The gospel is the good news of what God has done for guilty sinners in and through the Lord Jesus Christ
The gospel is good news in contrast to the awful predicament we are in because of our sin. Sin is the breaking of God’s law, and we are all guilty of it. ‘All have sinned’ is the terrible declaration of Romans 3; ‘there is no one righteous’.
Sin is not something that afflicts people against their will. Rather, says Jesus, ‘men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil’ (John 3:19). Sin is deliberate and it puts us under the wrath and judgement of the holy God. Make no mistake about it; God will not tolerate sin.
Clearly, this is bad news, not good. But although the reality of our sin is not the gospel, it is crucial that we understand and believe that we are sinners. Otherwise we cannot benefit from God’s good news.
The good news is that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16). The div-ine love was not empty pity, but a love that did something about man’s terrible condition.
God sent his Son into the world to die instead of the sinner, taking the sinner’s guilt and punishment. The gospel is the message that explains what is involved when God, in mercy, saves those who rebel against him.
The Bible calls it ‘the gospel of God’ (Romans 1:1). It describes not what we can achieve if only we try harder, but what God alone has done for us. This gospel originated in the heart of God and is the record of what his love and grace have done for guilty sinners.
Romans goes on to say that the gospel is a message ‘concerning God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord’. It tells us that Jesus is unique, the only Saviour and the only way to God.
God with us
Who, then, is Jesus? The first chapter of the New Testament introduces him to us, and Matthew uses two names for him, Jesus and Immanuel. These names immediately show us the glory of this amazing person.
‘Jesus’ means ‘saviour’ and shows us what he came into the world to do.
‘Immanuel’ means ‘God with us’ and tells us that he was no ordinary man.
The apostle Paul enlarges on this: ‘For in him all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form’ (Colossians 2:9). Put simply, Jesus is God.
The cross of Christ
The good news is that when Jesus died on the cross he did so in the place of guilty sinners, to save them from God’s anger against sin and the judgement they deserve. He alone was innocent of sin and could act as our substitute – ‘God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). He stood in our place and took upon himself the punishment his people deserved, so that they might be declared righteous before God. To summarise, therefore:
1. The cross was God’s supreme act of love and grace.
2. At the cross we see God, in his divine holiness, dealing with human sin.
3. At the cross, God removed the sin that separates us from himself, by holding the Lord Jesus responsible for guilty sinners’ violations of divine law.
4. At the cross, God’s wrath fell upon his Son instead of us.
5. At the cross, God credits our sin and guilt to Jesus, while crediting Jesus’ righteousness to us.
Sin is punished as God demands it should be. But there is now nothing further that divine justice can demand from the believing sinner, because Jesus has paid the debt in full. The Bible says of Christ that ‘ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12).
How do we know this is true? God has given assurance of these things to all men, says the Bible, by raising Jesus from the dead (Acts 17:31). This is the gospel.
Jesus urges sinners to come to him. He will deal with their sin and make them acceptable to God. To ‘come’ means to believe in Jesus as God’s only remedy for sin, who provides pardon for guilty sinners. It means to trust in what he did on the cross and to look to him alone for forgiveness and salvation.