The Gospel of Grace

Why We Need the Gospel

The gospel addresses the most serious problem every person faces: God is righteous and I am not; God is just and I am guilty. 

Scripture teaches that like sheep we have all gone astray, each of us has gone our own way (Isaiah 53:6). In other words, we’ve all sinned. We stand before a holy and just God clothed in the filthy garments of our sin.

The gospel is the answer to this problem. God  so loved the world that he gave his Son, Jesus Christ. Because of what Jesus has done, in his perfect life and death on the cross, and not because of anything we have done, we can stand before God forgiven and accepted.

What Is the Gospel?

Gospel simply means “good news.” At the heart of the gospel is the good news of how God sent his only Son into the world to save sinners from the guilt and power of sin (1 Timothy 1:15).

1. The gospel declares there is one God who created heaven and earth. Part of the biblical gospel is the truth that there is one God who made all things (Acts 14:15). That’s good news because this same God who made the heavens and the earth wants us to know him not only as  Creator but also as our heavenly Father. Because God made us, we are not an incidental and accidental product of time and chance. We were created for a purpose. This truth also means that because God made us, we are accountable to him.

2. The gospel announces God’s sovereign rule. Sin brought death and misery into the world, but sin does not get the last word. Embedded in the gospel message is the announcement that God reigns (Isaiah 52:7); even over sin and death, God reigns!

3. The gospel proclaims a double exchange. Paul explains this double exchange in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” In other words,  God counted our sins against Christ so that his perfect righteousness might be credited to us.

Let’s unpack this double exchange. First, Jesus lived a sinless life, yet our sin was credited to him so that Christ  was treated like a sinner; the righteous stood in the place of the unrighteous. God’s judgment against our sin fell upon Jesus because he was punished for our transgressions (Isaiah 53:8). While he was personally guiltless, he stood in the place of the guilty. That’s the first exchange. But not only did Jesus take our sin and endure God’s wrath, he also gives his people an amazing gift – his perfect righteousness. Jesus was born under the law and he lived a perfect life.  Jesus alone can stand in the presence of a holy and just God. But because of Jesus, we too can be welcomed into God’s presence. By grace alone, through faith in Christ, not only is our sin forgiven, we are also given Jesus’ perfect record with the Father. This second exchange means that instead of knowing God’s just judgment, we can know heaven’s joys.

In short, what was ours – sin and its penalty – became his. And what is his – perfect righteousness and the Father’s love and blessing – becomes ours when we trust in Jesus.

4. The gospel calls for a response. The gospel is a message which must be understood, embraced, and believed. Jesus is the central message of the gospel, and Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). No one gets to the Father except through Jesus. The gospel is amazing news, but this message implores us to respond in faith and repentance.

5. The gospel heralds a returning King. God has appointed a day when Jesus will return to make a new heavens and new earth. While the gospel tells us how we can personally have the hope of eternal life, it also tells us about the joys of a new creation. When Christ returns, he will fully establish a new kingdom where there is no more sin, no more sickness, no more suffering, and no more death. Every injustice will cease. Every  wrong will be made right. Those who belong to Jesus will be welcomed into that kingdom, where they will glorify and enjoy God forever.

What Is a Christian?

1. A Christian is awakened to danger of sin and the righteous character of God. Sin is contrary to God’s nature and sin is rebellion against God. God’s righteous reflex against any sin is judgment. His character requires that sin not be overlooked (Exodus 34:5-7). We are all accountable to God because he made us and we’ve all sinned and therefore are worthy of God’s displeasure (Romans 3:23; 6:23). But God, being rich in mercy, deals with our sin in Christ. The Christian sees the mercy of God on full display in Jesus, and he turns from his sin and runs to Christ for saving mercy. The Bible calls this repentance.

2. A Christian trusts in Jesus as Savior and Lord for salvation. What must you do to be saved? Answer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). That is the briefest biblical description of what it means to be a Christian but it’s packed with meaning. Jesus came to save his people from their sins; that is what his name means (Matthew 1:21)! Trusting in Jesus as Savior means relying on Jesus alone to save you from your sin. The Bible calls this faith.  

What about believing in Jesus as Lord? The true Christian also bows before Jesus, acknowledging him as Lord over everything. Because he is Lord, Jesus becomes the central focus of the Christian’s entire life. So a true Christian trusts in Jesus alone to save him from his sin and he confesses Jesus is the Lord of his life.

3. A Christian is a disciple. A disciple is someone who learns as an apprentice. Just as an apprentice learns a trade, a disciple learns from Jesus and strives to do all that he commanded (Matthew 28:20). Christian discipleship is more than merely learning information; it’s about embracing the teaching of Jesus and applying it to the whole of one’s life. The goal of discipleship is to learn more about God and become more like Jesus (Mt 10:25). While remaining imperfect in this life, the Christian more and more, by God’s grace, resembles the Lord Jesus (Rom 8:29). The Bible calls this lifelong process sanctification.

How Do I Become a Christian?

Some people think  being a Christian means going to church. Others may think they are Christians because they come from a Christian family. Still others may think they are Christians because they try to do good works. While these are all good things, they are not what makes you a Christian. Attending church, having a Christian family, and doing good works can never make you a Christian.

Actually, becoming a Christian on your own is impossible. To be a Christian you need a new heart. The heart is the Bible’s way of talking about the part  of us that governs our choices and affections. The condition of our hearts determines what we will choose and love. But sin has corrupted every human heart, leaving us totally helpless to save ourselves. The universal sinfulness of the human heart is why Paul can say, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:10-11).

Giving yourself a new spiritual heart would be like trying to perform your own heart transplant—it’s impossible. You can’t do it, but God can. In fact, he loves to do it.

So how do you become a Christian? It begins by seeing your desperate need for a changed heart. Cry out to God to take away your heart of stone and give you a new heart. Ask him to enable you to believe in his Son, Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of sins. Ask him to cover you in the perfect righteousness of Christ. Pray for a heart that loves what God loves. You become a Christian by casting yourself at the feet of a God who loves to show mercy. Run to him. Seek him while he may be found; today is the day of salvation. Whoever comes to him, he will never cast out (John 6:37).

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-- every one-- to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

-          Isaiah 53:4-6