What is the Gospel

26 07 2013

The shortest definition of the Gospel that I know of is that God saves sinners through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.[1] For a succinct definition from Paul see 1 Cor. 15:1-4.

It’s important to stress that the Gospel is an announcement.  It is good news!  What exactly is the good news? We are separated from God from our willful act of rebellion against Him.  This has rendered us dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1-5) thus making us unwilling and unable to reconcile ourselves to God by any good thing that we can do.  The very best one can do is filthy rags before God, not to mention the worst one can do (Isaiah 64). But, in Christ there is forgiveness of sins for all those who will repent and believe Him to be the only hope of reconciliation between God and man by His perfect life, vicarious death on the cross, and victorious resurrection.

What is required to stand in the presence of the one true holy sovereign God of the universe on the last day is righteousness.  The problem? We have no inherent righteousness.  An unrighteous person cannot become righteous because our unrighteousness is not just external acts, it’s our very nature! (Rom. 3:10-18, Jer. 17:9, etc.).

So, what can be done? Left up to us, nothing.  But God… Maybe two of the greatest words in Scripture! But God had a different plan.  This will be important in a moment but that plan began in eternity past and the first hint of the Gospel is actually not in the New Testament, it’s in Genesis 3:15.  God promised that He would send someone, born of the seed of the woman, to crush the serpent’s head.  That someone would be God Himself, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ.

Jesus steps onto the world scene taking on human flesh beginning humbly as a fertilized egg in the womb of Mary (eternally existed as the Son but of course not eternally in human flesh John 1:1ff), conceived by the Holy Spirit.  100% God and 100% Man. Two separate and distinct natures yet one person.  Only man can atone for man’s sin. The problem? All men are sinful! Yet, God in His wisdom had the solution to the problem by taking on human flesh Himself, laying down the splendors of heaven to live among us (Phil. 2:5-11).

He did not live among us to be our example but to proclaim to us the fulfillment of all God had promised in the Old Testament. He came to die for our sins and to be our righteousness!  He lived the perfect life of obedience to the Law, something no man has ever done, and then died a substitutionary, propitiatory[2], death on the cross so that all who would believe on Him would be saved (2 Cor. 5:21, 1 John 2:2, etc.).  He was raised for our justification, ascended into heaven, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father, ruling and reigning (Rom. 4:25, Heb. 1:3).

We must repent of our sin and take hold of these truths, by faith in Christ. We must feel our need for Christ.  People who hear the Gospel and reject do not feel their need for a Savior.  They do not feel the weight of their own sinfulness and rebellion against the One true God of the universe.  They think of their sin as a trivial matter and feel no need for reconciliation.

In the four gospels Jesus continually stresses that He has come to give His life as a ransom to God[3] and calls on people to repent of their sins and believe the Gospel.  Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Law but to fulfill the Law.  The demand on a lost man’s life is not to “obey” God by being “like Jesus” because we cannot be like Jesus!  The demand is to lay down your arms and through faith bow down to the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

Now, is obedience part of salvation? It depends on what you mean by that question.  On one hand, absolutely!  Not our obedience, but Jesus’ perfect obedience!  Also, if you mean by obedience that once God removes our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:25-27) we will live lives holy and separated unto God, then yes! In other words we cannot work to be saved.  We cannot work to be accepted by God.  We can’t clean up and get our act together to earn salvation.  We must repent and believe the WORK Jesus has finished on our behalf.  And the result WILL BE us living out what God has wrought new in our hearts, i.e. we will pursue obedience to God, even though imperfectly. This obedience is grounded in the gospel (which is one reason btw that Christians need to be constantly reminded of the Gospel!) and rooted in the fact that we have been given a new nature, our desires, affections, plans, dreams, wants, have all changed and are pointed at Christ! (cf. Philippians 2:12-13)

Anyway, the Gospel is an announcement.  It’s deep, wide, rich, full but also very simple. God saves sinners through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  By the way, when did God start saving people in this way?

Read Galatians 3:8.  How were Old Testament saints saved? Through the Gospel!  Remember Genesis 3:15? God’s promise all along is that He would restore fellowship with man, through a man conquering the serpent.

Genesis 15:6 And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

This is crucial to understand.  The Old Testament saints were saved through faith by looking forward to the promise of God (Galatians 3).  We are saved through faith looking to the finished work of Christ in our stead.

God is the holy, righteous, just Creator. Man lives in fallen rebellion. Jesus lived a perfect life and died the substitutionary death on the cross for sinners, and was raised again. We must repent of our rebellion and believe that message to be saved. That’s the Gospel.

Will you believe this?

