What the Gospel Is
When reading through the New Testament, one quickly notices the exhilaration and passion with
which the apostle Paul preached the gospel (e.g. Romans 1:14-17; 1 Corinthians 9:16).
Likewise, anyone in the company of Christians for some time will surely hear phrases such as
“gospel ministry”, “gospel-centered”, “preach the gospel”, “believe the gospel”, and “the power
of the gospel”. It is easy to see that the gospel is of utmost importance to the Christian. Why is
this true? What exactly is the gospel and why does it carry so much significance?
The word “gospel”, which literally means “good news”, has traditionally been defined in three
different ways. First, in the broadest sense, the gospel is the entire body of all infallible, divine
truth. In this sense, everything in the Bible is considered to be gospel truth. The second use of
the term is a bit narrower. The first four books of the New Testament, which chronicle the life,
death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, are commonly described as “the four gospels”. This is
the sense in which the average American is typically most familiar. The third usage of the word
“gospel” refers specifically to what is often called “the gospel of Jesus Christ”, “the gospel of
God”, or “the gospel of salvation”. This application of the term “gospel”, which is the narrowest
and most focused of all, is far and away the most prolific use in the New Testament, as well as in
Christian preaching, writing, and testimony. The gospel of Jesus Christ is of tremendous
importance, because it is the message to mankind of salvation from sin and reconciliation to
Since sacred Scriptures declares the gospel in its most narrow sense to be the most important
message a person could ever know and embrace, it is essential to develop a strong understanding
of “what the gospel is”. We will do this through a brief presentation of the necessity, source,
function, content, uniqueness, and scope of the gospel as well as the proper response to the
gospel and the results of it.
The Necessity of the Gospel
One does not have to read far into the Bible to find man’s dire need for the gospel. In the first
chapter of the first book of the Bible, we see that God created humanity in His image, and man
had a perfect relationship with God (Genesis 1:26-27). Despite these prime conditions, the first
man and woman, Adam and Eve, soon afterward sinned, that is, they disobeyed God (Genesis
3:6). Their sin became a prototype for humanity in that every person who has ever lived has
likewise disobeyed God in sinful rebellion (Romans 3:23). Since God is completely holy (Psalm
5:4) and cannot tolerate sin (Habakkuk 1:13), transgression has placed man under the wrath
(John 3:36), curse (Galatians 3:10), and eternal condemnation of God (Romans 5:12, 18).
To make matters worse, when Adam and Eve sinned, human nature became wicked and corrupt
to the point that people no longer retain the independent ability or desire to seek, serve, worship,
and love God (Ephesians 2:1; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:11). The mind of man became hostile
toward God and unable to submit to or please Him (Romans 8:7). He is a self-declared enemy of
God (Colossians 1:21). In this condition, a man’s efforts to please God are futile, and he has no
ability to overcome sin and change his own life (John 15:5) in order to come out from under the
condemnation of God and acquit himself from the sentence of eternal conscious punishment in
hell (Matthew 25:46).
2. The Source of the Gospel
If the story ended here, it would be a sad one indeed, but God loved His creation too much to
allow the entire human race to be separated from Him for all eternity. Despite the fact that there
was nothing lovely in man and no ability in man to reconcile himself to God, it pleased God to
express His love toward us by providing a way to be declared righteous in His sight.
In fact, God loved the world so much that He planned the redemption of man “before the
foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:18-21). In order to both exact His justice and exercise His
mercy, there was only one way for God to provide salvation to mankind: to supply a worthy
substitute who would adequately pay the penalty for sin, which is death (Romans 6:23). God did
this by sacrificing His own Son, Jesus Christ, who was “delivered over by the predetermined
plan and foreknowledge of God…nailed to a cross…and put…to death.” (Acts 2:23). So, the
purposes of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were sure because “His works were finished from
the foundation of the world” (Hebrews 4:3).
Furthermore, since the plan of redemption began before the foundation of the world, its subjects
were chosen before the foundation of the world. “[God] has saved us and called us with a holy
calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was
granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim 1:9). Therefore, since all of those who will
be saved were chosen “in Him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4), God’s plan is
as unshakable as God Himself.
