Gospel in One Word

What is the Gospel? 

If you can only summarized it in one word, what word will it be?
Applying this one-word formula will force one to pick up the most important ingredient of the message.

So what is your one-word gospel?

For me, the one word will be Life (zoe).

Let's look at John 3:16
  • Joh 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
The last 2 words "everlasting life" describe the type of life that God has given to those who believe in Him.

We have to go back to the original Greek to have a better understanding.

Everlasting is aionion G166 Thayer Definition:
1) without beginning and end, that which always has been and always will be
This means that time is no longer a restrictive dimension. It goes beyond the limitation of time. It transcent time. The speed of light is 300,000 km/sec. It is the fastest speed possible and is the constant in the E=mc^2. Our solar system belongs to the galaxy called Milky Way. It is 100,000 light years across. The universe has many galaxies. You can understand that the speed of light is indeed very slow. But now, with the new Zoe life, we transcend the limitation of time and can travel to any where in the large universe instantly! We can appear and disappear any where. Of course, not with this present body but with the glorified body as Jesus did. ( Jn. 20:27 As they were gathered in the house, behind closed doors, the risen Christ came and stood among them.2 Cor 5: 4b we want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by everlasting life.)

Life is zoe G2222   Thayer Definition:
2a) of the absolute fullness of life, both essential and ethical, which belongs to God, and through him both to the hypostatic “logos” and to Christ in whom the “logos” put on human nature

Everlasting is not a good translation. Unsaved sinners also have everlasting life, except that they are suffering in hell. The Thayer's definition of without beginning and end is a much better translation. Only God is without beginning and end. God transcend time. So a better translation is 'timeless', to 'time-transcending', which is an attribute of God.

Zoe in Thayer's definition is clear in saying that it is God's kind or God's quality of life. This Zoe-life is higher than human-life, animal-life and plant-life.

So John 3:16 says that if we believe in Jesus as Son of God, we will have a new kind of life, the God's kind of life.

God's kind of life will have attribute that it is righteous, complete, full, sinless, holy, timeless, power, etc .... like God. If we don't have God's kind of life, we cannot be children of God and we cannot inherit His Kingdom.

The Common Gospel Message
Most of us heard the gospel as "Jesus came to paid for our sins and give us eternal life".

We ask the people to pray the sinner prayer so that they can be saved. A typical sinner prayer goes like this " Dear Father, I confessed that I am a sinner. I repent of my sins. I thank you for sending Jesus to die for my sins. I accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. Amen!". A better version will add "I am now a new born Child of God.".

What is wrong ? Compare this to John 3:16. With following verses...
  • Rom 10:9  That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Rom 10:10  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
  • Joh 5:24  Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. 
  • Joh 6:40  And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. 
  • 2Ti 1:10  But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel
  • 1Jn 4:15  Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. 
  • 1Jn 5:13  These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
  • 1Jn 5:1  Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God:
The criterion for receiving eternal life is simply "believe Jesus". It has no mention of sin! One can argue that "sin" is implied in the "believe Jesus" part. What is the meaning of "believing of Jesus". What to believe about Jesus?
  • Jesus is the begotten Son of God (John 3:16, John 6:40)
  • Jesus as Lord of all, including me (Rom 10:9)
  • Jesus has resurrected (Rom 10:9, which also means Jesus came as man, and die for man for our sin on the cross. Here sin is mentioned. See 1 Cor 15).
  • Jesus is sent from God that we believed (John 5:24)
 In 1 Cor 15, Paul gives a fuller explanation of the Gospel that he preached.
  • 1 Co 15:3 ...how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; 
  • 1Co 15:4  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
  • 1Co 15:22  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
  • 1Co 15:34  Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.
  • 1Co 15:45  And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
Emphasize New Life and We Will Sin Not
What is my point. My point is that we have placed too much emphasis on sins and not on the New Life. The only way to overcome sin is not be sin focus but be life focus. This is in 1Cor 15:34 awake to New Life of of righteousness and sin not.

When we shine the light of the New life, the ugliness of sins will reveal. The goodness of God will bring conversion rather than condemnation of sins (which most people will say they are not that sinful to receive such condemnation and curse God!). We don't know how bad we are until we see how good God is. The Law that was given was to show the goodness of God. It was the Law of Liberty (James) but was some what distorted to become the Law of Bondage! We seek books for secrets to happiness, how to be millionaires, how to be successful in life etc... But the secrets are in the Ten commandments all along! How corrupt one can be until we see the light.

I am not advocating that we ignore sin - Overcome sin with Life living.
We have not spend enough time and exposition on the New Life of, with, and in Jesus Christ. Spend more time living the healthy and victorious new life in Christ. Php 4:4  Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Php 4:8  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

If we sometime do fall in sin, meet sin face on. Call a sin sin rather than give excuse. Bring the light of Christ, the power of Christ into our sin and see the deliverance. Get up and get going.

Here is a balanced view.

