“The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). Thus begins the inspired account of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus. The essential core of Christian faith—the greatest message ever heard by man—is this: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and…was buried, and…rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). It is summarized in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It is good news indeed, for that is what the word “gospel” means. The way has been opened for man to come to God, and He has commanded that this message be proclaimed to every creature on the face of the earth (Mark 16:15).
What do we know about the gospel? Its source is God, not man. It is the gospel of God (Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:2, 9). Its central theme is a living Person. It is the gospel of God’s Son, our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:3, 9; 15:19). Its purpose is to bring men to God. It is the gospel of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13). Its objects are the undeserving. It is the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24). Its duration is forever. It is the everlasting gospel (Revelation 14:6).
No one can afford to disregard its life-or-death message. God calls upon men to obey the gospel and warns them of judgment if they do not (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17; Romans 10:16). Since believing (or faith) is the required response, there is an urgent necessity to make it known (1 Corinthians 9:16; Acts 1:8). Anyone who seeks to alter the message is under a curse (Galatians 1:7-9). This is particularly true of one who teaches that works or rituals must be added to believing the gospel for salvation.
Such a message from God did not burst suddenly upon the world scene without any prior indication. Man’s need for salvation from sin and death was evident from the beginning of history, as shown in the first chapters of the Bible. God’s remedy by means of a promised Deliverer is also set forth as early as Genesis 3:15. The blood sacrifices of old anticipated the final, once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross (Hebrews 10:1-4, 10-12). The Old Testament promised a New Covenant or Testament which would be greater than the old (Jeremiah 31:31-33). God’s Deliverer was to be for all mankind (Isaiah 42:1,6). Prophecy and fulfillment thus interlock in one Lord, one faith, one salvation (Ephesians 4:4-6). There is only one way to God (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
Separation from God
Man was made for God—for His pleasure and glory (Revelation 4:11; Isaiah 43:7). God’s eternal purpose was for man to bear His likeness and thereby reveal His glory (Genesis 1:26-27; Romans 8:29). God placed man upon earth with the power of choice rather than as a controlled robot. Man was free to love and obey God or not to do so.
Man’s Testing. He was placed in a beautiful garden and enjoyed fellowship with God. There was only one restriction imposed to assure continuation of that fellowship. Man was forbidden to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The opportunity was there to obey or disobey, to believe or not to believe God’s Word (Genesis 2:15-17).
. Man’s Disobedience. The Devil, in the form of a serpent, contradicted God, and said man would not die if he ate of the forbidden fruit. Man believed that lie rather than the word of the God who loved him. The act of disobedience brought about a fatal change called the Fall of Man (Genesis 3:1-7). The result was immediate spiritual death, which is separation from God’s fellowship (Genesis 3:8), and ultimately physical death, in which man’s soul is separated from his body (Genesis 5:3-5).
Man’s Problem. The consequences of this disobedience were not confined to the first man. Sin and death had now entered the human race through him (Romans 5:12). Man’s nature was altered so that he became an opposer of God. Man became a sinner both by nature (Ephesians 2:3) and by practice (Romans 3:23). The wages of that sin was death (Romans 6:23). All sin is punishable by death (Ezekiel 18:4). Man, therefore, is now “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1, 5). This death is present
spiritual death, which is separation from God. Death remains a constant testimonial to the terrible price of sin (Hebrews 9:27; James 1:15). Beyond the physical death, which separates the soul from the body, is the second death, which separates the soul from God eternally (Revelation 20:11-15). Even in the present life, sin is ultimately the cause of all trouble, sickness, pain and alienation from the life of God.
Substitution for the Sinner
The Scriptures tell us that God loved His fallen creatures (Ephesians 2:4-5; 1 John 4:10). Yet He was faced with a moral difficulty in saving them from spiritual death that would become eternal. God is absolutely righteous, which is to say, entirely just. Thus the penalty for sin must be paid (Exodus 34:7). Yet God is also merciful and loving, earnestly desiring the salvation of His fallen creatures (2 Peter 3:9). How can perfect justice and loving mercy be reconciled?
