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When we talk about the “good news” of what Jesus has done, we cannot always explain all that was accomplished for us by Jesus. There are constraints of time and understanding that may preclude us sharing all that the life and death and resurrection of Jesus means.  However, when I listen to friends and followers of Jesus talk about the good news, I notice a common kind of description.

The Gospel–the good news about Jesus–is often presented as the truth about Jesus dying on the cross for sinners so that people can be forgiven and, having experienced the forgiveness that comes by grace through faith, those who believe in Jesus can one day go to heaven.

Now I would not deny that such a presentation of the Gospel touches on key aspects of Jesus’ great work of grace. I just wonder if, in presenting the good news this way, we end up thinking inadequately about this great work of grace and we end up offering those who don’t know the good news a minimalistic understanding of God’s great work of grace. It goes without saying that every Gospel-rooted conversation will not touch on all the dimensions of the Gospel, but I do wonder if we realize all that happened for us in and through Jesus.

Paul writes about Jesus’ great work on our behalf in Romans 5:

But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:15-21)

What else is here, in this overview of the Gospel, that is only minimally touched on in speaking about “Jesus dying for sinners”?

First I notice the abundance of grace that Paul refers to. Yes, forgiveness is, in truth, an amazing work of grace. But there is so much more grace in what Jesus has done and does do for us than just the grace of forgiveness. So many–even those who have come to know Jesus and receive forgiveness–end up feeling stuck in their sin and feel defeated. But Paul says that where there is sin, grace abounds even more! Grace trumps sin, grace is greater than sin, grace will win out over sin. And that is more than just experiencing forgiveness. No matter how crippling the sin, grace is even more abundant, even more powerful, even more pervasive.

In this passage Paul also talks about justification and righteousness (words that share a similar Greek root word). When we speak of Jesus’ work on our behalf as solely about being forgiven, we can be left feeling as if we aren’t on God’s bad side any longer . . . yet without really feeling or knowing that we truly belong. We intuitively know that forgiveness erases all the “bad marks” against us; Jesus dealt with the punishment due our sin on the cross.

But to stand before God requires more than “no bad marks”–you need positive holiness to stand in the presence of the holy God. And that is where justification and righteousness come into view. Part of the amazing thing Jesus did for us was not only to suffer on our behalf to pay the penalty for our sins (and thus provide for us forgiveness), but he also lived a perfectly sinless life and offers that life in exchange for our own (and thus provide for us positive holiness). Through the obedience of the One, the many will be made righteous.

Although individually we did not sin just like Adam did, being united to Adam in our humanity, we share in fallenness and sin. Although individually we did not live holy like Jesus did, being united to Jesus through faith and becoming a part of his new humanity, we share in his positive holiness.

If we began to think and talk and share about the good news about Jesus this way, it might really impact the way we relate to God, the way we deal with our own struggles with sin, the way we think of our own lives before God.

We are not simply forgiven–as glorious and good and gracious as forgiveness is. We are recipients of a super-abundance of grace that overwhelms the sin problem we feel strapped by–no matter the struggle there will always be more and more and more grace to address it. We are also granted a positive holy standing before God–just as if we had always lived as perfectly holy and sinless as Jesus always lived.

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