One of the powerful aspects of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which truly makes it “good news”, is its depth and reach. Unlike other self-improvement techniques masquerading as good news, the gospel has life long and eternal implications.
1 John 2:1-2 says this, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world.” Because of our newfound identity in Christ, our past sins are forgiven, but also our present, and future sins. This does not negate the need for repentance, but highlights it, in that if we sin, God has secured for us both the means and the ends by which forgiveness is granted. John writes, “If anyone does sin…” The word “does” is the present tense of the verb “to do”.
Therefore the substitution of Christ on the cross, receiving in His body the wrath of God the Father, on our behalf covers our present sins. These sins persist in our flesh, and our described by Paul in Galatians 5:19-21 as works of the flesh. These desires persist in our flesh, and can only be combated through a healthy cultivation of life in the Spirit, as Paul points out in Galatians 5:16-17, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
Paul describes his own battle with these sinful desires in Romans 7:15 “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the thing I hate.” Paul goes on to point out in verse 18, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” Now Paul is writing this from the position of a person who has been transformed from a sinful past of crimes including murder and persecution of Christians. Yet even in this state of salvation and fulfilling the office of an Apostle, he says of himself, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” And in verse 24, he calls himself a “Wretched man”, and asks the question “Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” The verb here “will” is the future progressive tense that describes an ongoing or continuous action that will take place in the future. So then Paul is describing is ongoing and continuous deliverance from the “no good” that is within him. This includes present and future sin! And the answer to Paul’s question in verse 24 is found in verse 25, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” This ongoing and progressive work will be completed when Christ returns, John writes “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2)
An important aspect of our redemption is that it is simultaneously complete and ongoing. It is complete in that our position before God has been secured, according to Ephesians 2:4-6 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved-and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” It is ongoing in that we are are daily being conformed to the image of His Son, according to 2 Corinthians 3:18 “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is that Spirit.”
The depth and reach of the gospel in our lives is awe-inspiring. Truly we have moved from death to life through the finished work and ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ, as the writer of Hebrews declares, “…He is able to save to the uttermost (completely, at all times) those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”
Because of His grace, God will always see to it that we are kept by Him and if need be brought back to Him, through the gifts of repentance and faith. For those who have found a new identity in Christ our sins are forgiven, past, present and future, and our destiny is secure in Christ alone!