GOSPEL OF CHRIST
In this study, I would like to direct your attention to the "Gospel" that Paul said he was ready to preach.
The word "gospel," literally means "good news" or "glad tidings." We use this word in a religious way most of the time, talking about "gospel meetings," "gospel literature," "gospel songs," and "gospel music." We donít usually use it in reference to other things that may be good news or glad tidings.
In the New Testament the word gospel is used in reference to the religion of Christ. It is never used in the Old Testament. The Bible does say that the Gospel was first preached to Abraham: "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, 'In you all the nations shall be blessed'" (Galatians 3:8). I understand that the gospel was preached to Abraham in the sense of the promise given to him. But the word, "gospel," itself, does not appear at all in the Old Testament.
The word does appear 101 times in the New Testament. Sometimes it has a qualifying phrase. Seven times it is called, "the gospel of God." Ten times it is called, "the gospel of Christ." Romans 1:16 is one of those times in which it has that prepositional phrase that makes it distinctively a "certain kind" of gospel or good news.
Why is it "good news"? I suspect that if we were to open this to discussion, most of us could list any number of reasons why we believe that the Gospel is good news. One might be able to give as many as one hundred reasons why the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news.
But we are going to try to summarize by studying three reasons that the gospel is Good News. These three reasons are comprehensive. They tell us why a person ought to desire to be a Christian. It is our hope and prayer, that if you are not a Christian, that this message may encourage and motivate you to become one before this day is over.
THE GOSPEL IS GOOD NEWS
BECAUSE IT TELLS US
When Jesus was about to be born in Bethlehem of Judea, Joseph and Mary were not yet married. They were espoused. According to my research, that espousal was a stronger expression of their commitment to each other than what we usually think of in the "engagement" process in American society. Nevertheless, they had not become husband and wife at the time it became known that Mary was expecting a baby. Of course, this troubled Joseph, because Joseph had been faithful to Mary; he had treated her with respect, and now he finds out that she is expecting a baby. He knew he was not the father, so the only conclusion that he could come to is that Mary had been with another man.
This troubled Joseph deeply. The question in his mind had to be this: "Am I going to go ahead and take this woman to be my wife? Will I accept her as my wife when, apparently, she has been with another man, and she has been untrue to me and the commitment that she has made to me in the espousal?"
In Matthew 1:20-21 we see that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and said to him, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." The angel makes clear to Joseph that Mary had not been unfaithful to him. She had not been with another man. The conception of the baby was miraculous. The baby was conceived by the miraculous operation of the Holy Spirit. Joseph is told to name the baby Jesus. A similar message was conveyed to Mary in Luke 1:31, "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS." So, both Joseph and Mary received the message from divine messengers that they were to name the baby "Jesus."
"Jesus" was a common name in those days, so we read of Him in the New Testament as "Jesus of Nazareth" to distinguish Him from others who had that same name. The name "Jesus" and the word "salvation" come from the same root word in the Hebrew language. And so, when they were told to give Him the name "Jesus," it was saying that He was to be the Savior of the people - not only of the Hebrew nation but also the whole world. But, why did/does the world need a Savior? The fact is that all of us need a Savior because we are incapable of saving ourselves.
When we talk about needing a Savior, we are not talking about a Savior from poverty, as you hear preached so much on television today. Jesus Christ came into this world for a higher and more noble purpose than that. Of course, if He had come into this world for that purpose, then it would be true that, from that point on a baby would never be hungry. No one in all of the world would ever go hungry again. That would have been a noble purpose, but Jesus had a more noble purpose than that, because He did not come to save us from hunger, or from poverty. The "gospel of wealth" message that we hear taught so much today is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus did not come to save us from illness or sickness. It is true that the Bible teaches that we are healed by Jesusí stripes ("by His stripes we are healed." - Isaiah 53:5), but the prophet is not speaking of physical healing. He is speaking of spiritual healing. The forgiveness of sins or salvation.
