- The Simple Gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4)
- Know the Gospel (Gal. 1:6-10)
- The Urgency of the Gospel (Video: 50 min, 30 sec)
- The Gospel Explained (Romans 1-8)
- Christ & The Gospel: The Bible’s Theme
The Simple Gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4)
- We deserve God’s punishment for our sin/rebellion.
- Jesus’ righteous life, death, and resurrection paid our punishment.
- All who repent and believe/trust this are forgiven and reconciled to God.
Mark 14:3-9: Goal of Gospel = Honoring/Blessing Jesus above all
- Matt 5:21-22, 27-28
- Luke 24:46-47
- Romans 5:10
- Colossians 1:21-23
- 1 Cor. 15:1-4
- 2 Cor. 5:17-21
- 1 John 1:9
Know the Gospel (Gal. 1:6-10)
Gal. 1:6-2:1 – We must know the gospel accurately.
In 1 word
- reconciled: Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18-20; Col. 1:22
- justified: Acts 13:39; Rom. 3:26; 4:5; Gal. 2:16
In 1 sentence
Luke 24:46-47 (with Mark 16:15); 1 Cor. 15:3-5
In 1 paragraph
Rom. 3:21-26; 2 Cor. 5:17-20
In 1 book
- 1-3:20: All are sinners, deserve God’s wrath
- 3:21-5:21: Christ died in our place, appeasing God’s wrath for those who repent/believe
- 6-8: The Holy Spirit indwells us to: (A) confirm that we repented/believed, (B) conform us to live like Christ
- 9-11: The gospel fulfills O.T. promises
- 12-16: Application for the church to live out the gospel
- See also The Gospel Explained (Romans 1-8)
In the Old Testament
The Gospel is referenced in the Old Testament: Luke 24:27, 44-47; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Heb. 4:1-2.
- By prophecy: Is. 53 (Acts 8:32-35); Dan. 9:24 (Matt. 24:15)
- By type/pattern: Exod. 11-12 (1 Cor. 5:7); 17:6 (1 Cor. 10:4); Lev. 16 (Heb. 9); Jonah 1:17 (Matt. 12:40)
- By contrast: Lev. 16 (Heb. 9); Jonah 1:17 (Matt. 12:40)
The Gospel’s Goal
Mark 14:3-9: Goal of Gospel = Honoring/Blessing Jesus above all.
The Urgency of the Gospel (Video: 50 min, 30 sec)
The Gospel Explained (Romans 1-8)
Understanding the Bad News (Romans 1:1-3:20)
God exists, but is invisible to the human eye. Two ways everyone in the world knows about Him are through:
- The world He created,
- The inner sense of right and wrong that all people have.
However, though all people know deep down that God is real, we have all disobeyed Him, and live for ourselves instead of for God. This is called sin. We worship other things, and turn our backs on God. We do things like: have sex outside of marriage, murder, gossip about others, envy others, hate God, disobey our parents, don’t have faith in God, aren’t thankful toward God, and a million other sinful things. In fact, every time we reject God in our thoughts, words, and actions, we commit sin against God.
Even further, the more we choose sin, the more our eyes struggle to see God. And the less we see of God, the more we feel OK about sinning. It is a terrible cycle, yet every single human being is born into it. The worst news of all is that God—who is good and perfect and holy—must destroy every sin and every sinner. This happens because God cannot have sin come into His presence. This means that you, I, and everyone else deserve death for how we have turned from God in our heart and actions. You may challenge this and say, “But how can God be mad at my actions? He has blessed me with so many things in my life. Surely this is a sign that God approves of my behavior?” But you don’t realize that God is being kind to you so that you will see His goodness, see that you don’t deserve it, and see that you need to turn and serve Him, instead of serving yourself (The word for this is “repentance”. It literally means that you turn your mind and actions from serving you to serving God). Your sinful actions have NOT earned His kindness.
God’s standards of good and bad are found in the Bible. If someone read these standards, and lived perfectly by them, they would earn life in God’s presence forever (though no human being is capable of this, as will be discussed later). But even those who don’t read the Bible can also know right from wrong, because God puts the understanding of right and wrong within every human heart. This is called your conscience. Therefore, no one has the excuse of saying, “God never showed me right from wrong,” because He has shown everyone right and wrong through the Bible and through their own conscience.
However, even though every human knows right from wrong, no one is able to live a perfect life. And God—who is good and perfect and holy—must destroy every sin and sinner. Even if all your sins are in your heart and are secret from those around you, God still knows. It grieves God to sentence death on human beings that He lovingly created (see Genesis 1:27), but His character demands it. If you have sinned, you deserve death. There is no way around it.
Also note that some people will come to God and say, “But I read your Bible and know what it says. Doesn’t that mean I deserve eternal life in your presence?” No. Of course, it is helpful to know the Bible, but it is not enough to merely know what the Bible says about right and wrong. If you can’t perfectly follow God’s commands (and no one fully can), then you are still a person who deserves death and destruction from God’s hand. It doesn’t matter how many Bible verses you can quote.
Others will say, “I never outwardly sinned against God. I behaved much better than others around me.” However, it is also not enough to outwardly follow what God says, if in your heart you disobey Him. For instance, God says that if a person looks on another person with lust (i.e. self-interested sexual craving) in their heart, they have committed adultery with that person (see Matthew 5:28). And God says that if someone is angry with someone else in their heart, they are guilty of the sin of murder (see Matthew 5:21-22). See, God looks at how good you’ve been in your heart and mind, not just what you do outwardly.
