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What is the gospel?

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The Apostle Paul defines the gospel as "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). This means that the gospel is something God does to save us, and it is also something we are responsible to believe. The word gospel means "good news" and is repeated nearly 100 times in the New Testament. In fact, it could be said that the entire Bible centers around this good news. The Old Testament prepares us for it, and foreshadows it. The four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) tell us the good news, and the rest of the Bible is written to those who have believed in it.

The gospel really begins with bad news. The story begins with the Mosaic Law, God's rules for humanity, which were given to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 5:1). As the Israelites attempted to follow God's rules, it quickly became evident that no person was able to obey the Law. Human nature is such that we rebel against rules; the more rules we are given, the more we are tempted to resist those rules. This is called "sin." Sin is the tendency of all people to want the opposite of what God wants for them. It is the tendency to choose darkness over light, death over life, self-destruction over self-benefit. The Mosaic Law shows us this tendency in ourselves. We are imprisoned by it, so that the gospel can set us free (Galatians 3:21–26).

Would the promise of salvation make sense if we were not first sensible of sin? Many of us have experienced the feeling that God is a "hard man" who gives us a Law we can't follow, making it impossible for us to do right (Matthew 25:24–28). We might picture Him standing back, arms crossed, shaking His head at our continued failures. But this is not God's character. God is loving and merciful, and He knows that we are weak. "As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:13–14). The Law was not given to discourage and humiliate us. The Law was lovingly and graciously given so that we could understand our need for a Savior. It was given so we could see we are all on an equal playing field before God (Romans 3:10–11, 23; Galatians 3:28). Every one of us falls short of perfection.

In order for God to bring us to heaven, He had to first provide a way for sin to be paid for, or removed. The Mosaic Law (written by God and therefore immutable) says that only through a blood sacrifice can sin be removed. Where would God find a blood sacrifice that could be applied eternally, to all people? The answer is Jesus Christ. God's own son was perfect, a spotless lamb (Ezekiel 46:13; 1 Peter 1:19). Though He came to earth in a man's form, His spirit was eternal and One with God (John 1:1–5). These two things made Him a fit candidate for the blood sacrifice that could accomplish salvation for all men and women throughout time. "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:31–32). That is very good news!

The final piece of the gospel is the wonderful truth that salvation is not a result of our good works, but of God's power to save (Ephesians 2:8–10). He justifies us (taking away the sentence of death that we earned with our sin) and He sanctifies us, and in the end He will glorify us and take us to live with Him in heaven (Romans 5:1; 8:1; Hebrews 10:10, 14; 1 Peter 1:3–9). The gospel is summed up in these simple verses: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him" (John 3:16–17).

Related Truth:

What is salvation?

How can I be saved?

The true gospel – What is it?

The gospel message – What are the essentials?

Is salvation about more than just the afterlife?

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Truth about Salvation

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