What is the Gospel? - Lesson 1

Introduction to What is the Gospel

In this lesson, you delve into the meaning and importance of the gospel, exploring its historical context, key components, and implications for Christian living. You examine the gospel's etymology, its roots in the Old Testament, and its fulfillment in the New Testament. By understanding the nature of God's character, human sinfulness, and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, you gain a deeper appreciation for the gospel message. Additionally, you learn how faith, repentance, and salvation shape personal transformation, community relationships, and the call to evangelism.
Marc Cortez
What is the Gospel?
Lesson 1
Watching Now
Introduction to What is the Gospel

I. The Gospel: Definition and Importance

A. Etymology and Meaning

B. Central to Christianity

II. Historical Context of the Gospel

A. Old Testament Background

B. New Testament Revelation

III. Components of the Gospel Message

A. God's Character and Holiness

B. Human Sinfulness and Need for Redemption

C. Jesus Christ: Life, Death, and Resurrection

D. Faith, Repentance, and Salvation

IV. Implications of the Gospel for Christian Living

A. Personal Transformation

B. Community and Relationships

C. Evangelism and Social Impact

  • Through this lesson, you gain a comprehensive understanding of the gospel's significance, its historical context, essential components, and implications for Christian life and relationships.
  • Through this lesson, you'll understand the importance of Creation, the biblical account in Genesis, the Fall's consequences, and the Gospel's role in restoring creation.
  • By studying this lesson, you learn about the biblical perspective on sin, its origins, effects on human nature and society, and the restorative power of the Gospel message.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into God's faithfulness in both the Old and New Testaments, from covenant relationships with Israel to the fulfillment of promises in Jesus Christ, guiding your life and encouraging others.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into Jesus as the Messiah, His fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, and the profound impact of His life and ministry on humanity's salvation.
  • Through this lesson, you gain a thorough understanding of the atonement, its theories, biblical basis, and practical implications for personal salvation and spiritual growth.
  • In this lesson, you gain a comprehensive understanding of the Gospel, its power in salvation, and its implications in your life, emphasizing the balance between God's sovereignty and human responsibility.
  • Through this lesson, you'll learn how the Gospel shapes all aspects of life, from personal relationships to societal issues, and fosters spiritual growth, ultimately guiding your approach to evangelism and social justice.
  • This lesson equips you to recognize and address challenges to the gospel, including pluralism, relativism, and secularism, and offers biblical guidance for defending your faith.
  • Through this lesson, you learn effective strategies for communicating the Gospel, addressing objections, and building bridges between your message and your audience.

This course is designed to help believers reconsider their understanding of the Gospel. What is the Gospel? How is the Gospel related to the eternal plan of God? What does the Gospel mean to each believer today? Dr. Cortez answers these and other critical questions.

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What Is the Gospel?

Dr. Marc Cortez
What is the Gospel?
Introduction to What is the Gospel
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:01] The following lecture is provided by biblical training. More information is available at WW w dot Biblical training dot org. Welcome to the first lesson in our series on what is the gospel. We're going to be building most of this series off of Romans 116, for I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes really our goal during this course is going to be to wrestle with that verse and why it is that Paul thinks the gospel is so incredibly important. Well, why is the gospel such a significant part of salvation? What does it have to do with salvation? What is salvation, for that matter? Why does Paul think the Gospel is so significant that he wants to declare at the beginning of his letter to Romans that he is not ashamed of it? What is the power of the Gospel and why should we care? Those are the issues that we're going to wrestle with over the course of the next ten lessons as we seek to really understand what the gospel is and why Paul thinks that we need to understand it. We're not going to completely deal with all of the issues that would need to be raised for a full understanding of what Paul thinks the gospel it is and how it relates to the Christian life. But we will hope to raise most of the important issues and begin to get a sense for what these things are and why we need to understand them. Now before we really get going on this, we want to ask an important question at the very beginning. That, of course, is why do you need this course? And now I think for most of us, two reasons will typically come to mind as we try to understand why it is that we need this course for many people.