One may ask, “Why does the gospel matter if God elects people to salvation from eternity past?”
While it is true that the election of God is by grace, it is also through faith in Jesus Christ, who is
revealed in the gospel. So, the gospel is tremendously important, since it communicates who
Christ is and what He has done for sinners. After all, “How will they believe in Him whom they
have not heard?” (Romans 10:14).
Just as God wasted no time in planning for the provision of the forgiveness of sin, He likewise
did not waste any time in communicating His provision to lost humanity. Soon after sin was first
committed in the garden, the gospel, in its seed form, was also revealed in the same garden. The
first mention of the promised Messiah came immediately after the first sin (Genesis 3:15). For
the next four thousand years of history, faithful servants of God looked forward to the One who
would come to save them from their sins as prophesied: “He was pierced through for our
transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon
Him, And by His scourging we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
Finally, a little over two thousand years ago, the promise was fulfilled when the source of the
gospel Himself came to save His people from their sins. “But when the fullness of the time came,
God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those
who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
3. The Function of the Gospel
God desires all people everywhere to hear, receive, and submit to His great and glorious gospel.
He could have chosen to divinely communicate the good news through dreams and visions. He
could have decided to use majestic angels to promote His plan. He could have selected to deliver
the message Himself. But He didn’t. Instead, He chose ordinary human beings to be the
instruments that would preach, teach, and witness the gospel to the world.
The gospel message is the divinely ordained vehicle by which God brings reconciliation and
redemption to the world. It is the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ…a message of hope to
people without any. Jesus said that His purpose for coming to earth was “to seek and to save that
which was lost” (Luke 19:10). So we ask the question, “How did He save people?” From the
Word of God, we know without a doubt that people are saved by grace alone through faith alone.
Therefore, the next logical question we could ask is, “How do people come to faith in Christ?”
The Bible states that the gospel is the vehicle by which God brings people to faith in His Son, so
leading people to faith in Jesus is the very function of the gospel. Paul wrote, “faith comes from
hearing…and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
The gospel is not just any good news, “it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who
believes” (Romans 1:16). Notice that not everyone who hears the gospel is automatically saved;
it is only those who embrace the gospel through faith. People must believe the gospel and
consequently place their faith in Christ to be saved. So, the gospel plays a very key role in
salvation. It literally brings us to a place where we can hear the truth of God and receive it by
exercising faith in Christ. The apostle Paul wrote:
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord,
because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through
sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you
through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2
Remember that God has planned the redemption of His elect and chose them to be in Christ
before the foundation of the world. This fact does not in any way nullify the necessity of the
gospel, which is able to bring about faith in the hearer. On the contrary, it guarantees the
effectiveness of the gospel, since, without exception, God always brings about His purposes. “So
will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without
accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah
The Content of the Gospel
The gospel demonstrates the power of God in that, through the efficacious work of the Holy
Spirit, it enables faith to be activated in the hearts of sinful, rebellious people. It is a mighty
declaration of who Christ is and what He has done. It uncovers our selfishness while
illuminating His perfect love. It exposes our sinfulness while magnifying His perfection. It
reveals our inability to save ourselves while boldly proclaiming how He came down and
fearlessly conquered death. Paul gave a brief outline of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8:
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Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you
received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are
saved…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…He was buried…He
was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…
As Paul has indicated, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are foundational to the gospel
message. The gospel makes it abundantly clear that there can be no forgiveness of sins apart
from the death and resurrection of Christ. Paul declared to the Corinthians, “And if Christ has
not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17). In the book
of Romans, he wrote, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our
justification” (Romans 4:25).
While it is true that the death and resurrection are the critical to the gospel, there are several
other important facts that must be believed in order for one to truly grasp the significance and
content of the gospel. First, Jesus is God. If He was not God, He could never adequately pay the
penalty for sin. The psalmist wrote, “No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to
God a ransom for him” (Psalm 49:7), yet Jesus came to “give His life a ransom for many” (Mark
10:45). He could do this as God, since His life was of infinite value. Second, Jesus was a
perfect, sinless man. He “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21), “committed no sin” (1 Peter 2:22)
and had no sin in Him (1 John 3:5). This was also necessary, since He had to perfectly fulfill the
Law (Matthew 5:17) as a man in order to be a valid substitute (1 Peter 3:18) and acceptable
sacrifice (Hebrews 9:26). Third, the most fundamental confession undergirding the gospel is
“Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9). As Lord, He created all things (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16),
sustains all things (Colossians 1:17), owns all things (Acts 10:36), and rules all things (Psalm
103:19; Hebrews 2:8). Therefore, He has authority over our lives and we owe Him complete
allegiance, obedience, and worship.
