Isaiah 12:1-6: You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. 2 “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” 3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. 5 “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. 6 Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”
The people of Israel needed to know that the Lord would be their salvation from sin, suffering, and judgment. We too need to dwell on the truth that the Lord is our salvation. For too long in the evangelical church we have misunderstood the gospel. We have preached a gospel of “having your sins forgiven so that you can go to heaven when you die.” Forgiveness and eternal life are benefits of the gospel, but they are not the center of the gospel message. What then is the gospel? It is well summed-up in this wonderful text from Isaiah: “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation” (v. 2).
The gospel is the announcement of what God has done in human history to redeem his creation from sin and evil and to restore people of every nation and language to right and lasting relationship with himself. The gospel isn’t first of all about us. It is first of all about God! God the Father sent God the Son into the world to save the world (Jn. 3:16-17). God the Son took on human flesh and lived among us (Jn. 1:14). As a human Jesus obeyed God perfectly and died on the cross sacrificially to reconcile all things to God (Heb. 4:14-16, Romans 5, Col. 1:15-20). God then raised Jesus from the dead and exalted him to the highest place at his right hand. Jesus is now the living Lord of the universe (Acts 2:14-36, Eph. 1:20-23, Hebrews 1, 1 Peter 3:18-22). God the Father then, through his risen and exalted Son, poured out God the Holy Spirit to indwell the church and convict the world (Acts 1-2, John 14-16).
Further, the gospel is about God’s Kingdom. In the Old Testament God the Father promised that one day his kingdom would break into human history (Is. 9:1-7, Is. 11:1-10, Jer. 23:1-8, Ezek. 17, Daniel 2). Jesus came proclaiming, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:14-15); and he came demonstrating the arrival of God’s kingdom through his mighty works of compassion and healing (Luke 4:16-30, Luke 11:14-23). Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension together constitute the story of his enthronement as King – so that Christians now believe, confess and proclaim that Jesus – and not any human ruler – is Lord! (Luke 19:28-40, Matthew 28:16-20, Philippians 2:5-11, Romans 10:5-13). The Holy Spirit is the one who glorifies King Jesus by empowering the church to bear witness to Him, by transforming the church to be like Him, and by convicting the world to repent and believe in Him (Jn. 15:26-16:15, Acts 1:1-11, Gal. 5:16-26). As the community of Jesus’ disciples, we proclaim the Lordship of Jesus and invite people of every nation and language to enter the Kingdom of God by turning their lives over to Him (2 Cor. 4:1-6, Acts 28:17-31, Romans 10:14-21).
“God is my salvation” means that our focus in proclaiming, obeying, and celebrating the gospel is on what God has done to establish his kingdom and reconcile the world to himself. Secondly, “God is my salvation” means that it is the gospel which reveals most clearly and definitively to us the nature and character of God. It is from the gospel that we learn the truth of God’s triunity: He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – One God in Three Persons. We know this truth about God’s nature only because the Father sent the Son, and the Father and Son sent the Spirit. In perfect unity the Divine Persons have acted in human history in a way that not only secures our salvation but also reveals the deepest truths about God’s own being (John 1:14-18). So, when we confess that “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8) we do so knowing that before ever there was a world there was God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – an Eternal Communion of intrapersonal love (Jn. 1:1-3, Jn. 17:1-5, 2 Cor. 13:14). Thirdly, “God is my salvation” means that the Lord himself is our shield and our very great reward (Gen. 15:1). Forgiveness is wonderful because it makes possible our renewed relationship with God. Eternal life is wonderful because it is life forever with God. Through his saving actions in history our Triune God is bringing us into his own life. God the Holy Spirit lives in us and makes us children of God (Romans 8:9-17). Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became what we are – human – in order that we might become what He is – sons of God! (Gal. 4:1-7, Hebrews 1-2, 1 Jn. 3:1-10). Through the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son, and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are therefore brought to share in the eternal, triune divine life.
John 14:20-23: Jesus said, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
John 17:20-23: Jesus prayed, ““I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
So, the gospel is about our personal salvation, but it is also about far more than that. The gospel is the fullest revelation of who God is and what God is like, the announcement of God’s work to establish his kingdom and redeem his creation, and the invitation to all people of all nations to become children of God and partakers of the divine nature. Even this summary of the gospel is understated, but at the least it puts our focus back in its proper place: on God, God’s nature and character, God’s love, and God’s Kingdom. And, when we begin to take in these majestic heights of God’s glory, then we too our are moved to praise with Isaiah’s words: “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. 5 “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. 6 Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” (v. 4-6)
Take time now to seek God. This brief prayer can help you get started: “O Lord – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – you are my salvation! I exalt your holy name, and I declare your glorious works. Thank you Lord, for your mighty acts of salvation, for revealing to us who you are, and for bringing us into your own life as your children. May my life bring honor to you! May you be exalted, worshipped, and loved throughout the earth – for yours O Lord is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”