[00:01:46] We think, well, of course, if I'm a new Christian, if I'm relatively early in my Christian journey, of course I need to understand what the gospel is. I need to understand what it is that I believe, why I believe it, what it is to be a Christian, and what the gospel has to do with that. So most of us will quickly resonate with the idea that new Christians need to take some time to reflect on and understand what the gospel is. Others of us will think, Well, I need to understand the gospel because I want to be involved in evangelism. I need to understand the gospel because I want to communicate the gospel to other people. So my purpose for taking this course is really to come to an understanding of the gospel. A clarity in my understanding of the Gospel so that I can clearly present it to other people. So for many of us, as we think through why do we need a course like this, it's it will be because we think it's important for new Christians or it's important for evangelism. And those are both great reasons. If you are taking this class for either of those two reasons, I want to encourage you that by the time you reach the end of this course, you will have generated a better understanding of the Gospel for new Christians and a better understanding the Gospel to communicate to others. But I would like to suggest that there is at least a third reason for taking a course like this. There are two other really important reasons that I think even people who maybe have been Christians for quite some time need to work on how it is that we understand the gospel.

[00:03:18] The first reason that I think this is important is because many of us who are Christians think that the gospel is really just for the beginning of the Christian life. So we have a sense that the gospel is really like the ticket that you use to get in to a theme park. So if I take my family to Disneyland, we will purchase a ticket and we'll need that ticket when we come to the gate of Disneyland. And when we arrive at the gate, we'll hand our ticket over to the person at the gate. They'll take our ticket and we'll get into Disneyland. And that's a great thing because there are lots of really fun things to do in Disneyland, and we tend to think the Christian life is really all about the fun things that are in Disneyland. All the benefits of being a Christian and the gospel is the ticket that allows us entrance into the Christian life. The gospel is just that thing that we need at the front door. And once we're done with that ticket, we maybe get a ticket stub, and once we're done, we can take that ticket stub and we can put it in our pockets and we can move on to the Christian life. And we really don't need that ticket anymore because we're in the theme park. We're in the Christian life. Well, the problem is that the gospel doesn't function that way at all. A much better analogy would be to think of the gospel as the key to a car. You know the key to a car. You also need to get into the car. And there are lots of great things inside the car that you need the key to access. So you do need the key to open the door and get into the car.

[00:04:52] But that's clearly not all that the key was used for. And there's no point in getting into the car if you're not going to use the key to start the car. So there's no point in sitting you taking that key, putting it in your pocket and just sitting in the car, unless you like my four year old daughter who loves to get in the car, sit in the car and fiddle with all the knobs and. That doesn't actually do anything until I get in the car. Unless you like that, you need to take the key out of your pocket, stick it in the ignition and start the car so that the car can go on to do all of the things that a car is supposed to do. That really is a much more acceptable analogy for the gospel. The gospel isn't just about getting into the car. The gospel is really about understanding the whole car and making the car function the way that it was supposed to. If we're taking the gospel and putting it in our pockets after we become Christians and never really thinking about what the gospel has to do with us as Christians, we're missing so much of what the gospel is and what the gospel was intended to be for us. So the gospel is central to the Christian life. In Galatians one six, Paul's writing to the Christians in Galatia, and he's concerned that the Galatians have deserted God and are pursuing a different gospel. That's an amazing statement that Christians would actually abandon the gospel and pursue a different gospel. Well, so what is it that he's concerned about? Is he afraid that they are trying to be saved by works? Is he concerned that they are trying to be saved by doing good things or giving money or obeying laws? Is that the different gospel he's worried about? No, not at all.

[00:06:40] The different gospel that Paul is concerned about is that the Galatians have become Christians through the gospel, but they are not seeking to live as Christians through the gospel. They've taken the gospel and placed it in their pockets and they're pursuing the Christian life by works in law and rules and regulations. And they've abandoned the gospel as fundamental, integral and central to the Christian life. So Paul wants us to understand that the gospel is not just a ticket. The gospel is much more the key that makes the Christian life be all that God intended for it to be. So when Paul writes back in Romans that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation, that's absolutely true. But he has a much bigger picture of what salvation means. He doesn't mean salvation just as becoming a Christian. When Paul talks about salvation, he means salvation as being a Christian. It's why when Paul talks about salvation through the New Testament, he can talk about Christians as having been saved, being saved, and will be saved. Salvation for Paul is all of it, and he wants us to understand that the Gospel is the power for salvation. When we became Christian, salvation for being Christian and salvation for all that God has intended in store for us. The Gospel is central to all of it. So the first reason that we as Christians need to understand the gospel is because we sometimes fail to appreciate the fact that the gospel is central to all of Christian life. There's a second reason as well, though, and the second reason is that we don't always appreciate all of the gospel. So the first reason is we don't appreciate the gospels impact on all of life. The second reason is that we don't always appreciate all of the gospel itself.