So, the gospel that brings salvation contains a number of key aspects of the person (God, perfect
man, Lord, Savior, and substitute) and work (perfect life, death, and resurrection) of Jesus Christ.
The Uniqueness of the Gospel
In today’s pluralistic, postmodern culture, the common consensus would lead one to believe
there is no such thing as absolute truth and all paths lead to the same place for those who are
sincere. Unfortunately, people who do not oblige to this worldview are labeled as “intolerant”.
However, it is essential to reject any and all self-constructed worldviews and theologies crafted
by mere human beings on the basis of their own desires and logic. God’s judgments are far
greater than that of man. Paul writes, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge
of God! How unsearchable His judgments and His paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known
the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?’” (Romans11:33-34).
How ignorant and arrogant it is for man to think that he can devise his own way to heaven when
the God of the universe has clearly communicated His way to us in holy Scripture. In God’s
economy, there is only one gospel and one Savior. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and
the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6), so clinging to that one, true
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gospel is absolutely essential. It is the power of God unto salvation! Placing trust and hope in
any other so-called “gospel” is futile, hopeless, and damning to the soul. Paul stated it best when
he wrote the following words:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the
grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel
at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to
pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should
preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally
condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is
preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally
condemned! (Galatians 1:6-9)
Paul’s words to the Galatians ought to be taken seriously. His view of the gospel was extremely
narrow and well-defined, and he tenaciously defended the gospel against any attempts of
alteration and modification. In order to exhibit as much emphasis as possible, Paul repeated the
same statement twice: anyone holding to and promoting a false gospel will be eternally
condemned. Why was Paul so rigid about the gospel? Because there is only one gospel that
wields the power to save people from sin, death, and hell, and there are many, many lost souls at
stake. Furthermore, all other “gospels” rob God of the glory, honor, and praise that He deserves.
Romans 6:23 says, “the wages of sin is death”, and Christ Jesus is the only one who could and
did die for the sins of the world. He is the only Savior and Lord. Only He is able to save us
from our sins, because His divine life was uniquely worthy enough to pay the eternal punishment
for sin. No religious figure or person could ever pay our sin debt for us. Jesus alone died for sin.
He died on a cross, and three days later, rose from the dead and proved that He was who He
claimed to be! Mohammad, Buddha, and all other religious figures are still in the grave, but
Jesus Christ has risen and is alive! And for that reason, the Bible says, “Salvation is found in no
one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved”
(Acts 4:12). So, all roads do not lead to heaven. Jesus is the only way.
The Scope of the Gospel
In taking a look at the scope of the gospel, we must examine the question of whether the gospel
of Jesus Christ is for everyone. In other words, can anyone be exempt from the gospel? How
about the heathen in the jungles of Africa? How about the people who lived before the birth of
Christ? Is the gospel also necessary for their salvation too?
Jesus commanded His disciples to “go into all the world and preach the good news to all
creation” (Mark 16:15). If the heathen in Africa does not need the gospel, then would it be
necessary for us to fully obey Jesus’ command? As we have seen in the previous section, there
is simply no other way to be saved (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). The reasoning is quite
straightforward; since Christ is the only one who is able to pay for our sins, everyone needs the
gospel of Christ to be forgiven.
Moreover, entertaining the question of whether the gospel was necessary for people prior to the
time of Christ is in essence calling the immutability and justice of God into question. Numbers
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23:19 says, “God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should change His
mind.” Additionally, Romans 2:11 states, “God does not show favoritism,” so could it be
possible for God, who is completely just, to have different criteria for different people?
