What is the Gospel?
First and foremost, the answer to this question begins and ends with God, the God of the Bible. He is both our Creator and our Judge:
"You alone are the LORD. You have made the heavens, the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all things on it, the seas and all that is in them. And You preserve them all. The host of heaven worships You" (Nehemiah 9:6). "Let the rivers clap their hands; Let the hills be joyful together before the LORD, For He is coming to judge the earth; With righteousness He shall judge the world, And the peoples with equity" (Psalm 98:8-9).
God is the Holy, Righteous Ruler of the heavens, the earth and all that is in them. But not only is He our just Judge and Ruler, he is also the only Savior. In fact, the gospel or "good news" is the message about how God has accomplished this only salvation of which all people have such great need.
The Fall of Mankind
In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, we learn that God is the Creator of all that exists or ever has existed. All the planets, the sun, the moon, the earth and every living thing was called into being by the mere Word of Him who spoke. Not only did He create all things, they were created "very good".
This includes His special creature called man. Man was set apart from all other living things by the fact that he was endowed with the very image of God: "God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:27).
But something terrible happened when the first man, Adam, and his wife Eve (the mother of all) were living in the Paradise called the Garden of Eden. Although Adam was given charge of tending and keeping the garden (Genesis 2:15), God commanded him not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. However, being tempted by the serpent (the devil), Eve took and ate of this fruit. She also convinced Adam to disobey this direct command of the LORD. As the result of this terrible sin, God judged mankind as He said He would, not only with physical death, but with spiritual and ultimately eternal death as well. Furthermore, a curse was put upon the whole earth, and Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden.
This one sin, this one transgression against the infinite LORD did not therefore merely effect Adam and Eve as individuals. The Bible says that man was created in the image of God, but when Adam and Eve conceived and she bore a son, this son was said to be in Adam's image. Adam, was now a corrupt man. He had disobeyed God, lied to Him, and blamed his wife for his actions.
Now his descendents all inherited this corruption. This was the "fall of man": "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned...." (Romans 5:12) "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
Therefore all of Adam's posterity are sinners who willingly commit sins, resulting in physical, spiritual, and eternal death in hell. If the one sin committed by Adam provoked God to judge him with death, and banish him from the Garden of Eden, how much more punishment do we deserve for committing multiple sins daily over the course of an entire lifetime?
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18).
This should prompt all people to to ask, "Who then can be saved?" In fact, the gospel is 'good news' precisely to those, and only those, who face the reality of their misery and guilt before God. As Jesus said, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance" (Luke 5:31-32). There is mercy and grace for sinners!
The Good News
Amazing Grace! God, Who is both just and rich in mercy, has provided a remedy to this bleak situation. He has not left us all to perish as we fully deserve because of our many sins. He provided a way for us to escape His wrath; He provided the means so that this would be effectually accomplished.
"For God so loved the world the He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
Jesus Christ lived a sinless life and then died the shameful death of the cross. His death was the substitute payment for the penalty that we deserved for our sin. His death is God's only provision for the forgiveness of man's sin and the appeasement of God's wrath against him.
"All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isa 53:6). "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; but he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36). "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
How have you responded to this message? You see, this gospel or "good news", not only informs us of our condition and our only remedy. It also calls for our response. This announcement of God's salvation comes with both command and invitation. The command is for all people everywhere to repent. This means we must feel deeply sorry for the many ways we have failed to love God and our neighbor.
It means we must forsake the many sins and wilful transgressions we have committed against God's holy and perfect commands. At the same time, this message commands and invites all people to believe in Jesus Christ.
It says to you, "Believe in God's Son, the Redeemer, given by the Father in His wondrous love. Believe that His perfect life and terrible death has made full satisfaction to God's judgment. Believe that He arose from the dead to bestow this salvation freely upon all who call upon Him in their great need."
Come to Christ Himself by faith and call upon Him so that you may receive the forgiveness of sins; so that His righteousness and death may be imputed to you, sparing you from the wrath of God. Believe in Him, and you will be empowered by His Holy Spirit to live a new life. Receive Him as your Savior and Lord, and instead of eternal death you will have a place in that heavenly inheritance purchased by His own precious blood.
"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:46-47).
The work of salvation is entirely of the Lord. "By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is wholly the work of our triune God as He has revealed Himself as the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each person of the Trinity plays an integral part in redeeming people everywhere, from our initial fall in the Garden of Eden to our present sinful condition today.
To Him, then, be all the glory, honour, and power, both now and forever.