Saturday, March 3, 2007

What is the Gospel?

In 1710, Britain’s Queen Anne visited a cathedral which had been designed and constructed by Sir Christopher Wren. After her tour she described the building as “awful, amusing, and artificial”. Upon hearing her words, the architect sighed with relief and satisfaction.


Don’t be; because in 1710 the word “awful” meant “awe-inspiring”; “amusing” meant “amazing” and “artificial” meant “artistic”. To modern ears her words sounded like devastating criticism; instead, she had lathered compliments and praise upon the designer.

Words do not always means today what they meant yesterday; thus, meanings of words are often unclear. Take for an example the word “gospel”. What is the gospel? For some this word means “that which is absolutely and unquestionably true.” Such a one might say, “It’s the gospel truth.” Webster’s dictionary defines the gospel as “the teachings of Jesus and the apostles.” That is helpful, but the definition is broad and vague.

Churches are right to say that their God-given commission is to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). But the question remains: What is the gospel?

Romans 1:16-17 says,
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”

The Gospel is about a Person
“…the gospel of Christ…”

For one to understand the gospel one must know who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished.

Who is Jesus?

That question was first asked by Jesus, and it is recorded in Matthew 16:13-16. He said to His apostles, “Whom do men say that I am…Whom say ye that I am?” Peter answered for the entire group when he said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Under the inspiration of the Spirit the apostle John penned his gospel account so the reader would now that Jesus is the Son of God
And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
When Jesus claimed to be God’s Son He was declaring that He was equal with God; that He was God in the flesh
But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God - John 5:17-18
Jesus Christ is Lord. He is God who took upon Himself the form of a man (Philippians 2:5-11). We are told in John 1:1, 14, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”.

What did Jesus do?

There are three elements of the gospel according to 1 Corinthians 15:1-5. Those elements are… (1) The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ(2) for our sins(3) according to the scriptures. That Jesus was buried is proof that He died. That He was seen alive on numerous occasion by multitudes of people is proof that He was resurrected. He died and was resurrected “for our sins” and all of this was “according to the scriptures.”

The wages of sin is death; however, God demonstrated His matchless love for mankind in that Christ sacrificed Himself on the cross to pay sin’s wages. This was foretold in the Old Testament. The prophet Isaiah spoke of Christ in chapter 53:3-6,
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…smitten of God, and afflicted…he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
This was fulfilled in the New Testament. The apostle Peter spoke of Christ when he wrote,
Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. - 1 Peter 2:22-24
The Gospel has the Power to Save
“…it is the power of God unto salvation…”

The Greek word translated “power” in Romans 1:16 means “miraculous power”, and that is what the gospel is: the miraculous, abundant, mighty, and wonderful power of God unto salvation. Only God’s power is able to overcome man’s sinful nature and give him new life.

The facts of the gospel have to do with Jesus, His death, and His resurrection for the sins of man according to the scriptures. The gospel’s impact is described with the phrase “the power of God unto salvation.” It is not just about what Jesus did; it is that what Jesus did has the power to save sinners.

The gospel is about a person – Jesus Christ. The gospel has the power to save sinners.

The Gospel Requires Faith
“…to every one that believes…”

All of mankind has sinned and fallen short of God’s holy standard; there are none who are righteous, not even one. Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” The universal problem is sin, and the only solution to this problem is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

1 John 2:2 reads, “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” “Propitiation” means atonement or appeasement, and the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross satisfied the demands of God’s holiness for the punishment of sins. It is by the grace of God that Jesus Christ did, according to Hebrews 2:9, “taste death for every man.”

In other words, the gospel does not have favorites. All who come to God in repentance and faith will be saved.

Salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith in Christ alone. In his letter to the Ephesians Paul wrote,
[Christ] In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise - Ephesians 1:13
By faith the gospel of Jesus Christ becomes “the gospel of your salvation”. Romans 5:1, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Salvation is not faith plus anything. It is not faith plus baptism, communion, church membership, or moral behavior. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."

Good works cannot produce salvation, but good works are subsequent of salvation. Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

What is the gospel? According to the Bible, the gospel is about a person. That person is the Lord Jesus Christ who is God in human flesh. He died for our sins according to the scriptures; was buried, and rose again the third day according to the scriptures. His sacrificial death satisfied the holiness of God, and justified all those who believe. The gospel is the only power that is sufficient to save, and it is available to all who will receive it by faith alone.

Jesus said, “Repent…and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). All who read this are called to do that today; right now. Confess that you are a sinner incapable of saving yourself. Repent of your sins. Trust in the accomplished work of Christ; His death, burial, and resurrection for your sins, and publicly profess your personal faith in Him.

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