Christians believe the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). But what do Christians mean when they say the “gospel”, “the gospel of Jesus Christ”, or “the gospel of God”? The “gospel” means “good news”. More specifically, the gospel is the good news about Jesus! The apostle Paul tells the church in Corinth, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Additionally, we can remember the gospel by summarizing it in four points: God, mankind, Jesus, and our response.
The Heart of the Gospel
At the heart of the gospel are five essential truths commonly referred to as the “Five Solas” of the Protestant Reformation: Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), Sola Gratia (Grace alone), Sola Fide (Faith alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (To the glory of God alone).
- Salvation is according to Scripture alone – The gospel is an audible message about Jesus. You may have heard this common slogan, “share the gospel, and if necessary use words.” This is not a biblical slogan. As Christians we ought to display the gospel in our lives by sharing the love of Christ, but the gospel itself is not a deed done for our neighbor, it is an audible message that requires us to use words and open our mouths. Furthermore, if the gospel is an audible message about Christ, where do we receive the content of this message? The answer is the Bible. The Bible alone is the source of objective, inerrant, and authoritative truth (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Thus, the gospel is sharing the message or word of Christ that we receive in the Bible. The gospel is not a message we make up on our own. We do not own the gospel, God does. Therefore, we do not have the right to make up our own version of the gospel. We must go to the Scriptures to discover the message we are to commanded share. The Bible says that faith comes from what is heard (Romans 10:17), and what we hear is the message of Christ. The means that what the Holy Spirit uses to regenerate and convert sinners to Christ is the gospel of God’s grace spoken audibly, not acts of charity. This is why we labor to get the Word of God out to as many people as possible so they can hear the word of Christ, believe the Scriptures, and be saved through faith in Christ.
“So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.”Romans 10:17 CSB
- Salvation is by grace alone – Grace is receiving what you do not deserve. Biblically, it is unmerited favor from God. Therefore, salvation is by grace and not works. Because all mankind has fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and have transgressed God’s law (primarily summarized in the Ten Commandments), we are sinners in need of a Savior. Our sin problem is so deep and serious that it is rooted in our very nature as human beings (Psalm 51:5; John 3:19-20; Romans 3:10-18). This means that we cannot overcome our sin nature on our own. We cannot save ourselves by trying to be a more moral person. No one goes to heaven because they were a “good person.” Church attendance, acts of charity, or any other deed cannot save a soul. The gospel is not a message of behavioral modification. Rather, the gospel is a message of divine transformation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Since we cannot save ourselves by our own works or deeds (Romans 3:27-28; Galatians 5:4; Philippians 3:9), God must grant what we cannot produce within ourselves, namely the faith necessary for salvation. Thus, salvation is not a work of man, but 100% a work of God (Psalm 3:8) and a gift of grace toward unworthy sinners (Ephesians 1:3-8, 2:8-9). Paul says to the church in Ephesus, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!”Ephesians 2:4-5 CSB
- Salvation is through faith alone – The gospel demands a response from all human beings, and that response is faith; faith that gives birth to repentance in our lives. Genuine faith always leads to a turning away from sin (Proverbs 8:13; Hebrews 10:26; 1 John 2:6). Faith and repentance are one in the same, they cannot take place apart from one another (Ezekiel 36:26-27; Ephesians 2:8-10). Furthermore, faith is not simply being a “spiritual person.” Genuine faith is faith in the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus justifies or declares one right with God (Romans 5:1). What is faith? The author of Hebrews tells us that faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Thus, faith is deep personal trust in Christ. Faith is trusting in Jesus as you would trust in a parachute jumping from a plane 18,000 feet in the air; it is complete and total dependence upon the Lord and trust in His Word – the Bible. We are saved not in trusting our own works for salvation, but in trusting in the finished work of Jesus – His life, death, and resurrection as being sufficient for all time to save sinners who look to Him in faith (Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 3:18). Our rest as Christians is not in the strength of our faith, but in the strength of the One in whom our faith is placed.
