There are pictures of the gospel to be found all through Scripture. God wants his people to see that his ways and his truth have never changed. So, even in times when the plan of God to save a people by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone was still only hinted at in shadow, God turned certain events to help us see how he would work.
Consider the story of Naaman the Syrian in 2 Kings 5. Naaman had a dreadful disease from which he needed healing. He went to Israel looking for a cure from the Lord. When he approached Elisha the prophet, Elisha gave him simple instructions. The foreign general was to wash in the Jordan 7 times, and he would be restored.
Watch how Naaman responded to Elisha, and you will see something of the problem many have with the gospel.
2 Kings 5:9-14 – 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
Naaman was offended. He was offended that Elisha did not treat him with extra respect because of his rank. He was offended that Elisha did not come out and perform some sort of religious ceremony. There was no sacrifice. There was no dancing or anointing. It was just a command to go and wash in the river. When Naaman finally relented enough to do what he was told, however, he was healed.
In our world, people struggle with the gospel for a variety of reasons. Of course, in our day, many are so in love with their sin that they want nothing to do with the gospel. They want nothing to do with the God who would limit their evil. But there are those who struggle with the gospel because it seems too simple. They believe that more must be required of a person to be truly made right with the Creator. They assume that religious rights and rituals, sacrifices and bowings, ceremonies and mystical chants must be required for something as significant as the salvation of a soul.
Here is the amazingly good news. God saves sinners by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. A person does not have to pass through some sort of ritualistic testing ground to be saved. We do not have to climb the highest mountain or sleep for 40 days in the cold. No, in order to be saved, a person merely turns from his own sinful desire to control his life, trusts in Jesus, and is saved. When a believing sinner turns to Jesus for life, that sinner finds that God has already done all the work to save him. God has provided the righteousness that we could never live. God has provided the sacrificial substitute in Jesus. God has even given us the faith to believe. All the work to save us, absolutely all of it, was done by the Lord. And so we simply let go of trying to make ourselves right with God and surrender to Jesus in faith. Then, like Naaman simply slipping into the Jordan River, we find that we are made whole by the grace of God through Jesus Christ.