I have mentioned before that the ideas Christianity holds make intuitive sense to me. This idea is true of the central message of the Christian faith: what most call “the gospel,” or the good news.
The gospel is intuitive in that, once I was made aware of it; I knew “in my gut” that it explained my experience. Of course, it is not intuitive in that I would never have thought this up without someone telling me about these truths.
The gospel is the fact that God offers eternal life as a free gift. Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As a gift, eternal life is not earned or deserved. I will return to this idea latter.
The law requires perfection. Jesus Himself said, “Be ye perfect even as your father in heaven is perfect.” We cannot avoid the knowledge that we have fallen short of this obviously true ideal. (???)
No one obeys the law perfectly or obeys the law with perfect motives: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
The old prayer of confession in the Anglican Church reads, “We have sinned against [God] in thought, word and deed. By the things we have done and the things we have left undone.” It’s not just about what we do; it’s also about what we don’t do.
This conflict leaves us inadequately prepared for God’s judgment in and of ourselves. We are not perfect. We do not meet God’s standard.
The gospel comes into sharper focus when we understand what the Bible says about God. God is holy, or separate from sin. God is also just, that is, He is the perfect judge who must punish sin.
The Old Testament reads, “... yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.” God also loves: “God is love.” And since He loves His people, He must act.
In human terms, this tension leaves God with a problem. On the one hand, He loves us and does not want to punish us. One the other hand, He is just and must punish sin. God solved this “problem” for us in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is God who came to earth as a man. As a man, Christ was able to follow the requirements of perfect morality. He was able to live a perfect life, always doing what is moral from perfect motives.
He also was able to take our sins upon Himself. He took credit for the things we have done wrong.
He suffered a death He did not deserve as a substitute for us. He suffered the wrath of God for our sins.
As Isaiah wrote, “All we like sheep have gone astray, each to his own way, but God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all … it pleased the Lord to bruise him, and he has put him to grief.” As Paul wrote, “For [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”
God has made it possible for Christ to take credit for our sins and suffer infinitely in His soul for them. We take credit for all of this by faith.
Faith does not just understand the good news of what Christ has done for us. It does not just believe that these facts are true.
Faith is a confident trust that what Christ did He did for us. It trusts what He said about how to live our lives and what He said about having eternal life.
This is what the Bible means when it says, “Believe on [not just in, but on] the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” It is what Christians mean when they say that they accept the free gift of eternal life from Christ.
Why then do we do good works? If eternal life is a free gift, why should we strive to be moral? One answer for this is that we are grateful for the free gift we have received.
The gospel frees us from having to search our motives, which are often impure, and to live for the God who made us. We do not have to agonize over our motives because Christ died for impure motives as well as impure thoughts, words, and deeds. We do not perform good works out of desire to avoid punishment because Christ took our punishment for us.
Christ offers an abundant life to all who would turn to Him in faith. There is nothing outside you that keeps you from accepting His free gift of eternal life today. I pray that all who read this can find the hope of heaven that God has revealed to us in Christ.
Many people find that this simple message leads them directly to belief in God.
We should pray that the faith of Christians will be strengthened by the message of the gospel. Our next post will look at a practical reason to embrace the God of the Bible.
(Note: D. James Kennedy provided the general outline for this article.)