Two young students who had recently become Christians took our car rides together as a chance to pepper me with questions. They had grown up in nominally Christian homes, but they didn’t know much of what they were supposed to believe. Every Monday, I would pick them up at their dorm and drive them to a meeting. For an hour there and an hour back, they would ask questions. What does the Bible teach about this? How should I understand that? Everything was new to them, so everything was exciting. Over the next few years, they learned much more about their new faith, but they never lost the simple truth of the gospel.
Paul summarized the gospel message for the Corinthians: “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 Cor. 5:3–4). It is tempting to think that once this is learned, one can move on to the more advanced material of Christianity and the Bible. This is a mistake. You never get past the gospel.
I’m reminded of a TV commercial that aired some years ago for the board game Othello. The commercial presented the contradictory nature of the game with the tagline “a minute to learn, a lifetime to master.”
The gospel presents itself in a similar way. It is simple enough for a child to understand it, but its depths are unfathomable. The new believer can easily grasp the truth about Christ and His work, and yet its fullness occupies the most learned theologians.
There is a wealth of theological and biblical material to be learned—systematic theology, the vast sweep of the biblical narrative, archaeological data, apologetic strategies, and so on. And the Christian should aspire to learn all that he can—to move beyond surviving on just milk, but to be able to handle solid food as well (1 Cor. 3:1–2a).
But my young friends understood that in moving on to other biblical and theological material, one never moves beyond the simple truth of the gospel. It is not that the gospel is the entry-level truth, which one leaves behind once it has been understood. It is the foundation and the core, so we must continually return to it.
As we do so, we are also invited to exult in the salvation wrought by Christ, to wonder at God’s mercy. Paul is our guide here, as in one place he bursts into praise after reflecting on God’s grace toward him (1 Tim. 1:17) and in another he praises God after meditating on the mystery of Israel’s salvation (Rom. 11:33, 36).
As we grow in our faith, may we continue to hold on to that wonder. As we learn more about God’s revelation, let us strive to better understand who He is and what He has done for us in Christ—and praise Him for it.