So just what is the Gospel? First of all Gospel means “Good News”. Second, this Good News is about Jesus Christ–who He is and what He has done for us.
Where is the “Good News” coming from?
The God who created the universe and all that is within it is the One who is behind the Good News. He is the One who orchestrated the events that culminated with the Good News. He is the One who has also designated men to proclaim the Good News.
We need to understand the “Bad News”
In order to appreciate the Good News, we need to understand the predicament that we (mankind) got ourselves into. At a minimum, we failed to give God the glory and thank Him for His marvelous creation. Instead we say that everything “evolved” by chance even though a careful look at the variety of life and the intricate design point to a Creator.
Next God gave each person a conscience so that we would know right from wrong. We know that when we lie or steal that it is wrong. This is what sin is, when we do things we know are wrong. The Bible says everyone has sinned, ” If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8
Because we know we have sinned, and we know there is a God who created all things, the logical conclusion is that one day God will judge us based on our actions. This is indeed what the Bible says: “He will reward each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness.” Romans 2: 6-8
What we (mankind) have consistently done is come up with ways to appease God’s wrath or somehow earn His favor and forgiveness. Every major religion, cult or “ism” is an attempt to appease God and earn His favor. These systems of thought each have a list of things that one must do or not do in order to become acceptable to God. Even God Himself gave His chosen people, the Israelites, the Law of Moses. This included the Ten Commandments, such as, “You shall not murder”, “You shall not commit adultery” and “You shall not steal”. When Jesus of Nazareth was on earth teaching people, He said that ” that anyone who is angry with a brother will be subjected to judgment” and “that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:22, 28
Regardless if it is following the Law of Moses or some other list of rules, God has stated in the Bible that no one is righteous in His sight. ” just as it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one,””. Romans 3:10. There is one exception in all people that have ever lived, and that is Jesus of Nazareth. He lived a perfect life, even following the Law of Moses perfectly. He alone is righteous in God’s sight. This makes Jesus the standard of God’s judgement. If we can be as perfect as Jesus then we are righteous before God. However, no one has even come close.
Therefore, man’s predicament is that we each face judgement before God for our sins. We each face God’s “wrath and anger” as stated above. And there is nothing we can do to avoid God’s wrath and anger. Man’s predicament is terrible and without remedy unless God Himself does something.
And now for the Good News
The Good News is that God has indeed done something to save (deliver) man from his terrible predicament. The Good News is summarized in 1 Corinthians 15:1-6 by the Apostle Paul: “Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. ”
I underlined several key phrases in understanding the Gospel. First of all, Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures. Who is “Christ”? This is the Messiah that was foretold in the Jewish scriptures, or what Christians refer to as the Old Testament. The New Testament declares that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the One who fulfilled over 300 specific prophecies about the Messiah that are recorded in the Old Testament. The book of John in the New Testament was written “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:31
Why did Jesus Christ die for our sins? If God punished us for our sins then we would be separated from Him eternally. By God placing our sins upon Jesus when He was crucified on a cross, and God punishing Jesus in our place, God’s anger against our sin was satisfied. Not only has our sin been dealt with (removed) on the cross but in a fantastic, heavenly exchange, God took the righteousness of Jesus (His perfect and right standing before God) and gave it to us, making us as righteous as Jesus. This is what the Apostle Paul declared in the second epistle to the Corinthians: ” God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:21.
Why did God take away our sins and in exchange make us as righteous as Jesus? Because we could not do this for ourselves and this was the only way we can have fellowship with God for eternity. While God is perfectly just to punish us for our sins, He is a loving God, full of mercy and grace toward us. In his love for us, He “saved” us from our hopeless predicament. To “save” means to rescue us from eminent danger. He rescued us from facing eminent judgement, leading to eternal separation from Him. God is merciful toward us, not giving us what we deserve. He is gracious to us, granting us what we don’t deserve, including forgiveness and righteousness.
What is the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus after He died on the cross? God raised Jesus from the dead to demonstrate that God was satisfied with the price Jesus paid for our sin. We can look back at the resurrection and know that our sins are forgiven and we have a right standing before God (righteousness).
In the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God removed all the barriers between man and God. God is no longer angry with us about our sin. God has forgiven our sin. The Bible says that God reconciled us to Himself. This is not just Good News but Fantastic News!
Responding to the Gospel
People respond in different ways to hearing the Gospel:
- They are offended by the Gospel. Often the offense is because some people can’t accept that God had to save us because we couldn’t save ourselves. Since all religions offer a prescription of commands and rules for achieving acceptance by God, the Gospel flies in the face of all religions
- They reject the Gospel. It may not make sense to them, or they understand it but don’t believe it, or they may want to hold off and think about it later. If you are in this group then please consider reading through the Gospel for Believers section of this website, which is simply the Gospel in more detail.
- They are willing to change their mind about who God is and what He has done for them through Jesus Christ
In the book of Acts in the New Testament there is a verse that states, “Therefore, although God has overlooked such times of ignorance, he now commands all people everywhere to repent, Acts 17:30 (NET). “To repent” means to change your mind. In this context it means to change your mind about God, who He is and what He has done for us through Jesus Christ. In the book of Mark, Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel!” Mark 1:15 (NET). Included with the idea of repenting is the idea of believing. You change from a state of unbelief to a state of belief in God’s provision for us through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
For those who have repented and believed, and since there are no longer any barriers between us and God, the typical first step is to pray to God and thank Him for sending Jesus from heaven to die on the cross and to obtain forgiveness for us. For those who haven’t prayed before, or in a long time, prayer is simply talking to God in faith, believing that He hears us and listens to us. Since God knows everything, including what we are thinking, prayer can be silent or spoken. If you haven’t prayed yet, then pray right now, thanking God the Father for sending His Son Jesus to die for your sins. Just pray in your own words, as you would talk to someone that you know loves you.
The next step is to obtain a Bible and start reading it. As we read the Bible, God Himself will teach us about Himself, what He has done for us, and who we are as believers.
Another step is to find a group of believers to meet with. This is usually a group that has organized as a church. A church can meet in someone’s home or in a building designated as a church building. We need to use discernment when choosing a church since there are some that have strayed from the truth of the Bible. One helpful guide to use is insure that the church frequently talks about the Gospel, who Jesus is and what He accomplished on the cross for us. This should manifest itself through frequent teachings and discussions of the letters in the Bible written to churches and individuals, known as the Epistles.
An Unexpected Bonus
When someone receives the Gospel and believes its message, some internal changes have occurred that were initiated by God. The Bible says that we actually died with Christ when He died on the cross, we were buried with Him when He was in the tomb, and we were raised with Him to new life when He was resurrected. “Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life” Romans 6:4. This is illustrated when people are baptized in water. The manifestation of these internal changes is that our desires changes. Some of the things we used to like become less appealing. New desires appear, such as desires to pray, read the Bible and fellowship with other believers.
For new believers, I recommend committing to learning more about the Gospel. While the Gospel is simple, it is also multifaceted and quite intricate in its full glory. Believers can study the Gospel for the rest of their lives and never fully plumb its depths of beauty and wonder. For more information see the “Gospel for Believers” section of this website.