The Gospel: The Story of His Glory

The greatest story ever told is the story of the glory of God. It is a true story, a story recorded and preserved in the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, a story which finds its climax in Jesus of Nazareth. This story informs everything else with significance and meaning. This is the story in a nutshell.

The Creator God

The story begins with this simple sentence: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”[1] God is the Creator. This defines everything. This means that your life is not an accident, a mere product of chance. The Creator God created everything. By his powerful and creative word, he spoke the Universe and everything in it, into existence.[2] “All things were made by him, and without him was not made anything that was made.”[3]

The implications of this for our personal existence are massive. If God is our Creator, then we are his creatures. We belong to him. A sculptor is the master of his clay. A painter is sovereign over her painting. An inventor retains the ownership “rights” over his invention. And God is the supreme owner of the Universe and everything in it. He is the “possessor of heaven and earth.”[4] He creates and sustains our lives. “We live, move, and have our being in him.”[5] We can no more exist without God, than a drawing can exist apart from the artist’s hand.

Made for His Glory

If God is our Creator, then we were made for his purposes and pleasure.[6] This is, in fact, what Scripture declares. We were made for God’s glory or fame.[7] Our purpose in life is to display the worth and value of the God who designed and created us. As an old catechism says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”[8] Made in God’s image,[9] the intended role of every human being is to be God’s image-bearer – a portrayal of his glory, a reflector of his glorious worth. Human beings are like mirrors – made to reflect the beauty of Another – the beauty of God.

God has shown us how to reflect his glory. He has revealed this in his divine law. Jesus summarized this law in two great commands. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind [and] you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”[10] A life fully defined by love – supreme and total love for God and others – is a God-glorifying life.

Man Shattered by Sin

But man has fallen. The first man Adam disobeyed God. Sin intruded into God’s good creation and death invaded human history. “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”[11] Sin didn’t stop with Adam. We have all have sinned, and fallen short of God’s glory.[12] We have traded the glory of the Creator God for created things, and have loved and worshiped the creation more than the Creator.[13] We have forsaken the Fountain of Living Waters for broken cisterns that can hold no water.[14] The hearts of men are idol factories,[15] and we have all loved idols more than the Living God – idols of self, sex, money, power, prestige, and pleasure.

Our problem is not merely sinful actions, but sinful hearts. Jesus taught that it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.[16] As diseased trees bear corrupt fruit, so diseased hearts bear the corrupt fruit of sinful attitudes, desires, motives, words, and behaviors. Jesus said, “The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”[17] What is inside comes out. “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.”[18]

We have not loved God supremely. And we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. By human standards we may have lived respectable and moral lives. But deep in our hearts, we know that even our respectable and moral behavior has often been driven by self-serving motives and tainted with sinful desires. The Scriptures remind us that “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”[19] It only takes one drop of cyanide to poison a glass of water, and so even one sin leaves us guilty before a holy God. Jesus’s teaching reached beyond behavior to the heart. He showed that hatred in the heart was murderous and lustful thoughts were adulterous.[20]

In our sinful hearts and actions, we have committed mutiny and treason against the Creator God. We have provoked God’s holy wrath,[21] sold ourselves into slavery to sin,[22] and rendered ourselves incapable of fulfilling our divinely-given purpose of glorifying God. We are dead in transgressions and sins,[23] blinded by Satan, the god of this world,[24] and slaves of our passions and desires.[25] If by creation man is a mirror made to reflect the radiance of God’s beauty and glory, then sin has shattered the mirror.

The Covenant God

But the Creator God is also a Covenant God – he is a God of promise. Even before man’s fall in sin, God had formed a plan of rescue.[26] He revealed that plan years ago to a man named Abraham. Though he was old and childless, God promised him a son and descendants, through whom all the peoples of the earth would be blessed.[27] The son was Isaac, and the descendants became the nation of Israel. God chose Israel to be his special people and rescued them from Egypt by his mighty hand.[28] The greatest earthly king of Israel was David. To David God also made a covenant, promising him a son who would be forever enthroned over his people.[29] The entire story of the Old Testament is the outworking of these two covenant-promises, the story of God’s glory returning to earth through his chosen people.