  1. Unbelievers =  No Concept of Debt of Sin and No Provision of Life (by Christ)
  2. Legalism = Know Debt of Sin and Not Seeing the Provision of Grace/Life of Christ.  Resulting in life of Fear, Pride, Judgmental, Burnt-out, Complains,
  3. Easy Believers or Ultra Grace = No Understanding of Debt of Sin (See sin very lightly) and Seeing the Provision of Grace, result in unchanged life.  See grace as license to sin! Hell insurance bought.
  4. True Believers = See Debt of Sin (treat sin seriously) and seeing the Grace/Life Provision of God and therefore living in Victory and Joy.
Victory comes from living in the new life in Christ. A life of light (as in 1John) and righteousness and empowered by grace. 

The Gospel is about Zoe-Life and not just forgiveness of sins.  It is a rebirth - Born Again into God's Life. The Cross has two sides. It proclaimed the death of sin. It is the beginning of New Life. Live on the new life and not on the past sins.

See also Demands of Eternal Life - Love God & Men.


Complete as No Lack

A very interesting and important question was asked in our Bible Study group meeting.

We have the following verses about complete and all.
  • Col 2:10  And ye are complete in him...
  • 2Pe 1:3  According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness,  
 If we are complete, why do we still sin, at least sometimes?

A brother said, "while we are complete, we are not perfect."

We use illustration of a seed. A water-melon seed is a complete while we have not seen the water-melon yet.  We have to plant the seed, water it, and give it time to grow and eventually we will see the water-melon. If the seed is incomplete, it may not grow at all.

A human fetus is complete as a human. It will grow up to be a human. It has the complete DNA of a human. A new born Christian has the complete life of God - Zoe life. Otherwise, we cannot be children of God. Because we are a complete Zoe Life, we can communicate with God and we can go to heaven where God is when our lives on earth is completed.

Seeing Complete as No Lack
Chinese has a saying that "while the sparrow is small, all five organs are complete". We cannot say sparrow is not complete because it is small. 

The need to grow does not mean one is incomplete. We don't say a child is not human because he/she needs to grow.

Growing up is a process that takes time, resources and learning.

We could perhaps see complete as "no lack". There is no lack of power to become what God want us to be. All we need to do is to draw from Him, follow Him, and given time, we slower become to be like Him. But the ability to become like Him is already present at the start else we will never be like Him. We are in this growth process of shedding our Adam's DNA through our body and mind with new DNA of God in the Spirit. We are to let the Spirit expands to take over our mind and body so that may think and act like Him.


Humility is Forceful Too

From my study of I Ching, I am discovering new perspectives on the key Christian values.

I have shared that 'waiting', as taught in the Bible, may not be just waiting idly. Waiting in the mean-time is full of activities, complains and even sabotages. We have to persevere through them all.

We now take a look at another virtue, humility.  It is the hexagram #15 Humility.

Commentary on the Hexagram #15 Humility: 
  • “have it” - resources, ability. If don't have them, there is nothing to be humble about.
  • “don’t show it” and
  • “use it”. When the situation calls for it and if you have it, humility requires you to use it to help and not to hide it!
  • It is not passive but quiet aggressive actions without drawing attention to self.
The Additional Wisdom from the 6 Stage-lines are:
            1. develop humility
            2. let your action do the talking
            3. accomplished and yet don’t claim credit but give credit
            4. do more good things
            5. do corrective actions to remove bad things
            6. expand humility by sharing it with others so that they may have it too

    Humility, in I Ching's description, is indeed a very active one.

    Humility is
    1. have-it, yet 
    2. don't-showoff-it, but 
    3. must use-it. 
    It is the ability, resources or authority that one possesses. Most of us understands the first 2, having it and yet not show off with it. The third is what is missing in most definitions of humility.
    If one have the ability or resources, one is obliged to use it where the need arises. 
    If you have money and there is a person without food, we are to buy food and give to the person who is in need of food. That is called love in action. We are to love not only in words but also in deeds.

    Jesus cleansing of the Temple is an act of Humility
    We can then understand why the most humble person of all, Jesus Christ, can clean out the corruptions occurring the temples.
    In I-Ching, we are to use it in two ways - doing good and removing evils.  
    Jesus had done both. He died for our sins and raise us up with new life that overcome sins.

    Humility is not passive but active, quietly at least, in using one's ability, resources and authority to do good, and to chase away evils, making corrections and thereby establishing the kingdom of God on earth.

    With the 'accomplishing worthwhile mission" in mind, we will fill the need for us to learn and stay humble rather than being boastful. Boastfulness is past oriented but humility is future oriented.

    See also: Kingdom Principle: Law of Humility


    Performance and Relationship

    Performance by itself is good. We all want to do well in life. A healthy person will want to and will perform well. The motivation to do well is intrinsic. The problem comes when we perform to gain something else. A typical 'something else' is love or acceptance or relationship.

    Performance Can Never Get True Love Relationship
    We were indoctrinated since young. Children are told to behave well and get a good result in schools so that their parents will love them. We are told to do good work, attend church activities regularly, be holy so that God will be pleased and will accept us. We fail to see that if we perform to get a relationship, to get love, then the object of the relationship is not us, the person, but the performance. We are loved not because of us, but because of the benefits, such as money, service, a good name that we bring to the person we want to love from. With all the hard work and performance, we actually did not achieve the goal of true love from the people we want. Simply stated, performance cannot obtain a true lasting relationship for you as a person.

