Becoming a Believer
Perhaps when you were directed to our website, you were astonished and surprised that the first words presented to your eyes were “the gospel.” Perhaps, having never heard of this expression you clicked the box to find out more. We are glad you did.
Or, perhaps you are quite familiar with this glorious expression, and, being jealous of the glory of God, wanted to make sure that the “gospel” Grace Community Church preaches is the “gospel of Jesus Christ” (Mark 1:1)* and not a distorted, “different gospel” (Galatians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 11:4) that is more damnable than it is beneficial (Galatians 1:8,9). May the scintillating scent of the glorious gospel of Jesus refresh your spiritual senses anew!
If you're not a reader, click here for a short video of the gospel.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important news in the world. Literally, the word most Bibles translate as “gospel” comes from the Greek word which means “good news.” What true, Biblical Christianity has been commissioned to herald to a broken, sin-cursed world is nothing less – and nothing more – than the Good News of what Jesus Christ has accomplished for all those who repent of their sins and believe in Him, who is the very essence and source of the Good News.
How important is this gospel? Suffice it to say that Heaven and Hell literally hinge upon it, as Paul explains in his thesis statement in his magnum opus work called “the letter to the Romans.” In chapter 1, verse 15, Paul tells his readers of his great eagerness to preach to them the gospel. The reason for this eagerness is found in the very next verse:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”
Put simply, no gospel = no salvation. In fact, as Paul writes letter in the same letter, true/saving faith and belief is impossible apart from the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ:
“Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached message about Christ.” (10:17, author's translation)
If this gospel is so eternally essential to the welfare of mankind, we must then know what this message of Good News really is. Put another way, how does putting our faith in what Jesus Christ has done for us as sinners constitute Good News? The simplest way to answer this is to use the following 4 headings as a framework to navigate us through this amazingly simple yet unfathomably profound term “gospel”. They headings are:
Were someone to ask 10 different people to define 'god' to them, there is a high probability that 10 different definitions and/or depictions of 'god' would be postulated. It would be even more likely that the majority, if not all, of the answers given would have omitted such words as “holy”, “just”, or “wrath”. Though the infinite and unmerited love of God is essential and foundational in our understanding of the gospel, we must equally understand that God's love, mercy, and grace are to be tempered by His infinite holiness, His unequivocal righteousness, and His just wrath against guilty sinners.
Though this may not at first glance look or sound like “Good News”, this is a biblical reality that God repeatedly and consistently emphasizes in the Bible. For instance, we read:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” (Isaiah 6:3)
“The LORD is righteous.” (Psalm 11:7)
“[The LORD's] is too just to tolerate evil;[The LORD] is unable to condone wrongdoing.” (Habakkuk 1:13, NET)
“God is light, and in Him is no darkness, no, none at all.” (1 John 1:5, author's translation)
It is true, that in God's most famous self-disclosure we read that the LORD is “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin...” (Exodus 34:6) However, if we continue reading, we see that the same sentence continues on to say:
“but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:7)
Thus, we would do well to remember King David's inspired words concerning the true King:
“The LORD rules forever;He reigns in a just manner.” (Psalm 9:7, NET)
That God is holy and just, as well as loving and merciful would indeed be Good News, if it weren't for the fact that we as His creation are sinful and rebellious against Him by nature.
As we just saw, God hates sin. Unfortunately, we have all, without exception, sinned. No matter how good we think we are, we cannot escape the reality that Paul sets forth in Romans 3:23, namely that,
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
No matter how much we try to clean ourselves up, we cannot remove the stain that our sin has indelibly dirtied our souls with before a thrice holy God. This is precisely what the prophet Jeremiah observed when he rebuked the religious people of his day who thought they could somehow fool God with external acts of religious hypocrisy. Through the prophet, the LORD says,
“You can try to wash away your guilt with a strong detergent. You can use as much soap as you want. But the stain of your guilt is still there fore me to see.” (Jeremiah 2:22)
Since the Bible says that we are infected with sin, even our best deeds that we try to present to God are still tainted with sin. This is precisely what God declared to the nation of Israel through the mouth of His prophet Haggai:
“Then [Haggai] asked, 'If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches [the priest's offering], does it become unclean?' The priests answered and said, 'It does become unclean.' Then Haggai answered and said, 'So it is with this people, and with this nation before Me, declared the LORD, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean.” (Haggai 2:13-14)
Or, as Isaiah says along the same lines:
“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our 'righteous' deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)
God, as a just Judge, must punish sin. We have all sinned. We thus owe Him justice. Yet we have absolutely nothing wherewith to repay God, since the 'best' offering we could muster up would still be tainted and blemished by our sin-stained hands. Indeed, as one hymn writer put it:
Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.