Others might say, “But even when I made mistakes and sins, good things came out of it. Doesn’t that show that God is OK with my sin?” Though it is true that God has a way of making good things come out of the evil we have done, it doesn’t change the fact that we still made sinful decisions, and still deserve death. For instance, consider that Judas Iscariot (one of the 12 men who Jesus Christ chose to be His disciples; he secretly betrayed Jesus and helped in killing Him) did a great evil in betraying Jesus Christ (Jesus Christ is God who came to live in a human body more than 2,000 years ago in the land of Israel). And even though Jesus’ death and resurrection turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to humanity (we will discuss that soon), Judas is still guilty for sin, right? This is the same for any sin we do. We are guilty, no matter what good God brings out of it.
In saying all this, it should be clear that there is no human being who has ever perfectly obeyed God. No one has an excuse for this. No one deserves to live in His presence forever. In fact, even the Bible itself declares, “No one does good, not even one.” (see Psalms 14:1-3; Psalms 53:1-3; Romans 3:12). Did you catch that? The Bible says that no one has been perfect and without sin. If you say that you follow the Bible, then you must believe that Bible verse to be true. You must agree with the Bible that “No one does good,”—not even you! No one is capable of the good that God demands; all deserve death—even you!
Though this is not fun news to share, it is truthful and is shared in love. And only in understanding this bad news will you be able to grasp the good news that will be shared next.
Understanding the Good News (Romans 3:21-4:12)
Even after all the bad news shared thus far, there is a way that sinners—like you and I—can be righteous in God’s pure sight. We can escape death and enter God’s presence (no matter how bad our sins are). In fact, the very Bible that says, “No one is good,” gives the answer.
According to the Bible, all who put their trust in Jesus Christ and what He did (more on that in a bit) are considered 100% righteous in God’s sight. That is, they are in a “right-standing” with a Holy God; they are considered morally perfect in His sight. So even though every person has sinned, they can all be considered perfect in God’s eyes after they trust in Jesus Christ. Here’s how this works:
Humans can’t be perfect. But God can. So God came to the earth as a human, by sending his only Son, “Jesus.” Jesus was the first and only person in the history of mankind to live a perfect life, totally obeying God in heart, mind, and body. He was the first and only person to truly deserve to live in God’s presence as a sinless person, and not receive death from such a holy God. And even though He didn’t deserve it, God put Him to death through the hands of humans. It was a gruesome death. He was nailed to a jagged, wooden cross, while God turned His back on His only Son. This perfect Son received a death that He didn’t deserve—a death that should have been ours—, and His blood poured out until there was no more life in His corpse. Why?
Jesus lived a perfect life deserving God’s blessing, yet He received God’s wrath (i.e. extremely strong anger), so that sinners like you and I (and the rest of humanity) who deserve God’s wrath, can receive God’s blessing of eternal life instead. It was and is a perfect substitution. And as a perfect Judge, God could still ensure the penalty of death was paid for your sins (through Jesus), and yet forgive you from having to pay death because you trust that Jesus’ blood stands in your place. That is, Jesus’ shed blood is a sign that He was tortured and died, even though you deserved this death for your sins, and Jesus did not deserve it. Jesus’ death allows God to remain as the perfect Judge and to pass over your sins and give you life.
All of what’s been said so far should make you realize that anyone who is not punished for sin, and given eternal life instead, has absolutely nothing to boast about because we didn’t deserve it. Jesus paid the full price, and we simply have to trust in the power of His blood to cover all of our sins. All of this is the central point of the Bible. In fact, this was God’s plan all along. God even wrote about these things hundreds of years before Jesus entered earth.
For instance, a man named Abraham (who was the father of God’s people, the Jews, and lived 2,000 years before Jesus was born) was given the gift of righteousness the moment he believed God’s word. He did not become “righteous” by doing any great things, but simply by believing what God said to him. Similarly, when you simply believe God’s word about Jesus dying in your place, you are considered perfect and righteous in God’s sight—not because you’ve done great things, but because you believe in Jesus as your substitute and your faith covers you with Jesus’ righteousness. In fact, it was only after Abraham believed and was made “righteous” that he followed God’s rules–not before. So it shows that being righteous does not come by following rules, but believing in God’s word about Jesus.
There was also an honored king over God’s people (the Jews) named David. David lived 1,000 years before Jesus was born and wrote, “Blessed are those who God forgives of their sins.” Did you catch that? David did not say the blessing comes to those who have done all these great things. Instead, the blessing comes when you are forgiven of terrible things (sins). In the same way, God’s blessing is really only for those who have been forgiven of their sins (in Jesus), since no one can live good enough to earn this blessing.
See, before Jesus came to earth, God gave a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” for how people could be totally holy. This is called “God’s law”. But these rules were impossible for sinful human beings (which we all are) to perfectly obey. Instead, the law only showed people how sinful they are. In fact, that was the point of God’s law: to show us all that we aren’t as great as we think, and we deserve to be punished. We deserve death as that punishment. And if we want to live, we need someone else to take that punishment for us.
The Example of Abraham (Romans 4:13-25)
Think about it this way: Abraham (the father of God’s people, the Jews, who lived 2,000 years before Jesus) tried for decades to have a child with his wife. In other words, they tried to produce a “life” that would come from their bodies. They tried it all on their own efforts, but could not get pregnant and produce “life”. No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t do it. But then God said to them (when they were very old), “Even though your bodies are not able to produce life, I will supernaturally bring life to you. I will give you a son.” (This is a very loose paraphrase of Genesis 15:4-6 and Romans 4:18-19). And when Abraham believed God, and believed that God would give him life–even though he was old and physically unable to produce life in himself (And in this sense it is as if he is “dead,” Romans 4:19 and Hebrews 11:12)–, THEN God said, “By believing in what I said, you are righteous,” (see Genesis 15:6). Do you see that? Abraham believed what God said—he believed God’s words—, and did not trust in his own abilities to produce, “life”. That was why he was called, “righteous”.
