Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Gospel: The Greatest Message of all Time

By Matthew Zuk

Photo taken by Derrick Zuk - Design by Derrick Zuk

The Gospel is the core of history and the Bible, the entire Old Testament points forward to the cross and the New Testament points back to the cross. What Christ did for us in His death and resurrection is the focal point of time.

Who is the Gospel message for?

The Gospel is meant for everyone, however it is commonly thought to only apply to unbelievers. This is certainly not the case. The Gospel is primarily for believers; not just for our time of conversion, but also for the continual transforming of our lives to make us holy.

What is the Gospel message?

The word Gospel means “good news”, and it truly is the greatest news of all time! There are six key concepts of the Gospel that are crucial to understand what the message really is.

1. Man has sinned against a holy God

Humanity has sinned against a holy God and we fall short of His holiness, righteousness, and glory.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
All have sinned; no human gets out of this verse. And Romans 5:12 states, “therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Once again Scripture is clear that all have sinned, and that death spread to all men because of sin (this is one of the reasons Theistic Evolution could not have taken place).

Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned —every one —to his own way;” Note what this verse emphasizes that every one, all have turned to their own way. In our pride we have set ourselves up as god doing whatever it is that pleases us, instead of what pleases our Creator. Romans 3:10 says “None is righteous, no, not one;” Mankind is not good; we are not righteous; we are sinful, and apart from God that is all we are capable of.

We were created in perfect fellowship with Him and then we ruined that fellowship by distrusting God and placing ourselves above Him in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). We sinned against Him and ruined that perfect unity. However because of Christ’s work on the cross, that unity can be restored as we look forward to being glorified with Christ forever!

2. Sinful Man is Under Divine Condemnation

So, now that we understand that all mankind is sinful we must understand what our sin deserves.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
"The wages of sin is death" - it’s as simple as that. Sin results in divine condemnation, sin deserves God’s wrath, and sin deserves separation from God forever. James 1:15 confirms the course of our sin: “then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” Sin only brings one thing: death. It cannot result in anything else.

Why is that? Because God is a holy, righteous and just God. Sin goes against God’s holiness. 1 John 1:5 states: “…God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” God is light and He has no darkness in Him at all, "for what fellowship has light with darkness" (2 Corinthians 6:14). Thus sin separates us from God. In His justness, He must punish sin because it goes against His holiness. This is why sinful man is under divine condemnation, we placed ourselves above God, and we are guilty and worthy of death.

3. Sinful Man Cannot Earn His salvation, it is only by God’s grace

This is a subject many people don’t necessarily enjoy discussing. We cannot earn our way into heaven, it is only through God’s amazing grace! Can we get in because we are good? No, we cannot save ourselves; salvation is only through the work of Jesus Christ.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
This verse is perhaps the most clear on the subject of God’s grace not man’s works. We are saved by grace through faith; it is not our works it is God’s gift! Just read the verse, it cannot be stated more plainly than that. Titus 3:5-7 says “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, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Once again the Bible is clear on the subject of works, it will not bring salvation. Salvation is only achieved through the grace and gift of God.

Many people don’t like this concept of “only by God’s grace”, and that salvation is a work of God and we had nothing to do with it. The dislike of these concepts stems from a heart of pride; we want to do something to earn salvation. However, the fact that salvation is only of God should be viewed with gratitude. We should be glad that our salvation is in the hands of an infallible, all-powerful, all-knowing, infinite, holy, righteous, trustworthy, just God who cannot change instead of in our fallible, finite, sinful and untrustworthy hands! If salvation were up to us we would mess it up. Go back to the verses listed above, it is our nature to sin. Thus we should praise God that it is only by His grace!

4. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for sinners

This is the crux of the Gospel: Jesus Christ lowered Himself in humility, becoming obedient to the Father and died to pay for sin on the cross.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)
Romans 5:8 says “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And 2 Corinthians 5:21 states “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Christ took on all of our sin; He became sin for us and took God’s wrath upon Himself. That is truly amazing! Look at who God is, how amazing He is, then look at who we are and how sinfully depraved we are and yet… Christ died for us. That is the most amazing message in history.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah prophesied, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 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. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned —every one —to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:6-7). God placed our iniquity upon Christ, and Christ obediently humbled Himself as a lamb led to the slaughter.

Not only that but Christ transferred His righteousness to us, not only taking away our sin but also justifying and making us righteous in God’s eyes. It is only through the work of Christ that we are saved, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). Christ and His work on the cross is so amazing, and it is the only way to achieve salvation!

5. Sinners Must (1) Repent and (2) Trust Christ

Finally we get to our part, however remember that we only repent and place our faith in Jesus Christ because of what God first did for us. It all starts with God - He changes our hearts and then we seek after Him. 1 John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.” While this verse is specifically speaking of love and not salvation, the concept carries over. We cannot love on our own; we love because He first loved us. We don’t seek after God on our own; we don’t place our faith in Him before He changes our hearts to seek Him and to have faith in Him.
  • Luke 5:32 Jesus says “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” 
  • Luke 13:5: “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” 
  • Proverbs 28:13 “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” 
  • Romans 10:9 “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” 
  • John 3:18 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” 
  •  John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” 
  • John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” 
That is what we are called to do, we must repent and place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

6. Accomplishment of the Gospel

This last point describes the final outcome of the Gospel. We are saved from our former sinful desires and made new in Christ. Now, we still sin even though we have been saved; we still fall back into our flesh (our sinful desires). However, we look forward to a time when our relationship with God is restored and the marring nature of sin is removed. Because of Christ’s sacrifice we are redeemed and will be cleansed of all sin in Heaven. This cleansing of sin restores what we lost when we sinned against God in the Garden of Eden.

Does the Gospel end there?

Not at all! Believers are told to live Christ-like lives, they are told to forgive as Christ forgave us. It all goes back to the Gospel. The Gospel doesn’t just end at the conversion point, as believers we need to study it, immerse ourselves in it, focus on it, and most importantly live by it. We need to think and breath the Gospel, that is to be the center of our lives! This will grow us in our sanctification walk (God's work of refining us into the image of His Son Jesus Christ, to be holy and righteous).

And not only do we need to dwell on it, but we also need to share it! And how can we share it if we barely know what it is all about? We can’t, that is why we must study it and keep it as the focus of our lives. If we go out and we are asked questions pertaining to the Gospel and we either don’t know much about it or we only have this short memorized script saying what the Gospel is, will we be helpful to that person asking questions about it? No! Therefore study it and be ready to give an answer for the faith that is within you: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

Always be ready; however remember the last section to that verse: "with gentleness and respect". We are not to go around shoving the Gospel down people's throats, we are to do it with grace, gentleness, and respect. Why? Because that is how Christ acted and treated us during His time on earth. Furthermore, it is Christ who saves, not us! So study the Gospel, share the Gospel, and be in awe of what God has done! God’s grace is so amazing and His work is so incredible!

God you are truly an awesome God and we praise You for the unfathomable work You did on the cross!

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