“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” —Romans 1:16
So what is the Gospel? The word gospel simply means “good news.” I believe that the shortest Biblical definition for the Gospel is that which is written in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Although this verse does not contain every element of the Gospel, it provides the central thrust of its power and preeminence. For a slightly more expanded Biblical definition of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we can find that in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4,
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
What are the essential truths contained in this good news? I can summarize that with this statement: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the revelation of God, according to the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, which focuses on the Person and work of Jesus Christ in His incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and restitution of all things in His bodily return.
What do we mean by the incarnation?
1. When we speak of the incarnation, we mean that God became a Man. Expounded upon, this truth states that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, is very God, holy and transcendent, who condescended to become a man, with a fully human nature coexisting with His divine nature as God. He was born of a virgin, which originates from the first proclamation of the Gospel immediately after Adam’s fall: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). Being a “seed” indicates Christ’s human birth. Being the seed of the woman indicates His virgin birth, thus maintaining all deity in His divine nature. The bruising of Christ’s heel speaks of His death by crucifixion. The bruise or crushing of the serpent’s head indicates the destruction of Satan’s power and, furthermore, indicates the sufficiency and supremacy of Christ’s sacrificial death.
The truth of Christ’s Glorious Deity is essential because it is important to know who has saved us; otherwise, our worship is in vain. This truth is also important because the salvation, which is of the LORD (Jonah 2:9), is supremely powerful to save and sufficiently powerful to preserve that saving work to the end.
2. By it, we also mean that Christ, as a Man, lived a holy and righteous life. Born as a babe, like every descendent of Adam, but of a virgin, He is like no other man who was, or ever will be born. His being born like any other descendent of Adam indicates Christ’s complete humanity, yet, it also speaks of His unique character by His holiness unto God and His sinlessness among men. He was made subject to every infirmity and affliction common to man, yet He endured. He was tempted in every way, like as we are, yet He was without sin: holy, blameless, undefiled, and always pleasing to the heavenly Father. His thinking was of the purest thoughts unto godly obedience to His Father. His heart harbored no vain or selfish grudge. Every utterance of His mouth was heavenly, having no guile, nor deceit, nor slander, nor gossip, nor malignity. His every deed was honorable and honoring before every vestige of heaven. He was the only righteous Man who ever lived, the only pious Prophet who spoke truth in purity and equity, the only Jew who ever kept the entire law perfectly, and the only Son who ever obeyed His Father sweetly, completely, lovingly and sincerely.
The truth of Christ’s Righteous Humanity is essential because it is important to recognize that the sins and corruptions held, harbored and inherited in the flesh of every man, woman, and child since Adam’s fall, and because of his fall, are so heinous and so offensive against God, that to save mankind from their sins, it took nothing less than God condescending to be clothed in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:6, 7). A denial of Christ’s humanity is not of God (1 John 4:3).
What do we mean by the crucifixion?
1. When we speak of the crucifixion of Christ, or use the expression, “Christ crucified,” we are speaking of the redemption of sinners by the Penal Subtitutionary and Atoning Sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon a tree (a Roman cross), as it is written, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). Jesus Christ, the God-Man, humbled Himself in His condescending incarnation. He willingly laid down His life by the love of God. He obediently gave Himself by the decree of the heavenly Father. He surrendered Himself to lay down His life as God’s sufficient Substitute, taking upon Himself all the pains, miseries and torments of the wrath of God upon His Person; of those afflictions visible upon His body inflicted upon Him by sinful men who hated God (Isaiah 52:14; 53:3-5); and also, by the invisible, spiritual penalty, receiving the full measure God’s wrath for a sin debt He did not owe; He then was also the substitute for the debt of sin we owe to God; a debt we could not possibly pay (Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 53:10-11).
2. His crucifixion also speaks of His shed blood for the forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). The purity of Christ’s shed blood, typified and foreshadowed by the blood sacrifice of innocent and unblemished animals, presents the cleansing power of His blood to provide forgiveness of confessed and repentant sin (Romans 10:9-10). The power of the purity of Christ’s blood is sufficient to cleanse the redeemed soul from every confessed sin he has committed after he has been saved by God’s grace (1 John 1:7-10).
3. Furthermore, when we speak of the crucifixion of Christ, it reflects the corruptions contained in a world that has been turned upside down. The corruption of the world, which took place at Adam’s fall, is so egregiously offensive to God since the fall of man, the fact that the world has not been utterly destroyed is evidence of the satisfying propitiation found in Christ’s sacrifice (1 John 2:2). This sacrifice is such an exultant demonstration of God’s love in the Person of Christ, such a superlative satisfaction of divine justice in the work of Christ, and the most supreme manifestation of grace and mercy in the condescension of Christ, that the earth will also be resurrected in the restoration of all things (Ephesians 3:21).
4. When we speak of the cross of Christ or Christ crucified or the crucifixion of Christ, we are speaking of the holy splendor of Christ’s deity to condescend to save lost men because of God’s love. The cross speaks of the humble obedience of Christ’s humanity to go to death, even the death of the cross. His righteousness was sufficient enough to be applied to all lost souls that repent and believe savingly. His excellence in all His ways was sufficient to pay the debt of sins for every man, woman, and child that trust in the Person and work of Christ for salvation. His righteous life, His humble obedience, and His holy sacrifice upon the cross is of such infinite value, the power that dwells savingly in the Person and work of Jesus Christ reconciles the sinner to God by God’s grace through faith in Christ.
