Here are some theological terms you might hear us use from time to time as we attempt to articulate the gospel. It may be good to print this list out and keep it handy. This is a list of the ways that we can praise Jesus for his rescue of sinners.
“He [Jesus] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5
Without the incarnation of Jesus, we are not only lost, but we are doomed, guilty, and on the path towards destruction. The good news is that because Jesus showed up and made things right for us, we can experience SALVATION - divine rescue from the eternal consequence of our sin.
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1
What Jesus accomplished on the cross can be thought of in the legal term “justification.” It means the action of declaring or making something or someone righteous in the sight of God. The good news we are invited to rest in by faith is that because of Jesus, we are made right. He took our ugly sin. We receive his perfect righteousness for ever.
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:18
If you encounter relational conflict, for whatever reason, the only way to make it right is through some means of reconciliation - restoring things back to the way they should be. This is the ministry of the gospel that Jesus provides for all who believe and trust in him. Jesus does the heavy lifting, taking our messy, broken, and ugly sin to the cross, so that we can boldly approach God through a fresh, forgiven, and restored relationship.
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10
Another word very close to propitiation is atonement. It is the action required to satisfy the wrath of God. Why was God expressing wrath? The same reason we do when we encounter injustice. Sin is not the way things are supposed to be and when it shows up, it evokes strong emotions. Jesus satisfied the wrath of God by becoming sin for us and putting sin to death on the cross. The good news of propitiation is that God’s wrath over sin is satisfied. What is left is his great love for sinners like you and me.
“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” Galatians 3:25–26
For better or for worse, we draw a lot of our identity, worth, and value from our family. If our family is notable and significant or average and common, it shapes our view of our self. The work of the gospel means full participation in God’s family through a new birth. Because of Jesus we can know that God’s love for us is secure and and unending. We are now sons and daughters, brothers and sisters in Christ.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
Imagine the work of a stunt man. When the high-risk violence needs to happen, he or she steps in to protect the actor. This imperfect allegory serves the purpose of illustrating what Christ has done for us. On the cross, he took our place and our punishment on our behalf. Through this act of sacrificial love, Jesus made our recuse possible. We owe our freedom, joy, forgiveness, and love to the work of Christ and Christ alone.
“And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
God offers to us full forgiveness for all past, present, and future sins. Not only does he offer this because of his great love for us, but because Jesus on the cross met the demands of the injustice our sins incured. The good news is that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleans us from all unrighteous (1 John 1:9)
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Galatians 5:1
When we come to understand what Christ has accomplished for us by his life, death, and resurrection - which is the gospel - we come into the amazing gift of freedom. In Christ, we need no longer suffer under the guilt, fear, and shame induced by the tyrannical demands of the Law. Why? Because before God, our righteous and obedience is not defined by what we do or don’t do, but by what Christ has done for us.
“God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
For a good man, someone might dare to die, but who dies for losers? Especially those losers who would betray and stab you in the back for a day’s wage? What kind of love is this that even enemies are welcomed as friends? This is not natural love, it is supernatural love and the amazing gift of God’s love is that it is unconditional. How? All of the conditions to be loved are already met and secured for you in Christ.
“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God apposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” - James 4:6
A key word that can enlighten our understanding of the gospel is grace. Through the work of the cross, God shows to undeserving people unmerited favor. We don’t deserve the kindness of God, but that is the offer and it has nothing to do with how we’ve been behaving. When we come to know that God’s view of us is overflowing with grace, we can live in confidence that he will care and provide for us.
“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” Psalm 145:8-9
Imagine a kingdom where a pauper is brought before a powerful king. The pauper owes a large bill of taxes, more than he can pay. He pleads for the king to not end his life as the law declares. The king shows mercy and pardons the paupers debt. Mercy is us not getting what we deserve. Because of our sin, we deserve hell, but because of Jesus, we are shown mercy.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3
The peace of God is above reasonable understanding and such peace is granted to those who put their trust in God’s offer in the gospel. If we are in Christ, we are secured not by our works, but by Christ’s great work. Now, resting in Christ, nothing in all of creation can separate us from God’s love. This is the way things are supposed to be. This is also the meaning of the Jewish word SHALOAM.
“For we who have believed enter that rest.” Hebrews 4:3
A gospel hymn we sing declares that at the cross our “fears are stilled and striving cease.” Rather than approaching God as if his favor depended on our works, we can rest. We are assured that God’s love is secured to all those who believe because of Jesus’ work on the cross. We don’t have to fear or struggle with anxiety over God’s thoughts of how we are doing if we have placed our faith in Christ.