What is the Gospel?
J. I. Packer:
To the question: ‘What must I do to be Saved?’, the old gospel replies: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
To the further question; ‘What does it mean to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?’, its reply is: it means knowing oneself to be a sinner, and Christ to have died for sinners; abandoning all self-righteousness and self-confidence, and casting oneself wholly upon him for pardon and peace; and exchanging one’s natural enmity and rebellion against God for a spirit of grateful submission to the will of Christ through the renewing of one’s heart by the Holy Ghost.
And to the further question still, ‘How am I to go about believing on Christ and repenting, if I have no natural ability to do these things?’, it answers: look to Christ, speak to Christ, cry to Christ, just as you are; confess your sins, your impenitence, your unbelief, and cast yourself on his mercy; ask him to give you a new heart, working in you true repentance and firm faith; ask him to take away your evil heart of unbelief and to write his law within you, that you may never henceforth stray from him.
Turn to him and trust him as best you can, and pray for the grace to turn and trust more thoroughly; use the means of grace expectantly, looking to Christ to draw near to you as you seek to draw near to him; watch, pray, and read and hear God’s word, worship and commune with God’s people, and so continue till you know in yourself beyond doubt that you are indeed a changed being, a penitent believer, and the new heart which you desire has been put within you. The emphasis in this advice is on the need to call upon Christ directly, as the very first step.
So do not postpone action till you think your are better, but honestly confess your badness and give yourself up here and now to Christ who alone can make you better; and wait on him till his light rises in your soul, as Scripture promises it shall do. Anything less than this direct dealing with Christ is disobeying the gospel.
Such is the exercise of spirit to which the old evangel summons its hearers. ‘I believe – help thou mine unbelief’: this must become their cry.
In accordance with the Father’s good pleasure, the eternal Son, who is equal with the Father and is the exact representation of His nature, willingly left the glory of heaven, was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin, and was born the God-man: Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 2:23; Heb. 1:3; Phil. 2:6-7; Lk. 1:35).
As a man, He walked on this earth in perfect obedience to the law of God (Heb. 4:15). In the fullness of time, men rejected and crucified Him. On the cross, He bore man’s sin, suffered God’s wrath, and died in man’s place (1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18; Isa. 53:10). On the third day, God raised Him from the dead. This resurrection is the divine declaration that the Father has accepted His Son’s death as a sacrifice for sin. Jesus paid the penalty for man’s disobedience, satisfied the demands of justice, and appeased the wrath of God (Lk. 24:6; Rom. 1:4; Rom. 4:25). Forty days after the resurrection, the Son of God ascended into the heavens, sat down at the right hand of the Father, and was given glory, honor, and dominion over all (Heb. 1:3; Matt. 28:18; Dan. 7:13-14). There, in the presence of God, He represents His people and makes requests to God on their behalf (Lk. 24:51; Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 1:3; Heb. 7:25).
All who acknowledge their sinful, helpless state and throw themselves upon Christ, God will fully pardon, declare righteous, and reconcile unto Himself (Mk. 1:15; Rom. 10:9; Phil. 3:3). This is the gospel of God and of Jesus Christ, His Son.
The gospel of Christ is the good tidings that God has revealed concerning Christ. As all mankind was lost in Adam and became the children of wrath, put under the sentence of death, God, though He left His fallen angels and has reserved them in the chains of eternal darkness, yet He has thought upon the children of men and has provided a way of atonement to reconcile them to Himself again.
The second Person in the Trinity takes man’s nature upon Himself, and becomes the Head of a second covenant, standing charged with sin. He answers for it by suffering what the law and divine justice required, and by making satisfaction for keeping the law perfectly. This satisfaction and righteousness He tenders up to the Father as a sweet savor of rest for the souls that are given to Him.
And now this mediation of Christ is, by the appointment of the Father, preached to the children of men, of whatever nation or rank, freely offering this atonement unto sinners for atonement, requiring them to believe in Him and, upon believing, promising not only a discharge of all their former sins, but that they shall not enter into condemnation, that none of their sins or unworthiness shall ever hinder the peace of God with them, but that they shall through Him be received into the number of those who shall have the image of God again to be renewed unto them, and that they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
That these souls and bodies shall be raised to that height of glory that such creatures are capable of, that they shall live forever enjoying the presence of God and Christ, in the fullness of all good, is the gospel of Christ. This is the sum of the gospel that is preached unto sinners.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
[Jesus] deliberately went to the cross and suffered the shame and the spitting and the indignity of it all; and this He did to bear my sins; to receive my punishment; to suffer the penalty that my guilt had deserved; and infinitely more important, to deliver me from the bondage of sin and of Satan; to separate me unto Himself; and to make of me a man zealous of good works, delighting in holiness. He died; He was raised from the dead; He returned to heaven, and He sent down the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost in order that I might have the assurance of my faith, and the joy, and the power. He has given me a new life and a new nature; He has joined me unto Himself; I am a member of His mystical body; I am a child of God, I am an heir of heaven.