Allen S. Nelson IV


[1] I think I first read this definition in Jared Wilson’s Gospel Deeps.

[2] Wrath absorbing

[3] How can God be just and at the same time justifier? An atonement had to be made. God is just in saving sinners because the payment for sin has been rendered.

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Assurance of Salvation

12 07 2012

Biblical assurance of salvation is a beautiful thing and something God wants His children to have (1 Jn 5:12-13). Here are four things that can give us confidence that we belong to God:

1. Faith in Christ today: It’s not  did you put your faith in Christ some time in the past- Rather, are you trusting Him right now? If you did put your faith in Christ some time in the past, then you will be trusting Him now.

2. The Presence of God’s Spirit: Believer’s are indwelled with the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit prompts us to believe the right things about God and to produce fruit.

3. Obedience to God’s Word: Do you delight to obey God?

4. A Pattern of Growth Over Time: It’s not about the snapshots in your life where you mess up, but is the overall “movie” of your life one that is depicting you maturing more and more into the image of Christ?

*The above were taking from Mike McKinley’s book Am I really a Christian?





Salvation an Umbrella Term?

11 07 2012

A post from my friend and brother in Christ, Nathan Nalley (@NathanNalley on twitter)…

Soteriology is a big word for the study of salvation. Within soteriology we find everything related to the salvation of our souls: Redemption, Atonement, Adoption, Conversion, Regeneration and so on. Growing up, I thought being saved, being converted, being born again, being adopted into God’s family and being justified were all synonyms. I thought they all meant the same thing!

It came as a shock when I found out that these terms each spoke about a different aspect of salvation. “Being Saved” was the most common term, but people said it to mean that they “got saved” in the past whether it was last night or 30 years ago. Or they would say to their friends/family, you need to “get saved”, meaning that whoever they were talking to needed to become a Christian. I don’t expect to be exhaustive in my treatment of salvation in a blog post, but hopefully I can be helpful to our church.

I want to speak of Justification, Sanctification and Glorification. There are many simple ways to say what they mean, but here is a table to explain them.

Justification Sanctification Glorification
Being declared “Righteous” Being made Righteous Being Righteous
Happens in a moment Happens in a lifetime Happens upon death
Past event for Christians Present life of a Christian Life after death for a Christian
Romans 3:20-28 Romans 6:11-19,  Phil. 1:6, 2 Cor. 3:18, 1 John 3:9 1 Cor. 15:51-52

Justification happens when we are converted. When we turn from our sins and trust Christ as our only claim to God. At that moment we are declared righteous (even though we are not actually righteous!) and have Christ as our advocate in heaven. No matter what happens from this point on I am accepted by God solely on the basis of the finished work of Christ. If I were to commit the grossest sin imaginable I would still be right with God because He is not looking at my actions anyway. He is looking at the finished work of Christ. NOTHING ELSE!!! We do not have to lift a finger to get to heaven because God has given us the perfection of the Son. This gives understanding to several difficult Bible passages like Matthew 5:20 and 5:48.

Sanctification happens throughout the Christian life after conversion. Justification was all of God but in sanctification we cooperate with God. We are striving to please Him. Does our salvation depend on our sanctification? Kind of, here’s what I mean. Sanctification is the guaranteed next step of salvation. It will follow justification 99.9% of the time. The only time it doesn’t is like the case of the thief on the cross where the person dies right after they were justified. If a man continues to live after he is “saved” then the next part of salvation WILL occur. So does our salvation depend on it? Your sanctification does not earn heaven. However, your sanctification proves that you were justified. Like we said, at the point of justification, God stops looking at your righteousness and looks at Christ. But, if there is no evidence of sanctification in your life, there is no proof that justification ever took place. Salvation is not earned, but it can be proved through sanctification. In a clear short statement: If you are justified, you are being sanctified. If you are not being sanctified, you were never justified.

The problem is, many church attenders claim that they are justified based on an experience that they had and not based on the sanctification that is currently going on within them. The Bible never tells us that we can know we are Christians based on a personal experience we had in the past. What does it say? You will know them by their fruits; Your life is marked by godliness instead of sin (Matthew 7, 1 John 3:9).

Glorification does not occur until this life is over and we pass into God’s heavenly kingdom. It is when sin is finally and completely finished. This is when we become righteous. This will be the final proof of justification. Without a justification and a sanctification, glorification won’t happen. Heaven will not be a reality to anyone who has not believed in Christ as their only source of righteousness and has crowned Him King of their life in an effort to live under His authority.

I hope I was able to give a little bit of clarity with these words and [hope churches will] embrace this biblical view of salvation.

– Nathan Nalley