For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes …Romans 1:16a
What first came into your mind when your read, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ”? Personally, I have found that there is confusion among Christians about what exactly is meant by “The Gospel.” Meaning, do we receive this “gospel” once and that’s it, we’re all good from there? Or do we ask Jesus into our hearts through some “specific words” we pray? Or is the gospel the message of “the cross,” or is it something else? And countless other questions. So, how do we know that we have genuinely believed and received “The Gospel of Jesus Christ”?
Let me begin with what Paul says here, that in the gospel “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17, emphasis mine throughout) which is a quote from the Old Testament, from Habakkuk 2:4. In other words, whatever the gospel is it began in the Old Testament with Israel, being those who first had “the faith” as is explained above regarding “how” God revealed the gospel. Then it went from their faith to our faith, us Gentiles. Also, whatever the gospel is, “the righteous” or justified “live by” it. According to Jesus and the Apostles, the gospel message began in Genesis chapter one. And Hebrews chapter eleven explains some of those who “lived and died” because of “this faith” (the Gospel of Jesus Christ) in the Old Testament. And for those who have studied “Jesus in the Old Testament,” you know that He (Jesus) not only appears physically all throughout, but His gospel is also all throughout. So, now that we have that as a foundation we can move on into the New Testament.
What is “Faith”? “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). And that is faith. It is something that resides deep within an individual. It is something mysterious, and from God; it is spiritual, and concrete (I think that explains it well). We know from the first verse in this blog that the gospel is the “power” of God unto salvation for those who believe. And second, we also know that this gospel is “faith” based. Plus, it says we “live by” this faith. Now to live by something implies a continuation in it. Like if I said, “I live by bread and water” that would not mean I at one time in my life ate a piece of bread and drank a cup of water. But it would mean that those are my way of “living” and which sustain my being.
This is one expression of the gospel by Paul, but one in which he begins with a negative statement by saying: “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:3-4). Therefore, this good news (Gospel) is “light” (life, order, glory) breaking into the darkness of our hearts; it is the “glory” (power or weightiness) of Who, specifically, Jesus (which means God saves) the Christ (which means Messiah, the Anointed Prophet, Priest, and King) and image of God (the invisible God made visible in the flesh). That is the gospel. Also, I think Paul does an excellent job of explaining the gospel right here beginning in 2 Cor. 5:17 saying, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself … in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, ... For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God … [Therefore] we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” Why I think this is a great explanation of the gospel is because it actually explains the “effect” of the gospel or “what the Gospel means.” The gospel entails grace, death, faith, new life, and righteousness, in that order. And that order is important. It was “grace” that gave us Salvation (Jesus) by His death and resurrection, and it is our faith in His death and resurrection which has made us both crucified with Him and raised to new life with Him and which has made us righteous as Christ before the Father in heaven. But also, be warned to not receive this gift of grace “in vain,” meaning, do not resist it having its “effect” (meaning your death and new life) now.
Another way Paul explains the gospel is like this: You have died to the law; to the flesh; to sin and to your old life. And now you have been raised to a new life with Christ and therefore His resurrected body is now in you through the Holy Spirit, meaning, you are now Holy and righteous and therefore you will, as a natural result, walk this earth as Christ with skin on, being the very “Temple” of God. The gospel involves a complete transfer of the self once and forever. However, just as a seed must grow and mature, or as an infant must begin on milk before moving to solids, so too the child born of the Spirit of Christ must grow and mature ever-increasingly into the fullness of the image of Christ, which takes time! This is what Paul calls going from “glory to glory”, as we look at Jesus daily, keeping our gaze on Him, and in this way, we will be changed. Meaning we will intentionally pursue fellowship with Christ by Word, prayer, and through other Christians.
So, if I was to receive “The Gospel” it would mean my life evidences that I have received it in this way: Both by my death, through being crucified with Christ, and by my new life, by showing I have been raised with Christ. And when that happens my life will appear as going from old to new; night to day; darkness to light. In other words, it will be just like I have explained at other times: “The Gospel of Jesus Christ” is a literal transfer of identity. And once I am confident that my identity has been transferred in this way I can accept this point from Paul, “Now I would remind you, brothers [and sisters], of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain” (1 Cor. 15:1-2). The above statements show, or prove, that someone has not believed in vain.
So then, this is what the gospel requires: It requires that you die. Nothing less than death is required. And personally, what I have found to be true, is that it is those who are truly ready to give up on this life, who are desperate, without hope, and willing to die, that are the ones who grasp the true gospel message. And the reality of death means sin no longer has power over you since death kills sin. And now you live as Christ lives, in a resurrected state of thinking and behaving. But as explained above, it is a process of moving from glory to glory, which takes time and usually involves some stumbling around.
Lastly, though this is not the normal way someone would explain the gospel message, everything written here requires faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sin, repentance from the old life of sin and death, and belief that He has been raised to life and you have been raised with Him to a new life, and that Jesus is coming again as the Anointed King to reign on the earth and to judge the world. May everyone who receives this message and who lives this message out “know” they have eternal life. Oh yes, I must clarify that the Spirit of Christ or “Holy Spirit” is intertwined and fully engaged in every step of this from the beginning to the end…otherwise, it would be in vain.