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Point of Reference

    by Fred Price

The Gospel in Miniature
Date Posted: September 25, 2020

That’s how Martin Luther once described John 3:16. This brief and familiar passage indeed giving us an outline of Christian theology; a summary of the nature and character of God, an assessment of the human condition, and the meaning and means of our salvation.

First off, it begins by declaring God’s love for the world and all its inhabitants. His defining characteristic – love – inspiring him to create us and the world we live in/on. (1 John 4:8) Which leads us to a second attribute that God defines for us, personhood; we being created in his image. But does that mean we look like God? I doubt it. Instead it hints at our spirit, our rational mind, our capacity to love Him and be in relationship with others as reflective of God’s “personality.” God encompassing more than just love; he is also holy, just, righteous, etc. – but he is never less than loving. (Even if it can at times be of the “tough love” variety. See Hebrews 12:5-11)

Love is a fundamental way Christians perceive God as well as being a foundational principle for living in imitation of him. The Hebrew word for love – chesed – used frequently in the Old Testament, is often translated mercy as well. A love expressed for its own sake, not necessarily because someone has earned or deserves it. The New Testament Greek word for love – agape – defines love in much the same way; not merely a feeling or emotional response, but a motivation for action – extending kindness, seeking the good of others over the good of self, even if that’s costly to the one extending it. A selfless, sacrificial love; turning the other cheek, loving one’s neighbor – and enemies – going the extra mile with no expectation of recognition or response.

This “little gospel” then quickly focuses on Jesus as the fullest embodiment of God’s love, who “…became flesh and lived among us.” John 1:14 Jesus being God’s response to the human condition; meeting our need of hope, forgiveness and meaning. God’s word in the flesh being, “…the story of God’s love written large through the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus.”1God choosing to “walk in our skin” through Jesus, experiencing the full range of emotions we experience; temptation and heartache, wonder and joy, even pain and death.

The Son of God defining his and our father God to an extent never before seen, as “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only (or the only begotten Son) who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” John 1:18 Other scripture declaring him to be, “…the image of the invisible God,…” And the, “…exact representation of his being,…” As, “…in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,…” Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3 & Colossians 2:9

And since we are indeed made in God’s image, the appropriate response to his offer of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross would be to likewise love – God first-and-foremost, and in imitation of him, loving our neighbors as ourselves. (As in Matthew 22:37-40) Obeying in practical ways his command to, “Love one another.” Which will define us as disciples of Christ. (John 13:34,35)

But there is some bad news, inferred by the announcement of good news. John 3:18 assuring us, as does Romans 8:1 that, “…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,…” However, “…whoever does not believe stands condemned already…” Some taking the assurance of “no condemnation” and the promise of eternal life as being the definitive answer to all our needs, which is essentially true, but the Greek word for perish can also refer to the process of destruction. Possibly indicating that, along with attaining eternal life, we can gain relief and release from some of the mayhem humans tend to unleash on themselves and the world while here on earth.

All of which is contingent on our repenting of sin (Greek Hamartia – meaning to miss the mark), which separates us from God. (See Habakkuk 1:13) At which time the good news can begin to be realized in our lives in merciful forgiveness. Our appreciation of that good news being dependent on our understanding of the bad and its consequences. Even at that, we often exclaim with Paul, “…I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing…” Romans 7:18,19 Making us feel unfulfilled – even if saved – and thus wretched. Genuine rescue and motivation to change coming through our Savior, Jesus Christ. (Romans 7:21-25) Adam Hamilton reminding us that, “Jesus life, death, and resurrection are God’s answer to our sin, our brokenness, our perishing, our destruction.”2

And in that answer, we are called to holiness. (Hebrews 12; 1,2 & 1 Peter 1:14-16) Not perfection, but an attempt at right-living. John insisting that, “He who does what is right is righteous.” 1 John 3:7 Certainly saved by grace, though faith (Ephesians 2:8); with a purpose, “…declar(ing) the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9 As Jesus Christ, “…gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:14

This short but impactful Bible verse hinting at something else we may not have considered about everlasting life; that it’s not something we attain at death but start experiencing at the moment of salvation. Jesus assuring us that, “In my Father’s house (heaven) are many rooms … I am going there to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2 Certainly a promise we can look forward to at our passing, but we can experience a bit of heaven here on earth as we live out the gospel in our lives; impacting not only ourselves but all those around us. Loving, being loved – representing Christ to the world. The literal meaning of, “Come, follow me,…” and “…go and make disciples…” (Matthew 4:19 & 28:19)

1Adam Hamilton, Christianity and World Religions, Abingdon Press

2 ibid

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Biography Information:

Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.

Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker.  He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today.  Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.  

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