The word gospel means "good news, and specifically refers to the good news of Jesus Christ. The preaching of the gospel is the central message of the New Testament which itself is the explanation of the Scriptures of the Old Testament. The gospel message is the foundation of the Christian faith. We, as believers, are commanded to preach the gospel message. Throughout the "gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), we find John the Baptist, Jesus, and the disciples preaching the gospel. With this in mind, a couple of questions may come to mind.
What IS the gospel exactly? What did John the Baptist, Jesus and the disciples (apostles) teach that is referred to as the gospel?
We find the answers to these questions in the pages of Scripture. In the next few pages, you will learn the answer to these questions, hopefully come to a deeper understanding of your standing before Almighty God, and learn how to become a true believer in Christ. To begin, we must understand the Holiness of God.
The Holiness of God
To truly comprehend the Gospel message, we must first understand our sinfulness before God. The Holiness of God is what separates men from God. God is Holy and cannot tolerate sin in His presence as He is separate morally from all sin, evil, and impurity. His Holiness is a reflection of His perfect purity and thus His complete rejection of any stain or impurity. He is the absolute standard and the source of moral rightness for men and other spiritual beings. Because God created the universe and everything in it, His standard is the standard that men must meet to be permitted into His presence. Unfortunately, because of our sin nature, human beings cannot achieve this standard on their own (Rom 3:23).
Because of His Holiness, God has the obligation to judge those who sin against Him (fall short of His perfect standard). A failure to separate Himself (judge) would be a compromise of His perfect holiness and contrary to His nature. However, the love of God (John 3:16-17) for fallen men has been demonstrated in the fact that He originated a plan to save them from this separation (expression of His wrath).
It is essential to understand that God is Creator (Gen. 1), Judge (Psalm 96:13, Heb. 10:30-31) , and THE standard of righteousness. Paul gives us an example of this in Acts 17:22-34 as he testifies to the philosophers on the Areopagus. Paul's message to these unbelievers was to first declare who God is and that He is the Creator of the universe and Lord of all who dwell within it (17:24-26). He goes on to declare that God is knowable but that He is not like their idols of gold, silver, or stone, but rather calls men to repent because He will judge the world based on His righteous standard (17:27-31).
Regardless of popular opinion God is our Creator and the Judge over our lives. It is only through catching a glimpse of the Holiness of God that we can truly begin to understand our own wretched state and appreciate the sacrifice that has been made on our behalf. Once we begin to understand the holiness of God, we can begin to understand sin.
What is sin?
Sin is both what we do (an action), but also who we are (an attribute). Sin in it's purest form is rebellion against God. The Greek word translated sin is ˜hamartia' which literally means to fall short. To sin is to fall short of the perfection of God. We act in sinful ways because we are essentially selfish creatures. We are interested in our own attitudes, our own beliefs, our own feelings, our own needs, our own wants, and our own desires which result in outward actions. In essence, if we are focusing on ourselves, then we are rebelling against God, but yet that is part of who we are from the moment of our conception. Romans 3:23 states that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Everyone has sin in themselves and all have had outward expressions of that sin.
Where did this sin come from?
Scripture teaches that sin came into the world through Adam. Romans 5:12 states "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned¦ Because of Adam's original sin in the Garden of Eden (eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in rebellion against God's express command), sin entered into the human race. Sin is like a disease that is passed from one generation to the next and EVERYONE is infected. Romans goes on to explain that the "wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). Because everyone has sinned, physical death is the penalty. If we look around at our world today, we see death everywhere. Much of our time is preoccupied with death (even if we aren't conscious of it) “ battling the main causes of death (heart disease, cancer, accidents, murders¦), reacting to natural disasters, worrying about our economic health/future (to prevent death through starvation, exposure, ¦), protecting ourselves physically from dangers (household security, military spending/training, law enforcement¦), as well as many more. The 10 Commandments given to the Israelite nation help us to identify specific sins that are rebellion against God.
What are the 10 Commandments?
You are likely familiar with the 10 Commandments even if you don't come from a religious background. God gave the 10 Commandments to the Israelite nation (see Exodus 20:1-17) as a set of rules for them to follow. The purpose of these commandments was to show them their sin and utter rebellion against Him. Paul states in Romans 7:7b-8: "¦I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "YOU SHALL NOT COVET." (8) But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. In other words, the commandments were to highlight the fact that we cannot keep God's law completely no matter how hard we try. It is important to realize here that ANY violation of God's moral standard is penalized by death. It is not about a scale where your good deeds outweigh your bad, it is about the absolute perfect standard of God. James states in 2:10-11 that "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. (11) For He who said, "DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY," also said, "DO NOT COMMIT MURDER." Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So, if you have EVER lied, EVER stolen, EVER desired something owned by someone else, EVER had lustful thoughts, or EVER put something else in priority before God in your life, you have broken the 10 Commandments and will be condemned to an eternity in Hell because of your sin. In Rev 20:10-15, the final judgment before the Great White Throne of God is described where the dead are judged "according to their deeds. Every unbeliever will also stand before God one day and be judged.
Even though the smallest of sin's is enough to condemn us to an eternity of torment, the word of God is very clear about some specific things that are sinful in God's eyes:
Gal 5:19-21 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, (20) idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, (21) envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
1Co 6:9-10 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, (10) nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
In reality, we have no way to rid ourselves of sin (or the result of sin which is death). Everyone sins and so everyone dies. It is the order of our universe. The good news, however, is that even though WE are powerless, GOD is not. God created this universe and is sovereign over it. He had a plan from the very beginning before He even created it and He will bring that plan to it's final, ultimate conclusion. God provides a way out for us through a sacrifice¦¦ (continue)