Gospel Position Paper
I want to remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved… 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, and that He was raised on the third day…
1 Corinthians 15:1-3
Gospel Transformation is about the person and work of Jesus Christ (Gospel) being the full and sufficient power of God to bring about the true and necessary change (Transformation) that God has designed for human flourishing. This work of God through the church is sustained from beginning to end, by His grace and for His glory.
In short, we all want to see & experience change in many areas of our lives and the world around us. But many of us struggle to agree on what that change needs to be and/or how that change needs to take place. The intent of this brief paper is to help bring unifying clarity to the kind of transformation that is central to what the bible speaks about, and how that transformation is designed by God to come about. To get started, we must first define some key terms that lay the foundation for what Gospel Transformation is, and why it is so essential:
Brokenness & Sin
Just about anyone, no matter their religious beliefs, can agree that something is not right in the world around us. Turn on the news or thumb through your social media feed and you’ll instantly see the evidence of the brokenness that surround us. Violence & murder, racial hatred, environmental calamities, disease and sickness, tragedy and death— they are all visible reminders that the world in which we live is somehow not as it should be. For that, we can all agree. But where we tend to deviate is in the “why.” Why is the world as it is? And our answer to that question will then ultimately determine how we approach seeking a solution to transform this brokenness that surround us.
Many people within our culture tend to view this brokenness as merely external issues of behavior that need to be controlled or curbed. So in accordance with this view, we will naturally seek external solutions for these external problems: greater political reform, stricter societal laws, innovation in science, technology, and medicine, self-improvement therapy, non-profit ministries of mercy and social justice, etc... And these are all well-intended, good and common graces that we have employed to help meet the perceived needs of the brokenness around us. Ironically, however, after millennia of human advancements in all of these areas, our world is still just as broken as it has ever been. None of these solutions have been able to bring about a cure for what ills us. And the reason is because we have misdiagnosed the problem, and have sought to treat the symptoms, rather than the disease.
The bible informs us that the central problem we face are not ones that are outside of us, but rather one that is within us. It’s not external, but internal. The bible defines this disease as SIN. “Sin” is an old archery term that simply means, “to miss the mark.” In biblical terms, it is any attitude or action that runs in rebellion to both the character and will of God, and thus brings with it catastrophic consequences. The Scriptures tell us that sin first entered the world in a garden, where the first man was given the choice to walk in trust-filled obedience to God and experience the fullness of life He offered OR man could, in disobedience, reject the promises of God and turn towards self, resulting in eternal death and brokenness in all of our relationships. Man ultimately chose the latter, and as a result, God not only cursed him, but all who would come through him— as well as the physical earth in which he dwelt. This understanding brings clarity on our brokenness in three major ways:
- The curse on sin helps explain why we suffer in brokenness like we do. We suffer primarily in three ways:
- The brokenness of our sin that brings self-destructive damage on our own lives
- The brokenness of others’ sin that brings abusive collateral damage on our lives
- The brokenness of a cursed world around us, where disease and natural calamity wreaks havoc on our bodies
- We see that sin is not just the external behaviors that we perform, but rather stems from the internal disease that we possess (and are born into this life with.) According to Jesus, all of our broken behaviors are simply symptoms being manifested from the disease of sin that runs deep within our hearts.
- Therefore if we want to see true transformation of our brokenness take place, we must understand two things:
- Treating the behaviors (symptoms) will never bring about lasting change. It is the heart that must be engaged & transformed.
- Because of the sin that lies within us, and the curse that is upon us, man is totally incapable of changing his own estate through his own efforts. This transformation and rescue must come from something (or Someone) outside of this world.