“For we conclude that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”Romans 3:28 CSB
- Salvation is in Christ alone – Jesus is the only source of salvation and eternal life. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Eternal life is in Christ and in Him alone, no matter our ethnic, geographical, economic, or religious background. The word “Christ” means “anointed one,” referring to anointing a king with oil when he is crowned. So, when we say “Jesus Christ,” we’re saying that Jesus is King! Only Jesus is an all-sufficient Savior because only Jesus is the mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). Only Jesus has perfectly obeyed the Law of God, fulfilling all of its requirements making Him a sufficient sacrifice for the sins of His people on the cross (Matthew 5:17). Only Jesus has atoned for the sins of His people, bearing the wrath of God the Father in our place as our substitute due to our sin through His death on the cross (Isaiah 53; Hebrews 9:12, 28; Revelation 5:9, 12). Only Jesus has been resurrected from the grave in victory and triumph over sin and death (Luke 24:6-7; Acts 3:15; Romans 8:34). Only Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, reigning over the nations and awaiting His return for His bride – the Church (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:27; Hebrews 8:1; 1 Peter 3:22; Revelation 19:7).
“This Jesus is the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”Acts 4:11-12 CSB
- Salvation is to the glory of God alone – Because we are saved and kept by grace and not works, we have no room to boast in our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). The natural end of what we have learned thus far in salvation being through Scripture alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone, is that our salvation glorifies not people but the God who is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Glory does not belong to the recipients of mercy, but to the One who gives the mercy. The whole of the Christian life is seeking to make much of Christ because of the mercy we have found in Him by grace alone (John 3:30; Romans 12:1; Philippians 1:20-21). In the words of John Piper, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. What we satisfy ourselves in is our salvation that is rooted in the finished work of Christ and in that God is glorified.
“Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory because of your faithful love, because of your truth.”Psalm 115:1 CSB
How Do I Share the Gospel?
Remember the gospel by summarizing it in four points:
The first thing we need to understand about the gospel is the gospel is about God and His own glory. The story of the Bible and the plan of redemption is not man-centered but God-centered. God is the Creator of the heavens and earth, and everything He created is good (Genesis 1:1, 31). God is merciful, kind, gracious, and loving; but above all He is holy (Isaiah 6:3).
The bad news of the gospel is that mankind is not holy, despite being made in God’s image. Since the fall of Adam in Genesis 3, all mankind has been born with a disposition toward sin rather than obedience. We are born with a will that is in bondage to sin (Romans 8:7) and are children of wrath by our very nature (Ephesians 2:3). Furthermore, we have all fallen short of God’s glory and holy standard (Romans 3:23) and having done this on our own will, we stand justly condemned before God who cannot be in relationship with sin (Isaiah 59:2). The wages, or consequence, of our disobedience to the law of God (primarily summarized in the Ten Commandments) is physical death in this life and, apart from Christ, an eternal, conscious, judgment in hell (Romans 6:23; Revelation 21:8). This is the bad news that makes the good news of the gospel so glorious!
The good news is despite our sins God loved the world in this way: He gave His one and only Son, Jesus, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Jesus is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament and the One who fulfilled God’s law on behalf of His people. Christ then died in their place on the cross bearing the wrath of God that was due to them for their sin, providing a substitutionary atonement. Three days later Jesus rose from the grave defeating death and is now seated at the right hand of the Father, reigning over all nations and waiting to return for His bride – the Church.
In Jesus alone there is forgiveness of sins and eternal life (John 3:36). However, there must be a response to this good news in Christ. The gospel is only good news for us if we respond to it in faith. When we look to Jesus in faith we are saved (Romans 3:28, 5:1, 10:9-13) and are no longer under the wrath of God (Romans 8:1) but are redeemed and made new in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)! Because Christ has taken our place on the cross and atoned for our sin, we are at peace with God now (Romans 5:1) and are eternally secure in Jesus (Romans 8:30; Philippians 1:6) as we await the new heaven and earth where we will dwell with God and His people forever (Revelation 21:1-5).