The Gospel In A Nutshell…Seriously

We worship a God who wants live with us and have a relationship with us.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t often stop and ponder just how utterly amazing that is.

For example, consider the fact that God is infinite and eternal.  This means that he is outside of space an time.

How can someone like us who is constrained by space and time be in a relationship with a God who is outside of both space and time?

I like math, and one basic principle you learn in math, is that anything added to infinity is still infinity.  In a sense, you could say finite numbers are consumed in the precedence of infinity (thinking in this terms helps to give a bit of a different perspective to some on the surface startling accounts in the Old Testament scriptures).

How can an infinite and eternal God then relate to humans who are constrained within space and time?

Well, I believe the  opening account of creation, in Genesis 1, gives us some clues to this divine mystery:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void and darkness hovered over the face of the deep. (Genesis 1:1-2a)

I’ve had this verse memorized since I was in first grade, but only recently were my eyes opened to a couple amazing things about this verse.

After God created the earth it was describe with 3 characteristics:
1)Without Form
2)Void (or empty)
3)Dark

If you know the qualities of God you will see that is describing the absence of God.

In other words in order to create space for his creation God had to subtract from himself.

This is amazing in and of itself, but if we think deeply, we will see that this only partly solved the problem.  This answers how God could make space for creation, but it doesn’t answer how he could have a relationship with that creation.

In other words, what good is that space if God isn’t actually there..

It seems that we have arrived at a catch-22.  How could God get around this? Well that’s what I want to address in this blog:

Revelation and Concealment through Word and Spirit


It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. (Proverbs 25:2)

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. (John 4:23)


The first clue we get into understanding the divine mystery is at the end of chapter 1:2:

And the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (Genesis 1:2b)

The spirit of God was above the waters.  This was before day 1 of creation.  What does this tell us?

It tells us that although the world appeared to be completely empty, water was in someway already there and God’s spirit was already there as he hovered above the water (as a note this should tell us to somehow draw a correlation between the Spirit and water as we read through the creation account).

So God was in fact everywhere although until day 1 of his creation, he was concealed in a way that appeared as if he was nowhere.

When God’s Word was spoken it revealed the spiritual reality that was already present within the world.

The next thing I want you to pay attention to, is what is created in the first 3 days and what is different about days 2 and 3 then from days 1 :

[Day One]: And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light…God separated the light from the darkness..there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

[Day Two]: And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters…God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse….God called the expanse Heaven…there was evening and there was morning the second day.

{Day Three]: And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place and the let the dry land appear…

And God said “let the earth sprout vegetation”…there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

(Genesis 1:3-13)

What I find interesting is that God actually only creates ‘ex nihilo’ (out of nothing) 3 things in days 1 through 3:
1)light
2)an expanse to divide water and air
3)Dry Land

All that was necessary for the plant life to come about (ie nutrients, and seeds) were already present within the soil, his word simply caused the life to come about.

 

We see from this acount that God’s word brings revelation, division (not in a negative sense, but as in light from darkness, heavenly from earthly etc.), order, and finally life!

The gospel in a nut shell
I’ll get back to all this at the end and tie it together, but for now I’d like to discuss something talked a lot about within Christianity, “the gospel.”

Most Christians would agree that “the gospel” is the main message of Christianity.  What exactly is the gospel though?

There have been various attempts to boil it down to it’s simplest terms (for example 4 spiritual laws, Roman’s Road etc.), and we often call that “putting the gospel in a nutshell.”

The only problem is that whenever we try to “put the gospel in a nutshell” we inevitably lose or distort significant portions.

Consider something that sounds crazy with me for a second, but what if the gospel itself was already contained in a nutshell, like a real, physical nutshell.

What do I mean by this?

In the start of the gospel of Mark 1:15, the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry is recorded with his announcement that “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.”

Jesus talked all about “the kingdom of God.” To him it seemed it was the gospel, even though for some reason this isn’t talked about very much within Christianity today (we generally see the gospel as primarily about”how to get to heaven.”)

In Mark 4 Jesus gives several parables about seeds to explain he kingdom of God.

After the first one he says something that we sometimes pass over but should grab our attention if we read closely:

Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? (Mark 4:13)

This seems to indicate that this is the key parable to understanding any of the other ones.

He then also says the following to explain why he taught so often in parables:

to you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God,  but for those outside everything is in parables. so that “they may indeed see but not perceive and may indeed hear but not understand lest they should turn and be forgiven.” (Mark 11:12)

Jesus was saying to those who are his disciples (ie who love him and have faith in him), that these parables will serve as keys for revealing the kingdom of God to them, but to others the message will be in some way concealed so that they won’t be able to perceive or hear it.

Why would God choose to conceal himself from some and only reveal himself to his disciples?

Soren Kierkegaard wrote a great parable on the divine wisdom behind the concept of revelation and concealment, called The King and the Maiden which illuminates this concept.

