“Give it to me in a 100 words or less.” Considering the sound-bite post-modern that he was, I suppose it could have been worse. But how to reduce the gospel to a paragraph?
Now that I think of it, the gospel writers did it all the time. The New Testament is laced with summaries, compact statements of the gospel message. Like Paul’s in Romans 1:2-4.
“This gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning his Son who was a descendant of David with reference to the flesh, who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (NET).
In his Daily Study Bible, William Barclay wrote that Paul sets forth here in its “most essential outline” the gospel he preached. As the apostle opens his letter to a church he has never visited, he signals some of the important themes he will develop and forms another marvelous summary of what the gospel is all about.
What points make up the essential outline on Paul’s mind when he writes to the Romans?
1. Prophecy. We have no secretive God, but one who tells us ahead of time his plans and intentions. With the Lord’s promise through the prophets, we know the Good News was a long time in preparation, the special project of a God who wouldn’t take no for an answer. So that these promises wouldn’t get lost, he had them written down in holy scripture. The heart might forget them, but God puts in writing for us that he will not lose track of his plan.
2. The Incarnation. God became man. That simple statement hides the most powerful paradox of all, the murkiest of mysteries, the toughest theological conundrum. And sparkles with the brightest of hopes, with the deepest laugh of joy, with love’s purest stream. The eternal God gave himself a beginning. The limitless Lord fenced himself in. The invisible Spirit was seen, touched, and diapered. The timeless Divinity rose with the sun, slept at night, watched the clouds for rain, lived by the calendar.
The Creator called a woman mom and a man dad. He who breathed life into a motionless body listened to parents tell of their ancestors. All because a rescue mission reached the hour of execution and the rescuer need descend into the muck and mire to extract the perishing.
As David’s descendent, Jesus pulled together all his Father’s promises to make good on the goodness of God.
3. The Resurrection. Jesus rose from the dead. God proved the mission was a success. The first of many laid aside his burial shrouds to live again and frighten guards to death, as the Giver of life ripped from death its prey and breathed life again into an expired body. The king of terrors met his match in the Lord of life. The cry “Jesus lives” became the seal of the Spirit, divine proof that God still worked and works today.
4. The Spirit. Words mean everything when the Spirit makes them so. When God appoints, the Spirit acts. In tandem with Father and Son, the Holy Spirit speaks and by speaking makes light appear, history turn out right, dead men walk, and cowards charge into battle. Hear from him no gibberish, but perfect sense. Flows from him, not confusion, but the fount of peace. He signs no treasonous truces, but carries a friendly sword. He says little of self to reveal the Master and cast the beams of sight upon the Father.
5. The powerful Lord. The final word is Jesus. The definitive work is his. The law required of men what they could not do; the gospel bestowed upon them what they could not give. From cradle to crown, from humbled servant to highest throne, from wood shavings under his feet to death and sin and the grave as his footstool, he is the Son of God with power, who completes his Father’s work, who works while it is day, who has food to eat besides what lies on a plate. He is the powerful Lord, who accompanies every effort for good, upholds the weak, retreads the weary, embraces the lonely, heals the wounded, calms the fearful, and enlightens the bewildered.
Not merely a thousand voices blend in unison with his name upon blasphemous lips, but a million hearts wholly consecrated to do his will move in concert to fulfill his greatest desire, the obedience of faith.
Next week, “The Essential Outline: The Bottom Line.”