This story reaches its climax in Jesus, the son of David, the son of Abraham.[30] Jesus of Nazareth, born of a virgin in fulfillment of God’s promises,[31] was the true Offspring of Abraham,[32] the true Son of David,[33] the Messianic (anointed) king who would rescue God’s people, inaugurate God’s kingdom, and restore God’s creation. Jesus was the ultimate revelation of God’s glory, the true Image-bearer of God on earth. As the apostle John declared, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”[34] Jesus was God himself in human flesh.

The Crucified and Risen Messiah

For thirty years, Jesus lived a quiet Galilean life. Then Jesus burst on the public scene, proclaiming the gospel (good news) of the kingdom, [35] the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises to his people.[36] During his ministry, Jesus gathered followers and demonstrated both compassion and great power through many miracles, which served as inaugural signs of God’s reign breaking into human history. He taught with authority, finding appeal among the common people and suspicion among the religious and political leaders of his day. He came with a message of hope, offering forgiveness and rest to those burdened and wearied with sin.[37] He claimed divinity and oneness with God[38] and modeled a life of perfect love to God and man, always seeking the honor of his Father and extending mercy and compassion to broken people.

But his claim to be one with God eventually led to his death. Betrayed by the kiss of a friend and tried in a kangaroo court, Jesus of Nazareth was sentenced to death by crucifixion – the most degrading and agonizing form of capital punishment known in the ancient world. A Roman governor named Pontius Pilate sanctioned Jesus’s execution. Jesus died outside of Jerusalem sometime around 30 A.D., and was buried in the borrowed tomb of a man named Joseph of Arimathea. His disciples were disillusioned and discouraged, many of them having denied and forsaken him during the last hours of his life.

But three days later, his tomb was empty. Jesus had come back to life and risen from the dead! For forty days, he appeared again and again to his disciples and closest friends, giving them comfort, commissioning them with a new task, and promising them the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. Then he ascended into the heavens, with the promise that one day he would return again.

The Good News

But what did it all mean? One of Jesus’s followers, a murderous-Pharisee-turned-apostle, named Paul reflected extensively on the events of Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection. These events were the core of the gospel – the good news – which Paul and the other early followers of Jesus spread to both Jews and Gentiles. Paul said: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. . .”[39] Paul, and the other apostles, emphasized not just the fact of Jesus’s death, but also the reason. He died for our sins. They realized that the death of Jesus resulted not just from the insidious plot of wicked men, but from the eternal plan of God[40] to rescue men from their sins and bring healing to the world.[41] Jesus himself had said that he came to give his life as a ransom for many.[42]

The death and resurrection of Jesus was, in fact, the divine remedy to the problem of sin. Humanity was alienated from the Creator God. But God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself by not counting our trespasses against us.[43] Instead he made Christ who knew no sin, to become sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.[44] God treated his sinless Son, Jesus, as if he had lived a sinful life, so that he could treat sinners as if they had lived the sinless life of Jesus. Through his crucifixion, Jesus satisfied God’s wrath against sin, so that God could be just in forgiving sin and declaring sinners righteous in his sight.[45] By becoming a curse for us, Jesus delivered us from the curse of the law we had broken.[46] The one who was righteous (Jesus) died for the unrighteous (us), so that we could be restored to a right relationship with God.[47]

When Jesus rose from the dead, it was proof that he had conquered sin and death once and for all. Death could not hold him in its grasp![48] Death was defeated.[49] Jesus destroyed Satan who had the power of death, delivering those who through fear of death had been subject to lifelong slavery in sin.[50]

