What Is the Gospel? Part 1
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile."1
In the first century AD, in a time of severe persecution of the early church and Christians, the Apostle Paul, being anything but politically correct, stated unequivocally that he was not ashamed of the gospel.
But what is the gospel that Paul was not ashamed of, and was so convinced of its reality that he was prepared to face persecution and death? As Webster's Dictionary explains, the meaning of "gospel" is "godspell, God story, or good news." It is the good news about God's story of his salvation plan for mankind. Specifically, as another has said: "The gospel is a message about God, a message about sin, a message about Jesus Christ, and a summons to faith and repentance."
First, the gospel is a message about God. The gospel is not a message about religion. It's about having a right relationship with God. Religion tends to want to fix us from the outside in. God wants to fix us from the inside out. The first can become an impossible, legalistic burden. The latter is what brings freedom. Neither is the gospel a set of rules and regulations. It is experiencing God's divine love, divine acceptance and divine forgiveness—and learning to communicate these to every life we touch.
It helps to realize that God isn't out to zap us for the wrongs we've done. In fact, no matter what we have ever done or have failed to do, God loves us with an everlasting love and has a wonderful purpose for our lives—for this life as well as the next! As Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."2 And again, "My purpose is to give life in all its fullness."3
Second, the gospel is a message about sin. Many people understandably ask, "If there is a God and if he is a God of love, why does he allow so much suffering, sickness, and sadness in today's world? Without sounding too simplistic, this is because we have all sinned and separated ourselves from an infinitely holy God.4 It's not that God left us, but rather, we left God and separated ourselves from him—and, in so doing, we separated ourselves from his protection. Furthermore sin has its own natural consequences that, as a human race, we have brought upon ourselves.
Another misconception about God is that he is out to punish us for our sins when, in fact, we bring sin's punishment on ourselves because sin has its own natural consequences. If we try to break the universal law of gravity, for instance, we can't. It will break us. Neither can we break God's universal moral law. When we do, it breaks us, and besides its painful effects in this life—suffering, sorrow, sickness, and physical death—its ultimate and tragic consequence is spiritual death, which is not the cessation of life; that is, the life of our soul, but rather eternal separation from God, the author of all love and life, in the place where God's Word, the Bible, calls hell.
To be continued ...
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, how can I ever thank you enough for loving me so much that you gave your Son, Jesus Christ, to die in my place on the cruel Roman cross, to pay the penalty and punishment for all my sin, so that when I receive Jesus as my Savior, I will be freely forgiven and receive your gift of eternal life, knowing that when my life on earth is finished, I will spend eternity with you in Heaven forever. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name, amen."
Note: If you have never received Jesus as your Savior or received God's forgiveness, I encourage you to do that today. To do so see "God's Invitation" at: www.actsweb.org/invitation.php. Or for further help read, "How to Be Sure You're a Real Christian" at: www.actsweb.org/christian.
1. Romans 1:16 (NIV). 2. John 3:16 (NIV). 3. John 10:10 (TLB)(NLT). 4. Romans 3:23.