Absolutely not! Paul stated:
It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the
promise…but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who live
by the law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless…the promise
comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all
Abraham’s offspring… (Romans 4:13-14, 16).
Abraham is a great illustration of the fact that salvation has always been by grace through faith.
This is a timeless and boundless truth. There are no limits to the gospel and no one is exempt.
In fact, everyone who has ever lived or ever will live has the responsibility to believe and receive
the gospel. Many people speculate that people born into Hindu families in India and Buddhist
families in China, where the gospel is sparse, have much less potential for placing their faith in
Christ than people born in America, where the gospel is prevalent. From a human standpoint,
this conjecture sounds reasonable, but it cannot stand against Biblical testimony. On Mars Hill,
Paul explained how God gives all people the best possible opportunity to be saved:
From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole
earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they
should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for
him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:26-27)
In the section above entitled “the source of the gospel”, we saw that Christ was foreordained
before the foundation of the world, and the elect were chosen in Him from all eternity. Those
before Christ looked forward to the coming of the Messiah in faith, and those after Him, look
back to His coming in faith. Either way, salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The
payment He made for sin atoned for past, present, and future sins.
The Proper Response to the Gospel
Hearing and understanding the gospel does not automatically classify someone as “saved”.
While it is true that Jesus “is the atoning sacrifice…for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2),
it is not true that everyone’s sins have been paid for by Christ. In other words, simply hearing
the gospel does not magically erase one’s transgressions. To be efficacious, the gospel must not
only be heard; it must also be received with humble, repentant faith. Otherwise, it is of no value.
The writer of Hebrews said, “For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did;
but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it
with faith.” (Hebrews 4:2)
Humility is the precursor to what is known as “saving faith”. To be saved one must first realize
that he is a helpless sinner who does not deserve God’s grace. This realization must lead the
sinner to abandon all hope of ever saving himself. The Bible describes the unsaved man as
“wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17), and he must see himself as such.
God requires that we come to Him humble and broken, casting ourselves solely on His mercy.
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We must be humbled to the point of full submission to and dependence on Him. Only when we
fall on our faces, beat our breasts, and say, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13) will
we be in a position to really trust Christ.
The injunction of the gospel to the individual sinner is to “repent and believe” (Mark 1:15). But,
what does it mean to believe and repent? As one would expect, the term “believe” includes the
acceptance and trust of the contents of the gospel message (John 8:24). To trust Christ as Savior
means to trust in His person and work, to truly believe that He is God incarnate, fully God and
fully man. He came from glory, descended to earth, lived a perfect life, paid the penalty for sin
with His blood through a substitutionary death on the cross, and rose victoriously from the grave.
But belief is not just a simple acceptance of facts. Even demons have this type of “faith”. James
wrote, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that– and shudder”
(James 2:19). So, belief is more than mere agreement or intellectual assent to truth; it is a trust
that initiates action and changes your life (James 2:17).
Next, one must understand that true faith is also repentant faith, and the gospel always calls for
repentance. James wrote, “get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly
accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (James 1:21). There is no doubt that the
gospel calls the sinner to surrender his life to Christ in humble repentance. This is a crucial point
that needs to be emphasized strongly, since it is largely absent in today’s evangelism.
Contrary to what some may think, the command to repent does not mean that the sinner must
first completely reform his life before coming to Christ. If that were the case no one would ever
come to Christ. The sinner simply does not have the ability to clean himself up and the greatest
amount of will power will never be enough. Through the proclamation of the gospel, God
Himself gives man the gift of repentance. The fruits of repentance (i.e. forsaking of individual
sins) are a result of salvation, not as a means for it (see section below on results of the gospel).
To repent means to have a change of mind and to turn around. In other words, it involves a
turning from sin and a turning to God. It is, in essence, the heart’s desire to submit to Christ’s
authority. So repentance is the willingness and commitment to obey God and live for His glory.