This picture is the same for us today. We must realize that we can’t produce God’s eternal life on our own. Instead, we must trust what God said, that He has given us life through Jesus. When we trust this—at that very moment of faith—, we are considered righteous (that is, morally perfect) in God’s eyes. The only thing needed is faith in what God says about this. Faith in God’s word about Jesus brings us from death to life, as it did with Abraham.
How Can You Be Sure That You Are Now Righteous by Faith? It Seems Too Good To Be True (Romans 5:1-11)
Jesus’ death paid the penalty we deserved for our sins, but then, God resurrected Jesus 3 days later. The same person who was clearly killed, came back to life and walked and talked and did all sorts of things that dead people can’t do. When God resurrected Jesus, it showed that God totally accepted Jesus’ death as fully paying for all sin. It showed that sin and death have no more power, because Jesus’ suffering is finished. He now lives, and will never suffer again. The penalty of death has been fully paid, and Jesus’ resurrection proves that God said, “This is good enough. You can now live because the penalty for sin is finished.”
Because Jesus resurrected, we can know without a shadow of doubt that our sins have been paid in full. Those who believe Jesus died and resurrected for our sins can rest secure and know they have peace with God. We can fully experience God’s grace, even though He has every right to be angry with our sinfulness.
Furthermore, hardships we go through can also help us know that God has truly declared us to be righteous. Hardships can show that God has fully forgiven all of our sins. Let me explain.
When we believe in Jesus, God starts living in our hearts through His Holy Spirit.
Aside: There is only one God, but He exists as 3 personalities simultaneously: (1) God the Father, (2) God the Son (Jesus Christ), and (3) God the Holy Spirit. You can think of there being 1 egg, but 3 parts: (1) the shell, (2) the yoke, (3) the egg white. The difference with God, though, is that each of His personalities (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) are fully God, whereas each part of the egg is not fully the egg, but only a part of the egg.
And when bad things happen to us, we can watch as God’s Spirit in us makes us love and have hope, even while trials come. We know that this is not possible for human beings to do without God’s Holy Spirit living in them, so when we watch how we have unexplainable love and hope in the midst of such bad things, this is evidence that God lives in us. God living in us (through the Holy Spirit) is the “stamp of approval” that God considers us fully righteous. This is because God would never live inside someone who wasn’t righteous in His sight. His Spirit in us tells us that He declared us forgiven of sins.
Also, we can trust that God will spare believers from wrath when we die, simply by looking at the love God already showed for us in what Jesus already did on the cross. Think about it: If you look at the world, you rarely find someone who’s willing to die for someone else. And if they do, it’s almost definitely because they thought that person to be a good person who deserved to live. But Jesus died for us while we were sinning and when we deserved to die for our turning away from God. And if Jesus died for us while we were terrible sinners, then we can count on His sacrifice to spare us from God’s wrath when we die and face God’s judgment (even if we make mistakes and sin after believing Jesus). Or do you think God stopped loving people after He died on the cross for sinners? No! His love on the cross will continue onto the day you are judged by God, and His love will be shown in saving you from judgment. He will never take back what Jesus did on the cross for sinners like you and me.
The Big Picture (Romans 5:12-21)
To understand this further, consider that at the beginning of creation there were only two people: Adam and Eve (see Genesis 1-3). And through only these two people come all the human beings alive today. Adam and Eve are parents to us all. They are the source of all human beings in all history. So when Adam sinned against God by 1 act of disobedience (he ate fruit God told him not to eat), it brought death into a world that was not meant to die. Adam died because of 1 sin. Not only that, but the sin in Adam’s genetics passed to his children and their children, and so on, until it reached all of us alive today. We are all born with sin in our heart and we all die, because we are all offspring of a man who had sin and death living in him. It would be like filling cups of water from a contaminated water well. Every single cup will carry the contamination, because the source of all the water is contaminated itself.
Notice also that this sin and death entered the world before the Bible was written, and before God gave His list of “do’s and don’ts” (called, “The Law”). When the Law came, it just showed how sinful we all are. It showed that Adam indeed had sin in him and passed it on to all of his descendants. But sin and death were already present before the Law came. So, in summary, one man’s act of disobedience brought sin and death to all people. But, in a similar manner, one man’s (Jesus’) act of obedience (death on the cross) can now give righteousness and life to all who believe Him. Just as Adam sinned, and we automatically were sinners from birth, so when Jesus died and resurrected, all who believe Him are automatically righteous at the point of faith. They are righteous because Jesus is righteous, and they get His life (in the Bible, this is called being “born again,” see John 3:3. Your natural birth is your “first birth,” and coming to believe Jesus is your “second birth”. The first is a physical birth and the second is a spiritual birth that happens when you get God’s Holy Spirit inside of you). Just as we were unrighteous because Adam was unrighteous, and we were born into his life. So, the Law showed people how sinful they were for hundreds of years before Jesus came, but it never made someone righteous. It just showed them that they CAN’T live up to God’s standards. It was meant to make people ready for a savior, since they should have realized that there was no way they could earn eternal life on their own efforts. It was also meant to show how marvelous and amazing God’s grace is through giving undeserved righteousness and eternal life to sinners like us, simply for trusting Jesus and trusting that He died and resurrected for our sins.
