WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?
Today there is a lot of confusion about the Gospel. Even within the Church one can hear of “Living the Gospel” or “Being the Gospel.” But when the Scripture speaks of the Gospel it is not about us or what we do - it is about Jesus and what He did in our behalf. The Apostle Paul - one of Jesus earliest followers - said this about the Gospel:
"Now I would remind you brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you - unless you believed in vain. 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 and that He appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-5).
Paul tells us that the Gospel is about something that happened in history. It is about Jesus, His death and His resurrection. This is not just a philosophy, or wishful thinking. It is about historical facts that actually happened and were verified by witnesses. Jesus of Nazareth was put to death on a cross, buried, and then raised from the dead, appeared to many witnesses, and then ascended to His Father. This is the Gospel - the Good News. Why is this important? What difference can it make to me that a man lived, died, and was resurrected 2,000 years ago? Why is that Good News?
To begin answering this question we must first understand the bad news.
The bad news - our sin
To understand why the Gospel is such Good News, we must recognize our predicament. The Scripture declares that we are all sinners. Many today assert that we are all basically good. We may make mistakes, but there is nothing really wrong with us. However, this is not the truth. On the contrary, the Scripture says there is something critically flawed about each of us. This flaw is called sin, and it affects each of us. In his letter to the Romans, Paul sums up the message of the Old Testament Scriptures this way:
“As it is written: 'None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one . . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:10-23).
In our quiet moments of honesty, we all realize this. Despite our protests to the contrary, we know that there is something wrong.
The worst news imaginable - the consequences of sin
As if the news of our sin was not bad enough, it is important that we understand the consequences of our sin. Because God is holy, He can not simply overlook our sin. We are sinful ourselves, and so try to simply sweep sin under the rug. But God is holy, and so sin can not simply be overlooked. It must be judged. The prophet Habakkuk tells us “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (Habakkuk 1:13). And King David - a man who certainly knew his own sin - states “ You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. 5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong” (Psalm 5:4-5).
God’s judgment of our sin is to banish us from His Presence. Sin produces a rupture in our relationship with God. The Scripture says “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). Eventually it produces death - “For the wages of sin is death...” (Romans 6:23).
This death of which the Scripture speaks is more than just the physical death each of us will someday experience. It is eternal separation from God. Paul tells us that “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
The best news imaginable - the Gospel
Into this very bleak picture, the Gospel sounds forth with the best news for which we could ever hope. In the Gospel we learn that God has not abandoned us to our sin and well deserved fate. On the contrary, this is why Christ came. He has come to obey God in our place, and pay the penalty for our sins and to give us salvation.
Jesus did not just die for us - He also lived in our place. Even though Jesus was subject to all the same temptations that any other person is subject to, He never once sinned in any way. Even His worst enemies had to remain silent when Jesus asked them - "Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?" (John 8:46a). Because He was sinless, He was able to make a perfect sacrifice on the cross and to give His obedience and righteousness to us, because He did not sin, and in fact kept every command of God in our place. This is taught in many Scriptures:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).
“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).
However, Jesus did not only live for us - He died in our place. When He died on the cross He took our sin, paid the penalty due to us, and opened the way of salvation.
“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18).
Our response to the Good News
This great news call for a response from us. Many misunderstand and think that to earn God’s favor we must work. They think we must try to stop sinning, or do good things to impress God. Yet, we can never do enough to remove our own sin. This was done for us in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.
On the contrary, what God requires of us is to repent of our sins and believe the Gospel. In light of all Christ has done, we simply turn from our own way and turn to Christ. God in His grace has promised to forgive all of our sin and make us His child. This is His gift to everyone who believes in Christ and what He has done for us.
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:14-15).
16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." (Romans 1:16-17).
21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:21-24).
If you sincerely turn from your own attempts to save yourself and look to Christ, you become a child of God and are given the free gift of eternal life - a life that begins now, and that no one can ever take away. We urge you to turn to Christ in faith and begin your new life today.
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To learn more about who Jesus, the One Who is the Gospel made flesh, click [here].