Gospel Definitions: Michael Wittmer
Hear the Christian gospel:
We are all rebellious traitors against God and his kingdom, and for that we are dying now and are destined to suffer forever in the ultimate despair of hell. We are actually God’s enemies (not merely in our imagination), and we deserve whatever torment we have coming. Worse, we are entirely unable to lay down our weapons and change sides, for as the apostle Paul reminds us, we are “dead in our transgressions and sins… by nature deserving of wrath… without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:1-12). We are unwilling to change, and unable to change our hearts and minds so we would be willing.
God justly could have been content to destroy our insurrection and wipe us from the earth. But he took pity on us, and while “we were God’s enemies,” “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8, 10). The cross is a most unusual weapon of choice, but the death of his beloved Son was the only way that God could defeat our sin and death. Satan had become the functional ruler of us and of this world when he tempted Adam and Eve, God’s appointed rulers of creation to switch their allegiance to him. Now a Son of Adam, the Son of God, had come to earth to win us back.
Jesus did not conquer Satan in some heavy-handed way, using his overwhelming force to throw him down. God beat Satan on a level playing field. He became a creature, vulnerable to Satan’s attacks, and defeated the devil through weakness rather than shock and awe. In this way he did not so much overpower Satan as outwit him. He showed Satan and his demons to be fools, for, “having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col. 2:15).
Demons shrieked and danced around the cross, deliriously surprised by how easily Jesus had fallen into their trap. What they didn’t realize was that they had walked straight into his. Jesus knew what C.S. Lewis – in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - called the “magic deeper still,” that “when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward”. Death died in the death of Christ, for Jesus bore our penalty in our place.
Jesus took our sin and death down with him into the grave, and when he arose he left them in the dust. Paul explains, “He was delivered over to edeath for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Jesus’ spectacular resurrection is not merely an authoritative illustration of a general truth that is embedded in creation. Rather it is the turning point of world history, for that is the moment that God reversed the cruse, releasing forever those who put their faith in Jesus. Jesus’ death and resurrection don’t merely reveal that death leads to life; they are the very things that make it true. Jesus triumphed over sin, death, and Satan by his cross and empty tomb, and anyone who trusts his finished work alone will join his victory.
- Michael Wittmer, Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins (148-150)