[00:08:41] So if we think about what the term gospel means, the UN jelly on it just means good news. But that, of course, leaves us with the question of So what's the good news and what is this great news that we are declaring as Christians? Well, the typical gospel presentation, if you ask many Christians, what exactly is the gospel? The typical gospel presentation for many Christians is run something like this. God loves you and wants the best for you. But the problem is, is that you have sinned. You have broken the relationship that God intended to have for you, and you've fallen into a sinful state and you can't fix the problem. Okay. There's now a gap that has a gap that has arisen between you and God. And you can't cross that gap because sin has separated you from God. So God sends Jesus to bridge the gap so that you can receive the gift of forgiveness that God offers you through the cross. And if you receive that gift of forgiveness, you can live with God forever. That probably sounds familiar to many of you. That's a very common way of unpacking and explaining the gospel. And that is tremendous news. The good news that even though I have sinned and separated myself from God by my sin, God still loves me and bridges the gap, offering me forgiveness that I can live with him forever. That's outstanding news. That's something to get excited about and be encouraged by. That is good news. But it's not all of the good news. Indeed, in many ways, that story doesn't even offer some of the most central parts of the good news is that at the very least, the story, as I have just unpacked it misplaced, is the focus of the story.

[00:10:41] If you think through the story that I just relayed to you, the focus of the story is entirely on me. I have sinned. I have separated myself from God. I am separated so that God needs to bridge the gap to me so that I can be forgiven and saved. Those are all true statements, but the focus is entirely wrong. The good news that God wants us to know about isn't about me. And the good news isn't about you. The good news is about God. God is the central character, the central feature, the central aspect of the gospel. This is his story, and the traditional gospel presentation misses that. And it makes me the center of the story. And as much as I would like to be the center of this story, I'm not. So we need to really learn, re understand, re articulate the gospel in such a way that God becomes its focus and God becomes the central character. Only once in the entire Bible does the Bible describe the Gospel as the gospel of your salvation. But it refers to the Gospel as either the Gospel of Jesus Christ or the Gospel of God. 20 different times. It's clear that, according to the biblical authors, this is a story about God. It's not a story about me. A second problem with the story that I've just told you is that it really narrows the scope of salvation if you think about what salvation accomplishes. In the story that I've just told you. It really accomplishes the salvation of an individual. Me or I guess as I told the story, you. And again, that's great news in the fact that I can be saved or that you can be saved is outstanding news. But the gospel is so much bigger than that.

[00:12:42] As we go back and look through and really come to appreciate the story of the gospel in its fullness will see that the gospel isn't just about me and you. The gospel is about everything. God has a plan for all of creation that runs from the very beginning in Genesis, all the way through the very end in Revelation. God has a scope to His good news that is all encompassing, and we need to appreciate that if we really want to see why it is that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation. Third, the story that I've just told you really limits the results that are involved. And not only does it limit the focus to me and it limited the scope to me, but it limits the results. If you think back to the story that I just told you, what is it that is offered to me and the gospel and its forgiveness and in the end, the gospel story, God bridges the gap of sin so that He can offer me forgiveness for my sins. Well, that's good news. A forgiveness is a good thing, but all by itself, forgiveness is inadequate. Forgiveness is not everything that I need. The problem is that sin runs so much deeper than we often appreciate. Me Give you an example. Suppose that I went home this evening and I know this is of course, total speculation. I would never do this. But suppose I went home this evening and I yelled at my wife and good possibility that in doing so I'm going to create a gap between my wife and I. There's going to be some separation between us. If I were to go home to her tonight and just yell at her.

