Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What is the Gospel?

As Christians, we spend heaps of time (or at least we should!) talking about the gospel. We "share" it with people, we "preach" it, we try to "live it out" and we state it as a huge aspect of our faith.

But, by a show of hands, how many of you can actually give a good definition of the gospel?

I'm guessing most of you either laughed or quizically raised your hand then kind of hesitated and put it back down before continuing to read. It's unfortunate, but a lot of people throw the phrase around without having a really good grasp of what it actually means. Before I continue, I'd like to mention that I am not claiming to have the answer- this is a question I myself have pondered for the last couple of years, trying to get a better understanding of it.

I think my favorite description of the gospel comes from Romans. Paul's letter to the Romans is really brilliant in that, for the most part, it is his way of introducing himself, his ministry and his Jesus to them, and so a lot of it is very straightforward, linear thinking that almost reads like a pamphlet or an essay!

Let's take a quick look at Romans 5:12-21. (ESV)

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned- for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgement following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.
Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

A little wordy, but I think it gets the point across. The basic message of the gospel is, as far as I can tell:

God created everything and everyone, and we are accountable to Him as our Judge. We turned against Him in one way or another, and our sins deserve just punishment. However, Jesus acts as advocate and offers freedom from sin and grace from judgement. This is dependent, however, on our active participation through repentance and worship.

So, basically: God loves you, but also judges you. You messed up, but Jesus will defend your case if you agree to turn around and get back on the right track and love Him.

So there you go, that is, to the best of my current ability, my definition of the gospel! I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

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