In part one, we discussed some of the basic things which constitute sin. While the three items mentioned were by no means meant to be exhaustive, they give a good basis. A good understanding of sin is the only way to understand what the gospel really means. Without that understanding, we cannot begin to appreciate the gospel.
The gospel translates to “good news.” While the gospel certainly is good news, it is deeper than that. As mentioned in part one, Jesus came to save us from our sins. We looked at what sin was. Here in part two, we will discuss God’s answer to the sin problem and why it is indeed good news.
The gospel is forgiveness
“In whom we have redemption through [Christ’s] blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”
In the beginning of this study, we discussed John 3:16 as being the core of the gospel. In this passage we find a God who loved the world so much that He gave his only son to save those in it. This first involves forgiveness.
Forgiveness in the scripture can be referred to as grace; undeserved merit. It is God saying, “I forgive you.” We claim this forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ. It is not something that we deserve, for salvation is a gift.
Paul tells us, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 6:23). There are two words that jump out; wages and gift. A wage is something that is earned. It’s something that is rightfully yours because you worked for it. Just as a man is entitled to get paid (wages) for a day’s work, so a man gets his wages because of sin. The problem arises because we “all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23).
A gift, in comparison, is something that is not earned: it is free. If a gift were earned, or deserved, it would no longer be a gift: it would be a wage. Romans chapter 6 clearly tells us that eternal life is a gift. In other words, we don’t deserve it, we didn’t earn it, yet God offers it anyway.
The story goes that Martin Luther had a revelation when, climbing up the steps inside the Basilica of St. John Lateran on his knees he had the epiphany, “the just shall live by faith.” (Heb 10:38) This revelation changed his life. A problem that occurs today is many people take this passage to say, “The just shall have faith,” when it doesn’t say that. Instead, it says, “The just shall live by faith.” They sound similar, but mean completely different things.
The gospel is obedience
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
Much has been written regarding the role of the God’s law and God’s grace. Many Christians believe that the two are contrary to one another when in fact they are in harmony. Law keeping, or obedience, does not earn someone the right to be saved. It does, however, flow out from a heart that has accepted God’s gift.
Some believe that keeping God’s law was part of the old covenant, and that the new covenant is only about God’s grace. God says the following about himself: “I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” The God of the old testament is the God of the new testament. It was God that sent His son to be man’s propitiation. (1 John 4:10)
The new covenant still involves obedience. “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer 31:31–33)
Living by faith means we not only accept the fact that we have broken God’s law and deserve death (Rom 3:23, Ez 18:4), but can be freely forgiven, it also means our actions show that we believe it. As we have studied, sin is disobedience. So, having been forgiven, how much more should we choose to be obedient?
Paul says, “What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” (Rom 6:15) God’s law exists to show us what is right and what is wrong. The law can do nothing to save us, because it is this law that condemns us. However, it does show us where we stand.
Obedience is linked with worship. To truly worship someone is to do what they ask. Revelation 14:6-7 says, “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” This a clear reference to the commandment given in Exodus 20:8-11.
Here is another way to look at it:
Obedience to God’s commandments did not earn Adam and Eve the right to stay in Eden. However, disobedience did get them expelled. Let me illustrate.
We have laws in our country. Does my obedience to these laws give me (or earn me) the right to stay here? Because I follow the laws of the land, does that make me a legalist? The very idea is ludicrous! The same principal applies to God’s law: It is the governing law of His kingdom. Keeping God’s commandments because it is right does not make one a legalist. Keeping His commandments because one is forgiven from the law’s penalty is the natural outflowing of a renewed heart.
Imagine that you have been cited for speeding. You go to court and plead your case before the Judge. You know you were speeding, the Judge knows you were speeding. However, before he can pass out your penalty, the man standing beside the Judge says, “Would it be ok if I paid his fine?” The Judge agrees and you go free without any repercussion. Do you then run out of the courtroom, jump in your car, and go speeding down the freeway because “you are no longer under law, but under grace?” Of course not! The natural thing is to be thankful and now you follow the law. This is what obedience in the scope of the gospel means.
Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:10) Her penalty for adultery was death. Jesus told her, “I forgive you. Don’t do it anymore! I can say that because I’m going to die in your place.”
Why is obedience good news? God knows what we need to be happy. He knows what it takes to be free. Without law, there is anarchy. It is law that brings order. It is law that brings structure. It is because of law that I am not afraid to go outside my house at night. The same principle applies to God’s kingdom. Without His law, there is everything we see happening around us. Obedience to His law ultimately leads to happiness– but only if it’s done out of a renewed heart.
When I married my wife, I agreed to certain rules. I agreed, among other things, that I would not be intimate with any other woman. Now, could I look at this rule and say, “I am in bondage! How could I ever only be confined to one woman?” Of course I could. Yet, if I really love her, I know what such action would do to her. God’s law is the same way. It becomes a joy if we have fallen in love with our Savior. Remember, God prefaces the ten commandments with the statement that He led Israel out of bondage. He was not about to put them into bondage again. (Ex 20:2)
The gospel is restoration
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
The last part of the good news is restoration. God will make everything new. As the hymn says, “We have this hope that burns within our hearts. Hope in the coming of the Lord.”
The last part of the gospel is good news that the Lord will come back and “give every man according to his work.” (Rev 22:12) Because Christ was resurrected, we have hope that those who are asleep in Jesus will also rise again to meet the Lord in the air. (1 Cor 15:17, 1 Thes 4:16-17)
In the scope of eternity, what are our lives on this earth? “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14) Just like the animals, we all eventually die. (Ecc 3:19) Our only hope is in the Lord.
From the time our first parents sinned in Eden, the world has looked for The Redeemer. Our redeemer lives, and is coming back soon for His people. I don’t know about you, but I look forward to the day when I can look into my Savior’s face and tell Him “thank you.”
God loved us so much that He gave His son to die in our place. We must believe this: it is crucial to our salvation. Yet, as we have studied, to really believe something is to do something more than mere lip service. Our actions and words show what it is we really believe. To really believe in Christ is to go beyond John 3:16.