How Does Our Life Change After We Believe Jesus? (Romans 6:1-14)
So, when we see that our righteousness comes from Jesus’ obedience, and not our own, does this mean that God doesn’t care whether we sin or not (since Jesus died for all of our sins already)? Absolutely not! Why not? Because when we believe in our heart that Jesus paid the price for our sin, it always will lead to changing who we are.
For starters, the moment you believe Jesus died and resurrected for your sins, your life dies to sinful desires. Sin loses its power over you, all because you believed Jesus. This is why one of the first things new believers need to do is get baptized (buried) in water. That baptism is symbolic of burying the “dead” you (the “old” you). In the physical world, you bury those who die, right? The same is true in the spiritual world. You have died to sin, so you need to be spiritually “buried” by being baptized in water. And when you come out of the water, it symbolizes you coming out as a brand new person. As Jesus physically died, buried, and resurrected, so you spiritually “die” (when you believe), are “buried” (when you are baptized), and “resurrect” (through the new life in you by God’s Holy Spirit, as will be explained soon). The fact that you’ve been baptized proves you’ve died to sin.
Your new life begins with the knowledge and realization that when Jesus died, so did you. It wasn’t just our bad deeds that were forgiven (though they are!), nor does it just mean we have passed out of God’s judgment (though we have!). It also means that we, as sinners, were spiritually done away with at Jesus’ death. Our old life died with Jesus. And if we died with Jesus from our old way of living, then our new life must be just like Jesus’ resurrection life. In His resurrection life, Jesus lives purely for God. In the same way, the new life God gives us belongs to God (He gave us this new life, after all!).
But what if you are reading this and are a believer and don’t feel like your old, sinful self died with Christ? And you don’t feel like you have a new resurrected life? What do you do then?
Well, God says over and over in His word, “When you believe it, then you will see it,” (see John 11:40, for instance). He tells us to walk according to our faith, instead of sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Do you remember Abraham? He believed God’s word even though it directly opposed his own experience (see Genesis 15:4-6 and Romans 4:18-19). So, will you believe God’s words that your old self died with Christ (see Romans 6:6, for instance)? Will you believe these words even if you don’t “feel” like you actually died with Christ? After you believe this, you will start to see it actually happen. But not before you believe.
So after you know and believe that you died and resurrected with Christ, your job is to give all of your new life over to God. He is your new “master”. Your old master was “sin”. Sin could tell you what to do, where to go, how to think, etc. And whether you wanted to follow sin or not, you always ended up following. You always ended up sinning whether you wanted to or not. This proves that sin was truly your master.
And even after you may have learned right from wrong (whether by reading it in the Bible or knowing it in your conscience), it just would make you realize that you were still a prisoner to sin. Even when you wanted to do right, ultimately, you ended up sinning instead. Sin was your master and God’s law was the mirror that showed you just how much sin rules you.
But when you believe Christ, you become dead to sin. This means that sin can come to you, and yell at you, and point his finger, and make all sorts of demands…but he’s talking to a corpse now. You are dead to sin, and sin’s demands lose the power they once had over you. However, even though you have been freed from sin, you do have a new master. God is now your master. And His demands are to be obeyed. He is a good and gracious master (unlike sin, who just wanted to destroy you), but He is still a master. So give up control and rights you think you have on your life. Submit to God as your master. As a believer, make the decision to allow God to control you (a decision that you were incapable of making before you believed).
How Do You Give God Full Control Of You? (Romans 6:14-7:6)
Knowing that God has demands over you (and is your master) doesn’t mean God gives you a list of rules and says, “Only if you do this will you be righteous in my eyes.” That kind of thinking ended when Jesus died. You are fully righteous in God’s eyes the moment you believe. We no longer have to worry about not being righteous enough, even though we know we have sinned. Instead, God gives us undeserved life through the death of His perfect Son (Jesus). We are under His grace (i.e. undeserved and unearned favor from God) if we believe Jesus.
But being under this grace does not mean that God doesn’t care if we sin or not. God does care. He made you to serve and obey Him, not sin. And every time you choose sin over God, you are glorifying (i.e. putting a positive spotlight, attention, and focus on someone or something) something despicable instead of giving full glory and attention to God by obeying Him.
See, when you believe in Jesus with your heart, God starts changing you by changing your heart. He does this by putting His Holy Spirit in your heart. And the more your heart knows and receives what the Bible says concerning Jesus, the more it will be changed.
So, when you used to be a slave of sin, what did sin (your old “master”) pay you for all the ways you “served” him? You got shame and eventually would earn death. Face it, sin is a terrible and cruel master. But now, God says, “Serve Me. Give your heart fully to Me. Obey Me.” And what will God give you for surrendering your heart to him? He’ll give you the gift of eternal life. This gift begins and never ends the moment you believe Jesus. At that time, God’s Holy Spirit (who has eternal life in Him) enters you. Even more, the Holy Spirit in you will change your life and bring you to live in ways that please God and are righteous. All of this is possible because of the death and resurrection of the Son of God. This was a complete gift—that’s how good God is as your master.
Think of it another way. Before Jesus came, God gave a law to follow. But no one could follow it. It was like people were “married” to this law. God’s law was like the “husband” and the people were like the “wife”. This means that they were stuck together, because God’s law says that a wife cannot separate from her husband as long as both are alive. People were “stuck” to follow God’s law as a way of righteousness as long as they and the law were alive. In fact, if the people tried to stop following the law as a way of righteousness, and became “married” to some other way of being righteous, they would be committing spiritual adultery on their husband. And God hates adultery (see Leviticus 20:10, for instance). So the people were truly stuck with the law—they couldn’t leave unless they died or God’s law died.
