Nov 18, 2022 The Message of Our Mission – Words of Grace – November 18, 2022
The gospel is good news on many levels. It contains a vast array of promises that flow from the cross. The starting point of them all is the promise of forgiveness of sins. For this reason, we proclaim repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
When Jesus commissioned his disciples, and by extension his church, he told them to proclaim forgiveness of sins. He said this in an unusual way (to our ears). “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them, if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20:23).
We know that only God can forgive sins. Jesus, being the divine Son of God and the one who dealt with sin in his death, has the authority to forgive. So, what does he mean when he tells his disciples that they either forgive or withhold forgiveness of sins? He meant that by their proclamation of the gospel they are extending his authority to forgive. By preaching the gospel they are giving people the opportunity to repent and believe for forgiveness or reject and have forgiveness withheld. It is only as the church presents Christ to others that it is acting on his authority to forgive or withhold forgiveness.
That raises another question. Why forgiveness of sins? Why not first invite people into the great gospel promises of the new and better life to come? Why not simply send them into the world to make things better now? Because the fundamental problem is not a hard life or a cursed world, but the rebellion against God that brought on the curse. Human sin, not pain in childbirth or thorns in the ground, is the tragedy of the Fall. The pain, hardship, and brokenness of the world is the result of sin.
Sometimes the gospel is presented in a way that communicates that the fundamental problem is the curse of sin, that Jesus died to reverse that curse and make all things better and new, and that everyone will enter the newness by working together to make it happen. This is a misrepresentation of the gospel.
At the cross Jesus atoned for sin. He assumed the guilt of sin, bore its penalty, removed it as a barrier to God, and broke its power to curse. Consequently, when he returns all will be new. The way a human being enters that newness is by being forgiven of his or her own sin.
Preaching the gospel is proclaiming the forgiveness of sins (personal ones) to rebellious people (against God) who repent and believe in him, trusting his death and professing him as Lord (faith). The gospel of Jesus Christ deals with the fundamental problem of our sin. Only then does the promise of newness become ours to enter and enjoy.
Jesus gave his church a mission. That mission is to take a message to the world. The message is forgiveness of sins.
This Sunday at Grace we will rejoice that Jesus is alive, rest in our forgiveness in him, receive his commission to us, and resolve to carry out our mission together.