    A true relationship, or true love, has to be built on something else besides performance. Rich people should understand this well. They are never sure if their spouses married them for themselves or for their money. A true relationship comes from something else, like a blood-line.

    There is the quote from a famous Chinese author Bing Xin, 冰心《寄小读者》:

    "有一次,幼小的我,忽然走到母亲面前,仰着脸问说: “妈妈,你到底为什么爱我?”母亲放下针线,用她的面颊,抵住我的前额,温柔地,不迟疑地说:“不为什么,只因你是我的女儿!”

    Once, when I was very young, I suddenly went in front of my mother, lifted up my head and asked, "Mama, why do you love me?" Mother put down the needle and threads, put her face to my forehead, gently and without hesitation said, "Not because of anything, just because you are my daughter!"

    Relationship Always Beats Performance
    A true relationship, like blood-line, needs no performance, to be truly loved. Whenever performance comes against a true relationship, relationship wins. This explains the difficulties many daughters-in-law face with their mothers-in-law. No matter how hard the daughters-in-law perform to please her mothers-in-law, the mother-in-laws always put her own daughter first. She does not have to please her mother, unlike the daughters-in-law, and she will be favored!

    There is another relationship that is independent of performance. That is Creation-Creatures relationship. The Creator creates and loves his creation unconditionally. God, the creator, is love. He loves unconditionally and truly. Mother's love is just an example for us to appreciate His love. Because of His love, He dies for us while we are still sinners. He extends his love of acceptance and new life to us. Because of love, he cannot force it on us. He can only try to draw us. After we accept His unconditional love and new life, I find it very strange that we often teach people to perform to get acceptance and love! After we are accepted, we need not perform to get acceptance again. Do we then need not perform? There is no need. But, we intrinsically want to perform. Not because we want to gain love, but because we are loved. We can and want to perform because we have a new life of love and health. We will perform well just as our heavenly Father, who is a great performer who created the whole universe.

    Grace Based Performance - Performance not for Acceptance but for Glorification
    So we now perform, not for acceptance, but for glorification, for us and God because God is glorified through us. They will see our good works and glorify God.  We are given the Grace to draw upon, in our performance. Our weakness is no excuse for lack of performance, because when we are weak, then we are strong in the Lord. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. People will be impressed when we do things, through His grace working in us, beyond their expectations. To go further when they would have stopped. To love when taking revenge is seems more pleasing to the flesh. To bear when striking back seems the more manly thing to do. But our trust and our strength are of the Lord, and we know God will be wise judge and will execute judgment and deliver the righteous. Continue to follow His Kingdom principles, be strengthened by His grace, no matter the times. Let His light shine forth through you.


    What is better than "The Just Shall Live by Faith" ?

    We have the famous saying of "The just shall live by faith" by Martin Luther. It was probably right for his times when the emphasis should be on faith and not the works of the laws. But I find the statement could be misleading. The utmost keyword, "Jesus", is implied and not explicitly stated. Which is more important,  "Faith" or "Jesus"?

    If we take a statement out of a context, then we should, as much as possible, keep the right keywords in place, so that we will not create misunderstanding and be easily distorted by others.

    Let go back to the original Bible text, Gal 2:16

    In most translations, using ASV as an example, it is translated as:

    Gal 2:16  yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed on Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law: because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

    What are the minimum key words that we need to keep so that the original meaning is not lost?

    May I suggest "The just shall live by faith in Christ". (trying to keep as close the proposed quote by Luther).

    Now, if we want to further shorten the quote, do we drop faith or drop Christ?

    1. The just shall live by faith
    2. The just shall live in Christ
    Which one is the true gospel?

    I would suggest that 2 "The just shall live in Christ" as more accurate especially the context is not cited in the quote.

    Faith alone does not save. Having faith is not the key at all. Having Christ is the key to a new life.

    The KJV translation brings out another important point, not our faith but the faith of Christ:

    Gal 2:16  Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

    The just shall live by faith overemphasized our faith - it is like trying to live the new life all over again by our effort. We exercise our faith in Christ. We try to believe and trust in Christ. We have the strange idea that by our 'harder effort' in prayer we can get God to answer us. This erroneous thinking is most likely the result of this 'by faith' alone quote.

    We will be glad to know that it is not our faith but the faith of Christ given to us that really work. What are the keywords for New Creation living? The words are abiding, yielding, follow-after, resting, etc. It is not about us exerting but about us yielding to, resting on, follow the leading, pulling, strength and accomplished works, walked out paths of Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit. Our job is to receive and then resting on and in Jesus Christ. It is less about us and more about Jesus.

    The just shall live in/by Christ.

    When we write a precise or come out with a quote or a tag-line, please make sure we don't drop the keywords and distort the meaning. People reading just the quote have no knowledge of the context. Will they misunderstand your quote?