Look Closely At The Gospel!
Rom. 5:6-9 & 8:9-14; Heb. 6:7-9; 1 Pt. 2:18-25
 
By Paul Robison

In 1993, a movie was made about a Secret Service agent named Frank Horrigan. The movie is entitled In The Line of Fire, and it deals with a question that each guardian of the President must ask: "Can I take a bullet for the President?" When Horrigan began as a young agent, he was assigned to guard President Kennedy. On that fateful day in Dallas in 1963, when the assassin fired, Horrigan froze in shock!  This terrible memory haunts him, but he continues his service and grows in his conviction that the President is such a valuable leader that his own life is worth giving to protect him.  In fact, as the movie climaxes, another assassin makes an attempt to kill the President, and Horrigan did what he was unable to do three decades earlier—he threw himself into the path of the assassin's bullet to save the chief executive.  There are some interesting twists based upon this movie that we'll consider in a few more minutes.
 
There is something interesting in story of the crucifixion that a British scholar discovered.  Listen to what he found out: "We have looked at the three individuals—Judas, Caiaphas, and Pilate—on whom the Gospel writers fasten the major blame for the crucifixion of Jesus, and at those associated with them, whether the temple guards, the priests, or the soldiers.  Of each person or group, the same verb is used: 'to hand over' ... First, Judas 'handed Him over' to the priests (our of greed). Next, the priests 'handed Him over' to Pilate (out of envy).  Then Pilate 'handed Him over' to the soldiers (out of cowardice), and they crucified Him. ... We too sacrifice Jesus to our greed like Judas, to our envy like the priests, to our ambition like Pilate. 'Were you there when they crucified my Lord?' the old spiritual asks. And we must answer: 'Yes, we were there.' Not as spectators only but as participants, guilty participants, ... handing him over to be crucified. ... There is blood on our hands.  Before we can begin to see the cross as something done FOR us, we have to see it as something done BY us" (Stott, 58-59).  Something else was "handed over" in this story as well.  We'll notice it in our conclusion.
 
Today's admonition is: "Look closely at the Gospel!" The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:1: "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you ..." and then he explains what that gospel is in verses 3-4: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures."  So let's look closely at the gospel, at Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection!  When we do, we're going to see four interesting realities.
 
When we look closely at the gospel, we first see the reality of God's astounding love!  Let's look at Romans 5:6-9: "For when we were still without strength in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him."  Let's notice what four commentators say. “Not only was it the right time in terms of the sweep of history, but it was the right time in the sense that we were powerless to break the chains of sin.  We were unable to help ourselves.  Bound by sin and destined for an eternity apart from God, no amount of struggle could free us from condemnation” (Mounce).  Did you notice how this text describes mankind?  We were without strength, ungodly, and sinners.  Verse 10 even adds that we were God's enemies.  Paul knew that we had blood on our hands.  Another commentator adds: “Here Paul shows the greatness of God's love by contrasting it with man's love.  To die for a good man is great love.  But Jesus died for sinners—for those who were His enemies.  To die for those who hate us and abuse us is love supreme” (Whiteside).  A good brother notes: “Have we really considered what this means?  Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Nero, Stalin, Hitler, Tojo, Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, Al Capone, all murderers and torturers of humanity, men whom we despise and hate with a purple passion, were loved by God, and Christ went to the cross for them” (Allen).  Notice how another commentator explains verse 9: “The death of the Messiah on our behalf, when we were weak, helpless sinners (verses 6 and 8), demonstrates how much God loves us; and if He loves us that much, He can be trusted to rescue us from the coming day of judgment. ... If God has done the difficult thing, how much more is He likely to complete the job by doing the easy bit” (Wright). “God is the Father who, having forgiven His prodigal son, watched daily for his return (Luke 15:20).  Little wonder that the beloved disciple John exclaimed: 'How great is the love the Father has lavished on us!' (1 John 3:1).  The proof of God's amazing love for us is the indescribable gift of His only begotten Son (2 Cor. 9:15; John 3:16)!  The cross defines what Scripture means by 'love' ('By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us'--1 John 3:16).  Love is the voluntary placing of the welfare of others ahead of one's own.  It is action, not sentiment.  Love is the mightiest force in the world” (Mounce)!  And God is love (1 John 4:8)!  The Gospel demonstrates God's abundant love toward all people, even the worst among us!  See God's overwhelming love when you look closely at the gospel!
 
