What is the gospel of Jesus Christ?

 

 

The Gospel Is Good News

First off, it’s important to note that the word “gospel” simply means “good news”. So imagine that you are watching TV at home, you’re sitting on your couch viewing the evening news, and the local news-anchor on the broadcast suddenly announces that Publishers Clearing House has selected you to receive $7,000 every week for the rest of your life.  Would you be happy?  Would you consider that good news?  My guess is you probably would.  Well, in a much more deep and profound way, the gospel is the good news concerning what God Himself has done—through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ—to reconcile fallen, sinful people back into a right relationship with Himself.

In the Beginning

You see, the Bible starts off revealing the fact that God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1), and particularly, that God created mankind in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). Furthermore, the Scripture reveals that God enjoyed fellowship with our first parents (i.e. Adam & Eve), and that God’s intent for mankind was to re-present Him on the earth as His image-bearers (reflecting His glory in the earth) and to rule over His creation (Genesis 1:27-28 & Psalm 8:6).  Then God—being the sovereign Creator of all that He made—determined that mankind should obey one specific rule:  (ESV Genesis 2:16-17) And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  Sadly, however, the Bible tells us that both Adam and Eve chose to distrust and disobey God:  (ESV Genesis 3:6) So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 

The Fall

This choice (on the part of Adam and Eve) to disobey God resulted in what theologians have called “The Fall”. In other words, by rebelling against the holy, righteous, loving, kind, and infinite Lord of the universe, severe consequences were introduced into our world that were not originally a part of God’s creative order (e.g. sickness, death, mourning, pain, etc.).  As a result of man’s rebellion against God, not only did Adam and Eve “fall” out of fellowship with their Maker (Genesis 3:8), but Almighty God also cursed this world, and subjected His earthly creation to futility (see Genesis 3:14-19 & Romans 8:20).  Moreover, every member of the human race (since Adam and Eve) has been born in sin (Psalm 51:5 & Romans 5:19), and consequently, human beings have followed the ways of this wicked world system, have been influenced by Satan and his demonic hosts, and have sought to fulfill the evil desires of their fallen human nature (or “the flesh” as Scripture often calls it) [see Ephesians 2:1-3].  Sadly, people’s sin has caused a separation between themselves and God (Isaiah 59:2), and the just consequences of their sin are both physical and spiritual death (see Genesis 2:17; Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23; James 1:15; Revelation 20:14, Revelation 21:8).  Those who go to their graves having never responded to the gospel of Jesus Christ in penitent faith will face an eternity separated from God’s glorious presence and shall experience the wrath of God in hell for eternity (see Matthew 10:28; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9, John 3:36, Revelation 20:14-15).

The Bad News

Now, if—as I have said—the word “gospel” refers to “good news”, I think it would be safe to say that what I have described in the above paragraph is “bad news”. And yet, I would hasten to add that I believe reality (i.e. life as we know and experience it) confirms what Scripture teaches (i.e. all actual sins—e.g. hatred, physical/sexual/verbal abuse, murder, robbery, slander, lust, immorality, etc.—stem from the root of sin which is present in the hearts of all people—see Mark 7:21-23).  The question before us, then, is simply this:  Assuming the above description is true, is there any hope for sinners like us who have alienated ourselves from God?  Is there any way that we—who have “gone their own way” (see Isaiah 53:6), and thus, become God’s “enemies” (see Romans 5:10)—can be reconciled to God?  Can sinners (i.e. people who have valued created things more than they have valued the Creator [see Romans 1:22-25], and people who have disobeyed His laws [see 1 John 3:4]) be restored to a peaceful relationship with a holy and righteous God who hates sin? 

The Good News

The answer that Scripture gives to these questions is a resounding “YES”. Fallen men and women can be reconciled to a holy God… and that is where the gospel comes in.  The gospel (or good news) of Jesus Christ is the announcement that God has done everything necessary—through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son—for sinners to be reconciled back to Himself.  Sinners need only hear the gospel of their salvation, and place their faith in the Person and redeeming work of Jesus Christ to be rescued from the wrath of God and restored to a peaceful relationship with God the Father (see Ephesians 1:13; John 3:16, John 3:36; Romans 5:1).

The Gospel Elaborated

So what did Jesus Christ do? What is the “good news” about His life and ministry?  Well, read carefully these words from the Apostle Paul:  (ESV 1 Corinthians 15:1-4) 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.  Did you catch it?  Did you see what the Apostle Paul declared about Jesus Christ?  Paul taught that the gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead.

Perhaps I can effectively use just one verse from the New Testament to elaborate or explain the gospel more thoroughly. Here is what the Apostle Peter wrote in his first letter:  (NIV 1 Peter 3:18) For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God

First, please note that Christ is called “the righteous [One]” in the above text.  This is simply Peter’s way of describing Christ as sinless.  This is the unanimous testimony of the New Testament:  Jesus Christ never sinned (see Luke 23:41, Luke 23:47; John 8:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15, Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peter 2:21-23; 1 John 3:5).  Why is this important?  It is important because God sent His Son to function as a substitute for sinners.  In other words, God’s plan to rescue sinners depended upon His Son taking upon Himself the sins of the world so that God’s wrath against sin might fall upon Jesus Christ rather than upon those who actually sinned against God.  To say it another way, in order for Jesus to pay for the sin debt of others, He could not have a sin debt of His own [To use a fictional example from every day life:  A poor person—with no job, no money in the bank, no cash on hand, and $23,000 of debt—could not pay off his friend’s credit card bill of $3,000… his own debt precludes him from paying another’s debt]. 

