By Charles Colton Allen, Biblical Studies Student and Student Fellow of the Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement at Liberty University, Member of Reformed Episcopal Church. @CCAllen27
The gospel should never be reduced to simply a message of personal salvation. Doing so leaves us with a malnourished understanding of the gospel. It is much more than a message of personal salvation, but this is not to say that personal salvation is not an important part of the gospel. Instead, personal salvation needs to be understood in its appropriate context: a story within the gospel narrative.
The gospel is the good news about the kingdom of God coming and with it life, truth, beauty, goodness, and love uncorrupted. The good news is Jesus the chosen one of God, the messiah, ushering in the kingdom of God and defeating sin and death. However, this was not done in a way we would expect. This messiah, this Jesus, initiated the coming of the kingdom of God and the end of sin and death by dying a death fit for criminals and slaves: crucifixion.
This is quite the quandary. How does a crucified messiah bring in God’s Kingdom? How does death overcome sin and death? Jesus the messiah was crucified to say “Yes!” to these questions: “is there a loving God?” and “will every bad thing become untrue?”
From God’s very being come forth life, truth, beauty, goodness, and love. If these things come from His very nature, then He must make untrue all things contrary to His nature. There is no room in the kingdom of God for sin or death. “Yes!” God will make every bad thing come untrue, but humans are in a grave predicament.
We all have shown to be contrary to God’s nature in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Will we be made untrue? God says “No!” because He has said “Yes!” to humanity in being the citizens of His Kingdom. However, God has to do something about our corruption, our sin, so that we can be a part His kingdom. In being crucified and dying, Jesus the perfect lamb of God canceled the debt of sin for humanity (Col. 2:14), and has cleared the path for humans to become citizens of the kingdom of God.
Jesus’ life does not end in death though. Three days after His death, Jesus was raised from the dead. In His resurrection, Jesus rendered sin powerless because death, the result of sin, was overcome and defeated. The citizens of the kingdom of God no longer have to worry about sin and death reigning ever again. Instead, the one who truly reigns is Jesus in the kingdom of God.
This is the revolutionary fact of the good news. The reason why Jesus will be reigning in the kingdom of God is the same reason why Jesus could be the perfect lamb of God and why He was raised from the dead: Jesus is God Himself incarnate. In King Jesus, God has shown solidarity with humanity and dwelt among us.
Now why all this for humanity? Why did God humiliate Himself to live and suffer as a human (Phil. 2:6-9)? The Gospel of John tells us that God’s motivation for sending Himself in His Son was His love (John 3:16). Here it has been shown the answer to the question that weighs on our hearts and minds. Here is the loving God, and this loving God says “Yes!” to humanity being the citizens of His kingdom so that we can be His people and He be our God (Jer. 24:7, 31:33, 32:38; Ezek. 11:20, 14:11, 37:23-27; Zech. 8:8; 2 Cor. 6:16; Heb. 8:10).
Since the foundations of the world, there has been a gospel narrative that has been going on the whole time. This narrative is of God overcoming sin and death to establish His eternal kingdom through Jesus. This kingdom has been established by Jesus and for Jesus who is and will be the king of this kingdom. Humanity has been given to Jesus to be the citizens of His kingdom. Therefore, there must be personal salvation in order for humanity to participate in the good news of the kingdom of God. This is the place of personal salvation within the gospel.