Next, when we look closely at the gospel, we see the reality of the Holy Spirit's amazing strength!  Notice what Romans 8:9-14 affirms: "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.  Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.  And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.  Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.  For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if you live by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God."  Note these interesting comments on this passage. The first affirms: “The section (8:1-11) balances the preceding section (7:7-25).  There the inability of the law by itself to produce the higher spiritual life was shown, and the argument dealt primarily and mainly with human life as it is now.  Here the whole object is to show that the gospel provides just such a power as law lacks—that is, to revive and renew the human spirit so as to enable it to mold and master the whole life.  The life and death spoken of are the spiritual life and death already described; the raising is the present liberation of the spirit which affects the body also, making it, too, serve its true ends and live its true life. The raising of Jesus is proof both of the will, and character, and power of that Spirit, which operated then and operates now ...” (Cambridge Greek Testament). The law had no power to help the Jew live a righteous life, but Christians enjoy the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the same power that resurrected Jesus, to help them overcome their sins.  A brother made this good comment: "The fact that Jesus was raised from the dead that we might be saved—might be made alive to His service—is a guarantee that even our bodies, as well as our spirits, shall be made alive to righteousness. ... So if the Spirit of God dwells in us, not only are our spirits alive to righteousness, but our bodies will also be made alive to the service of God ... To live after the flesh results in spiritual death” (Whiteside).  The Holy Spirit who raised Jesus also makes Christians alive to the service of God!  Here is one more comment: “This may be the most succinct [or shortest] and specific answer in Scripture to the question: 'Who is the child of God?' ... Unless people are continually being led (indicated by the Greek present tense) by the Spirit, they are not members of God's family” (Mounce).  You see, when we walk in fellowship with the indwelling Spirit, the desires of our lower fleshly nature are not met because the desires of our holy spiritual nature are conquering them and putting them to death!  Now here are the twists on our movie In The Line of Fire: At the cross, the situation was reversed—the President of the Universe steps in and takes Satan's bullet for us, and then the power of the Holy Spirit, who puts that President right back in office after His killing, is the same power that helps us to keep on overcoming sin!  See the Spirit's tremendous strength when you look closely at the gospel!
 
Next, when we look closely at the gospel, we see the reality of Jesus' perfect obedience.  Hebrews 5:7-9 informs us: "Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplication, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him."  Notice these good comments. First of all, “The drift of the passage is as follows: 'Look at Jesus on earth. See Him in Gethsemane—how intense were His sufferings, how urgent He was in His petitions, how dependent He was on His Father. ... It is absurd to think that such a Person, so obedient and humble, so molested with weakness and grief, would be unable to sympathize with human weakness" (Lightfoot).  And were not His cries and tears seen and heard while on the cross?  Gethsemane was painful for this reason: “The agony of Christ at Gethsemane was occasioned by something other and deeper than the fear of physical death; for what He faced was not simply a painful death but also judgment—the judgment of a holy God against sin, OUR sin, which is the experience … of separation from God” (Hughes). Calvary was painful for this reason: “The perfection was progressively achieved as He moved on toward the cross which marked the consummation of His suffering and obedience. His perfection consisted in the retention of His integrity, in the face of every kind of assault on His integrity, and thereby the establishment of His integrity.  Had he failed at any point, His integrity would have been impaired and His perfection lost, with the consequence that He would have been disqualified to act as Mediator and Redeemer” (Hughes).  Do we realize what great temptations Jesus endured during His arrest, His trials, and while on the cross?  If Satan would have gotten Him to sin at any one point, mankind's salvation would have been ruined!  No wonder that Jesus had armed Himself for "the hour" with fervent prayer in Gethsemane!  “At Gethsemane and at Calvary, we see Him enduring our hell so that we might be set free to enter into His heaven” (Hughes).  Here's another comment: “He, and no one else, is the cause of man's redemption: it is from him that it flows to us. His bearing our imperfection ... made available His perfection for the rehabilitation of mankind—with the qualification, however, that the eternal salvation of which He is the source is a reality in the experience only of those who obey Him. ... '[A] continuous active obedience is the sign of real faith'” (Hughes).  Are you manifesting a continuing active obedience as the sign of your faith or do you need His rehabilitation to help you to be more perfect in your Christian life? Now let's look at the last stanza of that poem:
“The other gods were strong, but You were weak;
They rode, but You did stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God's wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but You alone!"
See Jesus' perfect obedience when you look closely at the gospel!
 
