What is the Gospel?
If there is one thing I will not do here in my blog, it is to assume that everyone knows the Gospel. Christians from every denomination say amen to the Gospel, only to fight about everything else, but seldom do they recognise that many of these fights erupt from a fundamental disagreement or misalignment of the Gospel.
The Gospel is conventional jargon in every Christian home, and people have seen enough Jesus movies for a lifetime to get the crux of the message. Moreover, everybody knows John 3:16,
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
The Gospel is the good news that Jesus came to die in our stead, taking our sins upon the cross, and rising from the grave on the third day to be seated at the right hand of the Father. The Gospel is that Jesus died to save us from our sins, that those who would believe in Him as Lord and Saviour, are heirs to the promise of eternal life. The Gospel is our salvation.
This much gathers agreement from everybody’s neck of the wood. However, the specifics matter. Why did humanity need saving? Saving from what? Why couldn’t God just forgive us, instead of sending His Son to die for us? How does His death and resurrection save us? How can I know that I am saved? What assurance can I have of the promise of eternal life?
Do you see the problem? John 3:16 is an excellent ‘summary’ of the Gospel, but it was never meant to be the exhaustive explanation of the Gospel. The summary is great, but the details are important. Although many Christians have truly been saved by this olive twig of a hope (the summary), that is no reason for us to be ignorant of the entire branch (the details). In fact, a poor understanding of the Gospel more often creates false proselytes who convert for all the wrong reasons. Christians who do not learn, or are not taught the biblical answers to the aforementioned questions, often make up their own versions of the Gospel by answering these questions themselves, and many of their intuitions in answering these questions come from the kind of Jesus they’ve seen portrayed from weak pulpits, or by Jim Caviezel.
“If we want revivals, we must revive our reverence for the Word of God. If we want conversions, we must put more of God’s Word into our sermons.”CHARLES SPURGEON
The Perpetrator, and his Judge
So, here we go. God created a good and perfect world where there was no death and no corruption. In this world, He created Adam first, and then Eve from Adam’s flesh. He made them man and woman. Not man, woman, and pokemon. Period. The plethora of pronouns in our age is a madman’s fantasy, and there are no other genders apart from ‘male’ and ‘female’. Sorry for my digression, back to the story. In this good and perfect world, God gave both Adam and Eve incredible freedom to dominate and multiply in the land, but He also instructed them not to do something, the first law. But when the serpent deceived Eve, both Adam and Eve broke the law of God and did what they were instructed not to do. From that moment on, they became sinners. Sin entered the dominion of this world and this sin corrupted the whole world. As the representative of all mankind, Adam is, what we call, our federal head. All of our ancestries culminate in this one man. His sin is therefore imputed to all generations that come from him. And the wages of sin before a Holy and perfect God, is death. This is why we need saving. Man, in the flesh, is hostile to God and everything in him is corrupted in such a way that he neither seeks for nor desires God.
When people ask the question, “why would a loving God send people to hell?”, they’ve not realised how serious our condition is. God does not send us to hell like disgruntled parents that ship their children off to boarding school. God does not send us anywhere, He throws us into the abyss, where His just wrath is poured out on the guilty. Hell isn’t hell because God’s not there, hell is hell because it is the punishment carried out by God. In that place of grinding and gnashing of teeth, the smoke of their torment rises in the presence of the Lamb, Jesus Christ (Rev 14:11). What we need saving from, is not a place, but from God Himself. He is our judge and eternal executioner. Hell is a horrible place to be for it is the absolute disposition of God’s just wrath upon a sinful people. There is no grace and mercy in that place.
The Sinner, and his Saviour
In our helpless state, God determined to save a people for Himself. And so, He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, who is Himself one with God and is God. Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life of absolute obedience to the Father, and went to the cross willingly to die for our sins. How can Jesus’ sacrifice save us? Because, what Adam could not do, Jesus did. Adam failed to obey the first and only law he had to keep, but Jesus fulfilled all the laws of God. His perfect obedience gave Him the name, the Word of God. If God’s word put on flesh and blood, you would behold Christ. And when Jesus died as a sinless man, it pleased God to pardon us sinners who believe in this Son. If we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, there is now no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus. For believers, Adam is no longer our federal head, Christ is. For He is the second Adam, the Adam that Adam should have been. Jesus died so that we can die to our sins, and Jesus rose from the grave that we might rise with Him to the newness of life.
Such a sacrifice was necessary because God cannot pardon the guilty without due punishment. A judge who did that would be unrighteous, because a good judge never discards his judicial responsibility. He must punish the guilty for what they did wrong, and we are all sinners, fallen short of God’s glorious standard. Apart from Jesus, our Saviour, there is no salvation. He is the way, the truth and the life.
The Christian, and his King
How can we know that we’re saved? We know we are saved because we bear the fruit of the Spirit. If the Spirit of God now lives resides in us, it will be made evident in the way we live our lives because we who once loved the world now love Christ. We are new creations, the old has passed away and the new has come. The Christian possesses a real relationship with the God who saved him from the gates of hell. The Kingdom of God is upon us, and we are the citizen’s of that kingdom. Jesus is our King, and as His subjects, we now live to please and glorify Him alone, we who are the fruits of God’s redemptive work, the ones to reclaim the glory of Eden.
Such a firm affirmation of one’s salvation is evidenced within the community of saints, the church, where the fruits of the Spirit are clearly identified and pruned. This truth is lost to many Christians today, who feel that a leather bound bible is proof enough of their salvation. We who are saved have an unflinching hope in our salvation not because we’re saved by works, but by the finished work of Christ. We are saved by faith alone, in Christ alone. However, we are not saved by a faith that is alone. Faith without works is dead according to James 2:14. There is a work that accompanies true faith that evidences that this faith has life in it. If our salvation was left to our works, we would all be condemned. We would all fall away. But as it stands, Christ died for us and He who started a good work in us has determined to perfect it unto completion. Such a road to perfection is evidenced by good works done to those around us, primarily in the church. Christ, the King, reigns, and so our hope remains, forever.
This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of our salvation from death and utter loss. There’s a lot more detail we can (and will in subsequent posts) get into, but for now I hope you can see how the oversimplification of the Gospel in our time has been one of the most damaging influences in the life of the Church. If anyone reading this blog has not turned to Christ in this way yet for their salvation, I urge you to run to him today, for He does not turn away anyone who runs to him.