This one-two punch serves to effectively set us up to see how Jesus Christ is indeed “Good News” for those who believe in His gospel.
Horatius Bonar, the writer of the aforementioned hymn, knew the gospel too well to put his pen down after the first stanza. He goes on to write:
Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest, and set my spirit free.
Thy grace alone, O God, to me can pardon speak;
Thy pow'r alone, O Son of God, can this sore bondage break.
No other work, save Thine, no other blood will do;
No strength, save that which is divine, can bear me safely through.
The Good News of the gospel of Jesus is simply this: what God demands of us has been perfectly accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible teaches that as God's creation, all men and women owe to Him as Creator loving homage and reverential worship (see Romans 1:19-21, 23, 25, 28).
But since all mankind are born sinners, this is something that has never been accomplished or rendered by even the 'best' of men or women. The Bible teaches us that all of mankind by nature reject God's loving and just reign over them, and that God now owes us holy justice and righteous wrath (see Romans 1:18, 24, 26, 28-32), for “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Sin is so pervasively pernicious that it merits not merely physical death; it also results in eternal death, that is, an everlasting Hell.
It is not until we see our sin as it really is – ugly and grotesque, noxious and pungent, devilish and damnable – that we will see the glory of the cross of Jesus. If we do not see that our apparently inconsequential sin is nothing less than a deliberate, treasonous, authority-belittling affront to the majestic, glorious, beneficent and rightful reign of God over our lives, we will never flee for refuge to Jesus, whom the Bible says “became sin” for those whom He came to save, thus “condemning [our] sin in His flesh” (Romans 8:3; see also 2 Corinthians 5:21).
This is the gospel. Though we have earned eternal, spiritual death by our high-handed rebellion against our gracious Creator, who created us to glorify Him; and though we rightfully deserve the judgement of Hell; and though we are helpless to deliver ourselves from our plight...
“While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6)
“But God shows His love for us in that while were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
“While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son...” (Romans 5:10)
Because Jesus Christ became the sin-bearing sacrifice for His people, the apostle can now rightly say:
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
Why? Because God's demand for both perfect obedience and perfect justice have been met in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man.
But for the gospel to be truly “Good News”, it must be acted upon by faith.
At the beginning of this article, we cited Romans 1:16, wherein the apostle Paul wrote:
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it the power of God for salvation”
However, Paul's thought is not yet complete, as he continues in the next clause,
“for all who believe.”
Though it is true that “the righteousness of God is revealed” in the gospel (Romans 1:17), it is of no value unless it is accompanied with faith. Perhaps a helpful paraphrase of this verse will help:
“This Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, 'It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” (Romans 1:17, NLT)
The Bible makes it clear that faith is the instrument that appropriates God's Good News, bringing with it the salvation that He promises to all those who unreservedly cast themselves upon the mercy He now offers them in Christ.
“We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.” (Romans 3:22, NLT)
Just a few verses later, Paul explains why:
“For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood...God did this to demonstrate His righteousness, for He Himself is fair and just, and He declares sinners to be right in His sight when they believe in Jesus.”(Romans 3:25-26, NLT)
Thus, Paul can assuredly promise his readers,
"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9)
First the bad news: God is our Judge, and we have all sinned against Him.
And then the gospel: but Jesus has died so that sinners may be forgiven of their sins if they will repent and believe in Him.
May God the Holy Spirit open up all of our eyes to behold this glorious gospel in the face of Jesus Christ, giving us new hearts brimming with true faith and repentance, by which any and all men and women may be truly and graciously saved (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Soli Deo Gloria.
*All Scripture references are from from the English Standard, unless otherwise noted.