What is the Gospel?
For those who are pondering on the title, I urge you not to be dissuaded by its simplicity. Simple questions are usually the most profound and this one is the most important question in the world. I sincerely believe this simple question needs to be revisited and answered by Churches today in Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean.
How do most believers think about the Gospel today? Well, many think its message is, ‘come to Christ for a better life’, that is, the troubleshooting of family or financial problems and a tool for success in general. Others think the gospel is to be found somewhere buried in their personal conversion testimonies evidenced by those who talk about themselves when evangelizing. Then there is the idea that the Gospel is simply the teachings of the Bible, usually referring to the moral principles and lessons found there. These are just a few examples from observation that are tell-tale signs that many Christians have not thought about this question for themselves.
So, what then is the Gospel? Firstly, the Gospel is news, good news. Actually, that is what the Greek word for ‘Gospel’ in the New Testament means. This helps us to understand that the good news is inherently good. The way we preach, share or think about it is not what makes the Gospel good; it is so all by itself. Secondly, the Gospel belongs to God and is God-centred (Romans 1:1). What I mean by this is that God is the author and central topic of the good news, nothing else. Lastly, the Gospel is about who Jesus is and what He did. In summary then, the Gospel is the good news from God, about Jesus and what He accomplished when He was on earth (Romans 1:2-4). But let’s go further. To end here would be an injustice to the topic.
Consider this, God on the judge’s bench, perfectly pure, merciful and loving, abundant in goodness and truth yet just, punishing the sinner (Exodus 34:5-7, Genesis 6:5-8). He is the Creator and Sustainer of all and helped by none (Acts 17:24-31). At the defence table, we have man: human beings, descendants of Adam, polluted totally to the core by sin and guilt. He is hostile against the very God who gave him life and unaware of the danger he faces before The Judge (Romans 3:23, Colossians 3:5-6). The Holy God cannot overlook sin. His very nature dictates that He must punish sin. This leaves man with no defence and no escape. He faces the judgement of God for his sin. This is a tragic dilemma.
But how then does God forgive sinners? Through the glorious substitutionary death and resurrection of the Son of God (2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 3:24-25). Jesus steps into the courtroom and voluntarily takes the death sentence of God’s judgement in place of sinful man and actually dies. He does not stay dead, but is raised from the dead, so all would know that God accepted the exchange and that forgiveness is possible through Jesus’ work alone.
How marvellous it is to tell the truth of this good news! That God Himself has made a way of escape for sinful men (John 3:16-18, Romans 5:8). The very same God who condemns men because of their sin (John 3:18, Romans 3:23).
Jesus did not die on the cross, bearing God’s judgement—man’s deserved punishment—for us to live a comfortable life or have material prosperity and gain. He died to bring men unto Himself. This is the Gospel; and the burden of every Christian should be to call men to repent and believe upon Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And, secondly, to recognise that this Gospel has implications on all of life, not just evangelism. We never grow out of the Gospel but always live from the truth and glory of God revealed in it as a reference point for our lives.