What Is the Gospel?
The word gospel literally means "good news," and it refers to the central message of the Christian faith. The gospel message is about Jesus and his victorious reign over sin, death — and ultimately over the whole universe. In order to understand the significance and nature of Jesus' victorious reign we need to understand some basic things about God, about ourselves, and about the person of Jesus. And, we haven't really understood the gospel until we recognize in it the call for us to respond.
God. There is one God, eternally existing in joyful community as three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is the Creator of everyone and everything. He is the source of all that exists. He created the universe, and he created it good. He created mankind as the pinnacle of creation, both male and female, in his own image to glorify him. As the author of life, God is worthy of the whole-hearted worship and adoration of all people.
Man. Though the first man and woman were created good, they chose not to trust God as the giver of life. Instead, they went their own way and rebelled against their good and loving Creator. This rebellion against God is called Sin, and God's righteous and just penalty for Sin is physical and spiritual death.
As the children of the first man and woman, we are all born in this rebellious state of Sin — we are separated from God, and we are deserving of God's just judgement. Sin exists as a chasm between us and God. We confirm the sad reality of our separation from God by our sinful thoughts, words and deeds we commit on an ongoing basis.
Jesus. The very core of the gospel is about Jesus Christ. Though all of mankind has rebelled against God and is deserving of his just and eternal punishment, God determined to provide a victorious Savior who would restore a people to his good and loving reign over their hearts. God the Father sent God the Son to become fully man. His name is Jesus. Jesus walked among sinners and lived a perfect life of obedience before the Father. He was unjustly crucified on the cross, where he not only suffered one of the most painful human deaths imaginable, but he also suffered the punishment for Sin in the place of sinners like us. Moreover, Jesus conquered sin and death by raising from the dead as the victorious King of all creation. Jesus now reigns at the right hand of the Father and will come back to make his authority known to all, judging both the living and the dead.
The Call to Respond. We haven't really understood the gospel until we hear in it the call to respond. Everyone who hears this message of Christ's redeeming work for sinners and his victorious reign over sin and death is called to turn from their life of sin and put their trust in Jesus as their Redeemer King. Those who respond to the gospel in this way have been given a new heart, the stain of sin has been removed from them, and the perfect life that Jesus lived is counted as their righteousness. Though God's people still sin, they agree with God about their sin and look to him for help to overcome it. The victory and reign of Jesus is being realized in their lives. These Christians do not have any reason to fear the coming judgement, rather, they anxiously await the return of their King.
Their following of Jesus as their Redeemer King is especially marked by....
(1) Identifying with Jesus and his people in Baptism
(2) Celebrating the preaching of God's word in ongoing fellowship and accountability with other believers
(3) Remembering Jesus' death in the regular practice of the Lord's Supper, thereby being spiritually nourished
(4) Calling others to this same faith in Jesus
For a booklet length treatment on this topic, ask Pastor Jeff for a free copy of What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert after a Sunday morning worship service.