Responding to the Good News

When Peter shared the good news of Jesus’s death and resurrection, people asked, “What shall we do?”[51] How should you respond to the news? First, you must recognize your accountability to the Creator God. You were made by him and are owned by him. You are not the cause of your own existence. He is. And you were made for a purpose – his purpose. You were made to glorify him. But you – like all human beings – have failed to live for that purpose. None of us have lived for his glory; we have all lived for ourselves. As the Bible says, “All we, like sheep, have gone astray.”[52] You have rebelled against the Creator and deserve his just judgment and condemnation. Because of sin, you are under the sentence of death,[53] and after death you will face judgment.[54]

You must also realize that there is nothing you can do to rescue yourself from this judgment. Some people mistakenly think that they can earn God’s favor by living good lives. Others suppose that they can escape judgment through observing some kind of religious ceremony. But the Scriptures teach that neither good works, nor religious observances are sufficient to save. Like an X-Ray machine, which can reveal a fractured bone, but has no power to set it straight and make it whole, God’s holy law reveals our sinfulness to us – but is powerless to deliver us from our sin. “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”[55] Someone once said that there are two kinds of people who go to hell – the unrighteous and the self-righteous. Living a moral life will not rescue you from sin. Neither will baptism, confirmation, giving to the poor, or going to church. Religion is simply a more respectable pathway to eternal destruction. The only candidates for salvation through Jesus are those who realizes their utter helplessness to save themselves.[56] Self-salvation is utterly impossible.

But what is impossible with man, is possible with God.[57] The crucified and risen Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, the God-man, has done for sinners what they cannot do for themselves. When a jail-keeper in the city of Philippi asked Paul and his companions, “What must I do to be saved?” they answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”[58] Believing in Jesus is more than merely acknowledging the fact of Jesus’ existence or the truthfulness of his claims. Believing in Jesus is trusting in him. Someone once defined faith with the following acronym – F-A-I-T-H – Forsaking All, I Trust Him. This is what it means to believe. In Paul’s words, “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”[59]

Trusting in Jesus is not just the confession of a creed, but the pledge of allegiance to a person. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”[60] Following Jesus involves receiving him as both Savior and Lord, trusting him to deliver us from both the penalty of sin and its power in our lives. The life of faith is a life of repentance. In Paul’s words, the Christian message is one of “repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”[61] Trusting in Jesus involves turning – turning from sin and self-righteousness and turning to Jesus as Savior and Lord.

If you are to be rescued from God’s just judgment on your sin and rebellion against your Creator, then you must ask the Lord Jesus to save you. “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”[62] This is the promise of God. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”[63] Repenting of your sins and trusting in Jesus is both God’s invitation and his command. “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”[64] Will you obey his command?

Life in the New Creation

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”[65] This is true for all who have been rescued by Jesus from sin. How can you know that you are a new creation? The Bible describes this newness in several ways. First, you will have a new relationship with the Son of God – Jesus himself. Following Jesus is not a one-time decision, but a new way of life. The promises of salvation and eternal life come in Christ himself. “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”[66] This relationship is made possible by the presence of the Spirit of God in your heart and life. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ”[67] “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”[68] The Holy Spirit gives us power to follow Christ,[69] grants us access into God’s presence through prayer,[70] and enables us to understand the Scriptures.[71]

This, in turn, leads us to a new relationship with the Scriptures. “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.”[72] As those who have tasted the goodness of God, we should desire the Scriptures the way a newborn baby desires milk, for this is how we grow.[73] God’s word is spiritual food for the believer, the source of both nourishment and delight.[74] As we read and meditate on God’s word, we will become spiritually healthy and strong.[75] God’s word is the instrument God uses to make us holy.[76] As we treasure up God’s word in our hearts, we will keep ourselves from sin.[77] As someone once said, “Either this Book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this Book.” Regular reading and study of the Scriptures is crucial for those made new in Christ.

A third evidence of new life is a new relationship with the saints – other followers of Jesus. “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.”[78] When God rescues us from sin through Jesus Christ, he makes us part of a new family – God becomes our Father, we become his children,[79] and other believers in Jesus become our brothers and sisters. This new relationship with others brings special privileges and responsibilities. It is our privilege to worship God, fellowship with and minister to one another, and learn from God’s word together.[80] It is our responsibility to meet with one another regularly for both encouragement and help in our walk with God.[81] This is why the writer of the letter to the Hebrews says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”[82] So, it should be a high priority for the new believer to become a part of a larger group of people committed to following Jesus.

