It is through the gospel presented in the Bible, through the work of the Holy Spirit, that we come to the saving faith in Christ and become Christians. Without the gospel, there is no Christianity. It is therefore important to understand the gospel as revealed in the Bible.
Firstly, it is important to understand what the gospel does not mean. The gospel does not mean:
1. Gospel music genre
Many people think of the word “gospel” as a music genre, but it is more than that.
2. Charity and social justice work
There are some people who equate charity work and resolving social justice issues, and doing good for others, as the gospel. But it is not. Being involved in charity and social justice can commend the gospel, but it is not the gospel in itself.
3. Prosperity, wealth and health
This is one of the most popular false teachings of our time. It basically teaches that after people become Christians, they should be successful in this life. As a result, it emphasises that true Christians are marked by material wealth and physical health and that if they give money to church or church leaders and have faith, they will get whatever they want in this life. This is false teaching.
Then, what is the gospel?
The word “gospel” is derived from the Greek word “euangelion” which literally means “good news”. Simply put, the Bible describes the gospel as the good news.
The whole message of the Bible—from Genesis to Revelation—is a story about the gospel, it is a story about the good news of Jesus Christ. But the message of the good news (or the gospel) can be summarised in four memorable points.
1. God is the creator of everything and holy
God is the creator of everything (Gen. 1:1). He is perfectly holy and worthy of all honour, reverence and worship (Lev. 19:2, Isa. 6:3, 1 John 1:5, Rev. 4:8, 11), and as a just God He will not let sin go unpunished (Pro. 11:21, Nah. 1:3).
2. Man is sinful and cannot rescue himself
This holy God created Adam and Eve uniquely and perfectly in His own image to care for what He has created; and to glorify, worship, and enjoy fellowship with Him (Gen. 1:26-28). But Adam and Eve sinned against God (Gen. 3:1-6), and as a result, we as their offspring, are by nature born with sin (Psa. 51:5). Since God is holy, we are all born separated and alienated from Him because of our natural sin, and are therefore rebellious toward Him, unable to please Him in any way (Rom. 3:10-12, 23, 1 John 1:5-6), and are all facing the coming wrath of a holy God who cannot let our sins go unpunished (Rom. 2:5-11, Eph. 2:1-3).
3. Christ is the only solution
Out of His undeserved and incomprehensible love, God sent forth His Son, Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life we could not live, and died on the cross to bear the wrath of God for all who would believe in Him (John 3:16, Rom. 3:21-26, Heb. 3:15, 7:20-28). He did not only die but resurrected from the dead as a sign that His sacrifice was enough to satisfy God’s wrath and to give eternal life to all those who would put their faith in Him (1 Cor. 15:20-22).
4. A response is required
Now, God calls everyone from everywhere to repent from their sins and to put their faith in Jesus Christ in order to be saved from His coming wrath (Acts 17:30-31, 20:21, Rom. 10:9-10).
This is the good news. Despite our fallen nature, we can be reconciled with God and have a relationship with Him by repenting from sin and putting our faith in Jesus Christ alone.
The gospel says that we can be saved from sin and the coming wrath of God against sinners; we can be saved toward God and enjoy a restored fellowship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ.
Salvation comes by the grace of God alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. There is no other gospel.
We are not saved to have our extravagant life now, and to chase after every material wealth—it is the people of this world that are after those things (1 John 2:15-17). Rather, we are saved to glorify God in all that we do, and in all that we have, as we await our eternal home in the presence of God where there will be no suffering or pain or sickness or poverty (Rev. 21:4). It is there where we will be fully blessed forever and enjoy an eternal peace with God (1 Cor. 10:31, 1 Tim. 4:6-8).
Paul the apostle warns against those who preach any other gospel, and says that they should be accursed—that is—anathema, which means they should be under a curse (Gal. 1:9).
What are you going to do with this good news?