[00:14:33] And alienation has taken place. There's been a sin and a break in the relationship. If a couple of hours later, my wife came up to me and said, You know what? I forgive you. I forgive you for your anger. I forgive you for the inappropriateness of your behavior. I forgive you for breaking really trust and faith. I forgive you for all of that. That's good news. If my wife is gracious to extend forgiveness to me like that, that is really good news. But what if I changed the story slightly? What if when I went home and yelled at my wife that behavior was actually the result of the fact that I had been out drinking before that? And let's press on it even a little bit further. And let's say that I have a problem with alcohol. Say, I'm an alcoholic. I have an addiction to a substance that when I drink that substance, it leads to completely inappropriate behavior like that, so that when I come home drunk, I yell at my wife. Now, when my wife comes to me a couple of hours later and she says that she forgives me for yelling at her, that's still good news. It's still amazing that my wife is that gracious. But it doesn't fix the problem. I'm still broken. I am still locked in this bondage. I'm still stuck in my addiction. I'm broken. The forgiveness is outstanding. But there's no change that results from that. There's nothing that says I'm going to go on and be a different person or live a new life. I'm still broken. If forgiveness leaves me broken, then forgiveness is inadequate. I need more than that because my problem runs deeper than that. And the gospel story, the way that it's often unpacked, is unfortunate because it really limits the results.

[00:16:39] It leaves me forgiven, but not fixed. And we need a gospel story that recognizes that God wants to do so much more for us than that God wants the results of forgiveness to extend much further than that. We even miss, at times the pieces of the gospel itself when we read the Gospel in the Bible. If we were to look at a very common gospel presentation, Paul gives us in first Corinthians 15 versus one through four, he says, Now I would remind you, brothers of the gospel I preach to you which you received, in which you stand by which you were being saved. If you hold fast to the word I preach to you, unless you believe in vain. For I delivered to you as a first importance what I also received that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures that He was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. So we've probably heard that summary of the Gospel many times. But I think there are pieces in that summary that we often miss. Really, what is the gospel? Therefore, the gospel is there for all of life. Notice the way Paul explains it, it's the gospel in which you stand. It's not just the gospel that the Corinthians had received in their past at the beginning of their Christian journey. It's the gospel in which they are currently standing, standing, dwelling. They're rooted in the gospel. It's a gospel that is foundational to their way of life. And even in this quick summary here, we have an affirmation that the gospel is not that ticket. The gospel is something that should be about all of the Christian life. And we often missed that because we read a passage like that through the lens provided by that story that I just told you.

[00:18:32] And it's a limited story that causes us to neglect elements of the gospel like that. Another one, What is the gospel about? Many of us will quickly notice in First Corinthians 15 that Paul talks about issues of sin and death. But do you notice that he also talks about resurrection and life? As a matter of fact. This passage stands at the beginning of an entire chapter where Paul's whole focus is on the importance of resurrection and life for the Gospel. Paul is very much aware that if the gospel just deals with sin and death, we have a problem because we need the transformation through resurrection in life that will really fix the problem. And so if we don't put on different spectacles for understanding the gospel, we can even read something like Paul unpacking the gospel for us and miss things. Where do we learn about the gospel? Where do we learn about the gospel? Well, for most of us, that's an easy question. If you want to learn about the gospel. You open to the New Testament, maybe you open to the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Maybe you open to Paul. But if you want, understand the good news about Jesus Christ. Of course you look in the New Testament because we have the birth of Jesus Christ and beginning the New Testament. So if we want the good news of Jesus Christ, we begin with the New Testament. Where does Paul look in first Corinthians 15 when he wants to talk about the gospel? Well, he says that it's according to the scriptures, and when Paul's writing the Scriptures or the Old Testament, Paul's saying that he affirms all of these things about the significance of the gospel for all of life, the importance of resurrection in life, for understanding the gospel, the central city of the Gospel, for what he wants the Corinthians to grasp.

[00:20:26] All of that is grounded in the Old Testament. Paul saying, If we really want to appreciate the good news that Jesus brings to us, we need to read it according to the Scriptures. We need to understand the Old Testament as really providing the information that we need so that when we get to the good news about Jesus Christ will understand why it's such good news. So we have these two other reasons for taking a course like this, really trying to understand the gospel with our first two, of course, were, If you're a new Christian, you need to understand the gospel, or if you want to evangelize better, you need to understand the gospel. But we had these two additional reasons because we need to stop thinking about the gospel as just for the beginning of the Christian life. And because we need to come to a better appreciation for all of the Gospel, everything that God tells us about the good news of what it is that He is doing from Genesis through Revelation. So I think there are good reasons for new Christians and mature Christians to take some time and reflect seriously on what is the good news, what is this power of God for salvation that Paul so boldly proclaims and so desperately wants us to understand that really is going to be our task now. And of course, unpacking all of that is going to take some time. It will indeed. It will take us from Genesis all the way through Revelation. Let me offer here at the beginning a preliminary definition of the gospel, something just to get the ball rolling and get us started that we can pursue in subsequent sessions together. Let me suggest that we can start with the Gospel.

