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What we believe about the Gospel

By Michael Cole and Tim Bixby

Of all the opinions and beliefs an individual, church, or missionary team could hold, one’s belief concerning “the gospel” is the most crucial. Nothing is more important that getting the gospel right for “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Nothing is more dreadful than getting the gospel wrong. The apostle Paul said, “If any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9).

We believe the true gospel is a message of good news, and that nothing is more destructive than a false gospel. Out of concern for the souls of men and women, we want to openly confess what we believe concerning the gospel and explain the Bible’s teaching on this vital topic.

The Word “Gospel”

The Greek word behind gospel means good news. The Greeks used this word when referring to the birth of a son or to a victory in battle. In the New Testament, the word describes the news given to Zachariah and Elizabeth that they would give birth to a son after years of barrenness (Luke 1:19). Paul said the report that the Thessalonians still loved him and believed in Jesus was “gospel” to him; that is, good news. An angel used this same word when he told some shepherds: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). The gospel, simply put, is good news.

The Origin of the Gospel

The gospel is good news from God. The angel who spoke to the shepherds brought the good news, but it was not his good news. Angels are God’s messengers. They deliver messages; they don’t send messages. Jesus testified that the good news is from God. He said that “He [the Spirit of God] anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor” (Luke 4:18). God set Paul apart “for the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1), and it was that gospel of God that he preached to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:7). The good news originated in God.

The Scope of the Gospel

The gospel is good news from God for all people. The angel in Luke 2:10 brought “good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people.” The good news is not restricted to one social group or economic class. Nor does God limit the good news to one nationality or race. The good news is for every nation (Matthew 28:19–20), every social class (Acts 2:44–45), and every race (Acts 10:34–35). This truth is what the 24 elders and the four living creatures sang about in their new song: “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). The good news is for the world.

The Essence of the Gospel

The gospel is the good news that God has provided a Savior. The angel in Luke 2 went on to say the good news was that there “has been born for you a Savior” (v. 11). The good news is that God has provided a Savior!

The Savior proclaimed in the gospel is Jesus, Lord and Christ. Jesus was God in the flesh (John 1:14). His name “Jesus” (which means “Yahweh is salvation”) indicates his mission: “He will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The good news is that Jesus has saved his people through his death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). His death appeased God’s wrath against sinners (1 John 4:10). His resurrection vindicated His claim to be God, Messiah, Lord, and Savior. Jesus himself claimed to be the exclusive way to “come unto the Father” (John 14:6). The apostles announced the good news that Jesus is the Messiah (Acts 5:42). Philip proclaimed the good news about the name of Jesus (Acts 8:12), and Peter declared that the good news was “peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)” (Acts 10:36). The Savior announced in the good news is Jesus, the essence of the gospel. Of course, the provision of a Savior assumes that people need to be saved from something. From what do sinners need to be saved?

The Need for the Gospel

Every person needs a savior because every person is a slave to sin and the law. All are slaves to the law because all fail to keep the law perfectly. God says, “There is none righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). That means that no one meets all of God’s standards or laws. He can say that because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). If a person sins, that person breaks God’s law because “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4) and “all unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17). Even if a person keeps 99.9 percent of the law, that person is still guilty because “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10). Every person needs a savior because every person has sinned.

People need a savior not only because they have sinned, but because every person is a sinner. Because of Adam’s sin every human has a sin nature and is doomed to die (Romans 5:12-19). Universal death is evidence that every person is a sinner. David says that he was conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5). Jeremiah describes the human heart as “more deceitful than all else and desperately sick” (17:9). Paul asserts that all people are “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). People need a savior, not just because they have sinned, but because their nature is sinful.

People need a savior because their sinfulness repulses God. Sin is a problem because it separates man from God. Sinners will “pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). God is too pure (separate from sin) to even look at evil. He is “of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong” (Habakkuk 1:13). That is why the “cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars [will have] their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelations 21:8). In fact, “nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying” will enter into God’s presence (Revelations 21:27). People need a savior because their sinful nature separates them from God.

God’s provision of the Savior is good news because all men are sinners who deserve eternal punishment.

The Demands of the Gospel

The good news that God has provided salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ lays certain demands upon sinners. First, the gospel demands that sinners repent of their sins (Acts 17:30). The gospel demands that sinners “turn away from . . . vain things to a living God” (Acts 14:15).

Second, the gospel demands that sinners place their trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ (John 6:29; Acts 16:31). Sinners cannot in themselves obey these imperatives because they are dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1). God, however, in mercy, grants repentance and belief to those whom He has chosen (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 14:27; 16:14). He mercifully draws sinners to his Son, Jesus Christ. And He promises that no one who comes to Jesus in repentance and belief will be cast away (John 6:37, 44).

The Reward of the Gospel

The reward of embracing the good news of salvation in Jesus alone is joy (Luke 2:10). The joy of the good news is present and future fellowship with God. When a sinner turns from sin to belief in Jesus, God adopts him into His family (John 1:12; Romans 8:15-17), imputes to him Jesus’ righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), sends the Spirit of Christ to live within him (Romans 8:9–11), and hides him “with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). The Christian, therefore, presently has access to God at all times through the blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:19) and enjoys fellowship with both Jesus and God the Father (1 John 1:3). In the future he has the hope of eternity with God (Revelations 21:3) in whose “presence is fullness of joy … [and] pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11).

We believe the gospel is the good news that God provided Jesus as a Savior for sinners, and that those who turn away from sin to Jesus Christ in belief escape eternal damnation and obtain eternal joy in God.