The Good News
Gospel is a biblical term that means, “glad tidings” or “good news.” The “Gospel” of the bible is that God has found a way to bring rescue and transformation for the brokenness that our sin has created in our lives and world. God has accomplished this by sending His own Son, Jesus Christ, into our world to take upon Himself the due penalty of our sins, and in exchange, provide for us His perfect righteousness, that we might be reconciled in our relationship with God and with one another. Jesus accomplished this through His substitutionary death on the cross (dying for our sins) and resurrecting from the grave (providing us the newness of life). Now victorious over sin, Satan, & death, Jesus promises to return once again to bring about the full consummation of His Kingdom for His people. All this work of Christ is His grace for us, received freely as a gift through our faith and trust in Him. Jesus’ triumphant work on the cross assures us of three primary promises regarding sin and its effects:
- Past Grace: The Gospel has rescued us from sin's penalty
Jesus’ work on the cross cancels out our debts before God, absorbs His wrath towards our sin, gives us His righteousness, adopts us back into the family of God, restores our access to the Father, tears down the dividing walls between our fellow brothers and sisters, and secures our lives with Him after the grave for all eternity. All that was lost in the garden can now be restored through the perfect work of Christ on our behalf.
- Present Grace: The Gospel is rescuing us from sin's power
Even though sin’s penalty has been paid for, sin’s presence still exists, seeking to exert it’s power over our new lives. But thankfully, because of His work on the cross, right now Jesus sits victoriously on His throne at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us daily. He has sent His Holy Spirit to come live within us and regenerate our once dead hearts. This ever-present power within us frees us from guilt and shame, renews our minds, transforms our will & affections, and enables us to walk in the newness of life that He has purchased us for.
- Future Grace: The Gospel will rescue us from sin's presence
Ultimately, Jesus, as our new and rightful King, promises to one day return again and bring about the full consummation of His Kingdom. In that day He will eradicate sin’s presence by judging Satan & the wicked, and then bring about a new heaven and earth where there will be no more sin, no more pain, no more brokenness— just the enjoyment of God’s presence for all of eternity.
With this view in mind, we begin to see that Jesus is not only the central figure in all of human history, but it is His triumphant work on the cross that serves as the greatest news and the greatest hope for all of human history. In fact this is the central message of the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation… telling one unified story about our God, who so loved this world that He sent His Son to come rescue, redeem, & reconcile us. It’s no wonder why the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth that this Gospel was delivered to them as of “1st Importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). There were a lot of societal ills in Corinth. There was much injustice in Corinth. They were a community filled with rebellion, hopelessness, despair, and brokenness of every kind. But Paul understood, the one thing (above any other thing) that had the power to bring about true transformation in all areas of their lives and community was the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Given our need for an inside-out transformation that only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can provide, we must seek to ensure that the Gospel is the central mission, motive, and means for all we believe, say, and do...
The Gospel as our Mission (What?)
Consider the following Scriptures:
- John 3:17 - For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him
- John 20:21 - …as the Father has sent Me (into the world), so I am sending you.
- Matthew 28:18-20 - And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
- 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 - Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us this message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
- Ephesians 5:15-17 - Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
The Gospel is the mission of the church on earth. We exist to bring glory to God by unashamedly proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all men and women throughout the world, so that they can be reconciled to God and each other, just as we have been. This is primarily what we are to be doing with the time we have left.
The Gospel as our Motivation (Why?)
Consider the following Scriptures:
- 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 - For the love of Christ compels us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
- Colossians 1:16 - For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.
- Philippians 3:7-14 - But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
The Gospel is the motivation that fuels our mission on earth. We’re compelled by the grace & glory of Christ, the good of His church, and the advancement of His Gospel. The horizontal reconciliation we seek for the world is only compelled by the vertical reconciliation we have already received (and will receive) in Christ. We understand that we exist not for our own glory and our own selfish-kingdom gains, but rather for His. In light of the grace we have received, we are free to pursue this mission out of delight, rather than duty.
The Gospel as our Means (How?)
Consider the following Scriptures:
- 2 Peter 1:3 - His divine power has granted to us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge
of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
- Galatians 3:3 - Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
- Romans 1:16-17 - I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes
- Romans 8:11 - But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give
life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
- Titus 2:11-14 - For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and
worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our
great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His
own possession, zealous for good deeds.
The Gospel is the means by which we accomplish our mission on earth. The Gospel cannot be reduced to only “Christ died for you so that you can be forgiven… but the rest is up to your own strength.” Christ’s work on the cross not only has the strength to save us, but also continues to provide the daily strength to sustain us and send us out.