The Bible teaches, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." (Romans 3:23). In Romans 5:12 Paul wrote, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned..." Paul did not say here that death spread to all men because they inherited the guilt of Adamís sin. He simply says that because all of us have sinned, then the death sentence has been passed upon us. He is not talking about physical death, but spiritual death.
God commanded Adam and Eve, "...but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17).They did eat from that tree and they died. We know they did not die physically the very day that they ate of the forbidden fruit. They lived on physically and even had children. So, we understand that they died spiritually - they were separated from God - cast out of the garden where they had enjoyed fellowship with Him.
God knew that Adam and Eve would sin, and He knew that all of the rest of us would sin. Even before He began the creation process, He had built into His plan a way for us to come back to Him, a way that we could be forgiven of our sin and be made spiritually alive again. That plan called for the sending of His Son, Jesus Christ, into this world. And so, the baby who was miraculously conceived in Mary was of the Holy Spirit, coming into this world to be it's Savior.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:17-19). Man is reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). There is no other way to come to God. God built into His plan of creation, His redemption plan, this plan of reconciliation. All who will come to the Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ can be reconciled to God. And this is the salvation that we read about in this passage.
So, He is our Savior. He is the only Savior you will ever have. It is in His Name, and His Name ONLY, that we have salvation. "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). We are lost - we are separated from God because we sin. But we can be reconciled to God. We can be saved through Jesus Christ. That is one good reason the gospel is good news, In fact, that is probably the first reason that you would write down as to why the Gospel of Christ is good news. There is no other such good news as this! In Christ Jesus, we have salvation!
Letís look at the second reason that the gospel is good news.
THE GOSPEL IS GOOD NEWS BECAUSE IT
I know the critics tell us that to live as the gospel teaches us to live a life that is too strict, too confining, it deprives us of the freedom that we need. I have heard people quoting Galatians 5:1, and saying, that we are free in Christ Jesus, that Christ has made us free, and so we are free to do as we please. That is the new definition of "freedom" - a personís liberty to do as he pleases.
But that is not the kind of freedom that the book of Galatians talks about. To live as we please is not the best way to live. The only way to live this life and get along with each other in peace and harmony is to live the way that the Lord taught. The freedom that He promises is not living just any way we like, but freedom from sin. Freedom from a sinful way of life.
For fifteen hundred years the Ten Commandment Law was respected and highly regarded as the highest and noblest way to live. But then, Jesus came and introduced an even better way than that. The Ten Commandments had moral laws in addition to establishing manís relationship to God. He tells us in the Ten Commandments, "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13). But Jesus comes and gives us an even better law. He taught, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire" (Matthew 5:21-22). Jesus is saying here, not only are you not to murder someone, you are not even to get angry with them. Anger is what leads to murder. So, Jesus would stop the murder by stopping the anger that leads to it.
Later on, in that same sermon, Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:43-45). Again, He is saying the same thing. Rather than let hatred build up in your heart to the point that you are going to do something drastically evil to someone, you are to love them, do good to them, and pray for them. You cannot do evil to someone you love, do good to and pray for. Jesus is striking at the heart, the kind of heart that we ought to have.
Jesus saw people who were greedy, who were constantly pursuing wealth. He said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (Luke 12:15). Donít get carried away with the possession of things. That is one of our problems today, isnít it? ó greed. That is one of the problems that man has always had, and so the Lord says, "I have a better Way. Your life does not consist in the abundance of the things you possess."
You see, Christ IS Good News to us! He gives us a better Way to live! You canít put enough policemen on the streets; build enough prisons; appoint enough judges to control the behavior of a world like ours. People need to be able to control themselves from the inside. That is what makes the Lordís way the best way to live.
So, our second reason for saying that the Message of Christ is good news is that it gives us a better way to live. Letís look at the third reason.
THE GOSPEL IS GOOD NEWS BECAUSE IT
One of the greatest questions ever asked, and perhaps the oldest question that has been asked is this: "if a man dies, shall he live again?" (Job 14:14). This is an important question that every one of us wonder about. When we die, is that the end of us?
