What is the Gospel? There is perhaps no clearer explanation of the gospel than in these first four chapters of Paul’s epistle to the Roman’s.
Pastor and author Greg Gilbert suggests that we need to ask 4 crucial questions:
1. Who made us, and to whom are we accountable?
2. What is our problem? In other words, are we in trouble and why?
3. What is God’s solution to that problem? How has he acted to save us from it?
4. How do I – myself, right here, right now – how do I come to be included in that salvation? What makes this good news for me and not just for someone else?
If we wanted to give the simplest, most basic definition to this question, we would answer that the gospel is “the good news of Jesus Christ.” There is no greater “news” in the world than the news of Jesus and his redeeming work. However, that answer in itself, provokes the kind of questions that Gilbert asked. That is why it is more beneficial to do an in-depth study (such as Romans 1-4) than to simply give a John 3:16 kind of answer.
Paul writes in Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” This answers the question of who we are accountable to: God. The creator God will hold us accountable and judge us for how we lived here on earth. The world tells us that we are accountable to no one, but the Bible tells us that we are accountable to Almighty God. Who are you going to believe?
A few verses down starting at verse 21, Paul answers the second question for us. “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him……Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling moral man and birds and animals and reptiles.” Essentially, our problem in life is that our worship has been fatally misdirected. Instead of worshiping the eternal God, we worship His creation (especially ourselves) in place of Him. In short, every human being is a sinner and Paul hammers this home in Romans 3:9-20.
Admittedly, the answers to the first two questions don’t seem like “good news” but questions 3-4 give us the news we are looking for. Without the foundation that the first two questions provide, we would never understand the last two questions.
Following his devastating critique of the human condition, Paul writes in 3:21, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law.” Then is verses 24-25, he explains that we “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” So God’s solution to humanity’s sin is the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus! Praise God for what He has done through His Son!
Finally, concerning the question of how can we be included in that salvation, although clearly answered in chapter 3, I want to look at what Paul writes in chapter 4 and verses 4-5. “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift, but as his due. And the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his “faith” is counted as righteousness.” This salvation can never be earned or worked for, with us thinking that our own righteousness might one day be enough. This salvation is a gift that must be received by “believing” in Jesus Christ and repenting of our sin. We must receive his righteousness because our righteousness could never be enough when we stand before a Holy and Just God. This is why we speak of God’s amazing grace. In the words of Hymn writer Philip Bliss, “Hallelujah, what a Savior!”