There is no more important message to understand in life than the gospel. Yet, for many Christians there is a fog of confusion that surrounds the gospel. If someone says the gospel is the way of Jesus, the kingdom of God, positive thinking, or compassion toward others would you be able to explain why each of these explanations of the gospel is insufficient? The gospel has been the recipient of massive distortions and over simplifications. In relation to the gospel you should have a four-fold aim: (1) clearly understand it, (2) concisely explain it, (3) culturally connect it, and (4) confidently proclaim it.
Greg Gilbert wrote a helpful book called What is the Gospel where he used four words to summarize the gospel: God, man, Christ, and response. Remembering these four will help us understand, explain, and proclaim the gospel. The gospel is the good news because it addressed the most serious problem that humans have. R.C. Sproul summarizes this problem by saying, “God is holy and He is just, and I’m not.” Here is the gospel in a nutshell.
God is creator and he is holy. He is perfect. He has not sinned. He is just; he will not ignore or excuse the sin of others. The Bible teaches that all humans are accountable to God. He created us; therefore, he can demand we worship him.
Man has rebelled against God. We have placed ourselves on the throne of life. Romans 1:23 says we have exchanged the glory of God for idols. We are glory thieves, yet God will not share his glory with another. We have fallen short of God’s demand for perfection. At the end of your life you will stand before a just and holy God and be judged on the basis of your righteousness. Romans 3:19 says that when we stand before the judge, every mouth will be silenced. No one will offer a defense or any excuses. That is a sobering image. You have rebelled against a holy God that created you. That is the bad news.
The good news of the gospel is that Jesus lived a perfect life of righteousness and offered himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice of God. God’s solution to humanity’s sin is the death and resurrection of Jesus. We can be saved from the condemnation our sin deserves through redemption in Jesus (Romans 3:24). The gospel is news, not advice. It is news that something has happened and we must respond to it. All religions are advice.
A response by faith is needed. The great lie of our day is that God forgives everybody; that he is a loving God who sweeps our sins under the carpet and grants forgiveness to those who are good people. The Bible is clear that we are not justified by our works, our efforts, our deeds, but by faith alone. Salvation comes “through faith in Jesus Christ” and it is “for all who believe” (Romans 3:22). How is the good news for you? Believe in Jesus Christ and repent of your sins. When you do that you are declared righteous by God, you are adopted into his family, and forgiven of all your sins. God acted in Jesus to save us and we take hold of that salvation by repentance of sin through faith in Jesus. That’s good news. And that is the gospel.