Next, when we look closely at the Gospel, we see the Christian's endurance and righteousness.  Let's read 1 Pt. 2:18-25: "Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.  For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.  For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently?  But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.  For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 'Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth'; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.  For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls."  Let's notice some comments: “For (in v. 19) introduces a reason for such submission, which Peter explains in verses 19-25: God is pleased when His people trust Him in the midst of unjust suffering, imitating the example of Christ. ... God's requirement of all people is perfect sinlessness even when under the most intense pressure to sin, a requirement which was fulfilled by Christ as an example and encouragement to us. ... But these responses [getting even and threatening vengeance] are natural only to people who depend on themselves and believe that God does not have control of the situation" (Grudem).  “It is most extraordinary when an innocent person accepts unjust suffering with patience and calmness.  But then, Christians are expected to be extraordinary people. ... Through obedience and suffering, we grow to be like Him. ... The purpose of the cross is ethical.  Christ's death intends to change the way we actually live” (Mounce).  Now notice how Peter refers to the passage in Isaiah 53 about the Suffering Servant six times in verses 21-24:
         1 Pt. 2                                                      Isa. 54
21: Christ suffered for us                   4: He bears our sins
22: He did no sin, nor guile                9: the same
23: When reviled, He reviled not       7: Opened not His mouth
24: Bare our sins                               12: bare the sins of many
24: By His stripes we are healed         5: the same
25: You were as sheep going astray    6: the same

This caused one commentator to remark: “What kind of holy medicine is this, in which the physician pays the price and the sufferer receives the healing! ... Jesus' body was marked with the stripes that redeemed us" (Coffman).  Have you returned to Jesus, the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul?  Have you learned to overcome evil with good as He did?  See the Christian's endurance and righteousness when you look closely at the gospel!
 
Now we need to see that "handed over" was used during the crucifixion in one other way.  It was in the last passage at verse 23: "He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously."  The word "committed" literally is "He handed over" Himself to God!  As a Christian, you don't have to vent or suppress your anger when you are mistreated for Christ, you can hand over the whole situation to God and endure it patiently and submissively, just as Christ did!  The gospel is meant to be life-changing!
 
Let's pray: “Father, thank You for the gospel.  Thank You for wonderful hope that it gives when we look at it closely!  Help us to share the gospel with others.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
 
" For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Romans 1:16).  "Jesus, keep us near the cross: There's a precious fountain, free to all, a healing steam flows from Calvary's mountain. ... Near the cross!  O Lamb of God, bring its scenes before us; help us walk from day to day with its shadow over us!  In the cross, in the cross, be our glory ever, Till our blessed souls shall find rest beyond the river" (Crosby).  See God's love!  See the Spirit's strength! See Christ's obedience!  There is one more “hand over” that keep the gospel going.  Hand over your life to Christ today!