What is the gospel?
Maybe you've heard the word gospel before but didn't understand exactly what it means. The word gospel means "good news" in Greek.
Interestingly, evangelion is the Greek word from which we derive the term, gospel. It's also the word from which we get English expressions like evangelist (one who shares good news) and evangelical (referring typically to Christians and churches known for sharing the good news of Jesus with others).
But what is this good news or gospel? When it comes to us as individuals, the gospel is the good news that God made a way for our forgiveness and salvation through Jesus Christ. You might wonder, "Why do we need forgiveness and salvation anyway?" Great question! Slightly modifying a G.O.S.P.E.L. acrostic I've seen others use, let's explore how the Bible answers this question.
God created us to glorify, enjoy, and be with Him forever.
The Bible begins with the story of creation (Genesis 1-2). It describes God creating a beautiful world of harmony and balance. He even made humans in His image, both male and female. According to God's design, He would fellowship with and lovingly provide for them as they joyfully and peaceably ruled, cared for, and developed the earth's extraordinary potential as His representatives. It was a good world. God said so Himself!
Our sin separates us from God and leads to suffering and death.
However, looking around our world today, we realize something must have gone wrong. Our world and its people are no longer fully what God lovingly created them to be - far from it. What happened? In short, tempted by Satan's lie, our first parents rejected God's care and plan, maligned His character, and rebelled against Him. Divorced from God, the author and giver of life, they immediately plunged the world, themselves, and their children after them into the horrors of sin, just condemnation, misery, and death. Today, we live in this fallen world (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12; 6:23).
Surprisingly good news from God changes everything.
As we might expect, God immediately announced their rebellion's just condemnation and grave consequences. However, He also told them something entirely unexpected. Amid the bad news, God surprised them with good and gracious news - the gospel. He would one day send a Deliverer to destroy the devil and undo his destructive work (Genesis 3:15). This Deliverer, known later as the Messiah, would be born of a woman and provide the way to forgiveness, restoration, and ultimate salvation (I John 3:8). Through Him, God would make everything new again (Revelation 21:5)!
Why did God promise this? One of Jesus' disciples, John, answered this question in the gospel account that bears his name (John 3:16-18). He said:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."
God loves the world He created and desires to save it and all those who will believe.
However, let's note something of critical importance here. From the beginning of the gospel's proclamation, it exclusively emphasizes God's gracious work for us in salvation, not ours for Him. The Bible repeatedly emphasizes that we, as fallen and sinful creatures, cannot earn our salvation through good works - in whole or in part (Isaiah 64:6; Matthew 5:20; Romans 3:20; Ephesians 2:8-10; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:4-5; James 2:10-11). As one preacher famously quipped, the only thing we contribute to our salvation is the sin that made it necessary. The gospel, therefore, is the message of God's sovereign and gracious work from first to last.
Paying the price for our sins, Jesus suffered, died, and rose again.
Over thousands of years, God gradually revealed the identity of this promised Messiah through the Old Testament prophets. Sharing in our humanity yet without sin (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14), born of the Hebrews (Genesis 12:3; 17:19; 28:14), of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), of the family of King David (2 Samuel 7:12-13), in the town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), at the appointed time (Daniel 9), Jesus Christ - God's eternal Son, fully God and fully man, and our Savior - entered the world.
Jesus came to succeed where we failed. Where we sinned and rebelled against God, Jesus faithfully and perfectly obeyed His Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:17-20). He delighted to do His Father's will (John 6:38). Jesus, therefore, didn't deserve to experience the horrors of sin, condemnation, misery, and death as we do. And yet, He willingly took these upon Himself anyway (Philippians 2:3-11). Why did He do this? For us! He freely offered His life, assuming our guilt and shame as our substitute, taking the punishment we deserved, and paying the penalty we owed to set us free (Colossians 1:14; 2:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus died on the cross so that we might live.
Thankfully, because He is God, death could not hold Jesus (Romans 1:4). He arose from the dead, showing God's desire and power to do the same for those receiving Jesus Christ's gift of forgiveness by grace through faith (Romans 8:11).
Everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ alone will be saved.
God offers salvation to all people everywhere (Galatians 3:28). Jesus, therefore, commanded that His disciples make disciples of all nations without distinction, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20). God's gracious offer of salvation is remarkably broad!
However, the way of salvation is exceedingly narrow, and Jesus warns that few find it (Matthew 7:13-14). What is this way of salvation? It is Jesus Christ alone.
For this reason, Jesus tells us in another place. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Jesus' very first disciples, known in the New Testament as the Apostles or The Twelve, taught the same. Regarding Jesus as the sole way of salvation, the Apostle Peter taught, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). The Apostle Paul instructed his young protege, Timothy, similarly, saying, "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time" (I Timothy 2:5-6). Finally, the Apostle John stated bluntly, "And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life" (I John 5:11-12). Salvation comes to us in Christ alone.
Life changes forever with Jesus.
Justified before God through Jesus Christ alone, God adopts us into His family as beloved children (John 1:12; Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 3:26; Ephesians 1:5; 1 John 3:1). He moves us from "the domain of darkness and transfer[s] us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:13-14). This transition means a new kind of life for us, one increasingly characterized by repentance (a change of mind and heart toward God and away from sin) and discipleship (learning to trust and obey Jesus). It also means eternal life, everlasting fellowship with God, and those reconciled to Him through Christ (Romans 6:23). Eventually, we will even experience the glory of a New Earth beneath a New Heaven (Revelation 21).
Are you ready to believe in Jesus?
Jesus commands everyone, everywhere, to return to the Father in Heaven. During His earthly ministry, Jesus declared, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). How will you respond?
Next Step 1: Decide to Follow Jesus
If you are ready to turn back to God the Father, ask for His gracious gift of forgiveness in the Name of Jesus Christ alone. You can do so confidently. God will not reject you. Jesus promised that "whoever comes to me I will never cast out" (John 6:37). If you don't know what to pray, maybe start with something like this:
"Heavenly Father, I confess my sins and humbly ask for Your forgiveness in the Name of Jesus Christ. Please save me from the power of sin and death. Take complete control of my life and help me to walk in Your ways more and more everyday by the indwelling and renewing work of Your Holy Spirit. I trust that Your promises are true. Thank you Lord for saving me and for answering my prayer. Amen."
Remember: saying a prayer doesn't save anyone. It's not the prayer that saves; it is the One to whom we pray. Even so, prayer is simply talking with God. And restored communion with God means restored communication.
Next Step 2: Find and Commit to a Local Church That Preaches the True Gospel
God commands His people to come together in local churches to worship, encourage, and edify one another in the faith and evangelize the world (Acts 2:42; Romans 16:16; Hebrews 10:25). There is no instance of an obedient believer in the New Testament existing apart from the fellowship of a local church. Please drop us a note if you need help finding a good church. We'd love to help connect you with one. Of course, we'd love for you to consider joining us at First Free!
Next Step 3: Get Baptized
Jesus commanded baptism with water in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for all of his disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Following this ordinance was usually the first step of obedience and public identification with Jesus for a new follower during the New Testament era (cf. Acts 2:38; 8:36-39; 10:47-48; 16:15, 33). As a new disciple of Jesus Christ, you should obey His command and be baptized within a local church by a gospel minister. As an expression of renewed obedience, don't delay your baptism unnecessarily.
Next Step 4: Commit to Ongoing Enjoyment of the Ordinary Means of God's Grace
God appointed several things for our protection and prosperity as His children - the Word, prayer, the ordinances of baptism, and the Lord's Supper, and, intrinsically tied to these, the consistent fellowship of a local church. By enjoying these means, we enjoy blessings otherwise neglected - a growing experience of joy, peace, and the assurance of His love.
If you live in the Pittsburgh area, we would love to see you at First Free Church. We worship at 10:45 a.m. every Sunday. We also have gatherings for all ages before worship at 9:30 a.m. Finally, we get together on Wednesday nights for prayer, study, and encouragement (September - May).
Kevin Labby, Lead Pastor
First Free Church