[00:22:19] Is the good news that through Jesus Christ, God has accomplished all that is ultimately necessary to bring about His glorious plan to manifest His glory in and among his people throughout his good creation, and that through faith in the grace of God, you and I can participate in that glorious plan as we are brought to the father in the Son through the power of the Spirit. I realize there's an awful lot in that definition, and really it will take us much of the rest of the series to unpack the different pieces of that so that we can come to appreciate the gospel in a much more complete sense. Certainly not in its ultimate sense. In many ways, we will spend the rest of our Christian lives. I think we'll spend the rest of eternity understanding the gospel in all of its significance. Notice in this preliminary definition, though, a couple of things to highlight a First, this definition is focused on God in Christ. Remember, God is the center of the story. God is the one this story is about. So our definition needs to focus on God from the very beginning. We also want to notice that this definition emphasizes that ultimately this has already been accomplished. So we get a little bit later in the series, we're going to unpack the importance of recognizing that all that is ultimately necessary in the Gospel has already been accomplished by God in Christ Jesus. We will absolutely have a role to play and we will talk about that. But we want to put our focus on God and on what has already been accomplished as what is most important for understanding the gospel. The definition also highlights God's glorious plan for his people and for all of creation.

[00:24:20] And we're going to talk a lot about what God's plan is. What was it that God was doing when He made things in the first place? Where is God taking everything all the way through to the end? Why doesn't God just squish us when we said it's because God has a plan? He has a design. God has been about accomplishing something from the very beginning, all the way through to the very end. And understanding the gospel will be partly about coming to appreciate God's plans in his purposes a little bit better. And of course, our understanding of the gospel needs to emphasize the fact, the wonderful, glorious fact that you and I can participate in this plan, this purpose that God has for all of creation by grace, through faith. And we'll spend some time talking about that. What does this gospel story have to do with me? What does it have to do with you? How do we come to participate in this? Why is this such amazingly good news? So we'll work through this definition as we progress through the different parts of this series together. Let me offer you in conclusion one last reason that I think understanding the gospel is supremely important. It's because the gospel is central to Christian worship in many ways. But if by the time you're done with this course, my hope, my earnest hope and desire is that you will walk into church on Sunday or Saturday or whenever it is that you regularly worship with your church, that you will walk into your church and you will worship better. As you come to appreciate God's grace and all that God has done for you and for all of creation in Jesus, all that the Gospel means that you will bring that with you into church, that you will stand, sit, kneel before God and worship with a deepened awareness.

[00:26:11] A deepened appreciation and overwhelming are for all that God has done. And you will worship better as you come to understand the Gospel, because the gospel is central to worship because the gospel is all about who God is. The gospel is all about who God is and what He has done for us. And how can that not lead to a better and deeper worship of our Almighty Creator and Savior? So as a last reason here, in conclusion, we need to understand the Gospel because the gospel will transform our worship lives. I hope that by now you've gotten a sense of understanding why the Gospel is absolutely important for all Christians. It's important for you to understand. It's important for me to understand how we're beginning to get a sense for why we need to take time, I think regularly in our Christian lives to remind ourselves of what the gospel is so that we carry that with us continually, that we resist the urge to put the gospel in our pocket, that we take it out regularly and reexamine it so that we can be overwhelmed by an understanding of who God is and what He has done for us so that we can walk more faithfully with him, so that we can declare the gospel to others more clearly and more effectively. For all of those reasons, it's worth our time to spend some time together reflecting on the nature of the gospel, and we will do that together over the next several lessons. Thank you for listening to this lecture brought to you by biblical training, dawg. Feel free to make copies of this lecture to give to others, but please do not charge for these copies or alter the content in any way without permission.

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