The short version of the story is that there is a king who falls in love with a servant girl.  He wants to ask her to marry him, but wouldn’t ever be able to know if she really loved him or just loved him for his power and wealth.  He comes up with a plan to conceal himself as a servant worker, and he pursues the maiden and they fall in love and get engaged.  At the eve of the wedding banquet he reveals to her that he was really the king of the entire palace.

Let’s get back to the parable that Jesus said was the key to unlocking all the rest.

The parable is about a sower that sows seeds and each seed falls in different types of soil.  3 out of the 4 fall in places where they can’t grow but one falls in good soil where it grows and produces fruit.

Now I’ve heard this passage preached on a lot and generally the message taught, is that Jesus is telling us to be like the sower and share the gospel with a lot of people and that some will receive the message and some won’t.  It’s similar to the advice I was given when I used to sell cars: “some will, some won’t, so what, who’s next.”

What if there is a much bigger message that we are supposed to be getting than just “go share the gospel with a lot of people?”.

Jesus already shares what all of the symbolism in the parable means, so I won’t labor on that point, but I’d like to take one step further back and examine why Jesus would say this is the keys to understanding all of the rest of the parables about the kingdom of God.

Let’s take a look at how a seed grows and I will show you, that I believe an infinite truth about the eternal gospel is contained within…a nutshell (ie a seed), and it will answer, at least in part, the mystery I posed at the beginning of the post about how an infinite and eternal God could have a relationship with finite beings within space and time and how this all relates to the “gospel of the kingdom of God”.

The Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of a Seed
Consider the life that is contained within a seed.

For example within a seed to a fruit tree, is contained the ability to make not just one fruit tree but actually an infinite amount of fruit trees.

Infinity is actually contained within a finite seed that you can put on your fingertip!

Now I will walk through some of 1 Corinthians 15 to show how all of this illustrates “the gospel” and why Jesus would say the parable in Mark 4 was so importnat:

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, (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 ESV)

What everyone (or at least most) can agree on is that the gospel has to do with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Let’s take a look at why that was good news, and what that has to do with the kingdom of God.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. (1 Corinthians 15:20-21 ESV)

Man was created to live in relationship with God, and not just a distant relationship but one in which we would share of his very life.  After all God is life!

God walked with man in a garden called Eden and there was a tree, called the “Tree of Life”, (this represented much more than just living forever, but partaking of the very life of God), but Adam and Even instead chose to partake of the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil,” which represented living by ‘self life,’ independent of God. Because of this, they were kicked out of the garden and death entered the world.

In the historical person of Jesus, God himself incarnated into human history and was born in the likeness of sinful man. He was crucified and buried.  But on the third day rose from the dead, like a tree emerging from a seed.

“Truly, Truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Whoever loves his [psuche] life loses it and whoever hates his [psuche] life in this world will keep it for eternal [zoe] life.” (John 12:24)

“The first Adam [the man of the dirt] became a living being [ie seed] the last Adam became a life giving Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 15:45)

Now like a tree that is able to give that is able to produce new trees, Jesus offers resurrection life to all who give up their self life (the Greek word is ‘psuche’ where we get the word soul from).

This is much more than just life everlasting in heaven, this is living by the very life source of God (ie the Holy Spirit).

The kingdom of God is in its simplest form, is about God replanting the garden of Eden and restoring all things to how they were originally created.  Jesus and his church are called the first fruits of the new creation.

 

Although the kingdom is mostly invisible at this time, one day it will become visible.  It grows very much like a garden though and this is why Jesus said the parable in Mark 4 was so important in order to get the rest of the parables.

The gospel is not about living forever in the sky it is about being able to enter into the life of the Father and The Son!

That in a nutshell is the gospel!

Partaking of Divine Life
Let’s now take a look at some of the ways the life of a plant teaches us about how we “participate in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) and “have fellowship with the Father and the Son” (1 John 1:3).

For example, consider how a plant grows:

1)Water get evaporated from bodies of water

2)When enough water gets evaporated in the sky, it creates a cloud and then it rains bringing the water into the soil

3)The water Falls into the soil allowing the nutrients in the soil to be transferred to the seed (the best time for this to happen is at night otherwise the water will evaporate too fast).

4)During the day the sun shines and it’s light is transferred through the air to the plant which gives the plant a different type of nutrients it needs.

5)The seed grow into a plant.  (note also that at night time is when most of the growing occurs, but in the day time is when the new growth can be seen).

6)The plant then drops new seeds (which repeats the same process), and it dies which adds more nutrients into the soil.

7)People or animals eat the plants.  (and I won’t go into details, but they use the nutrients and then expel of them which actually provides nutrients for soil).

This is the way divine life works in a nutshell!

Now take a look at these scriptures and see if you can see some analogies of partaking of divine life, that are shone within the life of a plant:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3)

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day (Proverbs 4:18)

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

This one is too long to post here but here’s the link: 1 Corinthians 15

When looking at this section of scripture and comparing it to the life of a plant, pay special attention to pairs of similar things such as:

night/day
moon/sun
water/air
seed/plant
earth/sky
soil nutrients/light.

Would love to hear in the comment section if any new revelation pops out to you from these or other verses about anything discussed in this post.

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