We could go to science and ask the scientists, "What do you think about it?" But they canít answer it because it is beyond the Scientific Method. The Scientific Method does not deal in questions of this kind. These things canít be put in a test tube in the laboratory and proven to be right or wrong. So, scientists canít answer the question.
If we go to the philosophers, they donít have the answer to the question either. It is a question that philosophy has speculated about for many years, "When we come to the grave, is it the end?" Some philosophers have tried to give us an answer to that question, but they have never given us a satisfactory one because they did not go to the right place for the answer.
Does the humanist have the answer? No, the humanist says that there is not sufficient evidence to believe that life survives the death of the body. That doesnít give us any hope, does it?
Does religion have the answer? If we look at some of the so-called "world religions", they deal with life after death. Itís called "reincarnation." They say, "yes, there is life beyond the grave, your spirit leaves this body, and it goes to the spiritual realm, and then it will come back to earth and live the life of some other creature." It may be human, or it may be an animal of some kind or even plant life. But is that the kind of answer we are looking for?
Where can we go to find the answer to the question, "If a man dies, shall he live again?" The only place we can go - the only One who has the answer, is Jesus Christ.
In Colossians 1:18 Jesus Christ is called "the firstborn from the dead." He is the first one to die, to be resurrected from the dead, and never die again! He knows all about death because He experienced it. The apostle Paul wrote:
This is the good news! Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead. Paul here gives a list of witnesses to these facts - numerous witnesses, and names of witnesses - people who were currently living at that time! These witnesses can bear testimony to the resurrected Lord! They had seen Christ die and they had seen Christ after His resurrection. This is eye-witnesses testimony. He was seen by James - by all of the apostles - by Peter and then Paul says "Then last of all He was seen by me." Paul saw Jesus; he had a conversation with Him after He was raised from the dead. He knew that Jesus had died and had been resurrected from the dead.
Then Paul wrote, "Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen... But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep... For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive." (1 Corinthians 15:12-13, 20, 22). Christ made it possible for us to live again - He answers the question, "If a man dies, shall he live again"!
One of the most beautiful and reassuring passages that we have from our Lord is John 14:1-3. Jesus had spoken to the apostles about His death. They were saddened, and He said, "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." A little later in the chapter, in verse 19, He said "A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also." When it comes time for us to die (and we know that time will come for all of us) we have this promise, if we are Christians, because He is alive, we are going to live. We are going to live on after death, and we are going to see Him. We are going to be where He is now. This is what He promised.
Jesus died and went to heaven: "Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven'" (Acts 1:9-11). This Scripture teaches that Jesus ascended into heaven. The apostles saw Him ascend into heaven. He is in heaven now. He has gone to heaven to prepare a place for you and me so that, where He IS in heaven, you and I can go there, too. The Gospel of Jesus Christ really IS good news, isnít it.
These three reasons embrace ALL that Jesus has said. They are our hope. They are our assurance. They are the reasons that the gospel is good news.
Number One: Jesus Christ is our Savior. That is Good News! We are not going to remain lost if we come to Christ. We can be reconciled to God IN Christ. That is Good Newsówe have a Savior!
Number Two: The Way that Jesus taught us to live here on this earth, is the best way to live anywhere, anytime.
Number Three: When this life is over, we have a hope. And it is not a vain hope. There is assurance! The empty tomb shouts loudly around the WORLD today, Christ arose! And since He rose from the dead, you and I can also be raised and live with Him for ever.
Are you a Christian? If not, you ought to desire more than anything to become one. Because NOW you know that Christ is your Savior! NOW you know that His life is the best life. And NOW you know that in HIM you have a hope of heaven.
You want to go there, donít you? I do. If I fail in everything else I have ever attempted to do, I MUST be successful in going THERE! And my success depends on my Savior. He came to save me, and He can DO it!óand only HE can. Donít you want to come to the Lord today?
Jesus has given His plan of salvation:
If we can assist you in your obedience, please let us know. If you need personal assistance where you live, let us know and we will attempt to get in touch with someone who can help you.