I was shocked one Sunday morning while teaching the adult Sunday School students when I asked them, “What is the Gospel?” There was silence for several moments. Then someone said, “It is the good news.” I then asked, “What is the good news?” No one could answer.
The adults attending that Sunday school had been church members for decades. My planned lesson was not about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but I had to alter the plan because of that experience. The people didn’t know what the Gospel of Jesus Christ was. I prepared a series of lessons that dealt with the Gospel.
The purpose of this lesson is to present an overview of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, what it is, how we obtain it, and more.
The Spiritual State of Humans
First, let’s examine why we need salvation and the Gospel. Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden produced death (See Genesis 3). The death referred to here is not physical death because they didn’t immediately physically die when they sinned. Instead, it is spiritual death, i.e., separation from God. They were no longer in communion with God. Everything changed after they sinned.
That death meant that we would always be eternally separated from the Father, i.e., dead. However, God did not abandon sinful humans. He provided a way for us to get back into communion (right relations) with Him. That way is Jesus Christ (See John 14:6). It is through Christ that we can get to the Father and receive life instead of continuing in death.
One way to put it is that without Jesus, we would all be doomed to “hell.” Our separation from God would continue eternally after we die physically. So, our spiritual state without Christ is death.
Fortunately, God loves us so much that He sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins. Death is the result of sin, and Jesus took that death upon himself so we would have an opportunity for life.
Romans 5:8 (HCSB) — 8 But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!
It is critical to understand that without Jesus Christ, we would have no way to get back in communion with the Father. We would be doomed from birth to spend eternity apart from God the Father.
Jesus Christ died for us even while we were living in sin apart from God. We had no desire for God, and we lived in sin.
Our spiritual state is that we are doomed to an eternity of death, and we need a way to get back to God to escape that death sentence.
What is the Gospel about Jesus Christ (or the Gospel of Jesus Christ)? Some people would say that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news. Though that is true, it is not what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is. Consider what Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthian church.
1 Corinthians 15:3–4 (HCSB) — 3 For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
Paul identifies three significant components of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Jesus died for our sins – The result of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Jesus took that death upon himself
- Jesus was buried
- Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day after being buried.
Another point Paul made was that the Scriptures foretold Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, which means that Jesus fulfilled prophecy.
The Gospel is the story about Jesus Christ: how he died for our sins, was buried, and was raised from the dead by the power of God.
Why is the Gospel good news?
It is good news because it means that we do not need to work to receive the salvation that God provided for us. Jesus already did what is required for us to be reconciled to God. In other words, God took care of the sin issue so that we could establish right relations with Him. Consider the following passages of Scripture.
John 3:16 (HCSB) – For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
Ephesians 2:8–9 (HCSB) — 8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works, so that no one can boast.
There are five critical points revealed in those two passages.
- God loves us
- He gave Jesus Christ for us
- We need only to believe in Jesus to escape death, i.e., eternal separation from God
- Salvation is a gift from God
- We receive salvation by faith, not by working for it
Romans 5:1–2 (HCSB) — 1 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
What is salvation? It is the reconciliation of us with God. It is the state in which we are no longer separated from God but have peace (reconciliation) with Him. We have been saved from eternal separation (death).
The Preaching of the Gospel
The Gospel of Jesus Christ opens our eyes so we can see the doomed state we are in. We have two choices when that enlightenment happens. We can reject the Gospel, or we can accept it.
Rejecting the Gospel means you do not believe Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead. That suggests that you believe that you can work for salvation, i.e., earn a ticket to enter heaven. Preaching (sharing) the Gospel with people presents a door through which they can go to receive salvation.
Responding to the Gospel
We must respond favorably to the Gospel message to be saved. That favorable response is to believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. That means that you believe that Jesus died for your sins, was buried, and was raised from the dead. That means you do not deserve salvation, nor can you earn it.
It is the work of God that saves us, not something that we do (apart from believing). We believe that our sins were included when Jesus Christ was crucified. We receive salvation by faith, not by works. That point is essential to an understanding of salvation.
The Meaning of the Gospel
The Gospel means that we do not need to work to be saved. Instead, we only need to respond favorably to the Gospel by putting our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. That is a critical point to understand. God presents salvation to us by the preaching of the Gospel. All we need to do is believe in Jesus Christ. We do not need to struggle to be good people to be accepted by God. He has already done the work for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel means that we do not need to earn a ticket to heaven because heaven is not the objective. The objective of salvation is for us to be reconciled to God. Because we are united with God, we will be with Him forever and, therefore, go to heaven, so to speak.
The Gospel is the story about Jesus Christ, how he died for our sins, was buried, and raised from the dead. The Gospel is an invitation to receive the salvation of God provided through Jesus Christ.
We do not need to feel guilty for any past sins, nor do we need to attempt to earn God’s salvation. The Gospel is here; all we need to do is believe in Jesus Christ. There are no other requirements to be saved.