What is the Gospel Part 2- God, Sin, and People
I remember the first time someone expressed the gospel succinctly and clearly to me. It felt like classified information that I had been working to uncover had just been uttered, out in the open, on a normal day, in a casual conversation on my college campus. “Did this really just happen?” I thought. Why had I not heard this before?!
I was a believer at the time. I read my Bible often. I was a leader at church. I loved Jesus and wanted to serve him. But I had never had someone so clearly tell me the problem with sin that we all face and the hope we can have in Jesus Christ. Well, to be honest, someone may have tried to tell my teenage self, but I just hadn’t absorbed it. This time was different. To say a light bulb came on would be an understatement. More like flood lights. Once I had clarity on the message of the gospel, everything else in the Bible made sense. My faith, my mission, my hope came together.
As we said before in our first post on “What is the Gospel,” it is important for us to be able to grasp and articulate the gospel well. We have to know the main message of the Bible (the gospel), the foundation for our growth as Christians (also the gospel), and the news we’re called to proclaim (again the gospel). So, we worked on a simple definition. We talked about what Paul calls the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15. We said the gospel is the good news that God sent Jesus to die for sins and rise again, calling people to turn from their sin and believe in him for salvation.
But we also said there are some questions that need to be answered in order to grasp this message. There are four truths to cover: the truth about God, the truth about sin and people, the truth about Jesus, and the truth about our response to the good news.
In this post we’ll take the first two of those: The truth about God and the truth about sin and people. Later on we'll cover the truth about Jesus and our response.
The Truth About God
First, it’s the news about God. When someone says the word “god,” it can mean a lot of things. Your friend may mean an impersonal force or an angry, vindictive deity. The character, worth, and actions of the god of which they speak matters, or you may assume you’re talking about the same God. The true God, the God of the Bible, is our perfect Creator. (Genesis 1, Matthew 5:48) He is wholly good and just yet loving and personal. (Nahum 1:7, 1 John 4:8, 16, Hebrews 11:6) This means he has Creator’s rights over us, and yet he is trustworthy in his kindness towards us and in his intentions for us. He wants goodness and rightness and will ultimately judge because of his just character. This means he cannot ignore evil, pain, and wickedness, pretending he doesn’t see them. God is merciful, slow to anger, and gracious, yet he punishes sin in his justice. (Exodus 34:5-7) This is who God is. If we don’t know this, the rest of this message doesn’t make sense.
The Truth About Sin and People
Second, we find that people are a whole lot less trustworthy than God is. People were formed in the image of God to reflect what he is like. Although they were also created for a relationship with the loving God of the universe, they do not live how they were designed to be, in dependent loving fellowship with God, but rather in rebellion and separation from God. (Isaiah 59:2, Luke 18:19) The first people foolishly disobeyed what God said, because they did not believe him. (Genesis 3) This led all of us into lives of treason against God our Creator and King, as we put ourselves in the royal position of our lives. We existed as spiritually dead and separated from God.
People are born into the rebellion against God and choose it each day of their lives. (Romans 3:9-20, Romans 5:19) We see this brokenness all around us in the world. People live for themselves rather than in the perfection, goodness, love, and justice like God. While people may do “nice things,” as the human race, we are not good people. We do not reflect God well. We see this in ourselves as we are morally corrupt on the inside. We are fettered to our selfish motives and desires. (Romans 7:5, Galatians 5:17-21) This means the just God rightfully should punish us. We deserve never to know God’s love and kindness, but only his just anger. (Ephesians 2:1-3) God will judge us, and by ourselves we have no hope.
The truth about sin and people is the “bad news” within the “good news” of the gospel. Jesus himself asked questions of those around him to help them grasp this bad news. (John 4:16, Mark 10:18) They had to know who they were and their dire circumstances before they would cherish the good news.
Don’t worry; more on that good news next as we will talk about the truth about Jesus and the truth about our response.
Here’s a hint: Mark 10:45 (ESV)
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.