The gospel translated simply means “good news.” It is the central message that the Christian faith proclaims and according to 1 Corinthians 15:3 is “of first importance.” The great reformer Martin Luther wrote of it that “the gospel cannot be preached and heard enough, for it cannot be grasped well enough…Moreover, our greatest task is to keep you faithful to this article and bequeath this treasure to you when we die.”
As important as the gospel is, one must ask what is this message? What is this “good news?” Unfortunately, even among many Christians today, you will often get varied answers to this question. But the good news about the “good news” is that the Bible – God’s inspired word – clearly provides us with the answer to this question of “first importance.”
The gospel can be broken down into five distinct points. The beauty of it is that through scripture each of these is explained in different ways with different emphases. For the sake of our explanation, though, the gospel can be summarized as:
The gospel starts with God, not us. It is His story. We must first understand that He is the creator of all things and has always existed—He was never created. He is also holy and completely righteous. He was pleased with Himself and had no needs while planning and acting according to His good pleasure at all times. He created the world not because He had need or because He was lonely, but out of His good pleasure and love—it was an outflow of His character. And having created us, He therefore owns us and has all right to tell us how to live. He is a God of many divine attributes, but they all flow out of His absolute Holiness which stands in sharp contrast to all created beings. The effect of this absolute holiness is that He cannot and will not tolerate sin in His presence.
Man was made in God’s image and put in charge of creation as sub-rulers—his authority being derived from God. This first man—Adam along with Eve the first woman—had fellowship and perfect relationship with God.
In the garden Adam and Eve rejected God’s authority and thus rebelled. This disobedience called sin caused separation from God and spiritual death in hell for all eternity. This death flowed outward to the entire human race. In accordance with God’s holiness, man’s sin caused condemnation and judgment. In accordance with God’s holiness, man’s sin caused condemnation and judgment.
Jesus was the Son of God and entered the world born of a virgin. Jesus was fully man and fully God and lived a perfect, holy life. Because of this, He did not deserve punishment because He was without sin. However, he hung on the cross to take the sins of those He would redeem as a substitute to die the death they deserved for their rebellion against God. This is known as substitutionary atonement or as Martin Luther calls it, “the Great Exchange.” God had mercy without destroying justice. And the proof that this sacrificial atonement was accepted by God providing victory over death was the resurrection of Jesus from the dead after three days.
So what do we do with all of this information? To begin, it is important to understand that knowledge alone is not enough. Neither is knowledge and approval. Since God holds us accountable we must respond to the good news of what Jesus did. His death on the cross is freely offered to all men and we must receive this free gift of grace alone by faith (trust) alone. We bring nothing—Jesus did it all. It is important to understand that we cannot will this up from our dead-to-sin souls, but it is a miraculous work of God to regenerate us beforehand to open our eyes to see the gloriousness of this good news. And with this trusting, reliant belief, we are called to repent or turn away from our sin and turn to God. And with this grace through faith and resulting repentance, we are brought back into right relationship with God by eternal life with Him…while we were dead, He made us alive. This is indeed good news!!!!