Second, note that Jesus—the righteous One—took upon Himself the sin debt of the unrighteous ones (i.e. sinners) and died on their behalf once for all.  To put it another way:  On the cross, Jesus absorbed in Himself the wrath of God against sin and died in the place of sinners.  Scripture teaches us that on the cross God the Father laid upon Christ the sins of man (Isaiah 53:6), that Jesus experienced the condemnation that sinners justly deserve for their sins (Mark 15:33-34), that Jesus paid the penalty for man’s sin debt in full (John 19:30), and that He died once for all in the place of sinners in order to forgive them (Matthew 20:28, Matthew 27:50; Ephesians 1:7).  The sinless substitute (or “the Righteous One”) took upon Himself the sin debt of mankind (or “the unrighteous”) and paid their debt in full (“died for sins once for all”) with His life’s blood (1 Peter 1:18-19), and it is this work of redemption which enables God to forgive those who turn from their sin and trust in the Person and saving work of Jesus Christ.

Finally, please note the reason the text says Jesus Christ—the righteous One—died for the sins of the unrighteous once for all: TO BRING US TO GOD.  This is the ultimate end or purpose of redemption.  God wanted to remove the barrier of hostility between Himself and sinners (namely, their sin) because He created His people for His glory and pleasure (Isaiah 43:7, 21; Romans 11:36; Ephesians 1:12; Colossians 1:16; Revelation 4:11).  God desires to display His beauty and glory to His redeemed ones (John 17:24), and He wants His redeemed ones to find their greatest joy and satisfaction in Him (John 6:35 & Philippians 4:4).  God loves sinners (John 3:16 & Romans 5:8) and demonstrated His love by sending His sinless Son to be the substitute who satisfied the wrath of God by dying in the place of sinners on the cross.  And now, by God’s grace in Jesus Christ, sinful men and women can be reconciled to God and enjoy Him forever.

How Does Someone Become a Christian?

And how does a sinner appropriate (or apply) God’s grace to his own life? How does one experience God’s forgiveness?  How is an unrighteous person allowed to enter into God’s holy heaven at death?  How does God—as the Judge of all mankind—declare a sinner to be righteous in His sight?  The answer is both clear and consistent in the Bible:  The sinner must repent of sin and believe in Jesus Christ.  In other words, fallen men and women are called by God to turn away from their sin and trust in the Person and saving work of Jesus Christ alone for salvation.  God alone—through Christ—can save sinners (Psalm 3:8; Jonah 2:9; John 14:6; Acts 4:12, Acts 10:42-43).  Do you wish to be saved from God’s wrath?  Would you have your sins forgiven?  Do you want God to declare you righteous in His sight?  May I humbly suggest you meditate on the verses below and then obey God’s call to repent and believe in Jesus.  God is faithful to His promises, and none is more precious to a humbled sinner than these verses in Romans chapter 10 (vs. 9-13): For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They all have the same Lord, who generously gives His riches to all who ask for them. For “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (NLT)

 
Scriptures Concerning Conversion: Man’s Response to the Gospel
(Repentance—turning from sin; Faith—placing one’s confidence in Christ)

 

NAS Mark 1:14-15  Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

NLT Acts 2:37-38  Peter’s words convicted them deeply, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter replied, “Each of you must turn from your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

ESV Acts 16:30-31  Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”

NLT Romans 3:23-28  For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us. God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times. And he is entirely fair and just in this present time when he declares sinners to be right in his sight because they believe in Jesus. Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.

NIV Romans 5:1  Therefore, since we have been justified [i.e. forgiven of sin and declared righteous in God’s sight] through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.    [elaboration of the term ‘justified’ inserted by the author for clarification]

NIV Ephesians 1:13  And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.

ESV Ephesians 2:8-9  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
 
 
Water Baptism
 
All those who choose to turn from their sin (i.e. repent) and trust in the Person and redeeming work of Jesus Christ (i.e. believe) are also called by Jesus to be immersed in water (i.e. baptized).  Jesus commanded that all His disciples are to be baptized in water to mark them as followers of His (see Matthew 28:19-20).  Indeed, all converts that received the gospel in the book of Acts (the New Testament book which records early church history) were baptized–proving that they were forsaking their sinful pasts and were publicly committing themselves to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (see Acts 2:41, 8:12, 8:38, 9:18, 10:48, 16:15, 16:33, 18:8, 19:5).  Please note, water baptism, in and of itself, cannot save anyone.  If someone is baptized in water without that person first repenting of sin and trusting in Jesus Christ all you have [following such a baptism] is a “wet sinner”.  Biblically, water baptism is to function as a public expression of one’s inward faith in Christ and one’s appeal to Him for salvation (1 Peter 3:21), and it is that sincere inward faith confessed outwardly which provides significance to baptism (see Romans 10:10).
 
If you have any questions about repentance, faith, or water baptism, please feel free to e-mail Pastor Jason.  He would be delighted to explain these theological topics with you in more detail.

  

* Scriptures in this article are taken from the following English Bible translations (as indicated or marked):

                ESV—English Standard Version

                NAS—New American Standard (Updated) Bible

                NIV—New International Version

                NLT—New Living Translation

  

This article has been written by the pastor-teacher of Christ Our Treasure Fellowship, Jason Baeuerle.
It is written in the hopes of seeing more people turn from sin and embrace Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior, and Treasure. 
Any questions or comments may be submitted to him via his e-mail:  jason.baeuerle@gmail.com