What is the Gospel?
The Apostle Paul told the church in Ephesus that he had been entrusted with the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ, a ministry in which the church continues to this day (Ephesians 3:7-13). Another term for “gospel” is “good news.” The first verse of the Gospel of Mark says, “This is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ.” The business of the church of Jesus Christ is sharing the gospel of the good news with the world that desperately needs to hear and receive it.
It requires the whole of the Old and New Testament to tell the gospel story. There is however a core of truths that comprise the essence of the good news, a core of realities which, when embraced personally and intentionally by faith, serve as the pathway to a rightly restored relationship with God. That restored relationship is the heart of the gospel.
All men and women are imperfect human beings.
We are flawed by our inability to live holy lives. In other words, all human beings are sinners. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That is, we all “miss the mark” or cannot rise to the standards for living in relationship with the holy Giver of Life, God Himself.
The Bible is full of stories that underscore the sin of human beings since the beginning of time. Our own lives are a testimony to this biblical truth that we are far from perfect individuals.
Sinful people cannot live in intimate relationship with a holy God.
The prophet Isaiah said it best when, in speaking with the voice of God he said, “But your sin has made a separation between you and your God” (Isaiah 59:2). Sin causes a gulf between people and God. In fact, separation from God due to the real moral guilt of a person’s sin is God’s punishment for sin. This is vividly portrayed in the Bible in the account of Adam and Eve being driven out of the garden, out from the presence of God. Adam and Eve were told that if they disobeyed God, thereby living lives of unholiness, they would surely die (Genesis 2:1). They disobeyed, lived lives of unholiness, and they died. In short, the Bible says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
There is an antidote to death and hope in the midst of despair.
Though the gospel story begins with bad news, it is preeminently a story of good news. The good news is that God loves his creation so much that he has provided a way by which the just consequences of our sin can be overturned by his mercy and grace. The Bible says that God “showed his love toward us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
The death of Jesus Christ saves us from the penalty of separation from God (death) both in this life and in the life to come, because in his ultimate act of love, Jesus died in our place. He took upon himself, the punishment that was meant for us. His death on the cross was in our place. It was an “atoning” sacrifice, a sacrifice of himself to secure forgiveness for us and to make us “at one” with God. That is what the Bible means when it says, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting their sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
This is the good news! This is the gospel! This is the greatest story the world has ever known and the greatest reality that a person can possess.
New life is offered by God but must be received by us.
The Bible says “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). However, a gift does not become a personal possession until it is intentionally received. God offers us this wonderful salvation that includes the forgiveness of sins, restoration to an intimate relationship with himself and real life both now and for eternity. But it does not become ours until we receive it.
And the way we receive the gift of salvation is by receiving the One who made salvation possible, Jesus Christ the Savior. The Bible says “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12).
And in that best-known verse of the Bible the sum of the gospel message is expressed when it says “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
We accept God’s gift of salvation through the act of believing faith in Jesus Christ as our own Lord and Savior.
A person becomes a Christian, receives God’s gift of salvation and possesses real hope by simply asking Jesus Christ to be his Savior and Lord. That request takes many forms, but at the very least it would include a number of statements, made to God in prayer by faith, like:
Heavenly Father, I know that you are holy and I am not. I know that I am a sinner and cannot live in close relationship to you. I know that because of my sin, I deserve to live apart from you now and for eternity. I know that I deserve death because of my sin.
Heavenly Father, I believe that Jesus has died so that I could be forgiven. I believe that He died for me on the cross of Calvary. I accept your gift of forgiveness and life even as I accept Jesus as my Savior and Lord. Please come into my heart and into my life. Live in me so that I know that I belong to you and our separation is over for good.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for saving me. I thank you for giving me life. I thank you for making me a person of hope. I thank you that even though I may die physically, I will live with you in heaven forever.
Heavenly Father, in gratitude for all that you have done for me, I will dedicate my life to loving you and serving you and obeying you so that you will receive from me the praise that you rightly deserve. Amen.
Becoming a Christian happens immediately but growing as a Christian takes a lifetime.
The moment we receive Jesus into our lives as Savior and Lord, God the Holy Spirit enters our hearts as the sign, seal and guarantee that we no longer live estranged from God, but have been reconciled to Him (Ephesians 1:13,14).
However, this isn’t the end of the story but just the beginning. The Holy Spirit begins to change us — to change us in how we think and how we act and what we desire and do in life. Because we are now God’s son or daughter by faith we are being changed into the image of Jesus, God’s eternal Son (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Additionally, as the children of God we are called by God to dedicate ourselves to living lives that please Him and bring Him honor and praise. We try to live the Christian life, not because we have to in order to be accepted by God. That’s already been accomplished through our faith in Jesus. We live the Christian life in gratitude for all that God has done for us already, in Jesus.
This Christian walk is a lifelong walk. It is not always easy. It sometimes meets with defeat, and from time to time it’s just plain difficult. But at the same time, it is a joy to know that God is pleased by our obedience. It is a joy to serve God who served us so wonderfully in Jesus Christ. And it is a joy to know that someday we’ll live with God in heaven, where there will be no end to our fellowship with God, no end to the treasures of heaven given to us, and no end to this glorious life.
Point of Personal Reflection
- How does this explanation of the good news correspond to my understanding of the Gospel?
- Have I ever personally and intentionally prayed a prayer like the sample prayer above? If not, should I pray that prayer right now?
- Do I have questions or issues I should take up with one of the pastors or a trusted Christian friend in the church?