What is the gospel? It seems like such a simple question that every believer should be able to answer. Don’t get me wrong—every believer should be able to answer this. America is filled with conferences that have “Gospel” in the title. Just about every church and ministry seems to be doing Gospel-Centered this or Gospel-Centered that. But how well do we actually understand the gospel? If someone asked you to explain the gospel in a minute or two, could you do it? Or if another person asked you to spend fifteen minutes explaining the gospel and its implications in detail, would you know enough to fill up the entire time?
Questions like this one and the potential hesitancies in many of us are a few of the reasons why PreBorn! puts such focused emphasis on the gospel in our ministry. Every staff member of each PreBorn! Pregnancy Clinic partner goes through evangelism training to make sure they understand the gospel and how to share it with others.
But let’s take a few minutes to get back to the basics of what the gospel is. After all, it is of first importance that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, according to the Old Testament. These truths were prophesied beforehand and the New Testament validates and describes every detail afterwards (I Corinthians 15:3-4; cf. Romans 16:25-26).
Before the good news of the gospel can be explained, the bad news that makes the good news necessary must also be explained. This is much like a doctor giving you the diagnosis of your lethal disease before he tells you of the cure for that disease.
Our heart must first be crushed by the Law so that it can be mended by the gospel. If we don’t see ourselves as sinners, we will never see our need for a Savior. Many of you first heard about PreBorn! from Todd Friel, so you are familiar with the style of evangelism that he and Ray Comfort have become known for. They walk through several of the Ten Commandments to show someone that he or she is a sinner in need of forgiveness, and then they proceed to explain the redemption found in Jesus Christ.
Their method comes from passages such as Galatians 3. In v. 24 we learn that the Law is a teacher to point us “unto Christ, so that we may be justified by faith” (Legacy Standard Bible). In v. 22 of the same chapter, we learn that “the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”
If a judge in a human court would not let a criminal go free, how much more will the Judge of all the earth do right (Genesis 18:25)? God cannot just let us go away free after we have sinned. If He did, He would no longer be good and holy. A crime was committed and a penalty must be paid. The only just penalty for sin against an infinite God is infinite punishment in the Lake of Fire, which is why it never ends.
But if someone else pays your fine, then you no longer must pay it yourself. That is exactly what the gospel is and what it provides. Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity, both God and Man, paid the penalty that we deserve for our sin. Though He is sinless, He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf, “so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The sin of all who would believe was put on Christ on the cross, and He drank the cup of the wrath of God down to the dregs (Matthew 26:39; Jeremiah 25:15-14; Psalm 75:8).
A great exchange happened. Believers experience the best trade in the history of trade deals. Christ takes our sin, and we take His righteousness. As the band Ghost Ship worded it in their song “Lion Man”: “Lion Man of Judah, let Your wrath pass over me / Lion Man of Judah, will You climb upon that tree?” Christ took our sin upon Himself on the cross and bore the penalty that our sin deserves: the just and holy wrath of God. We, in turn, receive His righteousness as if it was our own.
How does one obtain this great exchange? By repenting of sin—which means turning away from it and turning to God—and believing the gospel, by placing their faith in Christ and His redemption on the cross. Repentance and faith, that is all. These are gifts from God, so there are no works involved in our salvation except the work that Jesus did on the cross (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This is also called justification, which means that God has declared us righteous. Justified means two things: just as if I’d never sinned, and just as if I’d always obeyed. It is easy to remember if you think about how “justified” and “just as if I’d” sound very similar.
This is the only way to have our sins forgiven. This is the only way to have peace with God.
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).