For the other parts in this series, see the end of this post.
5. The Gospel – Who Is Jesus
A logical question can come from this passage – who is this Jesus, and what qualifies Him to be our Savior? A little research can prove this answer. I will give a pretty quick definition of who Jesus is; of course I don’t know all there is to know about Him. First, Jesus is the one and only begotten Son of God (John 3:16). Larry Huck says that Jesus was not the only begotten Son of God, and that absolutely disgusts me. A key term when thinking about Jesus is incarnation – the fact that God became flesh and took on the form of a man in the person of Christ. He possessed all of the attributes of God and yet was fully man. The fact that Jesus is God is absolutely essential to understanding who He actually is (Col. 2:9, Phil. 2:6-7).
Further, Jesus was the only person to ever walk this earth and die without committing a sin. He was tempted, but did not sin (Heb. 4:15). It was because of this that He was the only possibility for a perfect sacrifice to God. We could never be holy, but He was holy – this qualifies Him to be our Savior. There will be more about Jesus later, but that is the bare bones definition of who He is.
6. The Gospel – Why We Need It
The question of why we need the gospel can be looked at from a number of angles. I will take it from the angle of salvation. We need the gospel for salvation. One may ask at that point, “why do we need salvation?” It is a real simple answer – because we are sinners, and are subject to eternal punishment apart from God. Now, I will attempt to explain this a little further.
In order to see the “salvation message” if you will, we need to understand three things about God. First, God is Holy. Having previously written about this, I will quickly define what this is. Holy (from the Hebrew word, qodesh) implies differentiation: the realm of the holy is entirely set apart from the common, the habitual, or the profane. Charles Ryrie defines God’s holiness when he says, “In respect to God, holiness means not only that He is separate from all that is unclean and evil, but also that He is positively pure and thus distinct from all others.” God is so holy and so perfect that nothing short of perfection can live with Him in heaven. Second, God is just. This means that according to His perfect holiness, He must punish sin. If He was to allow sin and evil, it would compromise His holiness. Because of His just nature, we (as sinners) deserve to die and spend eternity separated from Him. Third, God is love. He desires to have a relationship with man. He did not create man so that He could rely on man, but that man could share in His love, His glory, and His majesty.
I have put those three things in that order for a reason. We hear a lot about how God is love. One might ask, “How could a God of love send someone to hell?” Yes, God is love, but He is also holy and just, and it is because of his holiness and justice that He HAS TO send someone to hell who is an unrepentant sinner. I will come back to this in a second.
The next thing that we have to look at in response to why we need salvation is some of the qualities (or lack thereof) of man. First, man (blanket term for all people) is not holy. Man tends to rationalize his error and justify his own goodness. The bottom line is that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Man is not holy because man is a sinner. Because of Adam’s sin, all of us have inherited this propensity to sin. Man has a sinful nature and has a desperately wicked heart (Jer. 17:9). Because of this, God cannot let us into His kingdom. Secondly, man cannot justify himself or make himself holy. There is no amount of positives that can be done to outweigh the negatives. Perfection is God’s standard, and because we have sinned, the game is over. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death.” This may seem like sheer hopelessness. Well, you’re right, it is. Because we are sinners (Rom. 3:23), we die (Rom. 6:23).
However, since God is love, He made a way that we may live eternally with him. This is the true message of the gospel. God cannot violate His holy standard which requires justice according to the Law. Now, I have already stated that man is not perfect, and yet God requires perfection. So, in order for the penalty of sin to be paid, the one who bears the judgment of God must be perfect; if He wasn’t, then He would be dying for His own sins, and not the sins of the world.
This is the good news that God sent His Son Jesus Christ to be a propitiation for our sin (Rom. 3:25). Further in Romans 6:23, it states, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It is through His Son that we have eternal life.
There is nothing we can do to earn or deserve it. Romans 5:8 shows the best demonstration of God’s love; this verse states, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
This has to be addressed in the message of salvation. It is not acceptable to say “Okay, that’s great, he sent His son to die for me that I might have eternal life. See you heaven.” No, just knowing the facts will not get you that eternal life. The way to get this salvation is a two step process: repent and believe. This is the gospel that Jesus preached (Matt. 4:17).
First, we have to believe that God did send his Son to die, to be buried, to be resurrected, and that He reigns as Lord over all creation, as it states in Romans 10:9. Also, we must repent. Repent (from the Greek word metanoia) is defined as “to feel such regret for past conduct as to change one’s mind regarding it” or “to make a change for the better as a result of remorse or contrition for one’s sins.” In Acts 17:30-31, it states:
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Salvation is a gift of God, through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (the gospel). There is nothing that we can do to save ourselves. Ephesians 2:8-9 states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” God reached out in love to us with a free gift through Jesus Christ. Salvation is a gift – through faith alone, grace alone and through the merits of another, Jesus Christ.
Further, I feel the need to address Romans 3:24-30:
“and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.”
We must understand that Christ’s sacrifice was enough to justify us. We “are justified by His grace…to be received by faith.” The passage goes on to say “so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” I believe this is where Catholicism fails. Catholics believe that salvation is through Jesus Christ, but they reject the idea that we are justified by faith alone. Essentially, they are saying that there is something we must do to be justified. In my opinion, this is saying that Jesus isn’t good enough.
I have many Catholic family members, including in my immediate family, and I had one of them tell me once that I was interpreting that text wrong. The problem here is that I didn’t interpret the text; it is printed on the page – black and white. There is no interpretation involved. I don’t mean to pick on Catholicism alone; any religion of works is a wrong religion – making true Biblical Christianity the only one that relies on faith alone. To my knowledge, there is not another world religion that relies on faith apart from works. I am not saying that my way is right. I am saying that God is right, and whoever does not believe in Him and in His word fully is wrong. Praise God for loving us so much, and yet be so holy and so just, that He sent His only begotten, perfect Son to die for us, that we might live! Charles Spurgeon was truly a man led to preach the gospel. Two of his quotes are below:
“It will not save me to know that Christ is a Saviour; but it will save me to trust Him to be my Savior. I shall not be delivered from the wrath to come, by believing that His atonement is sufficient; but I shall be saved by making that atonement my trust, my refuge, and my all. The pith, the essence of faith lies in this – a casting oneself on the promise. It is not the life buoy on board ship that saves the man when he is drowning, nor is it his belief that it is an excellent and successful invention. No! He must have it around his loins, or his hand upon it, or else he will sink.”
“This Man receiveth sinners; not, however, that they may remain sinners, but he receives them that he may pardon their sins, justify their persons, cleanse their hearts by his purifying word, preserve their souls by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, and enable them to serve him, to show forth his praise, and to have communion with him. Into his heart’s love he receives sinners, takes them from darkness, and wears them as jewels in his crown; plucks them as brands from the burning, and preserves them as costly monuments of his mercy. None are so precious in Jesus’ sight as the sinners for whom he died.”
– Adam Smith