In this sense, repentance is mandatory for salvation. Paul left no one exempt when he wrote,
“Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” (2 Timothy
Any invitation to salvation that does not include repentance is in essence an invitation to use
Christ for eternal life while continuing in sin. The gospel was never a call to half-heartedness;
the proposition of Jesus Christ is always “all or nothing”. The gospel summons people to love
and honor Jesus more than anything else or anyone else. Repentance requires that all interests,
pleasures, and desires be subordinate to love for Him. In its truest sense, repentance is not about
restricting the sinner from sin, it is about giving God, the Lord and King of the universe what He
deserves, our heart-felt gratitude, our worship, our lives! So, in its essence, to surrender to Him
as Lord is to humbly repent and truly submit to Christ as Sovereign King and Master. It is living
for His glory in such a way that we joyfully obey Him and comply with His rule as He leads our
lives and conforms our ways to His.
The Results of the Gospel
How important is the gospel and what is at stake? First and foremost, God’s glory is at stake.
Contrary to what many people believe and espouse, salvation is not about man. Although the
gospel promises benefits for the individual, these benefits are merely the byproducts of salvation.
The true heart of salvation is God receiving the glory that He deserves from man. God has
purchased souls by His own blood, and the only way they could be freed from the pangs of sin,
death, and hell is through the gospel. Jesus Christ loves the world so much that He has redeemed
individuals by paying the ultimate ransom. He gave His life for theirs, and He deserves to
receive His purchased possession. This is the primary essence of the gospel. Accordingly, Paul
stated that Christ died so that “those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him
who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:15). In other words, our grand
purpose in life is to glorify Christ. Elsewhere Paul wrote, “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if
we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:8).
“So we make it our goal to please Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9). “So whether you eat or drink or
whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). As we saw in our section
on “the necessity of the gospel”, unbelievers have no ability or desire to please God (Hebrews
11:6). So, we must understand that the primary purpose for salvation, and therefore the gospel
that brings salvation, is the glory of God.
As stated above, salvation does carry benefits to the individual as well. Although these benefits
are secondary to the glory of God, they should not be minimized. The first obvious benefit is the
gift of grace which provides the ability and desire to glorify God in all things. This transforming
grace, which is given to all believers, is known as the new birth, and everyone who receives the
new birth is “born again”. So, what is the new birth and what does it mean to be born again?
When God effectually calls His elect through the gospel message, He gives them the gifts of
faith and repentance in order for the gospel to take root. Peter illustrates this well. In his first
epistle, he writes to “God’s elect” (1 Peter 1:1), “who have been chosen” (v.2). He then proceeds
to speak of God’s grace toward them: “In His great mercy he has given us new birth into a living
hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (v.3). So, this new birth that Peter
speaks of provides a living hope to the believer, but how does God accomplish this? Peter
explains that God graciously gives the new birth through the gospel: “For you have been born
again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God”
(v.23). In the new birth, the Holy Spirit sanctifies the individual for obedience to Jesus Christ
(v.2) by giving him a new heart and indwelling him forever (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Paul explains
how belief in the gospel results in being indwelt with the Holy Spirit:
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the
gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal,
the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the
redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory.
The presence of the Holy Spirit, along with the new nature given in the new birth, enables the
believer to do the good works he was created to do (Ephesians 2:10). The fact that it is God who
works in the believer to accomplish His purposes (Philippians 2:13) guarantees that they will
bear fruit (John 15:8, 16), be progressively sanctified throughout life (1 Thessalonians 5:23; 1
Peter 1:2), and endure faithfully to the end (Romans 8:29-30). John the Baptist understood this
when he challenged hypocrites to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). So,
as a tree bears fruit, repentance unto salvation (i.e. total submission and surrender to Jesus Christ
as Lord) yields the fruits of repentance (i.e. good works and a changed life).
When a person truly receives Christ through saving faith, many other things happen as well.
Since the purpose of this essay is not to elaborate on them, we will simply provide a short list of
some of them. When the gospel is believed, God applies Christ’s payment for sin (ransom) to
the sinner (redemption), declares him righteous (justification), removes all eternal punishment
(propitiation) and forgives/covers all sin (atonement), credits the person with the righteousness
of Christ (imputation), reconciles and restores the broken relationship (reconciliation), delivers
the sinner from the power of sin and Satan (deliverance), gives him a new heart (regeneration),
indwells him with the Holy Spirit (baptism of the Holy Spirit), makes him a child of God
(adoption), and grants him the promise of eternal life (assurance). Does that sound like a lot?