Becoming the New You

As a new believer, you may wonder “what’s next?” What does it mean to live the new life that comes through faith in Christ? What does he now expect from you? In a word: transformation. God’s rescue plan is not a fire insurance policy. Jesus is concerned about much more than simply delivering us from hell. He wants to restore his image within us, to make us like himself.[83] That is why Scripture puts so much emphasis on following Jesus, being his disciple, and becoming like Christ.

But becoming like Jesus is not at odds with our humanity. The truth is that we are never more ourselves than when we are like Jesus. He is, after all, the perfect picture of what it means to be fully human. He is the image of God par excellence. He radiates the glory of God, and in becoming like him, we also come to reflect his glory.[84]

But how does transformation happen?

It begins not in doing something new, but in recognizing what God has done for you in Jesus. Your new relationship with Jesus is so close, so personal, so intimate, that God sees you in Christ – and Christ in you. This is what Jesus was teaching his disciples when he compared himself to a vine, and his disciples to branches. Just as a branch derives life and nourishment from the vine and so bears fruit, so you live and produce fruit (God-glorifying attitudes and behavior) through your close connection to Jesus. Without him you can do nothing.[85]

This is also what Paul was reminding his readers of when he pointed to their baptism and said that through baptism they had been buried into Jesus’ death and were now raised to walk in newness of life.[86] The point is that your connection to Christ is so radical, so complete, and so profound, that your history, identity, and destiny are wrapped up in his. Your past is determined by his past: when he died on the cross for sin, it was also your death to sin’s power. You have a new history. You are also identified with Jesus. When God sees you, he sees you in the Son and treats you accordingly. Believers are sons and daughters of God, precisely because they are accepted in Christ. You have a new identity. This further means that your future is secure. You will be fully transformed, so that even your physical body will be made like his.[87] You have a new destiny. And this defines the present. Life right now is about becoming in practice more and more who we already are in Jesus.

This realization gives rise to new patterns of living. In one of his letters, Paul reminds believers of their new history, identity, and destiny in Jesus, and then urges them to live accordingly, setting their affections on Christ and putting sin and evil to death.[88] In other words, God wants you to be ruthless in ridding your life of sin. But this is merely the beginning. The Lord also desires you to nurture the virtues of Jesus by following his example in your attitudes and behavior, cultivating relationships in community with other believers, and allowing the gospel message to take deep root in your heart and life as you live for his name.[89]

Practically speaking, this means that the details of your life have to be reorganized around Jesus. Don’t worry! The idea is not that you must now spend every waking minute in church. The point, rather, is to continually practice the presence of God – to take notice of the Spirit’s involvement in all of life, acknowledging the lordship of Jesus, and adopting his perspective and priorities as your own. Certain practices, such as praying and fasting, reading and reflecting on Scripture, serving others in your church and community, worshiping the Lord with a gathering of other believers, taking the Lord’s Supper, giving to the poor, and sharing this good news with others, are given precisely with this end in view. These spiritual “disciplines” are not ends in themselves, but means to an end – the goal of being with and becoming like Jesus.

The net effect of these priorities and practices in your life will be increasing love for God and others. This, after all, was God’s original plan: human beings who bear his image and mirror his glory by loving him with their hearts and loving others as themselves.

The Story Isn’t Over

The story of God’s glory is an unfinished story. The Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished the decisive work in God’s plan to rescue the world from sin and death, but there is more to come. Followers of Jesus live in anticipation of what God is yet to do. What is next on the horizon?