However, when Christ died, we who believe Christ died with Him. Did you catch that? We died. This means we died to our old marriage with God’s law. And since we also resurrected with Christ (see Romans 6:4, for instance), we have a new life that is free to marry someone/something different than God’s law. That is, we no longer need to try to perfectly obey the law to become righteous. The law is no longer our master. Just as sin is no longer our master, neither is the law our master. We are free to have a new “husband,” so to speak. In fact, our new “husband” was already chosen for us. It is none other than Jesus Himself. We are now married to Christ, the One who rose from the dead. This is why all Christians are called the bride of Christ (see Ephesians 5:23-25, for instance; they are also called “the church” which is just a fancy way of saying they are an organized group of Christians).
Even further, just as husband and wife are united in sex after marriage, and the husband’s sperm/life goes inside the wife, so Jesus’ life (which is the Holy Spirit) enters into us the moment we believe. Our spirit and God’s Spirit become one in the same way in which the husband’s body and wife’s body become one when they have sex in marriage (see 1 Corinthians 6:16-17).
Further still, it is this union with Christ and the Holy Spirit that produces good fruit in us. It is through his Spirit in us that we are able to truly please God in this lifetime, instead of just sinning all the time. Jesus’ life in us changes our whole character and brings us to live and look like Jesus did: obedient to God.
When we lived without Jesus’ life in us (before belief), we could only produce death. We had no power to do good things. And God’s law only showed how bad we were and how much death we produced. It was like a mirror that showed us we weren’t as good as we thought we were. But we serve God now by the Holy Spirit inside us. He does the work in us. And God no longer tells us to follow His external law in the power of our flesh alone. No, He now comes to live inside of you and bring you to walk in His ways from the inside-out. He does the work, not you.
God’s Law And Our Sin-Nature (Romans 7:7-25)
Does all this mean God’s law is a bad thing? Absolutely not. God’s law is a great thing. It shows us what God’s standard of righteousness looks like, and is the best way to realize that human beings can never live up to God’s standard. Humans can never be perfect like God, which is a huge problem, because God’s perfect character cannot allow any imperfection to dwell with Him. Humans, if left on their own, would be banished from God’s presence forever. And without God’s law and standards of right and wrong, we would never realize how sinful we truly are. God’s law is holy, right, and good. In fact, the law was written by God Himself, through His Holy Spirit.
The problem was never with God’s law. The problem was always with us—you, me, and everybody. We are not holy, right, or good. Before someone knows/believes Jesus, they don’t have God’s Holy Spirit. They only have their own sinful flesh to work with. That was true for all of us. So even when we wanted to obey God and do what is right, we still ended up choosing sin. We didn’t have the Holy Spirit in us to overcome sin. So in our mind, and in our inner being, we could desire to follow God, but the sin-nature that lives in us (the sinful genetics that we inherited from Adam) is simply unable to stop sinning. Before knowing Jesus, we always sinned, whether we wanted to or not.
In fact, the sin-nature in us works similar to the law of gravity in the world: no matter how hard you try to beat it, it ends up beating you! And just as you can’t stop the law of gravity, it is impossible to change your sin-nature. So how does this struggle stop? How does our sinful flesh die once-and-for-all?
Well, this problem was already answered 2,000 years ago, when Jesus died—thank God! The moment you believe this, you step into Jesus’ death. Because Jesus died, you died to sin. And because you died to sin, you died to your need to obey the law to be righteous.
Walking By the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-30)
In Christ and His sacrifice, there is NOW no more wrath or condemnation over us. We who believe no longer need to struggle with sin, and we no longer need to try to be righteous on our own efforts. We are no longer under God’s wrath. All because Christ took our sin, was holy, and took God’s wrath for us!
And the evidence that we have passed from death into life is that we have God’s Spirit in us, and thus have a life in us that is able to overcome the sin-nature in us. The life of the Holy Spirit is stronger than the sin-nature. It is impossible to overcome the sin-nature without the Spirit. And even when we have the Spirit, we can still be guilty of following our fleshly desires and sins. However, we have a life living in us (the Spirit) that has more power than sin. And the more we walk according to this life, the less we sin.
And this life (God’s Holy Spirit) living in us is the sign that God no longer sentences death on us. The Holy Spirit is like having a “stamp” of approval that God has given to all who trust Jesus. Even more, this Holy Spirit is the very Person who raised Jesus up after He died. Do you know what that means? If God’s Holy Spirit already proved He has the power to bring Jesus from death to life; that means He has the power to defeat sin and death in us. And thus, as we yield to God’s Spirit in us, we will start seeing ourselves sin less and less and less. And as we watch this process happen, it should excite us to know that we truly have believed and have been received by God! If His Spirit is in us, we can have total confidence that we no longer have the sentence of God’s wrath and death on us. The sin-nature we had since birth was crucified when Jesus died, and can be undone in our own experiences as Jesus’ Spirit in us has His way.
God’s Spirit can prove to us and others that we are NOW children of God. As children, we know we will receive an inheritance from our Heavenly Father (“Heavenly Father” is a title for God, see Matthew 6:9, for instance), just as all good fathers on earth leave some sort of inheritance for their children. Of course, all good fathers also lovingly discipline the children before they give their inheritance (in fact, this discipline makes the child more ready to properly use their inheritance, because their character is developed through the discipline). In the same way, all who are children of God, and will receive His full inheritance, MUST also suffer in this life (just as Jesus, God’s Son, suffered before He received the full reward of sitting at God the Father’s right hand as King forever—where He is today). In fact, the suffering we go through is part of the evidence that God loves us and has an inheritance saved up for us to receive in eternity (see Romans 8:17 and Hebrews 12:6, for instance).
