WHAT IS “THE GOSPEL,” ANYWAY?
The word “gospel” is a word that means “good news” and comes from the Bible. The gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ that has come to all mankind. But while a lot of people have heard of “the gospel” and know that it has something to do with this person named Jesus, very few people have any clear idea of what the gospel declares or why it is “good news.” What I would like to do in this document is explain the gospel and tell you why it is good news, and how you personally can receive the amazing promises contained in the gospel. The basic outline I will use is “The Problem,” “The Provision,” and “The Proposition.”
We begin by stating that man has a problem. What problem do I have in mind? One problem that comes to mind is the problem of the grave. Man is the only animal that is aware that he is going to die, and death is a clue that points to THE problem, but while death is certainly A problem, it is not THE problem. THE problem is what I will call the bad news. An understanding of the good news begins with the declaration of the bad news. The bad news has to do with the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. The Bible declares that God is infinitely holy and because He is holy, God must punish all sin. The Bible also declares that man is by nature a sinner. The Bible states that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).” Man is not a sinner because he sins, but man sins because he is by nature a sinner. Another way of saying this is: “The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.” Sin is the problem, because man’s sin (that’s your sin and my sin) makes him subject to God’s judgment. Now do you see THE problem? God is holy and must punish sin and man (that’s you and me) is sinful. THE problem is that as sinners, you and I are subject to the wrath of God. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Romans 1:18).” “The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).” “The soul that sins, it shall die (Ezekiel 18:4).” These verses are not speaking about physical death, but about eternal, spiritual death and are referring to hell. The problem that must be solved is the problem of man’s sin and unrighteousness. How can a sinner escape the wrath of the living God against sin? Another way of saying this is, “How can a sinner be saved from the wrath of a holy God?”
THE PROBLEM: MAN’S SIN PLACES HIM UNDER GOD’S JUDGMENT AND CONDEMNATION.
Now that we understand the bad news, that man is condemned for his sin, it is time to understand the good news contained in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The good news is that, since man could do nothing to change his sinful nature or to escape God’s wrath and condemnation, God Himself has provided a way for man to be saved from God’s wrath and to be forgiven of his sin. What is God’s provision for man’s sin? God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to die on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for sin, so that whoever believes in Jesus Christ is saved from his sin and from God’s wrath and has eternal life.
Let me take a few sentences to explain this, because it may not be obvious what is going on here. We have said that God must punish sin and that “the wages (the punishment) of sin is death.” God’s holiness requires Him to punish sin and His perfect justice requires that all sin must be punished by death. If God were to forgive sin without exacting sin’s required punishment, His justice would be compromised. So how can God ever forgive sin and still remain just? God can forgive sinners because of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. You see, Jesus lived a sinless life. Jesus Christ was perfectly righteous and never sinned in thought, word or deed. Since Jesus was sinless, He was a perfect sacrifice. When Jesus went to the cross, He died for sins, but He did not die for His sins, but He was a substitute, dying for the sins of others, so that their sin-debt could be paid and they could be forgiven.
For example, I am now a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, but since I am a human, I am also a sinner. Therefore someone must pay my sin-debt. Someone must satisfy the death penalty that the Law of God requires for my sin. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He died for my sins. My sins were transferred to Him as the Lamb of God (John 1:29) and when He died, the penalty for my sins was paid and God’s justice was satisfied. Jesus was my substitute and He paid my sin-debt so that God can now forgive me and still be perfectly just. Jesus Christ is God’s provision for man’s sin and allows man to escape God’s just condemnation. (Romans 3:21-16; 1 Peter 3:18; 2 Cor. 5:21)
THE PROVISION: JESUS CHRIST IS GOD’S PROVISION FOR MAN’S SIN.
Now we understand the bad news of man’s sin and condemnation and the good news of God’s provision of Jesus Christ as the one who dies as a substitute for our sins. For the person who has received this good news, there is not only forgiveness of sins, but there is reconciliation with God and the promise of eternity in heaven. There is also the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ and the desire and the ability to live a holy life because of the Holy Spirit who indwells every believer. How does a person receive all these benefits of the good news?
Well, first it must be clear that just understanding the facts of the gospel is not enough to receive the benefits of the gospel. You may completely understand that you are a sinner and that God punishes sin. You may think that this problem could apply to you and that you could be in trouble. You may believe that Jesus died on the cross and that His death had something to do with sin and even with your own personal sin. You may even think that Jesus was a pretty good guy and that church is not a bad place to go on a Sunday. But all that is not enough. You can believe all these things and still go to hell when you die. To gain the benefits of the gospel you must take some action. You must do something. You must make a lifetime commitment and an eternal decision. This lifetime commitment and an eternal decision is what I am calling the “Proposition.”
This Proposition is as simple as A-B-C. The “A” is that you must Acknowledge your sin to God and turn away from sin. You must admit that you personally are a sinner and that, as a sinner, you deserve God’s wrath and condemnation. Then you must repent and consciously turn away from sin in your life and begin to seek righteousness. The following Bible verses will serve to guide you in seeing your sin and in acknowledging it to the Lord. (Luke 18:9-14; Jeremiah 17:9; Genesis 6:5; Psalm 32:5; Titus 3:3; Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). After you Acknowledge your sin, you must Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The “B” is “Believe.” You must place your faith and trust in Christ alone as your only means of salvation. You must declare that Jesus Christ is Lord of your life. Again the Scripture helps us here. (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18; John 3:16, 36; 5:24; 1 John 5:11-13; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9-10, 13) Finally you must Commit to follow Jesus Christ and to worship Him for the rest of your life. You must “confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord.” You should make your commitment to Christ public by joining a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching church and then attending church every week. You should get publicly baptized as a believer in Jesus Christ. You will want to buy a Bible and begin a regular, daily time of Bible reading and of prayer. Seek out other believers who will help you grow as a Christian, who will teach you how to read and understand the Bible, and who will model for you what it means to live your life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. But when you commit, the adventure will have begun! Once you repent and believe in the Lord Jesus and commit to follow Him for the rest of your life, you will have passed from death to life (John 5:24) and you will have eternal life.
THE PROPOSITION: ACKNOWLEDGE – BELIEVE – COMMIT – and let the adventure of following Jesus Christ begin!