God’s Solution. Through the Lord Jesus the way was found for the righteousness of God, on one hand, to be satisfied in the payment of the debt of sin. Yet the love of God was satisfied, on the other hand, in the saving of men from eternal death. The method was substitution, whereby the penalty would be paid by another on man’s behalf (Isaiah 53:4-6). Christ would be the great Sin-Bearer (1 Peter 2:24; 3:18). The Son became a man because the payment demanded the life of man (Acts 2:22). He was sinless that He might be free from death’s claims upon His own humanity (2 Corinthians 5:21). His life was of infinite value that it might provide a ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:6). God’s heart went out to all men (1 Timothy 2:4). It is notable that only God can be a Savior of man (Isaiah 43:11; 45:21). Jesus satisfied that demand (Matthew 1:21-23).
God’s Unveiling. The plan of God was revealed in seed form in the early chapters of Genesis. The efforts by our first parents to cover their sin by the works of their own hands is seen typically in their fig-leaf clothing (Genesis 3:7). It was a provision that did not cover their nakedness and sin before a holy God. He provided the skins of animals as a proper clothing (Genesis 3:21). This substitution could only come when blood had been shed. Animal sacrifices were thus begun. The next generation provided a further illustration. Cain offered God the fruit of his work in the fields while Abel offered a blood sacrifice. God accepted the latter but rejected the offering of Cain. Cain’s offering typifies human works as an approach to God (Genesis 4:3-5). Those who seek acceptance by God on the basis of meritorious works are following what is called “the way of Cain” (Jude 11). The way to God is by blood sacrifice, not human works. Further illustration is found in the most important of Jewish feasts, the Passover. At its institution, before the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, an unblemished lamb was taken for each household and sacrificed. The blood was applied to each dwelling as protection against Divine judgment upon all the firstborn. By this blood sacrifice, God passed over, or spared, these households from death (Exodus 12:3-14, 21-27). The sacrificial system of the Old Testament continued this teaching. These sacrifices were shadows of that which was to come, Christ’s death on the cross (Colossians 2:17). The previous sacrifices could never take away sin, although they anticipated and illustrated the sacrifice which would do so (Hebrews 10:1-4). The one sacrifice for sins forever was that of the Lord Jesus on the cross. This was what put away sin for the believer (Hebrews 9:12-14; 10:10, 12). Thus we see that God, from the beginning, provided a basis of faith for salvation. The fulfillment of the plan was in the coming of the Son of God Himself (Hebrews 1:1-2). This was the hidden wisdom of God kept from the forces of evil through the preceding ages (1 Corinthians 2:7-8).
God’s Way. Since the Lord Jesus in His sacrifice on the cross is the only way to God, how were Old Testament believers saved? They were saved on exactly the same basis as we are; that is, by grace, through faith, without meritorious works (Ephesians 2:8-9). They died in faith, not having seen the fulfillment of Old Testament promises of a final Deliverer, the Messiah. Yet they were persuaded that the promises were true and embraced them (Hebrews 11:13). God counted their
faith for righteousness (Romans 4:3; James 2:23). He reckoned the work of the Lord Jesus to their account just as He does to ours (2 Corinthians 5:21). Although the details of the message differed, the gospel also was preached to Old Testament people (Hebrews 3:16-4:2; 1 Peter 4:6). They believed God and showed the reality of that belief by obeying Him. John the Baptist continued this preaching before Jesus began His public ministry. He told people to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15). The Lord Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23; 9:35). To receive Him as King was to enter His kingdom. Hence He told them that the kingdom of God was in their midst when He stood before them (Luke 17:21 NASB).
God’s Satisfaction. God the Father is well pleased with His Son (Matthew 3:17). He is satisfied with the complete sufficiency of that work on the cross, which settles the debt of sin and makes us acceptable in God’s presence. “It is finished” (John 19:30). No more sacrifice for
sins is needed, nor are our iniquities remembered any more (Hebrews10:17-18). God is favorably disposed toward us because of the Lord Jesus (1 John 2:1; Hebrews 2:17). The Lamb of God has fully paid for the sins of the world (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2). His resurrection has displayed
to the world the full approval of God concerning all He accomplished (Acts 2:22-24).
Salvation for the Believer
Each person must come to God for salvation as an individual, receiving Christ as Lord and Savior in the present age (John 1:12-13). Today, response to God brings people into one of two groups: the godly or the ungodly. They are members of different
spiritual families with different
fathers, different fruit and different destinies.
