The gospel is the most important news you will ever hear. It is the message of Jesus Christ, the only hope for broken, sinful people living in a broken and sinful world. The word gospel means “good news," specifically the news of what God has graciously done to establish his kingdom and deal with our sin through the life, death, and resurrection of his eternal Son, Jesus Christ.
The gospel is the heartbeat of the Bible’s story. It begins with God and creation. God created everything there is—everything we see and don’t see. He made it all and that means it all belongs to him. He is both the Creator and the King, which means he has the right to decide how life should be lived on his earth. The crowning touch of his creation was humanity, whom he made to be like him and to know, love, and serve him as his children and as his royal representatives. That’s what we were made for—to know, love, serve God, making much of him and enjoying his presence forever.
The problem is that the first humans thought they could do a better job of running the universe than God. They wanted to be able to call the shots. So they rebelled, as if to knock God off his throne. The Bible calls this sin, and every human being ever since has run into the same problem. In some corner of our hearts, we all think we could do a better job than God as king, and so we live by our own rules instead of his.
Frankly, we’ve made a mess of the world. If you think of all the death in the world, all the pain, all the sin, sorrow, and brokenness—it all stems from our rebellion against God. Even worse than those things, we have offended God. When you rebel against a king, that’s called treason, and it stirs God’s holy anger. The punishment for treason on earth is death; the punishment for treason against heaven is eternal death. God is a good king, but he’s also a just king, who has the authority and the responsibility to punish rebellion against his throne.
So what hope is there for humanity when we have failed to be and to do what God made us to be and to do, and have brought his just condemnation upon ourselves?
God, in his mercy, has had a rescue plan in motion even since before his creation. He moved it forward through his special people, ancient Israel, but the whole thing was leading up to the day when God himself would take Israel’s throne to accomplish his purposes.
This is where Jesus comes in. God himself stepped into his own creation in order to rescue us for himself and restore creation to his purposes. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who is fully God from all eternity, took on flesh and became fully human at the same time, in order to be and to do what all humans failed to be and to do. He lived the life we should have lived but couldn’t, in perfect faithfulness and obedience to his Father. And he died the death we deserve to die but won’t, if we place our faith in Jesus.
When Jesus hung on the cross some two thousand years ago, all the weight of God’s holy anger against our sin was poured out on him in our place. All the sin, all the sadness, all the brokenness of this world was dealt with on the cross. And when Jesus rose from the dead three days later, not only did he defeat death and the power of sin and rebellion, he brought new life to all who would believe in him. A new start to God’s creation. In Jesus God is making all things new. His new life is already at work, and when Christ returns he will finish his new creation, where God’s people will enjoy God’s presence and love and blessing forever, as we were made to do.
This is the good news of the Bible—the gospel. And it’s good news for sinners and rebels like you and me. This message is not for perfect people who have their act together, or for people who need to clean up their act and then turn to God. It’s for people who are guilty of their rebellion and powerless to do anything about it, but who can find hope, forgiveness, and new life in Jesus Christ. Not because of anything we’ve done, but because of God’s love for us, expressed in what Christ has done for us through his life, death, and resurrection. Our proper response is not to try harder, as if to earn God’s favor, but rather to put the full weight of our hope and faith in Jesus, our Savior and King.
The gospel is a message of grace—being given something absolutely wonderful even though we deserve something utterly terrible. It is grace that saves us, and grace that changes us. We never outgrow our need for the gospel. The same grace of God that rescues us also changes us by God’s Spirit to grow us in our relationship with him. The gospel is the message of Christianity for the whole of life—the good news of what God is doing to redeem our broken, sinful lives for his kingdom and his glory. The gospel changes everything.
Titus 3:3-8 summarizes so beautifully:
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. (ESV)
To see this story unfold in the Bible, read Genesis 1–3; Genesis 12:1-3; John 1:1-18; 3:16-21; 5:24-29; Acts 2:22-41; Romans 3:9-26; 5:1-21; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Ephesians 2:1-10; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-23; Revelation 21:1-5.