The word gospel literally means “good news” and comes from the Greek word euaggelion, from which we get the English words evangelism and evangelical.
The gospel was first delivered to the apostles and is now of “first importance” to the people of God (1 Cor. 15:1–9). The early Christians considered it an honor and a blessing to receive and share the gospel, as it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Rom. 10:15). Because of their great love of God and their fellow men, those blessed feet went everywhere for the sake of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:22–23). From the top of the mountain, the evangelist comes, down to the world that is still in the dark, with a word on his lips and a letter in his hand, holding onto the truth that brings light to us all. Even in the face of death, he will not stop because even that is gain when he serves Christ (Phil. 1:21).
Now, for someone to sacrifice that much for the sake of the gospel, certainly, it has to be truly good news, which it is. This message is the power of God onto salvation (Rom. 1:16). Now, the next question becomes, what is salvation? What are we saved from?
Specifically, God’s wrath.
The God of Righteousness
Why is God angry? Because he is the God of justice and man has violated his Law. Unlike all of the fallen men and judges in the courtrooms of earth, God who is in the courtroom of heaven cannot be deceived, persuaded, or bribed, as he knows about all the evil man has done, and he loathes injustice and abhors judges who let the guilty go free:
He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.Proverbs 17:15 ESV
Because of God’s demand for absolute righteousness, he will never pardon a sinful criminal who was nice to certain people by doing philanthropy. God is judging him for his transgressions, not conducting a job interview. When you meet God on judgment day, he will be there as your judge, not as the prospective employer of heaven.
Although it might sound harsh, it is truly a good thing because it means that no evil will ever go unpunished. If someone killed your closest friend, would you like the judge to simply let the murderer go free since he had been nice to his mother? Obviously not. Now, if he cannot go free, why should you go free? Is it because your crime is less serious than his? Says who? You?
The Standard of God
God doesn’t follow your standard; he follows his own perfect standard, his Holy Law which he has graciously bestowed upon the world, by sharing it with Moses and Israel on Mount Sinai and by writing it on man’s heart, his conscience (Ex. 20; Rom. 2:14). Since everyone has violated their conscience, obviously, there are no valid excuses — not that it stops man from trying to excuse himself. Regardless of how much he whines while he tries to shift the blame over onto someone else who oppressed him, such pettiness will never excuse his own transgressions. Even if someone else has been evil to him, that doesn’t give him permission to be evil. Evil is evil!
There is no such thing as a white lie or a little sin. As Jesus himself said, these evil things are all coming out of your corrupt heart, as every wicked act continues to defile you:
For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.Mark 7:21–23 ESV
Clearly, everyone has sinned by violating the holy Law of God and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Nobody is righteous, no, not one (Rom. 3:10). Everyone is guilty. Like criminals being led to their final courtroom, we were sinners being led to judgment and death, as every day and second of our fleeting life brings us one moment closer to the inevitable date when we all have to stand before God in his ultimate courtroom, doomed to spend eternity in jail once the gavel goes down for the final time, lost forever in the endless abyss, hell.
The Great Paradox of Scripture
Perhaps you will object: “Where is the good news? This only sounds like bad news!”
Yes, indeed, it is terrible news for us — at first. That leads us to the great paradox of the Bible. The Lord, Yahweh, summarized it best when he said:
The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.Exodus 34:6–7
These sound like contrary statements, don’t they? How can God forgive “iniquity, transgression, and sin” while simultaneously being a God who “will be no means clear the guilty”?
That is where the cross comes in. The Lord’s work on the cross is at the center of both our universe and history, the ultimate intersection where God’s justice met God’s love, manifesting his majestic nature and glory to all of creation. To save men from the consequences of their own sinful actions, God offered to pay the price (John 3:16).
On The Cross
When Jesus walked on the earth, he did what none of us could. From conception until death, he lived the perfect life by obeying each of His Father’s commandments, perfectly, by keeping every jot and tittle of the Law, faithful every day from dawn to dusk, even at night, every thought and action like a pleasing aroma to God.
Thus, the Lord lived the perfect life and had pristine righteousness. He was altogether holy in every way — until he came to the cross where he took upon himself the profane sin of his people. At that moment, when he carried all of our wretched sins, he held onto the most grotesque, dark mass of sin that has ever appeared on God’s green earth. As it is written:
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV
Consequently, he had to be punished. Therefore, God the Father turned his face away and unleashed his holy wrath upon the Son. The just wrath that we had been storing up for ourselves (Rom. 2:5). The fury that we would have had to suffer in hell, Jesus suffered for us on the cross (Rom. 5:9; Col. 2:14). Darkness covered the land, and Jesus cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).
Like a Lamb that is lead to the slaughter and a sheep that is silent before the sheers, Jesus didn’t open His mouth but carried the cross to Golgata while the Roman soldiers beat Him, and the Jews mocked Him. There, he was crucified, pierced for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities. For hours, the Lamb of God hung upon the cross as he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. The spectators assumed he had been struck and smitten by God. And he had, but not for his own sin, but ours. It was the will of the Lord to crush Him. Jesus gave himself as an offering for guilt, and through the anguish of his soul, he suffered for His people. He was punished so that we could go free, just like it had been prophesied (Is. 53). Finally, he said: “It is finished,” bowed his head, and poured out his soul to death (John 19:30; Is. 53:12). He died on the cross.
Afterward, Jesus was buried. Then on the third day, he conquered death and rose again. When he walked out of the tomb, he announced to us and the entire world that the debt has been paid in full and that God is satisfied. Thus, Jesus has been “delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Finally, we are free from fear and death, as there is “now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). And the empty tomb is a witness to that. God gives us eternal life as a gift, not because of our works but of Jesus’ triumph. He did everything for us. All we have to do is repent from our sins and turn to Him.
Out of the richness of his grace and the depths of his love, God the Father sent his only begotten Son to pay the penalty by dying on behalf of sinners, the innocent one for the guilty ones, the righteous one for the unrighteous ones, the impeccable Son of God for Adam’s fallen children. It is an exchange so profound and compassionate that nobody can ever plumb the depths of God’s amazing grace, even if they had an eternity to do so — which they will, thanks to the Son, who willingly offered up himself (John 10:18; 13:34).