Regarding the Gospel (Part 1)
What Is the Gospel?
The word "gospel" is tossed about so often, one would assume that the meaning of this term is commonly understood. Not so! Even in the Apostle Paul's time there were those who had reinterpreted or reinvented the message. "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:8)
Many know that the word literally means "glad tidings" or "good news." Others may even identify the Bible as being the Gospel -- but most of the Bible was already ancient by the time the Gospel was proclaimed to the first century world, though the whole Scripture supports and prepares for the Gospel. The Gospel was a very real and specific thing to the earliest Christians—wonderful news that shook the foundations of the ancient world.
Absolute perfection is required of all. Just as light has no fellowship with darkness, so God (Who dwells in absolute holiness) cannot fellowship with unrighteousness.
Adam and Eve were created to live forever with God, but they sinned. "death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similtude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come." (Romans 5:14)
God's law, through Moses, gave mankind a concrete knowledge of sin. No one can truthfully claim that they are free from sin. "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:19-20) "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." (Romans 5:12)
All man has to do to be accepted as righteous is to keep the law. "And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us." (Deuteronomy 6:25)
But "whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." (James 2:10) Impossible!
The penalty for not keeping the law is death. A lamb was killed to satisfy the death penalty and make atonement for men's sins: "And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him." (Leviticus 1:4)
But the blood of bulls and goats is not enough to do away with sin: "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me" (Hebrews 10:4-5, also Psalm 40:6; Isaiah 1:11; Hebrews 10:1-2)
So, Jesus Christ became the perfect and righteous sacrifice for the sins of the world, satisfying the death penalty that we might be reconciled to God: "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:10, also see Romans 3:25)
The Price Has Been Paid
We can only rely on the atoning work and righteous life of Christ: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Indeed, it is good news that, as God had promised through the prophets, Jesus was born, unstained by the rebellion and condemnation which all mankind inherits through Adam. He lived a perfect and sinless life and was sacrificed for all sin. His righteous life has been substituted (imputed to our account) for our inadequate and rebellious life, and the blood of His sacrifice erases our sin. And in His resurrection, we have assurance of justification and life.
"For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." (Romans 5:10)
"For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Therefore as by the offence of one judgement came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." (Romans 5:17-19)
"That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 5:21)
"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Can We Pay the Price?
The price due for our sin is death. the requirement for life is absolute righteousness.
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)
A Christian's good works are a result of Christ living within. "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philipians 2:13)
If our eternal destiny hinged on our good works, no one would be saved. "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one." (Romans 3:10)
We don't deserve this Gift. We cannot earn it. If would not be His Gift if we had to pay a price for it. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) We can rely only on the work Christ did for us, in order to have eternal life.
"And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:" (Philipians 3:9)
"That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 5:21)
God produces the works. Not amount of effort on our part can produce the perfect, sinless, righteous life required for eternal life and fellowship with God. "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags..." (Isaiah 64:6)
It is important that you rely on the right Gospel, the true Jesus, the only God. He is found in the record He has provided us. One may reject God and His free gift—by seeking to be justified by one's own efforts, by following something which feels more comfortable, by choosing a god after one's own heart.