THE TRIUMPH OF THE EVANGELIUM
IN LIFE AND DEATH
“…who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago, and now has manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel"
(II Timothy 1:9, 10).
By Thomas Cosmades
As he is facing death, the aged apostle of Jesus Christ is addressing his young fellow-worker Timothy with entire confidence. Awaiting the stroke of Nero's cruel sword, he talks about the abolishment of death on one hand and the certainty of life and immortality on the other. Can you stretch your imagination to a person at death's door assuming such a mien? There are various kinds of death: inexplicable, violent, heroic, fatalistic, suicidal, accidental, journey's end, etc. In this scriptural passage we come to a kind of death entirely different than the rest: the invalidation of death through death and the manifestation of immortality through life.
The old soldier Paul goes on to explain the cause of this unparalleled effect: God's message declared in the Evangelium, namely the grace given in Christ Jesus ages ago. The elements of assurance and permanence convincingly demonstrate the cause set forth by a person in his approaching encounter with death. The apostle was set apart for the Evangelium; throughout his life he fearlessly and unswervingly proclaimed the Evangelium, all his actions were determined for the sake of the Evangelium and now he is marching confidently to his death with the security offered by the Evangelium. This sounds like the Evangelium is the most dynamic cause with which a person can motivate his whole being. Such a conclusion should lead the thinking person to ask: What is there about the Evangelium which offers such infinite assurance for life and the afterlife?
I. IT IS THE POWER OF GOD (Romans )
The immediate tragedy in the Old Testament following the resplendent marvel of creation is the fall of man which introduced sin and death to Adam's race. This amazing creation was tainted with sin, and died. Now man is in desperate need of redemption and reconciliation. Immediately, God pronounced the Protevangelium, promising a Savior to come from the seed of the woman. This Redeemer would crush the head of Satan and save men and women from their hopeless bondage to sin. In doing so, he would endure suffering. From that momentous occasion until now evangelism manifests the power of God for salvation to all who believe in Christ and turn away from their sin. These are sealed with the Holy Spirit to everlasting life.
Jesus Christ is Infinite Life (John 1:4) and the Author of Life (Acts 3:15). He ushers transient sinful humans condemned to the dark confines of death into triumphant life illuminated by the Evangelium. The Evangelium reveals the power of Christ. He said with absolute authority, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die" (John 11:25). This is the life everlasting sought by all religions and religious pursuers, but never attained to! Only the Evangelium can illuminate a person's understanding so that he can discover life without end.
Mortality must be swallowed up by immortality. In his triumphant resurrection, Christ clearly showed his supremacy over death. He demonstrated to all generations that he alone can tread on sin and wipe out death. The dazzling apparel of the two men at the empty tomb clearly signals the light of Christ dispelling the darkness of mortality. This is why Hosea in the Old Testament (13:14), and Paul in the New Testament can celebrate with this jubilant song: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory, O death, where is thy sting?" (I Corinthians 15:55). Because of the power of the Evangelium, believers everywhere triumphantly sing of Christ's conquest over sin and death.
II. IT IS THE ATTESTATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD (Acts 20:24)
Its designation is, 'the Evangelium of the grace of God' (Acts 20:24). It is also referred to as 'the gospel of God' (II Corinthians 11:7; I Thessalonians 2:2, 8, 9; I Peter 4:17). Another name used for it is 'the gospel of Christ' (I Corinthians 9:12; II Corinthians 2:12; I Thessalonians 3:2; Galatians 1:7). It bears the irrefutable endorsement of the Father and the Son; affirmed by Christ's blood poured out on Golgotha for sin--life given for life--to procure redemption. The Evangelium has reference to God's free gift for all finite mortals. This is called ‘grace’, the most beautiful word in any language.
In stark contrast to the message and principle of the Evangelium is a profusion of ritualistic performances seeking to appease God and gain merit for forgiveness. All efforts emanate from man's initiative; not God's. However the Evangelium of ‘the grace of God' proclaims his unique salvation as a free gift, which can only be appropriated by faith. The most important truth of the Evangelium continues to speak to people today: “The just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4b; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11b; Hebrews 10:38). This is faith in the only Redeemer. Rejection of him is equivalent to unbelief with its consequence of retribution. The judgment of death is negated only by God's pronouncement of forgiveness through Christ's death on the cross: "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinth. 5:21).
III. IT IS THE CONCEPTION OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 24:14)
Earthly kingdoms have citizens who are born and die. In God's kingdom citizens gain the right of entry by being born again. In the earthly realm, not only individuals, but kingdoms rise and demise. But God's kingdom stands forever; likewise its citizens reign forever: "But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:20). God has his own coherent structure of government for the eons to come.
Christ's believer on earth lives and dies like everyone else. But as a regenerated person he/she dies with a unique certainty. The cause of this assurance is called 'the glorious Evangelium of the blessed God’ (I Timothy ). The mighty Creator, known as benefactor of all largesse and gratuity is lovingly offering to our race the reconciling Evangelium of his beloved Son, sealed with his own blood. There is no message, no charter, and no document in the whole universe as powerful and durable as the Evangelium. It embodies God’s dynamism, benevolence and tenderheartedness. Only those who by faith come to realize this can know its absolute impact upon their finite, mortal lives.