What Is the Gospel?

2. What Is the Gospel? God Will Rescue a People for Himself, by Grace and Through Faith

At the center of the Gospel is not a list of ideas, rules, commands or propositions, but a Person. That Person is Jesus Christ, who, being in his very nature God (Philippians 2:6; 1 John 5:20), took on human flesh to bridge the otherwise insurmountable gap between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of humanity (Isaiah 6:1-7).

Religion focuses on behavior (“You won’t be accepted unless you perform and keep our rules and embrace our cultural norms”).

Irreligion focuses on personal autonomy (“You can be happy apart from God’s rule in your life”).

But the Gospel focuses on personal trust in God’s heroic rescue. The average person believes that a Christian is someone who follows Christ’s teaching. But the Bible says this is impossible. You don’t rescue people unless they are in a perishing condition and are unable to recover themselves. For example, how many times have you seen a corpse do CPR on itself?

Jesus, knowing the helplessness of the human condition (Genesis 6:5; Ephesians 2:1-10) gave himself as a sacrifice for those who would place their trust in his gracious gift—a gift both unmerited and unearned by us. What was this gift? His life. Jesus came, lived a perfect life, and died a sacrificial death, not to buy us a second chance but to stand in our place as our substitute. Everything we needed to do to achieve peace with God, Jesus did for us—in our place and on our behalf. He died the death we should have died so that we would never be condemned (Romans 3:23-26), and he lived the life we should have lived so that God would declare us blameless and lovely in his sight (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because of what Jesus did as substitute, those who trust in and receive his free gift can truly say, “As far as God is concerned, everything that’s true about Jesus is true about me. God regards me as blameless and beautiful. He loves me as much as he loves Jesus. He gives me credit for the good that Jesus did, and he puts all the blame on Jesus for the wrongs I have done and will do.”