The word Gospel is actually a noun. It means, Good News! However, it is also often used as an adjective for example: Gospel obedience, gospel witness, etc. The gospel first and foremost however, is a noun. An eternal story of redemption for a lost and dying world.
But what does that mean? Redemption from what? Why are we lost? I don't feel like I'm dying?
If you are an unbeliever, then stick with me and hopefully it will be more clear by the end of this post. If you are a believer, you must remember that every unbeliever needs a complete picture of the gospel. Every believer needs to be able to give a complete description of what the gospel is. Ask yourself, could you do it? Is your description of our need and God's solution to that need adequate?
Even if you think you know, I ask you the favor of giving ten minutes or less to read through this and consider how it relates to what you think you know. You may find that you are fine, you may find that you are not. Wouldn't you like to be sure?
These days if you ask people what the gospel is, it may come out as God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. While this is true in a sense, our idea of wonderful and God's idea of wonderful are rarely the same. More on that at another time. Let it suffice to say that the "good news" which is what the word "Gospel" means is not that everything will be coming up roses if you follow Jesus. We live in the world of the "already" and the "not yet". There can be good things that come of following Christ but they are bi-products of the Gospel, not the Gospel itself and they are not guaranteed.
We will not experience all the benefits of being a child of the King in their fullness until we are living fully in the Kingdom for all eternity where "the King will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."(Revelation 21:4) That is where all the promises come to their complete fruition.
The Gospel in a Nutshell
If we needed a quick summary of the gospel, it might go something like this. While I do not claim this to be a flawless statement by any means I think the gospel can pretty much be succinctly stated in this way,
We are all sinners, who are spiritually dead and damned to hell because of our rejection of God the Father. However, because of His great love, He sent His Son to live perfectly in a way that we never could and then to die on the cross, taking all the punishment and guilt for our sin and making his righteousness available to be creidted to all who believe as a testimony of what He did. Victory over sin was then demonstrated when God raised Christ from the dead and He ascended to heaven. God then, by His grace and through the Holy Spirit, draws men unto himself whom He has already promised as a reward to Christ for His sacrifice. (John 6:37-40, 44, John 17:1-3) He then changes their hearts so that they can have faith to believe, repent from their sins. receive Christ's forgiveness through His shed blood, submit to Christ's Lordship and spread the good news of what Christ did to those whom do not know, here on earth. This is the purpose of every Christian, until the last day, when Christ returns, completes Satan's destruction, and restores the earth to a sinless, perfect state where all who's names are written in the book of life will enjoy a perfect, sinless, happy life with no sorrow or suffering, and glorifying God for all eternity."(Revelation 20:7-15, 21:1-7) The unbeliever, because of their willful disobedience and rejection of the truth, will find their place in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death for those whose names were not written in the book of life. (Revelation 21:8)
In actuality, the simplest gospel truth is that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3). However, something of this nature could be a really quick, basic rendition of the whole idea of redemption if you only had a minute or two to explain it.
If we are to truly help someone understand the scope of what God has done for us, we must have a much broader grasp on it than they would so as to answer question and potentially lead them into a deeper understanding. Thus, I truly think a more thorough fleshing out of this summary is good for us to think through for our witness and in our day to day struggles with sin.
What we need to understand, learn to fully appreciate and strive to remember every day is that, we cannot get to that glorious day without the gift of God's grace being poured out in our lives. We need to remember who we were, before Christ, if we are saved; and we need to know who we are, without Christ, if we are not. Though the same truth of the gospel is explained in many different ways throughout the New Testament, I will stay with the book of Ephesians primarily as a foundation and look to Romans to help flesh this out.
In Ephesians 2:1-10, Paul beautifully lays out our spiritual state before and after Christ, the means by which it came about, and the purpose for it. I will strive to expose the truths and leave the reading of the entire passage to you. If you have a bible, I encourage you to look it up. I will address this, as to believers, as Paul did, but you must understand that, if you are not a follower of Christ, this is true of you RIGHT NOW!
We Were Dead! (Ephesians 2:1-4)
Paul explains that our transgressions and sins made us spiritually dead. We were servants of Satan.
Romans 5:12 states "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned."
Now, when you are dead, are you capable of anything on your own? Of course not. You are a stinking corpse. There is no life in you. That was our state apart from Christ.
We Were Objects Of Wrath! (Ephesians 2:3)
Everything we did was done from a selfish motivation to satisfy the cravings of our sinful nature. Because we rejected God, disobeying him to serve our own purposes we were subject to having God's wrath poured upon us(Romans 1:18-20, 2:5-11). His holiness, cannot tolerate our sinfulness.