The Scriptures remind us that we are waiting for Jesus to return again. Writing to the believers in Thessalonica, Paul was reminded of “how [they] turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”[90] When Jesus comes again, our salvation will be complete.[91] The New Testament constantly reminds us that we are not home yet. We are looking for the Day when Jesus will physically return and make us like himself. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”[92] “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”[93]

Like the salvation believers have already experienced in Christ, the Scriptures describe this future event in terms of new creation – God’s restoration of the created world which has fallen through sin. This cosmic restoration will be nothing less than the reordering of the entire Universe under the lordship of Jesus Christ, and God his Father.[94] In the words of the prophet Isaiah

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,          and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.[95]

The Apostle John, in the final book of the New Testament says: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’”[96]

In the intervening time, we who follow Jesus have a mission to complete. Jesus, declaring his supreme authority over heaven and earth, left us with these instructions: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”[97] This task is not yet finished. It is our great joy and privilege to finish it, as we go into the world in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, sharing the good news of what he has done with others. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”[98] And on that Day, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”[99] He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus![100]


[1] Genesis 1:1

[2] Hebrews 11:3

[3] John 1:4

[4] Genesis 14:19

[5] Acts 17:28

[6] Revelation 4:11

[7] Isaiah 43:7

[8] Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 1

[9] Genesis 1:26-27

[10] Matthew 22:37-40

[11] Romans 5:12

[12] Romans 3:23

[13] Romans 1:23-25

[14] Jeremiah 2:13

[15] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion

[16] Matthew 12:34

[17] Matthew 12:35

[18] Matthew 15:18-20a

[19] James 2:10

[20] Matthew 5:21-29

[21] Romans 2:4-5

[22] Romans 6:16

[23] Ephesians 2:1

[24] 2 Corinthians 4:4

[25] Ephesians 2:2-3

[26] Titus 1:2

[27] Genesis 12:1-3; see also Genesis 15 and 17

[28] Exodus 1-15

[29] 2 Samuel 7

[30] Matthew 1:1

[31] Matthew 1:18-25

[32] Galatians 3:16

[33] Romans 1:3

[34] John 1:14.

[35] Mark 1:15

[36] Luke 4:17-21

[37] Matthew 9:1-12; 11:28-30

[38] John 10:30

[39] 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

[40] Acts 2:23; 4:26-28

[41] Matthew 1:21

[42] Mark 10:45

[43] 2 Corinthians 5:19

[44] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[45] Romans 3:25-26; 1 John 2:2

[46] Galatians 3:13

[47] 1 Peter 3:18

[48] Acts 2:24

[49] 1 Corinthians 15:54-57

[50] Hebrews 2:14-15

[51] Acts 2:37

[52] Isaiah 53:6

[53] Romans 6:23

[54] Hebrews 9:27

[55] Romans 3:20

[56] Luke 18:9-14

[57] Matthew 19:26

[58] Acts 16:30-31

[59] Philippians 3:7-9

[60] Luke 9:23-24

[61] Acts 20:21

[62] Romans 10:13

[63] Romans 10:9

[64] Acts 17:30-31

[65] 2 Corinthians 5:17

[66] 1 John 5:12

[67] Romans 8:16-17

[68] Romans 8:9

[69] Ephesians 3:14-21

[70] Ephesians 2:18

[71] John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:9-13

[72] 1 John 2:3

[73] 1 Peter 2:1-3

[74] Jeremiah 15:16

[75] Psalm 1:1-3

[76] John 17:17

[77] Psalm 119:11

[78] 1 John 3:14

[79] John 1:13; Galatians 3:26

[80] Acts 2:42-47

[81] Hebrews 3:12-14

[82] Hebrews 10:23-25

[83] Romans 8:29; Galatians 4:19

[84] 2 Corinthians 3:18

[85] John 15:1-5

[86] Romans 6

[87] Philippians 3:20-21

[88] Colossians 3:1-11

[89] Colossians 3:12-17

[90] 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; see also Titus 2:11-14

[91] Romans 13:11

[92] Philippians 3:20-21

[93] 1 John 3:2

[94] Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:18-20; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28

[95] Isaiah 11:6

[96] Revelation 21:1-4

[97] Matthew 28:19-20

[98] Matthew 24:14

[99] Philippians 2:10-11

[100] Revelation 22:10