And, actually, we aren’t the only ones suffering, because all of creation is also suffering right now. It has been suffering ever since the first sin that Adam committed thousands of years ago (when Adam sinned, God pronounced the whole world cursed, see Gen. 3:14-18). But its suffering will end once all of God’s people are glorified at the end of all time. Then, everything will be new. This is why creation itself is waiting for God’s children (those who believe Jesus) to be glorified at the end of this present age. After that happens, everything will be good again.
But until that time, while we are still weak and suffering now, the Spirit comes to our help. For instance, when we can’t pray (or don’t know how), the Spirit starts praying for us. And God always hears the prayers of His Spirit.
Also, no matter how bad this life gets, God will work all these bad things together for good toward those who truly know Him. Specifically, God is using all your trials to make you become more and more like Jesus (God’s son) from the inside-out. So, when everything is said and done, those who truly believe and know God will come out shining in the end. And only these people will be glorified, to draw attention to God Himself, and draw attention to God’s work in us.
Closing Thoughts (Romans 8:31-39)
If God is on our side, who can stand against us?
If God gave up His own Son for us, do you think He will hold back other things you need (things for this life and the next)?
If God’s own righteousness covers us through His Son, then we can be assured that we will always be righteous in God’s sight, regardless of what we do or did—as long as we believe Jesus.
If God’s Son beat death, and is on our side, how can we not also beat death and live forever?
Can any of the suffering we go through—any of it—separated us from the love of God the Father and God the Son (as shown in Jesus’ death and resurrection for us)? No! No! A million times, no!
Christ & The Gospel: The Bible’s Theme
The Focus in 1 Corinthians
When Paul was writing to the Corinthians, he saw divisions and distractions throughout that church. So God used him to write a letter (1 Corinthians) to bring them back to God’s focus.
What was/is God’s focus?
the gospel…the cross of Christ…the word of the cross…Christ crucified(1 Cor. 1:17-18, 23)
In fact, later he says things like:
- “I decided to KNOW NOTHING among you EXCEPT Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2)
- “The gospel I preached to you…I delivered to you as of FIRST IMPORTANCE.” (1 Cor. 15:1-4)
Notice that the person and work of Christ is so central and important to the mission of God that Paul “decided” to only think and speak on that subject with the Corinthians. He calls it “of first importance.” And there’s only 1 thing that can be of first importance!
The Gospel Spelled Out
And, to be clear, Paul also clearly lays out the gospel in a very concise way in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4:
- Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3)
- He was buried (1 Cor. 15:4a)
- He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:4b)
- you are saved by this “if you hold fast” / “you believed” (1 Cor. 15:2)
A few things to note:
- The Gospel is God’s good news of reconciling sinful people with a holy God.
- It is “in accordance with the Scriptures.” In other words, the Bible’s account of the gospel is THE TRUE account.
- On God’s part: He came in human flesh as perfect, but then was killed, buried, and later resurrected (and ascended) — all for our sins
- On our part: we are saved from God’s wrath by “holding fast” to this gospel through belief
- Note: true biblical faith also assumes repentance (see Repentance is Necessary for Salvation)
Christ and the Gospel = The Theme of the Bible
Now that we’ve seen:
- Paul declares Christ and the gospel as prime and ultimate (1 Cor. 2:2; 1 Cor. 15:1-4)
- What the gospel is (1 Cor. 15:1-4)
It’s important to realize this is not an isolated message for 1 Corinthians.
Instead, this is the theme of the entire Bible. Consider:
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John (“The Gospels”) focus on Christ and the Gospel
- As “Gospels” they, too, relay the good news of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension to reconcile us to God through repentance and faith (in a much more expanded way than 1 Cor. 15:1-4).
- These give the story of Christ and His death, burial, resurrection, ascension.
- They are the center and fulcrum of the Bible story (with the Old Testament before them, and the New Testament after)
- According to Dr. Peter Williams (Warden/Principal of Tyndale House, Cambridge), it takes 9 hours for someone to read through all 4 gospels. Of that 9 hours, roughly 1/2 of that time is dedicated to the final week of Jesus’ earthly life (the part focusing on Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection). Thus, this “fulcrum” of the entire Bible story spends time on 2 things: Christ (His Person and Life) & The Gospel (His work in dying and resurrecting for our sins).
The entire Old Testament points forward to Christ and The Gospel
- Jesus Himself, after He resurrected, was able to show in the full Old Testament (“the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms”) how it foretold Him and the Gospel (Luke 24:44-47)
- In fact, virtually every major event of Jesus’ life (with special attention to his death and resurrection) was laid out in the Old Testament Scriptures. This is why you repeatedly see the gospels say things like, “This was to fulfill what was spoken,” (Matt. 13:35) and then they quote an Old Testament Scripture about a facet of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
- This is why in 1 Cor. 15, when it talks about the gospel (see above), it says these things happened, “in accordance with the Scriptures.” The “Scriptures” Paul is referencing was the Old Testament (since the New Testament was in the process of being written!). This means the Old Testament talks about the gospel. In fact, Heb. 4 says explicitly that the Old Testament people had the gospel preached to them.