Children Of Disobedience (Ephesians 2:2; 5:6). The nature of their reaction to God marks this description. Their future is indicated by the companion phrase, “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). Their true father is shown by the expression “children of the devil” (1 John 3:10, 8).
Children Of God (Romans 8:16-17; Galatians 3:26). They might also be called the “children of obedience” because of the expression “obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26). Their response of faith is to “obey Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:2 NASB). This obedience is unto the gospel. Since they are of the
line of faith, they are called children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7). The Lord Jesus said that Abraham’s children “do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39). The transformation of life causes them to be called “children of light” (John 12:36; 1 Thessalonians 5:5). They are not saved by good works, but they are saved unto good works (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 3:8). The design of salvation was that those who had been dead in sins might live unto righteousness (1 Peter 2:24).
The major difference between the two families is in their faith. The children of disobedience, following Cain, have faith in their own efforts as they live before God. They will not obey the gospel and come to God on the basis of the finished work of Christ alone. They trust in their own goodness, ideas and way of life. In contrast, the children of God have come to the point where they know they need a Savior. They have repented of their sins (Luke 13:3; 15:7; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19). They have turned to God in faith (Acts 20:21; 26:20). Their faith is in the blood of Christ alone to save them (Romans 3:25). His blood alone can cleanse us from all sin (1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5).
The salvation of man was in the mind of God before the world was created. He desired fellowship with those who were willing to love and obey Him by choice. The beginning of disobedience did not take Him by surprise. The Lamb of God was set aside, even slain, in the mind of God before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:19-20; Revelation 13:8). When the fullness of time was come God sent forth His Son (Galatians 4:4). The One who had spoken in many ways and through many prophets now spoke to man through His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2). The gospel message tells man that Christ has died and paid for his sins, meeting every claim of God’s justice. The Son has risen from the dead for man’s justification. God offers eternal life to all who will come to Him through faith in His Son. To receive the Son and to have Him is to have eternal life (John 1:12; 1 John 5:12). The wrath of God abides on the one who does not believe (John 3:36). Have you obeyed the gospel? Do you now walk as a child of obedience, a child of light and a child of God?
A Gospel Panorama
1. What do you learn about God’s purposes for man in the following verses (Genesis 1:26-27; Isaiah 43:7; Romans 8:29; Revelation 4:11)?
2. What opportunity did Adam have to please God (Genesis 2:15-17)? What does Adam’s response to this test tell you about his faith in God’s Word (Genesis 3:1-7)?
3. Use the following verses to define sin (Isaiah 53:6; Matthew 5:28; Romans 3:23; 1 John 3:4; James 4:17).
How does Adam’s response to God reflect the Bible’s definition of sin (compare Genesis 3:1-7)?
What is the condition of all men since the time of Adam (Romans 5:12)? Why?
4. God’s justice demands that the penalty of sin be paid. What was the spiritual penalty
established by God at creation (Genesis 2:17; Ezekiel 18:4)?
What happens if a person dies physically in this condition (Revelation 20:11-15; Hebrews 9:27)?
5.What does the following passage reveal about God’s mercy and His justice (Exodus 34:6b-
What solution did God use to reconcile His loving kindness and His justice (1 Peter 3:18; Acts 4:10-12)?
What is unique about the Savior in Isaiah 43:11? How did Jesus satisfy that requirement (Matthew 1:21-23; Hebrews 1:8)?
6. Paraphrase (rewrite in your own words) 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 and explain how this passage summarizes the Gospel message.
7. What was one reason for God veiling His redemptive plan until it was completed (1 Corinthians 2:7-8)? How then were Old Testament believers “saved” (Hebrews 11:13)?
8. What is the relationship between salvation and doing good works (Ephesians 2:8-10)?
How does the life of Abraham demonstrate this concept (Romans 4:1-5; James 2:18-23)?
Is salvation possible on the basis of works (Titus 3:5-8; Hebrews 9:22)? Why or why not?
9. A person’s response to the Gospel determines membership in one of two spiritual families. Match the following references with their respective family, indicating variations in the titles where given (John 8:44; Galatians 3:7; Ephesians 2:2-3; 5:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:5; 1 John 3:10).
Children of Disobedience Children of God
How does one change family membership (Luke 13:3; Acts 3:19; John 1:12; 5:24)?
10. Briefly explain
when you became a Christian. If you have not yet received Jesus Christ, what do you feel is holding you back?