Cliff's Edge

The Gospel

Plain and simple

Clifford Goldstein
The Gospel

All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3; see also Heb. 1:2; Col. 1:16, 17).     

“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7; see also Matt. 1:25; Gal. 4:4).

“Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him” (Mark 15:25; see also Rom. 5:8; Rev. 13:8).

What are these three verses, together, saying about Jesus?

The first verse teaches that whatever once didn’t exist but, then, did—did so solely through Jesus, because “without Him nothing was made that was made.” It was only in the early decades of the twentieth century that, between astronomy and Albert Einstein, humanity came to believe—instead of in an eternally existing universe (standard fare since Aristotle)—that the universe had been created. From phytoplankton to the 2 trillion galaxies careening through the cosmos—Jesus created it all. Which is a lot. The observable universe is an estimated 93 billion light-years wide. Maybe it is infinite, but we just can’t see that far. If not infinite, though, what borders its edges? It can’t be “nothing,” because if it borders the edges of the universe—then it’s something. 

The point? If we finite beings can barely grasp the creation, how can we grasp the One who, having created it, must be greater than it?

The second verse teaches that Jesus was born a human into humanity. If He could create the world, then He could certainly incarnate into it, if He wanted. Bigger than the mystery behind the metaphysics of the Incarnation, then, is the motivation. Why would He put Himself into humanity in the first place?

The answer comes in the third verse. His coming into humanity is amazing enough, but then allowing Himself to be crucified by some of the very souls He came to save? Remember, the One on the cross was the Creator of the cosmos, and He came here specifically to die for our sins (Acts 2:22-24; 1 Peter 2:24). If we have a hard enough time grasping, not just the cosmos but the One who created it—how do we even approach the idea that He, God Himself, died for us contingent, fleeting, and fairly wretched beings?

Also, Jesus’ death shows us the blasphemy of salvation by works. What? The self-sacrifice of the Creator of a 93-billion-light-year-wide cosmos (probably more)—that wasn’t enough to atone for our sins, so we’ll throw in a few good works just in case?

Nothing we do, or conceivably ever could do, could adequately respond to the cross. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. The Creator of “all that was made” died for us, offering us salvation, a gift, by faith. And what does He ask in return? To love Him, and to love those for whom He died. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11; see
also Luke 10:27). 

This is the gospel, plain and simple.

Clifford Goldstein

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His most recent book is Risen: Finding Hope in the Empty Tomb.