What is the Gospel?
Often times when you dive deeper into Christian Theology you learn that there is a debate amongst scholars about fundamentals of the faith you may have thought were obvious. Sometimes academics get bogged down with over thinking an issue which often influences over presentation, complication and chaining people to traditions.
I recall taking a class at Liberty University in eschatology and I’m aware this has little to do with the Gospel, but bare with me. In the assignment we had to write a paper on the Book of Daniel, I forget the exacts of the assignment. Anyways, I wrote the paper and incorporated what I saw in scripture with regard to mainstream eschatology. Long story short, I’m not a pre-tribulation rapture believer, if you don’t know what that is we will get into it at another time. Continuing along, I exemplified how the Bible shows more of a pre-wrath or post-tribulation concept of a rapture. I recall the professor responding in mild disagreement.
Of course things like the various views of the rapture are well known amongst astute believers, but the debate is not well known amongst non-Christians. The point of the example is to point out how somethings which seem so obvious (Matthew 24 for example) are heavily debated amongst the “highbrow” Christian community and sometimes at the laymen level.
The same case is with the Gospel, what it is, what it does and by extension salvation. A true understanding of the Gospel helps one weed out all the works-based salvation doctrines out there. They sometimes creep up without anyone knowing it and one believes he/she is still operating from a fundamental Biblical understanding of the Gospel and by extension salvation.
So, what is the gospel, and why is it important? Understanding the Gospel is both an introduction to understanding how a person can receive the gift of salvation from God and an understanding of the purpose and work of the Christian lifestyle. Without a clear understanding of this fundamental doctrine it is baffling how one could consider one’s self a Christian.
Fred G. Zaspel in examining and presenting the beliefs and expositions of B.B. Warfield states:
…If faith consists in an utter dependence upon Christ, then we should seek to know all we can of his person and redemptive work. If in grace God has provided for our success and eventual victory over sin, then it is in the interest of our own encouragement to understand these gospel promises to become fully acquainted with the abundant provision of the Holy Spirit and the prospect of our coming glory…
I couldn’t agree more with Zaspel here so let’s break this down a bit.
What the Gospel isn’t….
The gospel is not the law. I repeat the gospel is not the law. Matt Slick over at CARM has a good break down of this. See it here at Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry: The Law and the Gospel. I will touch on a few issues below, emphasis mine:
Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets)has been disclosed – 22 namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 24 But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 25 God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith.This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. 26 This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness.
NetBible at www.bible.org
We see here that the law does not declare righteousness, instead righteousness is declared through faith and grace through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Thus, it’s not about keeping Sabbath, attending church on Sunday, tithing, speaking in tongues or any of the traditional and or legalistic chains people would put on you. It’s about believing in Jesus Christ.
What is the Gospel…
Thus the understanding that the Law is not a means to salvation and a means to understanding the work of Christ is a part of the Gospel, however, let’s take a closer look at a direct definition from the Apostle Paul:
Romans 1:1 From Paul,a slave of Christ Jesus,called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God. 2 This gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 concerning his Son who was a descendant of David with reference to the flesh, 4 who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him we have received grace and our apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles on behalf of his name.
1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. 3 For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, this is the way we preach and this is the way you believed.
There is no need to drag this on further. This is the Gospel. Nothing more, nothing less. It is simply the good news that God became a man, but retained his divinity (more on this in a later post), He died as a substitute for your sins and rose again (resurrected) on the third day after His death. The Gospel and good news in that message is that you nor I have to attempt to work our way into a good relationship and grace of God. While accepting the gospel, believing on and in Jesus will reserve you a place with God in heaven, living a constant sinful life will hinder your closeness with Him. A number of people will moan and groan about lack of fruits, instantaneous righteousness and or perfection, etc. While some of these things are Biblical and good measuring tools, minus instantaneous perfection, they are not the deciding factor as to whether you or anyone else has understood the Gospel (believe on) and have taken the extra step to trust in Jesus (believe in.)
I will leave you with this well known verse:
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so that no one can boast.
I hope this was beneficial to you,