What does the Gospel mean? (Part 1)

The Gospel of Jesus Christ – Article Series
1. What is the Gospel?
2. What does the Gospel mean? (Part 1)
3. What does the Gospel mean? (Part 2)
4. How should we respond to the Gospel?
5. Non-Gospels and False Gospels

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16 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. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” ~ Romans 1:16-17

The Gospel is the message of the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is God’s message, not any human’s. It is the news that the whole Bible points to. But what does the Gospel mean? Why is it significant? In what way is it relevant to us? Over the next two posts we’ll explore some answers to these questions. I emphasise ‘some’ because, in reality, this entire website is an attempt to understand the implications of who Jesus is and what He has done. In this first part, what I want to draw out is that the Gospel reveals the character of God and the Gospel achieves salvation for God’s people.

While it may be difficult to definitively identify what stands at the core of the meaning of the Gospel, I’m going to make a case that these two themes and truths are possible contenders for that spot. But these two ideas aren’t separate. Instead, they play into one another. Specifically, we see the character of God in the salvation that is achieved by the Gospel. In one sentence, I’m saying that:

the Gospel of Jesus Christ reveals who God is to all people as they see the salvation that is secured for God’s people.

Both these truths are found in Romans 1:16-17 where Paul writes about how he is not ashamed of the Gospel. The Gospel offers salvation to all people who will believe in it, and it reveals the saving activity of God in rescuing His people from sin and the consequences of sin (this is known as the ‘righteousness of God’). But what is this salvation? Why do we need it?

The Bible teaches that all people need to be saved from:

  • the practice of sin – Romans 1:21-32 explains that humanity is guilty of rejecting God (rebellion) and replacing worship of Him with worship of other things (idolatry). This is sin. It is a cosmic crime of treason against the creator and ruler of creation. It affects our thoughts and desires. Sin manifests itself in many ways, like sexual immorality, gossiping, murder, disobeying parents, and lying. We can’t help but sin. Everything we do is tainted by an impure heart guilty of rebellion and idolatry against God. All people are inherently slaves to sin (John 8:34). We need to be saved from the practice of sin.
  • the presence of sin – Romans 8:19-21 teaches that the whole creation is decaying under the effects, such that we live in a world that is filled with disorder and chaos. In God’s kindness, we can still enjoy good things and live. But the rebellion and idolatry of sin means that the world is cursed and nothing is perfectly as it should be. While we are perpetrators of sin, we are also victims of sin.
  • the pain of sin – In Genesis 3:16-17 the consequences of sin include pain in childbearing and pain in work. Our rebellion and idolatry against God mean that we now live in a world where pain, suffering, and death are now present.
  • the penalty of sin – Ephesians 2:3 describes those who sin as ‘by nature deserving of wrath’. This is the just and fair wrath of God. Our sin against God means that we deserve to be punished for our disobedience. All of humanity is condemned due to our actions against God, knowingly or unknowingly. We will all stand before God one day and be judged according to what we have done and on the basis of our own lives and records we will not escape God’s just verdict. What lies ahead is an eternity of wrath and separation from a good relationship with God. This is the ultimate sense in which we need to be saved.

All four of these are ways in which we must be saved. It is in this context that Jesus came into the world. Jesus came because His Father loved the world and showed that love by giving His one and only Son to save people. Just look at this passage from John 3:16-18:

16 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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

When we look at the person of Jesus and what He did by living, dying, rising again, and ascending back to heaven what we see is that He did these things to save His people. Because of Jesus, anyone who trusts in Him has already had their sins judged and they will never be condemned because God has already condemned sin in His Son (Romans 8:1-3) on the Cross. When we stand before the judgement throne one day we can have complete assurance that we will pass through. This is the central meaning of the Gospel and what it achieves, so much so that Peter says in 1 Peter 1:9 that the end result of our faith in Christ is salvation. But we can’t stop here. Not only does God save us from all that we listed above; God also saves us for purposes.

  • the pleasure of eternal life – We saw in John 3:16 that God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but instead He wants them to come to eternal life. The gift of eternal life is not a gift of eternal existence (because even those who don’t trust in Jesus will ‘live forever’; they’ll just live forever under the wrath of God). Eternal life is knowing God and His Son Jesus and being in a loving and beautiful relationship them (John 17:3). This is a joy and is what we were made for. The Gospel saves us so that we might enjoy a never-ending, intimate relationship with God.
  • the practice of good works – Ephesians 2:8-10 says that we have been saved by grace, through faith, as a gift of God. But we are saved in order to do good works, meaning that we are saved and freed to obey God and please Him. The Gospel is the message of the risen Lord Jesus, and this Lord commands us to follow Him. So we must obey (knowing that we will not do so perfectly)! But even more so, it is a joy to obey.
  • the privilege of being a witness for Jesus – Christians are saved and called to be ambassadors for Christ in a world that is opposed to the Gospel (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). This is a great privilege! We have been entrusted with the same Gospel that saved us in order to go out and share it with others so that they would be saved as well.
  • the praise of His glorious grace – As we see this amazing gift of salvation that God has given to His people, we are compelled to praise Him! We see this in 1 Peter 1:9 and throughout Ephesians 1:1-14. Our whole lives are to be lived in praise and thanksgiving to Him and all that He has done.

In the Gospel we see the power of God to save us from the practice, presence, pain, and penalty of sin, and for eternal life, good works, being a witness for Jesus, and to praise Him. As we have discussed these truths, have you seen the character of God? Did you notice how God is just as cannot tolerate sin? Did you recognise how gracious God is to even provide a way for sinners to be saved when they deserve judgement? Did you catch how God loves us so much that He gave His one and only Son? Did you marvel at the glory of God’s kindness in taking wretched rebels like us and transforming us into ambassadors for His own Son?

As we explain the meaning of who Jesus is and what He has done, the salvation that is achieved by Him reveals who God is and what He is like. Indeed, the Gospel reveals the glory of God as we see the glory of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). If you want to explain to someone who God is then share the Gospel with them and explain what it means. At the core of that explanation will be salvation, and (by the power of the Holy Spirit) it is there that they will see God.

In the next post we’ll look at some of the other ways that the Bible explains the meaning of the Gospel and why it matters.

James Chen

James is a Philosophy graduate from the University of Sydney and is currently a teaching and learning manager of a senior high school tutoring centre. James is a member of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Carlingford and loves reading and teaching the Bible.

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