The revelation of the exceeding excellence of Christ’s life and holiness of His sacrificial death, illuminated by the efficacious grace of the Holy Spirit, will bring a sinner to see the depravity of his lost condition when set against the overwhelming goodness of Christ. Truly, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6). The shame that comes to our souls in the light of the revelation of the offense our very lives bring to God, far exceeds the shame of Adam and Eve when their nakedness was revealed to them.
What do we mean by the resurrection?
When we speak of the resurrection we mean Christ’s Rising from the Dead in His crucified body after three days and nights in the tomb.
The resurrection of Christ is God’s open display to the entire creation of His seal and acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice. Anyone can claim to be God (John 10:33). Anyone can claim to have the power to forgive sins (Luke 7:48, et al). Anyone can claim to give one’s life to redeem many souls (John 10:15; Matthew 20:28). And anyone can claim to raise Himself from the dead (John 2:19; 10:17-18). But no one can prove any of these things… that is, except for Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
This one sign, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, was the only sign given to an evil and adulterous generation of the excellence and worth of Christ before God, in all He is and all He has done.
The resurrection of Christ also assures God’s promise to all whom He has saved in Christ that there will one day be a resurrection of the dead. The importance of the resurrection is such that a denial of the bodily resurrection of Christ means a denial of the faith altogether (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).
What is meant by the ascension?
When we speak of the ascension of Christ, we mean Christ’s Ascending to the Throne of David in Heaven (Acts 2:29-36). Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the only one who has ever ascended into heaven (John 3:13).
His ascension was necessary and important because Jesus said, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”
It was necessary for Jesus to ascend to the right hand of Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3), else the Comforter, or Helper, “will not come.”
The Comforter, the Holy Spirit of Christ must come. Christ’s ascension was so very important for this reason. As the Holy Spirit rebukes the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8), through the means of God’s Word (Romans 10:17), God “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30, ESV).
As the Holy Spirit also guides in all truth (John 16:13) and glorifies Christ (John 16:14), belief unto confession is essential to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is one of the first evidences of a regenerated life unto saving conversion. It is written, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). The Spirit testifies of the truth of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and by God’s grace prompts a soul to openly confess Christ because the new heart and new spirit in the regenerate soul (Ezekiel 36:26-27) has the commandments of God written upon his heart.
The rule and reign of Christ upon His heavenly throne, and His rule and reign in the lives of believers He has saved through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, is the work God is performing upon earth, gathering one people unto Himself. This people are a particular people, growing in unity through the doctrinal truths of God’s Word, provoking one another unto love and good works in submission to King Jesus as faithful subjects, until Jesus Christ returns unto the restitution (or restoration) of all things (Acts 3:21).
What is meant by the restoration (restitution), or return of Christ?
1. When we speak of the return of Christ and the restitution (or restoration) of all things, we mean that one day Christ will return to earth imminently (Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7), visibly (Revelation 1:7), and bodily (Acts 1:11).
a. This includes the scriptural truth of Christ’s coming in righteous judgment: for the wicked unto the praise of God’s glorious justice; and for the righteous elect, unto the praise of God’s glorious grace.
b. This important doctrine also includes the truth that there is a hell. Although a detailed understanding of hell or the lake of fire is not essential for salvation, a sober awareness and knowledge of hell is certainly essential. Hell is described by the Lord Jesus as a place where “their worm dieth not” (Mark 9:44, 46, 48). For those wicked that will be dispatched in that great and terrible Day of the Lord, the presence of God is a consuming fire that burns hotter than the sun shining in its strength, and being an eternal fire that is never quenched (Mark 9:44, 46, 48).
c. The doctrine of heaven is also included within the truth of Christ’s coming. More than being the place of the new heaven and earth, and the New Jerusalem, it is more infinitely grand than that. The same presence of God that is a consuming fire for the wicked dead, Christ’s presence is peace and comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3), and fullness of joy with pleasures forever more at His right hand (Psalm 16:11). He, Jesus Christ, the God of our salvation, is our eternal inheritance and it is His presence that makes heaven heavenly. It is written, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
As a recap, let us review that which is the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
—It contains the doctrine of Christ’s incarnation. Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, and therefore, He is very God, yet fully man.
—It contains the doctrine of Christ’s crucifixion. Being both God and Man, having two distinct natures, yet being one Person, His penal substitutionary and atoning sacrifice is powerful to save and regenerate, merciful to forgive and guard, holy to cleanse and purify, effectual to transform and sanctify, and mighty to accomplish and fulfill to the end.
—It contains the doctrine of Christ’s resurrection. As Christ was crucified and resurrected the third day, we should also reckon ourselves dead and risen with Him. This gives us grace upon grace for growth, strengthened faith to trust upon Christ for the present, and blessed hope to wait upon Christ for the future.
—It contains the doctrine of Christ’s ascension. As Christ has ascended upon the throne of His glory, He has made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ.
—It contains the doctrine of Christ’s restoration. Jesus Christ is returning for His own. All those who have not repented and confessed Christ, who have not cast themselves upon Christ alone in trusting faith; those should tremble in dread fear and sober consideration. God commands all men everywhere to repent and to believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Look ye upon Jesus Christ and be ye saved.