Stage 1

The Gospel

The Gospel means "the good news." It is not like any religion or philosophy in the world. Many religions teach people to be good. But the Gospel is different: it focuses through a single person, Jesus. This can be a stumbling block to some people.

"...but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called...Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" 1 Corinthians 1:22-24.
To understand how the Gospel works and why it focuses solely through Jesus Christ, we need first to understand the human predicament. To appreciate the good news, we first need to know the bad news.

In the Beginning

When God created the first man and woman, He tailor-made them for His presence. They were totally God-centered, God-conscious and God-dependent. But there was one part of God's creation that had rebelled against God - an angel that we now know as Satan (Revelation 12:9; Ezekiel 28:12-19). He tempted Adam and Eve to rebel in the same way he had (1 Timothy 3:6).
"'You will not surely die,' the serpent said to the woman. 'For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil'" Genesis 3:4-5.
Satan's temptation was not just to eat of forbidden fruit. It was for Adam and Eve to rebel against God's command and set themselves up as the god of their lives. When they sinned, they became self-centered, self-conscious and self-dependent. From that time on, self became the center of everything. The "knowledge of good and evil" - of rights and wrongs - became the basis of human life. Sin had cut mankind off from God.
"...sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned." Rom.5:12.
All the generations following Adam have inherited Adam's fallen nature (2 Timothy 3:2-5). All have come under the power and dominion of Satan (1 John 5:19). Because of sin, we were also under God's judgment (Romans 1:18-31). We were "objects of wrath," waiting for the verdict to be passed (Ephesians 2:1-3). There was no way we could help ourselves because even the best of us fell far short of God's glorious standard (read Romans 3:10-12,23).
"All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away" Isaiah 64:6.

The Good News

"When we were utterly helpless with no way of escape, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners" Romans 5:6 (TLB).
The good news of the Gospel is that God sent Jesus to take our judgment for us. If there was any other way to save us, God would not have sent His Son to suffer the agony of the Cross. But there was no other way. We were not only sinners, but powerless sinners - powerless to save ourselves or change ourselves. And so Jesus became for us everything that we could not be. He didn't just save us. He became salvation for us. This is the essence of the Gospel message.
"It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption" 1 Corinthians 1:30.

The Power of the Gospel

"...the gospel...is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" Romans 1:16.
The Gospel is the salvation of God in action. It describes how we enter into God's salvation and how that salvation continues to work in our lives.
"For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith'" Romans 1:17.
This verse reveals three things about the Gospel:

It is from God

The Gospel reveals a righteousness which is "from God." These two words summarize the whole orientation of the Gospel. It is a God-to-you direction, not the other way around. The Gospel sets the compass-needle of our lives to a "from-God" bearing, not a "from-me" bearing. The Gospel returns our lives to the orientation that God created us for.
"...yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live" 1 Corinthians 8:6 (see also 2 Corinthians 5:17-18; Romans 11:36).

It is by faith

The Gospel reveals the way we receive this gift of righteousness - "by faith" (Philippians 3:8-9). God has designed the Christian life in such a way that as we release our faith toward God, He releases His power to work in our lives. It is faith that reverses the original rebellion and returns our life to God-centeredness, God-consciousness and God-dependence. This faith sets the pace for the rest of our life in Christ.
"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" Hebrews 11:6 (see also 4:2).

It is from first to last

The Gospel embraces the whole Christian life from start to finish. We begin as a Christian by faith in the saving power of God and we live as a Christian by faith in that same saving power. The Gospel does two things: Satan works hard to deceive Christians into thinking that after receiving the Lord, we must try to live the Christian life in our own strength (read Galatians 3:1-3). But self-effort puts us back into self-centredness. No, the Christian life is all by faith and all by grace. The Gospel is a "from first to last" experience.
"...All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth" Colossians 1:6.


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