The Mission of The Well Community Church
At The Well Community Church, we believe in the power of Gospel Transformation so much, that it saturates every aspect of our mission statement:
Helping people connect to God, and to each other, in every neighborhood
Helping People Connect to God (Personal Gospel Transformation)
This is the vertical aspect of the Gospel in which individuals are reconciled to God through the person and work of Jesus Christ. This involves helping people understand the depth of their sin that has separated them from God & the grace that has been made available to them through Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. By transferring their trust from their own works to the work of Christ on their behalf, they can then experience the full abundance of God’s grace that not only saves them, but also sustains them to now live a transformed life as fully devoted followers of Jesus through the power of the Gospel. In short: We want to see people come to know and love God. We want to see people grow in their relationship with Him and experience the fullness of redemption and restoration in their lives. We believe only the Gospel of Jesus can bring about this kind of transformation.
To Each Other (Communal Gospel Transformation)
This is the horizontal aspect of the Gospel in which individuals are reconciled to one another through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Not only does the Gospel transform us as individuals, but it also transforms us as a new community— a new family of brothers and sisters called “the church.” The Gospel destroys the social walls and prejudices that sin creates. It brings about a new humanity of diverse races, nationalities, genders, educational & socioeconomic backgrounds, etc..— all united as one body under the headship of Christ. Knowing this, we’re all the more eager to spread the Gospel so Christ’s church can be built up and strengthened together by His grace. In short: We want to see Christ’s church grow in love for one another and be built up in faith together. We want to see the body of Christ equipped for the service of ministry together. We believe only the Gospel of Jesus can bring about this kind of transformation.
In Every Neighborhood (Local & Global Gospel Transformation)
The beauty of the transforming power of the Gospel, is that it’s not limited to one particular people, location, or generation. Christ’s mandate is for all peoples, at all times, in all places. Therefore we wish to seek this transformation, both locally (within our city) and globally (in all nations). There are lots of investments and endeavors we could spend our time engaging in, lots of noble activities, associations, and partnerships we could spend our time participating in— but the primary work, of first importance, that the Lord has assigned His church, is to actively reach the lost world around us through Gospel words and Gospel deeds. In short: We want to see our cities and our world reached for Jesus. We want to see the lost saved, injustice eradicated, and the grace and power of God rescuing and restoring full communities. We believe only the Gospel of Jesus can bring about this kind of transformation.
An Example of Gospel Transformation
One of the greatest biblical pictures of Gospel transformation is when the Apostle Paul visits Ephesus in Acts 19. In the midst of a very dark place of immorality, idolatry, and social injustice, Paul faithfully proclaims the Gospel and sees a large number of people put their trust in Jesus and experience His forgiveness and grace in their lives. Luke tells us this work of the Gospel “increased and prevailed mightily” to the point that their personal transformation began to spill over into communal transformation, as this new church began to form and ban together in love for God and one another. This communal transformation then took off so much, that many of them began to repent in their hearts and publicly renounce their former practices of false worship and idolatry— so much so that corrupt businesses in the city began to shut down, because there were no longer enough consumers for their products anymore. From there the gospel spread to such a degree, that Luke tells us “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord” simply because of the transformation the Gospel produced right there in Ephesus.
This is the power of the Gospel. This is why we want to see the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the central focus of all we do. This is why we want to be driven by prayer, not pragmatism. This is why we want to preach God’s wisdom, not the worlds. This is why we always want to see Gospel deeds accompanied by Gospel words, and Gospel words accompanied by Gospel deeds. In short, we want to see people come to know and love God. We want to see people grow in their relationship with Him and experience the fullness of redemption and restoration in their lives. We want to see Christ’s church grow in love for one another and be built up in faith together. We want to see the body of Christ equipped for the service of ministry together. We want to see our cities and our world reached for Jesus. We want to see the lost saved, injustice eradicated, and the grace and power of God rescuing and restoring full communities. We believe only the Gospel of Jesus can bring about this kind of transformation.
Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:20-31