The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Good News of Jesus, is that Jesus died for our sins that we may have eternal life. Or put even more simply: Jesus saves sinners.
As we read these words, and just as we read the Bible, we hope that the images of the words which we see on the computer screen before us, will be understood by our mind, and will be retained in our memory.
However, if you ask an educator if reading text is a sure-fire way of learning it, the answer will be, no; for silently reading text in order to retain it, is not the most effective way to learn. Educators will tell you that the more senses you employ in studying, the more effective will be the results. Thus, reading out loud, since it also uses the additional sense of hearing, will be more effective than silent reading, for most people. Play-acting out a text, involves body movements, touch, speech, hearing and sight and is therefore even more effective in learning. Teaching others is a great way to learn, for you need to assimilate the information for use, not just for passive storage.
Envisioning the Gospel, is also an effective way to learn it. Having a picture of the Bible passages or Bible concepts in one’s mind is certainly one simple and effective way of giving ourselves a good chance of retaining and understanding scripture, in a deeper way. This is one reason why Jesus taught in colloquial farming word pictures – colloquial here meaning everyday, or local or common to the hearer’s daily experiences.
When we seek to do this with earnest intention, God, through the Holy Spirit, will help us, giving us a broader and deeper understanding of the scripture than we may have ever considered possible before. Indeed the Holy Spirit may well provide supernatural revelations for us, revealing understandings which are singularly focussed, applicable and apt for us in our present positions, our situation, of that moment. In doing this, the Holy Spirit allows us to align our hearts, with the will of God.
The writer of Hebrews 12:2 explains this, advising us:
“look to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
What better vision could be suggested to us than to “look to Jesus”. Here, the writer of Hebrews is saying to us: Look what Jesus did: He wrote our Faith in action; He finished our Faith in perfection with nothing lacking; for the joy of saving men and for the joy of sitting at the right hand of God the Father, He both endured the pain and shame of the cross and overcame it. The writer here is giving us a vision and saying “look.” He asks us to read and explore the words, the meanings and the actions so we can inwardly absorb them and meditate on them thereafter, at any time. This is a clear, succinct word picture, a vision of the Gospel, a simple vision of what Jesus did for us.
Hebrews 2:10-18 provides a longer word picture in more detail, laying out for us a wider understanding of how the Gospel works, in and through the works and the hands of Jesus saying:
“For it became Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons into glory, to perfect the Captain of their salvation through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of One, for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will declare Your name to My brothers; in the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.” And again, “I will put My trust in Him.” And again, “Behold Me and the children whom God has given Me.”
Since then the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise partook of the same; that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death (that is, the Devil), and deliver those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
For truly He did not take the nature of angels, but He took hold of the seed of Abraham. Therefore in all things it behoved him to be made like His brothers, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of His people. For in that He Himself has suffered, having been tempted, He is able to rescue those who are being tempted.”
We see here how Jesus became a perfect leader for us through His suffering. Suffering is not a natural condition for any human being and indeed Christ proved Himself human just like any one of us by asking the Father to take His cup from Him (Matthew 26:39) but adding “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Though a man, Jesus was aligning Himself with the very will of the Father in perfect submission and in perfect sonship. This is a good model for us. Further, notice the reference to a Captain, the controller of a ship, to the person charged with steering the boat of our salvation, through rough waters and dark nights, to the haven of home port. The writer here, in this word picture, also harkens us back to the messianic Psalm 22 which is quoted here, expanding the picture both in place and time – providing depth and colour beyond just his own words. This picture also includes the supernatural realm, which for most of us, at most times, is invisible. Yet, here we see why Jesus needed to become a man: to defeat Satan’s power over death. Here we have it confirmed and pictured for us, that Jesus is our High Priest and that He intercedes for us in heaven. For just as Jesus experienced pain and suffering personally in His life on earth, He can now help us through our own experiences. As we struggle, we can know that Jesus has empathy for us, for He underwent more than all of us. The Apostle Paul also underwent unimaginable trials and suffering for the Gospel, but the joy of that Gospel, and his absolute passion for that Gospel, shines through in his words and writings at all times.
From this wide vision of Hebrews 2:10-18 comprising heaven, earth, hell, priesthood, suffering and joy, the natural and the supernatural, we find in First Corinthians 9:23 a very simple word picture and vision for us: “And this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I might be partaker of it with you.”
Here, Paul provides a simple vision of the Gospel of Jesus, a vision of himself standing alongside us, no matter where we are or what we are doing. In truth, for a lot of the time in Paul’s apostolic life, he was indeed in suffering. As I sit here typing, it is just as if Jesus Himself, not just Paul, is alongside with me, giving me the words to type and emotions which roll over me as I come to new understandings of His Word, as the Holy Spirit reveals new meanings to me, word by word, line by line. As Paul wants to partake in the Gospel with us, so does the Holy Trinity, and the reality of this truth is tangible and palpable beyond doubt when one acts in earnest. Indeed, the Holy Spirit, the comforter, (of John 14:16, 25, 15:26 and 16:7) which Jesus said He would send to us when He returned to heaven, is called in the Greek the “παράκλητος”, the “paraklētos” or the paraclete; meaning one who comes alongside to help. We can clearly here how Paul’s words of Corinthians 9:23 are paralleled in the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John.
Paul also wrote to Philemon from a Roman prison cell during his first imprisonment, seeking, in total love and sincerity, a reconciliation between a runaway slave and his owner, linking and likening the bonds of slavery to the bonds which tied him irrevocably to the Gospel. Philemon 1:12 says: “Even receive him, that is, my own heart, whom I resolved to retain with myself, so that for you he might have ministered to me in the bonds of the gospel.” Here you see Paul linking his own heartfelt emotions with the Gospel, the good news of salvation, and wrapping them together in bonds, in ties which cannot be broken.
Finally, let us look at Second Timothy 1:11-12 in which Paul blends together a number of concepts, saying: “to which I am appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher of the nations. For this cause I also suffer these things; but I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to guard My deposit unto that Day.” Here Paul is saying, that no matter his sufferings, no matter what he has done as a preacher, an apostle or a teacher of the nations in which he has served, God is able to protect him from all his enemies, such that nothing in heaven or on earth will be able to take away that which the Gospel of Jesus Christ has given him. Paul knows well his future in Christ and was certain of eternity; the Gospel, to which he was in bondage.
We need to have the same vision of the Gospel and envisioning it in pictures will certainly go a long way to helping us in this endeavour.
Amen and Amen.
I come before You as an acknowledged sinner and lay my will down before you now. I ask You Lord, to change my life, such that I may be aligned with Your will in all things and at all times. I repent of trying to live my life my way, and ask You now to take control.
Father, I understand the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and that through His blood, I am saved. I pray, Father, that You will now make this Gospel real to me in a new way, as it was to the Apostle Paul, and grant me visions and understandings of the Gospel, which will touch my deepest parts and make them Yours. Teach me Lord, to meditate on Your Gospel day and night, such that it brings changes in me, such that all those in my family and in my places of work and recreation will also come to know You, in new and powerful ways.
In the name of my Saviour, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen, Amen and Amen.