A new series on what the gospel isn't, and what it is.
Did you know it’s illegal to chew gum in Singapore? Or to step on money in Thailand? Or that, in the UK, according to the 1986 Salmon Act, it’s illegal to “hold salmon under suspicious circumstances”?
You might be a very law-abiding citizen, but who knows how many strange laws you might have unwittingly broken.
Sometimes people think Christianity is just about a bunch of weird, outdated rules. Probably the best-known set of rules is the “Ten Commandments”, found in Exodus 20. In fact, the Ten Commandments form part of an even longer list of laws given by God to His people in the first five books of the Bible.
Throughout the Old Testament, God provided for His people and almost every time He gave them a command, they broke it. Still, He loved them and kept His promise to them.
When Jesus encountered the Pharisees, the educated religious elite, who were experts in the law, He challenged them on their hypocrisy.
“For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others.” (Matt 23:3-5)
If we’re just trying to obey rules, either we will eventually mess up, or we could become like the Pharisees – eager to be seen to be doing the “right thing”. We’re not grasping the truth of the gospel.
Jesus said He came, not to “abolish the Law or the Prophets” but “to fulfill them”. (Matt 5:17). He was also asked which was the most important commandment:
“He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’” (Matt 22:37-40)
When it comes to it, we all have to admit that none of us are very good at being perfect. We’re all rule-breakers. Rules have consequences, but luckily this is where Jesus steps in.
If the greatest commandment is to love God with all we have, and to love other people, Jesus is the ultimate fulfilment of the true purpose of the law. He is our true example of complete, self-giving love and He transforms us so that we are able to truly love.
The gospel is the story of how God lived a perfect human life, was killed for it by lawbreakers, then broke the power of death from the inside out. It’s good news for rule-breakers who are tired of screwing up, because Jesus offers us the ability to live right, whole and free.