What About All The Good I've Done?
I want to take a moment to address this question? Romans 3:9-20 is the answer to that question and to those who might challenge the need to use the law to make people aware of their sin. Romans 3:9-18 makes it plain that there is nothing good about us in the eyes of God. There is absolutely nothing that we can do that will gain us favor in the eyes of God. Isaiah 64:6 states that "all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags".
These righteous acts are actually self-righteous acts performed out of the motivation of our own feeling of goodness or for our own benefit. There is nothing in an unbeliever's heart which truly desires to bring glory to God by what they say or do. There is nothing we can do inherently, of ourselves, to be saved. No matter how many good deeds you have done in this life, without Christ's work on the cross, you will go to hell! Vs. 20 plainly states that it is through the law that we become conscious of our sinfulness against God.
I will start with Romans 3:21-26 which basically says that though we are all guilty of sin and thus fall short of God's glory; through Christ redemptive act, we are freely justified by God's grace. To be justified means that we are now in right standing with God. Christ lived the perfect, sinless life, then went to the cross and bore the weight of our sinfulness. All of the Holy wrath that God has toward sin and sinners was poured out on Jesus so that those who will believe on Him should not perish but have everlasting life(John 3:16). Christ's righteousness, is placed on the believer, not making them sinless, but removing the guilt of their sin forever. His righteousness is credited to our account. This is the point at which sins are forgiven, through Christ's blood and by God's grace(Ephesians 1:7-8).
But You Cant' Do It!
Now to return to Ephesians 2:4-9. In this passage Paul makes it clear that, because of God's love for those whom He chooses to save(Ephesians 1:4-6), HE makes us alive with Christ, even though we were dead. Ephesians 2:8-9 is a quintessential verse in helping us understand this. It states, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, lest any man should boast. Without God regenerating us; without God making us alive, by His grace; we are incapable of making a decision to have faith and believe(Romans 8:7-8). You see, we must have faith to believe and confess Jesus Christ as Lord(Romans 10:8-13). However, that faith, while essentially our first act of obedience, is also a gift of grace.
Finally, in Ephesians 2:10, Paul makes it clear that we are not saved just to sit back and enjoy the good life. We have a job to do. He states, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." What do these works look like? First and foremost they are confession of sin and repentance from sin. Confession of sin leads to repentance because of the forgiveness that we have obtained through Christ(1 John 1:8-9, Colossians 1:13-14; 2:13-14).
Repentance is the obvious fruit of a changed heart. Repentance is evidenced when our hearts desire is to turn from the things of this world that are offensive to God and do not bring him glory and begin pursuing obedience to His word. This is a lifelong process but we will continue in it if we are truly saved(Matthew 24:12-13, 2 Peter 1:5-11).
You Are Not Alone!
But you cannot expect to do it by yourself. You must remain aware of your need for God's grace to empower everything that you do. This is what Paul means in Philippians 2:12-13 when he says, "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to act according to his good purpose". He does not save you and then leave you to walk righteously under your own power. He enables every act of obedience. In fact, "His divine power has already given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us"(2 Peter 1:3). We simply have to learn to grow into those things. So when you are feeling weak, then pray. Ask God for strength and wisdom. He gives that freely to all who ask(James 1:5).
All of this is fleshed out so that when I or others refer to the Gospel as an adjective, describing the motivation of our actions, you will remember that is also a noun. It is the redemptive story that is the power of God unto salvation(Romans 1:16). Without understanding that, you will not be able to appropriately apply the rest.
Repent And Believe The Gospel
When Jesus began his ministry, these were some of His first words(Mark 1:15). Paul tells us in Acts 17:30 that, "the times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent."
If you are not a Christian then today needs to be your day.
2 Corinthians 6:2 tells us that "today is the day of salvation". Don't wait any longer!
Place your faith in Jesus Christ. He died and paid the price for your sins so that you could have eternal life with Him! Romans 5:8 tells us that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Won't you surrender your heart to Him today? He loves you and while He does not promise your life will be roses, He created you which means that He knows how to give you what is best for YOU in this life. This life is but a vapor. Live it for Jesus and you will spend eternity with Him living a life which includes roses that never whither and fade.
Romans 10:9-10 states that, "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 with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."
I pray that you will believe, make that confession, repent of your sins and surrender to Christ's Lordship? It is the best decision that you will ever make.
May it be so in Jesus name!