There, once again, are an array of internet theologians who attest that if you're not continually being freed from various struggles or sins, you're not in belief of the Gospel. The argument is also furthered by them when they state the Gospel didn't always exist so any examples prior, even Peter denying Jesus, isn't relevant. This is dangerous to both the church, the Gospel, and scripture.
First, what is the Gospel?
The good news is that the one and only God, who is holy, made us in his image to know him. But we sinned and cut ourselves off from him. In his great love, God became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, and died on the Cross, thus fulfilling the law himself and taking on himself the punishment for the sins of all those who would ever turn and trust in him. He rose again from the dead, showing that God accepted Christ's sacrifice and that God's wrath against us had been exhausted. He now calls us to repent of our sins and to trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness. If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ, we are born again into a new life, an eternal life with God.
What scripture tells us the Gospel is:
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But 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. 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.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus . . .
Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness . . .
1 Corinthians 15:3–4
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 . .
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree" — so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved . . .
Though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
In [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his Cross.
You, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the Cross.
When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
You'll notice that not all of these verses exist post-resurrection, but some are even in the Old Testament. It should also be noted that this list is not exhaustive. The first one on the list is where I'd like to focus for a brief time. The idea that the Gospel didn't exist before Jesus' death/resurrection is not only inaccurate but a dangerous theology that can have a rippling effect through someone's systematic or biblical theology. The Gospel wasn't hard to find before Jesus because it existed in Jesus before the foundations of the world. The Gospel is permeated throughout the Old Testament and even saves many before Christ ever entered our world as a baby boy. The irony is that we could go through every single book of the bible and show that the Gospel exists before Jesus death and resurrection. Jesus' actions on the Cross and conquering the grave fulfilled the Gospel that many put their faith in before the pinnacle event changed our universe forever. There are a few books out that cover each of the books of the bible, but we'll cover one for the sake of example here.
The Gospel in Exodus
Inside of Genesis, it records God's promise that Abraham would become a great nation (Gen. 12:2), Exodus describes the fulfillment of that promise (Ex. 1:6– 7). Moreover, God's covenant with the patriarchs, in which he promised to give their descendants the land of Canaan (Gen. 15:18; 26:3; 35:12), is the reason God delivers Israel from Egypt (Ex. 2:24). Although God presents Israel the law and comes to live in their midst, ultimately Israel will not be faithful to their covenant with him. Only in Jesus do we find a faithful Israelite who keeps God's law while simultaneously embodying God's presence with his people (John 1:14).
It wasn't the Hall of Faith's submission to the law that saved them. It was submission to the future Christ they saw in God's promises (Romans 4:1-8).
How does the Gospel set us free?
The Gospel is only thing that can set someone free from the bondage of sin. The only thing that can release someone from eternal torment, which we are all deserving of after this life. The Gospel is a relenting force driven by the Holy Spirit, fulfilled by Christ and long-promised by the Father. To get personal, the Holy Spirit set me free from an addiction to drugs after an overdose. I won't go into great detail in this article, but I should have been in the hospital, I should have been in withdrawal, I should have woken up and done what I always did: drugs. The next day, I was set free from the addiction that kept me from God. But God didn't free me from my anxiety, depression, and OCD variants. I still, to this day, struggle with every single one of them. So did the Gospel fail? No, not even close.
The Gospel is entirely able to free someone of everything. The Holy Spirit can heal, remove and eliminate what we struggle with. The reality is that we don’t get to be freed from everything all the time. Struggle can actually push us toward Christ and in dark times we may find a peace that we’ve never experienced before BECAUSE we are free in our struggles.
I'm trying to write articles for the general public that don't bore people to death over theological nuances. I could go on and on about the theological significance of what I'm about to say, but instead, I'll pray that it penetrates you as it does me. I'm okay that I struggle with these things because the Gospel changes how I struggle with these things.
Four Brief Ways the Gospel Sets us Free
First, the Gospel sets me free to fight alongside the Holy Spirit, who groans for me when I do not know what to pray for in moments of darkness and despair (Romans 8:26). I’m not fighting a battle alone, I’m indwelt with the Holy Spirit and I know that, like Elisha, there is a realm I cannot see and God is always with us in our battles.
Second, the Gospel sets me free to have moments of victory, which fall under a complete success in Christ when He returns. On this side of life, we won't have complete victory over sin, because it dwells amongst us. I can go into the Theology of Perfection, which Wesley held to, but I will not for the sake of time.
Third, the Gospel sets me free to have an eternal hope which resides in what Christ accomplished on the Cross. This hope is steadfast and remains even when my hope is gone. Whenever we lose hope in ourselves, in this life, the promise of hope from Christ remains. That hope remains upon us because Christ will never fail as we do.
Fourth, the Gospel sets me free to understand sin in this life better and allows me to repent of those sins. I don't think anxiety and depression are inherently sin, though they can be the result of lingering sin, they are often simply affects of this fallen world. The Gospel sets me free from the eternal results of sin, the burden of sin, and the weight of sin. The Gospel replaces the weight of sin in my life with the weight of God's glory.
These four things are among so many other ways the Gospel works in our lives. It continually regenerates our hearts toward the image of Christ; it turns our wills toward God's; it allows us to be sanctified. ALL of this is the redeeming promise of God our Father who, before the foundations, knew we would fall and need His saving Son.
If you're struggling, you no longer have to struggle alone. You have the Holy Spirit, the God-given church, and many other ways to fight off sin, struggle, and bits of this fallen world. I encourage you to set your eyes upon the coming redemption of this world, our bodies, and our souls. We will all be completely free one day in the likeness of Christ and His presence.