Using biblical words like "gospel" or "good news" to describe God's plan to reconcile Himself to a righteous people and to save sinners are essential but inadequate if left unexplained. We receive "good news" everyday – it's good news that the sun is shining, that I received a raise at work, and that my child was chosen for the lead part in the school play. And the beautiful, biblical word "gospel" has become so generic that it is used in secular settings to the degree it has become disconnected from its real meaning.
I want to make what I believe to be are ten essential statements that consider all the varying aspects of the gospel of Jesus Christ so that terms like "gospel" and "good news" might be better understood. Let's look at three in this article.
Truth #1: Salvation begins with and belongs to God; it's all for His glory (Jonah 2:9)
There is a God. He is eternal – without beginning or end. God is not the wishful thinking of hopeless humanity, but the very Person who is responsible for the existence of all things. His attributes are many and perfect. God exists in and of Himself. No one made God – God has always existed. God has all power, knows all things, and no action is too hard for Him (Genesis 18:14).
God is in sovereign control of all things. God is loving and merciful (John 3:16). God is the Creator of all things (Gen. 1:1). God is good, gracious, and caring (John 3:16). God is also holy, righteous, and the ultimate, eternal judge of all good and evil acts and persons (Exodus 3). Nothing exists apart from God's power (John 1:1-5). God is One God (Deut. 6:4), yet God is revealed as One God in Three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit (Mt. 3:13-17).
Salvation began in the heart and mind of God before anything was made, before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20), and is being played out on the stage of human history. In addition, God is not shocked by anything or caught off guard by anything, even sin and wickedness. As the old saying goes, "Has it ever occurred to us that nothing has ever occurred to God?"
God is not out of control of His creation. It was God's plan to save a people for Himself before anything was made so that God might put His glory on display in all the universe and among all the peoples of the earth in time and history so that we might praise Him and be satisfied in Him alone (Matthew 1:21). God is there, He is not silent. In summary, the good news begins with a good and great God whose purposes are to redeem, reconcile, save, and forgive sinners, while at the same time displaying His righteous judgments, perfect holiness, eternal justice, and supreme glory among all the peoples of the earth (Eph. 2:1-10; Rev. 7:9-17).
Truth #2: The drama of salvation continues with God's creation of the heavens and the earth, especially the unique and special creation of humanity (Genesis 1-3)
In other words, though God's plan of salvation began in eternity past, He chose to initiate His plan of redemption by creating a good world, filled with beauty, wonder, and order (Genesis 1). Creation testifies to the creative genius and power of God (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:19-20). The apex of God's creation was the creation of human beings – people like you and me – who were made in the image of God with relational and creative abilities that are amazing in and of themselves (Genesis 1:26-31; 2:18-25). This is why God values life from the beginning of life to end of life (you might say God is pro-life) and it is why humans, even humans cursed by sin, are capable of the most amazing and creative accomplishments. In summary, the good news of Jesus Christ affirms the goodness of creation and the Creator.
Truth #3 - The drama of salvation also speaks of sin against God and separation from God
Though God created a good world, sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). Because of sin
1) Adam was cursed
2) Eve was cursed
3) Satan was cursed
4) creation was cursed (Genesis 3:14-19; Romans 8:18-25).
Sin is always against God (Psalm 51:3-6). While sin may harm those around us, our sin is mainly an offense against a holy God. Sin led to our separation from God (Genesis 3:22-24). Sin dismantled our identity so that we are in search for the true self. Sin is a violation of God's Laws and a dishonoring of God Himself. All have sinned (Romans 3:23).
The consequences of sin is death (Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 6:23). Sinners – all of us – are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1). We are under the judgment of God. We are cursed, cut off, dead, and self-centered. While secular culture downplays the impact of wrongdoing, not so with God. A person may be functioning, acting, speaking, working, but if they are still in their sin – outside of the grace of God in Jesus Christ – they are spiritually dead to God and dead in their soul.
Sinners are under the wrath of God (Romans 1:18; Ephesians 2:3; Colossians 3:6; Revelation 14:19). Sin impacts every aspect of life. No part of life is untouched by sin. Sin leaves us unable and unwilling to choose or love God (Romans 3:9-20). Sin leaves our will bound by sin (John 8:34); we are no longer free, but our will is bound, our hearts are broken, and our minds are blind to God (2 Corinthians 4:4). We are dead in our sin. We are born in our sin (Psalms. 51:5). We are born resisting God. Dead men cannot live on their own. Someone must give the dead sinner life. Unlike us, God is so holy that He takes sin seriously. If sin is not dealt with we will die in our sin, eternally separated from God. In summary, the good news of God squares with the bad news of humanity. In fact, the reason the gospel is called good news is because the bad news is so bad.
Part 2 will cover Truth #4 - The drama of redemption in history; Truth #5 - How does God actually save sinners; and, Truth #6 - Good news makes dead men live