In our last post, we looked at identifying the fallen condition. Now we turn our attention to identifying what I will refer to as the gospel solution. By gospel solution, I mean:
the aspect(s) of the Gospel (i.e., the work of Jesus Christ) that are revealed (either explicitly or implicitly) in the text (the passage itself or the larger context) that provide the solution to the fallen condition
In other words, what we are trying to do is apply the benefits of the gospel to the specific fallen conditions that the text has identified. By the power of the Holy Spirit we seek to determine the specific aspects of the work of Christ that overcome the area(s) of sin we have identified. Note that sometimes the gospel solution is not found in the passage itself, but in the larger context of the book or even the canon.
So continuing with our previous post, let's look again at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Here are the Fallen Conditions that I identified from the passage, but now I have included a corresponding gospel solution:
- Fallen Condition 1: Our ignorance about what happens to fellow believers when they die leads to sinful grief.
- Gospel Solution 1: The gospel teaches us that God will gather all of his people to himself when Christ returns.
- Fallen Condition 2: When we lose sight of the hope that we as believers have in Christ, we grieve as those who have no hope (i.e., we grieve like unbelievers who have no hope).
- Gospel Solution 2: Because Jesus has conquered death through his resurrection, we who are joined with him by faith have the hope of sharing in his resurrection. Therefore, even in our grief we have an unshakable hope that death does not have the final word.
- Fallen Condition 3: Our grief when responding to death reveals that deep down we recognize that things are not the way they are supposed to be.
- Gospel Solution 3: Through his death and resurrection, Jesus has inaugurated the new creation, which will culminate one day in a new heaven and new earth where there will no longer be any curse or death.
- Fallen Condition 4: We become discouraged when we contemplate the delay in Christ's return.
- Gospel Solution 4: Because God was faithful to his promises in sending his Son in the fullness of time to pay for our sin during his first coming, we can be confident that God will once again send his Son back to consummate his purposes for his people.
- Fallen Condition 5: We live our lives with little or no thought of the imminence of Christ's return.
- Gospel Solution 5: When we behold the beauty of Christ our longing for his return will grow and begin to shape how we live.
Hopefully that is enough of a taste to give you an idea of how this works. But essential to this process is a growing grasp of the gospel in all its richness. There is no substitute for reading and reflecting on Scripture itself. But a wonderful tool that will help you to do this is the book... A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God's Love by Milton Vincent. Vincent does a wonderful job of not only summarizing different aspects of the gospel, but also explaining how those different aspects have practical, everyday life implications for the way that we think, feel, speak and act.
In our next post, we will look at what I refer to as the four aspects of application.