The Gospel is a Person, the God-Man Jesus Christ. Mark makes this point in the opening verse of his book:
“The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mk 1:1)
“Gospel” is a translation of “Evangelion” literally meaning “good news.” It refers to the message about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and the resulting benefits that come our way. So, understanding the Gospel begins with understanding who Jesus is. Here we go:
Jesus is. God exists in three distinct persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yet each person is co-existent, co-equal and co-eternal. Together they are God. Within the triune God, Jesus is the eternal Son of God. Two great passages regarding Jesus are John 1:1-18 and Colossians 1:15-23.
Jesus comes. Through man’s sin, God’s perfect creation and man’s perfect relationship with God was radically corrupted. Sin, suffering, sickness and death all became elements of life, and the consequence of sin was quite literally, deadly. Paul writes that the punishment of sin is death, meaning that every person who has ever sinned deserves death from God. God, being perfectly loving could not leave us in this desperate state, but being perfectly holy, demanded justice for sin and couldn’t “just forgive” anyone without His holiness being violated. Therefore, the members of the Trinity planned amongst Themselves to act in great love toward humanity, by the Father sending His only Son to bear His just wrath for sin so that those who put their trust in Him may be acquitted of their rebellion. So Jesus came. He was incarnated as a man, being conceived of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. He is both fully God and fully man. He is the ultimate revelation of the Father: the true image of the invisible God.
Jesus lives. Although tempted in every way, Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life. His sinless life was critical to His mission to save us. If He had sinned, He would have forfeited His ability to die as a substitutionary sacrifice for our sin, as He would have had to die for His own sin. During His life He preached the good news of God’s Kingdom and modelled a life of obedience to God.
Jesus dies. When Jesus went to the cross, He willingly took upon Himself the sin of those who would come to trust in Him. That means that if you trust Him as your Lord and Savior, Jesus went to the cross and took upon Himself all your sin – past, present and future – and that He died in your place, paying your debt to God and purchasing your salvation. Martin Luther referred to Christ’s work on the cross as The Great Exchange…
Jesus exchanged. Here is how the apostle Paul described The Great Exchange: “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” He became what we are, sinners, so we might become what He is, righteous. He got what we deserve, death, so that we might receive what only he can give, life. The Son of God became a rebel so that rebels might become sons of God.
When you trust in Jesus and his work on the cross, your sins are forgiven and you are declared righteous by God, the ultimate judge. The perfectly righteous life of Christ is attributed to you as if you lived it. Justin Holcomb writes, “The Gospel is not a record of good people earning God’s blessing, but bad people receiving God’s blessing because Jesus earned it for them. The Gospel is that God treated Jesus the way we deserved and he daily treats us the way Jesus deserves.”
Jesus rose. Having been laid in a tomb for three days, Jesus rose from the dead demonstrating God’s acceptance of his perfect life and substitutionary death. Without the resurrection our faith is in vain because that would prove that God didn’t accept Christ’s payment of our sin. Jesus then ascended back to heaven, reigning now over all people, calling mankind to repent and believe. Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead, either into an eternity with him in heaven, or apart from Him in the conscious, eternal torments of hell (Rev 21).
The Gospel is the exceedingly magnificent news that God has sent His Son to live a perfect life on behalf of sinful people who never could, and then die the death they deserved to die. To those who believe and trust in this news, Jesus’ death on their behalf means that they will never die themselves, but by virtue of Jesus’ perfect life being credited to their account, will instead live eternally in the presence of God.
[With thanks to GodFirst Church, Johannesburg, SA]