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What is the Gospel? or How Is a Person Saved?
Do you like an action-packed story? Be it on the written page or on the screen, do you like it when an author or producer packs the most action into the least amount of space or time? Four men who lived at the time of Christ each wrote down the things that took place during the short period of time when Jesus Christ carried out his work and teaching on earth. Mark was one of them, and he packed his account onto the fewest number of pages. I highly recommend that you read the book of Mark. How did Mark, a matter-of-fact person, begin this piece of historical writing? He wrote,
"The beginning of the gospel of the Son of God." Mark 1:1
"The gospel" is what Mark wants to tell us about and "the gospel" is what we are wanting to define. Mark wrote his account in the Greek language and the word he used, translated literally into English, is "good news."
Now, let us remember that nothing stands so much in the way of real knowledge as thinking that we know something when really we do not. To believe that we know something before we do know is to prevent our making discoveries and coming to correct knowledge.
For example, when an observer first discovered that there were spots on the sun he reported it, but he was called before his father-confessor and was rebuked severely for having reported anything of the kind. The Jesuit father said that he himself had read Aristotle's works several times and had not found any mention of spots on the sun, therefore there could be no such thing. When the offender replied that he had seen these spots through the use of scientific equipment to which Aristotle did not have access, the father told him that he must not believe his eyes; he must believe him, because it was certain, to begin with, that if Aristotle had not indicated the spots, spots there could not be, and he must not believe it!
Sadly, there are some who come to this topic of "the gospel" in the same way. They have a notion of what the gospel ought to bea firm and strong cast-iron creed of their own manufacturing, or one they've simply inherited from their parents. People like this are unprepared to hear and learn with an honest desire for understanding. What is more, they are quite unwilling or are not interested enough to turn to the Bible to discover God's definition.
Nowhere in the Bible is the gospel more concisely defined than in the early verses of First Corinthians chapter fifteen. This book of the Bible was written by Paul, a man known for his brilliant mind, who once was totally against anything connected with Jesus Christ and His teachings. He was such a hater of Christ and His followers that he was investing his zealous energies to see that all believers in Christ were executed. Through an extraordinary chain of events, Paul came to see how he was wrong and the whole course of his life was changed. (You can read about the details in Acts 9.) Paul became so convinced that what Christ had said was true that he invested the rest of his life spreading the news throughout that whole region of the world. In the end he went to trial in Rome and was beheaded because he was unwilling to renounce his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is the concise definition as Paul wrote it in 1 Corinthians 15:
"Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which you also received, in which also you stand, by which you also are saved...for I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now." 1 Corinthians 15:1-6
Now if you were to accept my invitation to read the book of Markor the longer accounts written by Matthew, Luke or John for that matteryou would read Christ's teaching first hand. You would hear Him explain to his followers the purpose for which he came to the earth. You would see that He knew exactly what was going to happen to Him at Jerusalem, how He would allow Himself to be handed over to wicked men and ultimately to die on the cross. None of these events took Him by surprise. He, the Son of God, was not some helpless victim. He willingly went through all of that because it was necessary for our sake, in order that we could be forgiven for our sins. Christ did not shrink from His mission.
John, an eye-witness of the crucifixion recorded Christ's last words from the cross:
"[Jesus] said, 'It is finished!' And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit." John 19:30
There and then Christ completed what He came to do. The only thing left for man to do is believe.
So then, what exactly must you believe to be saved? In your heart you must believe the following:
- I have broken God's law; therefore, I stand guilty before Him.
- There must be punishment for my sin; God's eternal justice demands it.
- The Lord Jesus came into the world to provide a way by which, without dishonoring God's justice, my sin may be forgiven.
- Christ became my substitute. He stood in my place and was punished with my punishment. He endured the wrath of God for me.
- I, the guilty one, trust Him as my Savior. My faith lies only in what He did for meI can add nothing to it of my own. It is all a gift from Him and I do receive it as such.
- By this gift of salvation, all my sins are removed, and God considers me pure and righteous.
Yes, Christ loved, and lived, and died that sinners like you and me would not have to be punished for our sins. He accomplished a complete work. Will you not agree with Him and say "It is finished"? There is nothing for you to add to it, nothing for you to bring with you to make that work complete. Simply bring yourself, stripped of every other hope, black, foul, guilty, abominable, and look to those pierced hands and feet and to that bleeding thorn-crowned head, and say, "Lord Jesus, I do believe You died in my place. I put my complete trust in what You accomplished on the cross. Thank you for saving me."
Without any argument, the gospel is a very simple matter. It is so simple that any child can understand it. In Jesus' own words as recorded by Mark:
"Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all." Mark 10:15
What is your choice? Will you be saved, or will you turn your back on this good news? Are you determined to keep believing what you have believed up until now? Having read this explanation of the gospel, your position is either better or worse. You cannot hear the gospel and refuse it, and yet remain as you were. Having heard the truth, you will bear a greater responsibility. One day you will stand before the Lord. It is only right that you should know that he will either be there before you as your Savior or as your Judge. If the latter is the case, you will be condemned to an eternity in hell. You will not be able to say to God, "I never knew! no one ever told me how I could be saved."
I urge you not to give rest to your mind this day until this matter is settled. Won't you accept God's free gift?