- Further, when you read the Old Testament books, you’ll see a clear theme emerge: Judgment, followed by mercy/salvation that points to Jesus. Here are a few examples:
- Genesis: Begins with Adam and Eve judged for sin, and a whole mess of sin that culminates with the dastardly sin of the sons of Jacob selling their brother for pieces of silver. But, in the end, this Joseph who was given up for “dead” ends up being an exalted savior to the Gentiles and Jews! A clear picture of Jesus and the Gospel! (see Joseph & Christ).
- Exodus: Begins with Israel treated cruelly and in bondage to Egypt. Ends with them delivered from this oppression through the blood of the Passover Lamb (again, a clear picture of Jesus’ work in dying for our sins)!
- Isaiah: Remarkably, just as the Bible has 66 books, so Isaiah has 66 chapters. Even more, just as the Old Testament has 39 books (and the New Testament 27), so Isaiah has a focus on judgment in its first 39 chapters, and salvation/redemption in its last 27 chapters! On top of this, when the tone switches from judgment to mercy, we see the most amazing prophecies of Jesus (beginning with a “voice crying in the wilderness to prepare the way” for Jesus/God — see Isaiah 40:3 and Mark 1:1-3). After this, we get to Isaiah 53 (often quoted in the New Testament) which spells out that, among other things, “He [Jesus] was pierced for our transgressions,” (Is. 53:5). Again, we see how the Old Testament keeps pointing forward to the startling reality of Jesus and His gospel.
- Daniel: We begin the book with a very low point in Israel’s history: the Babylonian captivity of God’s people (the Jews). But then, 70 years later, after the captivity is finished, we round the end of the book with God showing the exact time when He would send “Messiah the Prince” to, “finish the transgression…put an end to sin…atone for iniquity…” etc. (see Dan. 9). Spoiler alert: This happened exactly as predicted in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Once again, all points toward Jesus and the Gospel!
- Amos: Another example of this pattern is seen in Amos. Israel’s sins were so bad that God has very harsh judgments He is forced to mete out for them. But it culminates in God making “the sun go down at noon” and turning, “your feasts into mourning…like the mourning for an only son…” (Amos 8:9-10). Consider that for a moment. Where else do we see the sun become dark at noon, and a feast turn sad, and the loss of “an only son”? That’s right. This exactly is fulfilled in Jesus’ (God’s only son) crucifixion during the Passover feast.
- Malachi: The last book of the Old Testament. Like the others we looked at, Malachi begins with Israel in a terrible spiritual decline, with lots of sin and judgment. The judgment is so bad that God needs to come to mete out the judgment. How will He do this? “I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple…he [God] will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Mal. 3:1-4:6). Note that the messenger prepares the way for God to come with judgment, and brings repentance and restoration before God comes with judgment. Well…These Scriptures are exactly ascribed to John the Baptist as the messenger preparing the way for Jesus/God (Mark 1:2; Luke 1:17; etc.). So then Jesus was the one who suddenly came, and even entered the temple with haste to judge what Israel was doing (on 2 occasions: at the beginning and end of His ministry: Did Jesus Cleanse the Temple Once or Twice?). And his final time of cleansing the temple is what ultimately led the authorities to put Him on the cross. And this brings the ULTIMATE PLOT TWIST…everything Malachi was foretelling of judgment to come, ended up coming just like He said. Only it fell on Jesus instead of us who deserved it, so that we could be redeemed. What an act of mercy and love!
- In all of this (and more that could be added) we see this picture of God continually pointing forward to this ultimate mercy/redemption after judging his people as sinful and deserving of condemnation. And the details of what this mercy/redemption will look like always and precisely matches JESUS AND THE GOSPEL. The Old Testament is a constant pointing forward to these things.
The New Testament Books Consistently Start by Pointing Back to Jesus and the Gospel
Just as the Old Testament pointed forward to Jesus and the Gospel, so the New Testament books consistently begin by pointing back (to remind and reinforce) the work of Jesus and the Gospel.
- Acts: This gives a history of the first 30 years of the church’s activity after Jesus died, resurrected, and ascended. Most of the focus is on all the preaching that takes place and makes it so, “the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily,” (Acts 19:20). What was the focus of all this preaching? I’m sure you guessed by now: Jesus and the Gospel.
- Romans: The book of Romans is the most complete and thorough diagram of what, exactly, the gospel is. This is the BEGINNING of the book (especially Romans 1-8). It takes until Chapter 12 before he gets into what we would call “life application” lessons.
- 1 Corinthians: We began this article showing that 1 Corinthians emphasizes Jesus and the gospel. Further, it is the beginning of the letter. Even before he gets into, “the matters about which you [the Corinthians] wrote,” (1 Cor. 7:1), he saw it important to FIRST start with teaching and bringing people back to Jesus and the Gospel. Then the “application” follows.
- Galatians: The entire letter of Galatians is an appeal to get the Galatian Christians firmly rooted in the true gospel (and counteract false gospels). Paul starts Galatians spelling this out in great detail, and really doesn’t stop pretty much the whole way through (tackling it from different angles). He leaves some “life application” elements at the end of the letter, but not until he has clearly set forth the gospel plainly.
- Ephesians: The first 3 chapters of Ephesians are a focus on Christ and the Gospel. Then he shows how they ought to walk out this gospel in life and conduct. And even this walking it out only happens by the power of the Spirit indwelling, which is the sign of us truly receiving the gospel (see Eph. 1:13).
- Colossians: In many ways this is a “sister” letter to Ephesians, reiterating the same rhythm and message in a slightly more condensed version. As such, the focus is clearly on Christ and the Gospel from the start. And from there you can walk out this faith by “Christ in you,” (Col. 1:27–i.e. the Holy Spirit indwelling), who is the evidence of your faith and the power behind you walking any holiness out.