There is more! At the moment of justification, He begins a life-long process called sanctification
in which He refines us into the image of His Son until the day we die. On that day, we will be
perfectly glorified, and meet Him face to face. What an awesome gift from an awesome God!
The gospel is indeed a message of eternal life (John 3:16; 1 John 2:24-25), but what is eternal
life? Many people would describe it as living forever in heaven. Although it is true that
believers will live forever in heaven, the term “eternal life” contains far more significance than
the quality and quantity of our lives. The apostle John described Jesus Christ as “the true God
and eternal life…which was with the Father and has now appeared to us” (1 John 5:20; 1:2). So,
eternal life, in its purest sense is Jesus Christ Himself. Therefore, anyone who has Christ has
eternal life and to have eternal life is to have Christ. Furthermore, having Christ is having God
the Father (1 John 2:23) and God the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14).
This implies that those who truly trust in Christ as Lord and Savior enjoy a personal relationship
with Him (i.e. they know Him and He knows them). In His gospel, the apostle John wrote, “Now
this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have
sent” (John 17:3). So, Jesus Christ is eternal life and to have eternal life is to know Him.
Eternal life is far richer than simply going to heaven for eternity. It is embracing and intimately
knowing the One who Himself IS eternal life. However, it is true that believers will inhabit
heaven for eternity, since they will be with Jesus and that is where He is. Once we have the
proper perspective, we can look forward to Heaven, which is a glorious place where believers
will worship God for eternity in sinless perfection.
It is important to understand that true submission to Christ leads to an intimate knowledge of
who He is and who we are in relation to Him. But remember, there is a big difference between
knowing about somebody and knowing somebody! What is at stake if someone doesn’t know
Jesus Christ? The apostle Paul answered this question with the following words: “He will punish
those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished
with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of
his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). Notice how Paul equates knowing God with obeying the
gospel of Jesus. The gospel is of utmost importance, since it is the gateway to knowing Christ
and being in His presence. The only other alternative is everlasting destruction. Everyone who
rejects the gospel of Jesus Christ will be shut out from His presence punished for all eternity.
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In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also spoke of the consequences of rejecting the gospel. There
He promised that He will proclaim the following words to anyone who has never repented and
placed their faith in Him: “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23).
Again, all unbelievers will be cast away from the loving presence of Jesus for all eternity,
because they have not known Him. Instead of spending eternity worshipping Him in heaven,
they will eternally experience the wrath of God in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10-14).
Therefore, the gospel has crucially important implications. Sadly though, although many
Christians claim to believe that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16),
they present it in a man-centered, weak, or watered down fashion. While the Bible plainly
teaches that the sole requirement to be saved is to trust Christ as Lord and Savior, the
“invitation” to “trust” or “accept” Him is often given in a vague manner. Christians need to take
time to thoroughly explain the gospel when evangelizing, but unfortunately, many never do. If
the gospel is not explained and understood, false conversions happen more frequently as a result
of superficial and misinformed decisions. As a result, churches become filled with deceived but
comfortable people who will one day stand at the gate of heaven saying, “Lord, Lord, did we
not…” (Matthew 7:22) only to hear Him reply, “I never knew you. Away from me, you
evildoers!” (v.23). If anything in the Bible is frightening, this is it…people who claim the name
of Christ, go to church, and even do ministry, all the while living their lives with a false hope,
because they never really knew Jesus.
The Bible clearly indicates that God “has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by
the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead”
(Acts 17:31). Although one day everyone will unmistakably see His Lordship, only those who
submit to His Lordship while on earth will be saved. Everyone else will remain in their sins and
suffer eternal punishment (John 8:24, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of tremendous significance. It is the good news of who
Christ is and what He has done…a powerful message that exposes man’s sinfulness and need for
the Savior…the only message that enables people to come to true, repentant faith in Christ. The
gospel is an unchanging declaration and a mighty invitation to know and embrace Jesus Christ.
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men…Christ’s
love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all
died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves
but for him who died for them and was raised again… if anyone is in Christ, he is
a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who
reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins
against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are
therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through
us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who
had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of
God. (2 Corinthians 5:11-21)