The blessings of the gospel
Posted by Lee Gatiss, 2 Mar 2018
In the final part of our series on the Apostles’ Creed, Lee Gatiss unpacks three glorious blessings of the gospel — the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:26-29)
Physical, and forgiven, forever
Today we come to the end of our series on the Apostles’ Creed. Next week, we will continue our daily blog posts over Lent by beginning a new series with Ros Clarke looking at the Ten Commandments.
In our final post on the Creed, then, we have three of the great blessings of being a Christian which are ours by believing in the gospel: our sins are forgiven, our bodies will one day be raised from death, and we will live forever with Jesus.
We all know that sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs, which we get when we know we have done something we shouldn’t have. Our consciences assault us with the pain of guilt, telling us that something is wrong. There’s nothing we can do to erase that feeling or cover it up, unless we burn away the sensitive tenderness of it by burying it away deep down in our souls, or find forgiveness from the person we have offended against. Sometimes that is not possible, and we cannot shake the guilty ache until we are punished by due authority for what we have done.
“If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you” (Psalm 130:3-4 NIV). If God wrote down everything we ever thought, or said, or did which displeased him, then used that as evidence against us on judgment day, we would have to face his righteous anger forever. The Bible says of Jesus that “The punishment that brought us peace was on him” (Isaiah 53:5 NIV), so if we are united to him we are declared “not guilty” and forgiven. Which is why Christians have a right to smile, because in his mercy, God has released us from the crushing weight of guilt and despair which we truly deserve, and given us freedom to start afresh with him each day. We rely and rejoice on the forgiveness of sins which is ours when we repent and believe.
Human beings consist of body and soul united. Our bodies originate in the dust of the earth and our souls or spirits were breathed into us by God (Genesis 2:7). When we die, because of sin, this creative process is dramatically reversed and undone: “the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7 NIV). This is not the way God intended us to be. We were intended for something more permanent and glorious.
After death, believers go to be with Jesus, “which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23 NIV), and we revel in the joy of his presence. But we are not meant to exist forever without a body. One day, “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2 NIV). We will be raised and given new bodies, with which to enjoy the new creation. This will happen “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52). We will no longer sin, or even want to sin. So death will be no more.
Some people think that the idea of life which goes on forever will be boring. But the everlasting life that God has planned for those who believe and trust in him will be so utterly brilliant that we will never want it to end. Jesus will wipe away every tear from our eyes, as crying and dying are abolished forever (Revelation 21:4). Every pleasure and joy we have ever known will be intensified and multiplied and sanctified. This life will last forever, but its quality will be spectacularly enhanced in ways that we cannot now even imagine.
Martin Luther once wrote that “Though I am a great doctor, I haven’t yet progressed beyond the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. I still learn and pray these every day. Who understands in all of its implications even the opening words?” If we have found that to be true in our faltering attempts to get to grips with the Apostles’ Creed over the last few weeks, how much more will we struggle to wrap our puny minds around the glories to be revealed when all our hopes and yearnings begin to take shape in a new world?
“When we’ve been there 10,000 years
Bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days
To sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.” (John Newton, from “Amazing Grace”).
Questions for reflection:
1. Why do we not give thanks to God more often for the forgiveness of our sins?
2. What are you most looking forward to about your new resurrection body?
3. What are you most looking forward to about eternal life with Jesus beyond death?
Prayer: Gracious heavenly Father, who forgives all those who truly repent and believe the gospel of your Son Jesus Christ: by the power of your Spirit, give us patient endurance through the trials of this life, that we may embrace and forever hold fast the joyful hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. In whose name we pray. Amen.
Lee Gatiss is the Director of Church Society
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