- 1 Thessalonians: At the very beginning, Paul calls on them to remember that they are loved and chosen by God. Why? “Because our gospel came to you…” (1 Thes. 1:5). In other words, he gets them to consider again the gospel and their origin in the gospel. And everything flows from there.
- 2 Thessalonians: Like 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians begins with them considering their position in God and the ultimate hope they have in the final judgment (2 Thes. 1:10).
- 1 Timothy: In 1 Timothy, Paul begins by reminding them of his own testimony with the gospel: “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost…” (1 Tim. 1:15). He wants to make sure this gospel is well established amidst false doctrine, and that they will go forward with everything based on this gospel.
- 2 Timothy: like 1 Timothy, Paul begins by reminding of the true gospel (amidst false doctrine) and telling them to guard that. He then goes on in 1 Tim. 2 to more fully establish this gospel, and continues to warn them against side arguments that derail from this gospel.
- Hebrews: The whole point of Hebrews is bringing them back to a true and full trusting of the gospel (and not go back to trusting in Jewish works for salvation).
- 1 Peter: In the beginning of this letter, he explains how they have been born again through receiving this gospel and that this should give them a fixed hope that will then lead them into walking out their faith.
- 2 Peter: At the beginning of this letter, he talks about adding to your faith virtue, and knowledge, etc. So, at first glance, it might seem that it’s not establishing the readers in the gospel first, like other N.T. letters. But then we read, “whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having FORGOTTEN that HE WAS CLEANSED from his former sins,” (2 Pet. 1:9). Did you catch that? You must keep remembering the gospel – that you were cleansed from your sins. Only then will you be able to grow. The pattern of beginning by looking to Jesus and His finished gospel work persists.
- 1 John: Likewise, 1 John begins talking about the blood of Jesus cleansing us from all sin (1 John 1:7). And later, in charting out different stages of Christian development, he begins by reminding, “little children” to make sure they know that their “sins are forgiven” (1 John 2:12).
- Jude: Jude begins by saying that he was hoping to talk about their “common salvation,” but instead wants them to “content for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints,” (Jude 1:3). In other words, the point of Jude was originally going to be a shared understanding of the gospel. But now it’s changed to a defense for the true gospel/faith against false teachers. In either case, Jesus and the gospel still get the focus.
- Revelation: And finally, in the final book of the N.T. (and whole Bible), we are given a revelation of Jesus. In fact, the book begins by a vision of Jesus (Rev. 1). And each of the 7 letters begins by calling people back to a portion of this vision of Jesus (Rev. 2-3). And right before the vision occurs, when we first are reading about who this Jesus is, we are told He is the one who “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,” (Rev. 1:5). And from his finished gospel work, we have become kings and priests (Rev. 1:6). And He persists as the Lamb who was slain throughout the book of Revelation, constantly bringing our attention back to Jesus and The Gospel.
- Believe it or not, I could have shown more! But I hope you can see that this is truly the crux and foundation of all the Bible. Just as the Old Testament pointed forward to what transpires in the gospel, the New Testament points us back to this work. In either case, God is calling our attention to Jesus and The Gospel / “Him Crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). And much of the rest of the Bible is unpacking the meaning and depth and application of Jesus and the Gospel. All is gain when we keep our vision there. All is loss when we don’t.
Christ and the Gospel = The Only Foundation
As we’ve seen thus far, the Person and Work of Jesus is the focus and aim of all Scripture.
It is not just a thing to check off that you know. It is a thing to focus on and know deeper and wider.
Further, it is Jesus and the Gospel which lays a foundation for us upon which anything else we build must stand. In fact, after Paul declares to the Corinthians that he only wants to know Jesus and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). He tells them:
No one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.1 Cor. 3:11
And, from the whole context of 1 Corinthians, Paul doesn’t just mean Jesus detached from the Gospel. But, in actuality, the foundation is Jesus AND the gospel (1 Cor. 2:2; 15:1-4; etc.).
It is true that a foundation is not the whole house. There is more to build on the house. But every SINGLE thing you build from there will all rest entirely on that foundation. It will all derive from that foundation. And anything that you try to build without first well-establishing that foundation will be on shifting sand.
This is why the Bible tells us things like:
- Only those focused on the forgiveness Jesus gave at the gospel can forgive others (Matt. 18)
- Knowing how much you are forgiven directly impacts your ability to love (Luke 7)
- We can be reconciled with others because we look back at the work of the gospel (Eph. 3)
- We can be generous because we first see that Christ gave up all his wealth to die a sinners death (2 Cor. 8-9)
- We can consider others as worthy of our time and love because Christ did that to sinners like us (Phil. 2)
- We can be zealous for sexual purity because God lives in us (and therefore lays claim on our bodies) as a result of us receiving the gospel (1 Cor. 6-7)
- We can love and respect husbands and wives because we see what Christ did for His church (his bride) in the gospel (Eph. 5)
- We can suffer injustice nobly by looking to how Jesus suffered when He unjustly was crucified (1 Pet. 2)
- We don’t grow in virtue, knowledge, love, etc. because our eyes have left the gospel (2 Pet. 1)
- And on and on and on and on….
I hope you see this. This is why it’s important for Paul to wait 11 chapters before going into how to walk out our faith in Romans 12. It becomes empty and powerless and completely missing the point if it does not derive clearly from the gospel.
TRULY, we must ALL seek (like Paul) to know nothing except “Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).
That is: Christ & the Gospel is THE POINT.