The word “gospel” is used a lot, and it is the foundation of the Christian faith. But, what does it actually mean? What is the Gospel? Well, the word literally means “good news.” When used in reference to Christianity, it represents what we believe to be the best news to ever happen. However, to fully understand what the Gospel is, it’s important to talk about why it is good news in the first place.
The Hard Truth
In life, any good news is usually good because there is bad news that amplifies the good. For example, it’s good news when my wife makes it to work safely each day because there is bad news that underlies it, her not making it safely.
This is true of the Gospel as well. There is tough news that makes the good news so beautiful. So, here’s the hard truth, we as human beings are by nature not good. In fact, here is what scripture says about everyone.
10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
These are just a few of many verses in the Bible that say the same message. All of our hearts are messed up, we all fall short of God’s glory, and we are separated from God because of this. Matt Chandler phrases this well. He says (paraphrase) that we are all born with a bent in our hearts. However, we aren’t born with a bent toward righteousness or good but instead iniquity.
If I’m being honest, I haven’t always believed this. Truthfully, I used to think that I was a pretty good person. I never hurt anyone (or so I thought), was generally nice to people and a solid citizen. But, God stepped in and made me aware of my brokenness. He opened up my eyes to see that I am and have always been very selfish, and my heart has been wicked my whole life. I can now even look back to my young childhood and see that I was born with a bent toward iniquity. However, this wasn’t something that was caused by the environment I grew up in. My parents loved me well and were overall outstanding caretakers. They didn’t teach me to do or think the bad things I did. I just did them because my heart has a bent. Any environmental influences could only amplify the bent I already possessed.
We can also see that this is true by looking at the world around us. Most people can look around and see that something isn’t right. We can see that the majority of the destruction, corruption, and pain in the world is the direct result of actions from people. I believe the scriptures cited above give the reason for this. Every person, not just some, has a bent toward iniquity.
So what’s the point of talking about this? Am I trying to make everyone feel guilty? No. The point is that we all need a savior no matter how good we perceive ourselves to be. We need good news because this bad news has so much weight. In fact, it carries so much weight that scripture says the penalty for our sin and iniquity is death.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The Good News
The good news, the Gospel, is that the Savior has come, and He has made a way for anyone who believes in Him to have his or her sin washed away and be reconciled to God. Jesus has come to rescue us from our sin for God’s glory.
13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
Jesus came and paid the debt for ALL of our past, present, and future sin. Because of this, those who believe “become the righteousness of God” through the work of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Basically, God now sees Jesus’ perfection and credits it to those who trust in Him. This is incredible news! God has made a way for us to be with Him again. He has made a way for all the dirt, grime, pain, and hurt to be washed away.
The most unthinkable part about this is that God, Jesus, did this despite the fact that we didn’t love Him. We were actually enemies of God.
8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Jesus knew our wickedness and brokenness, and He STILL willingly went to the cross. We didn’t (and can’t) do anything to earn His love. He didn’t die for the people who are “better than most.” There was nothing in us that could earn favor (Ephesians 2:8-9). In fact, God is completely impartial (Acts 10:34). This and the fact that we didn’t do anything to earn salvation is so great because it shows that God doesn’t play favorites, and not one person can brag or boast about being good or better than anyone. There are absolutely no grounds for anyone to judge anyone else.
There is no social class that gets God. No status earns Him. Nothing we do can earn His love. We’re not just going to “be good people” and earn salvation (Galatians 3:11). He loves without partiality and without prejudice. His love is the true beautiful love we all desire to have. There is no racism with God. There is no “only the cool kids can fit in” with God. In fact, He often goes after the most undesirable. The ones that we usually don’t want to associate with. The broken and desperate. (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
However, not only have we received forgiveness through Jesus, God also pursues us and is with us throughout our lives here on earth (John 14:16-28). He doesn’t just leave us alone and say, “good luck!” He is with us always, and amazingly, he is empathetic!
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
This is an unbelievable truth! We have an empathetic and loving God who understands what we are going through “in every respect.” Have you ever lost a loved one or someone you deeply care about? Jesus understands and cares. Check this out:
What was he weeping about? The death of His friend Lazarus. This is the shortest verse in the Bible, but it has huge implications. It shows that Jesus, God, has human emotions, and He loves deeply enough to weep. We have a loving and empathetic God who doesn’t just sit from afar and look down at us in shame.
He understands ALL of our hurt. Have you ever been betrayed by a close friend? So has Jesus (Luke 22:47-48). Have you battled with temptation? So has Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11). Fill in the blank, and Jesus empathizes with us. He is an empathetic, loving, and pursuing God.
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
We are invited into a relationship with the God of the universe. We don’t have to be ashamed. We don’t have to fix ourselves up before coming to Him. We can confidently turn from our ways and embrace the loving God who came to rescue us. He’s not going to shame you but will welcome you into a relationship with Him and adopt you as His son or daughter (John 8:1-11, Romans 8:14-15). Believe in Him, desire Him and love Him with all of your heart, mind, body, and soul. Repent of your sin, put your complete faith and trust in Him, and He will hold you and pursue you for the rest of eternity.
Faith in Jesus is the only requirement for salvation (Galatians 2:15-21). Yes, we must turn away (repent) from our sins because Jesus commands us to (Mark 1:14-15), and genuine faith always includes repentance. Yes, there will be life changes and continual repentance throughout the journey because a true faith and desire for God will lead to different beliefs and behaviors. When you love something so deeply, it inevitably changes you. How could it not? But, the behaviors in themselves aren’t what save us. God saves us by grace alone, and faith, a deep, heart-level trust and love for the One who rescued us, is what He desires. This faith and deep love for Him will lead to repentance and changed behaviors.
Believing in Jesus doesn’t guarantee or promise a life of happiness, wealth and health. In fact, we can expect suffering (1 Peter 4:12-19). It also doesn’t mean that we are suddenly “good people” (Jesus is the ONLY one who’s good) and won’t struggle with sin. We still have a bent and will still constantly fall short even on our best days. However, what we are able to have is joy and hope because we know that we are loved more than we could ever imagine, and one day we will be with Him. He will return to make all things new (Revelation 21:1-7).
Come to Him if you’re weary and burdened. He knows your heart. He knows you have a bent. He knows your darkest secrets. He knows exactly where you are. He knew what He was getting on the cross! He doesn’t want a redo. Knowing everything about you, He still willingly went to the cross because He loves you more than you could ever dream. He loves you with the true love that we are all seeking but can’t find in this broken world. It’s a perfect love that can’t be taken away. He has died, He has risen, our sins are washed away. That’s the Gospel.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.