Mankind’s Only Hope — The Gospel
The sin of Adam has reached the entire human race. Every man is a morally corrupt being, hostile toward God, and unwilling to submit to His will. All are capable of unspeakable sins and perversions, and all are therefore worthy of the just condemnation of a holy and righteous God. The Scripture is clear— all men without exception stand condemned before God without excuse or alibi, and man can do nothing to change his circumstances or reconcile himself to God. This is a dreadful truth, but it must be believed and accepted if we are to comprehend the great salvation which God accomplished for His people through Jesus Christ.
The truth about man is devastating to anyone whose conscience has been awakened by the Holy Spirit. As the apostle Paul cried out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). The answer to Paul’s question and the solution to man’s dreadful predicament is found in Christ alone—the Gospel, or Good News of His saving work on our behalf.
The Psalmist tells us that if the Lord should keep a record of our trespasses against Him, there would not be a single man on earth who could stand before Him in judgment (Psalm 130:3-4). Our iniquities have gone over our heads and as a heavy burden their weight is too much for us to bear (Psalm 38:4). Sin is mankind’s greatest problem and the singular source of all the maladies that ruin us as individuals and as collective societies. Therefore our two greatest needs are salvation from the condemnation of sin, and deliverance from its power. Both of which are provided for in the person of Jesus Christ and in His saving work on our behalf.
The Bible declares unequivocally that God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindess (Exodus 34:6-8). Therefore, He does not take delight in the death of the wicked, but rather that he should turn from his way and live (Ezekiel 18:23). Regardless of the depth of a man’s sin or the extent of his rebellion, he is offered both pardon and cleansing if he will forsake his way and return to the Lord. The Psalmist even goes so far as to say that God will forgive his lawless deeds, cover his sins, and no longer take his trespasses into account (Psalm 32:1-2; Romans 4:6-8).
This is astounding news, but it does present us with something of theological or philosophical dilemma: How can a good and righteous God grant pardon to wicked men? Shall not the judge of all the earth do right (Genesis 18:25)? Can a just God be apathetic toward sin or brush it under the rug as though it never happened? Can a holy God bring wicked men into fellowship with Himself and still be holy? The Scriptures themselves declare that, “He who justifies the wicked…is an abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 17:15). How then can God forgive the wicked without compromising His own character? Again, the answer is found in the person and work of Christ.
According to the Scriptures, man has sinned and the wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). God is just and the demands of His law must be satisfied before the guilty can be pardoned (Proverbs 17:15). In the fullness of time, the Son of God became a man and walked on this earth in perfect obedience to the law of God (Galatians 4:4). At the end of His life and according to the will of the Father, He was crucified by the hands of wicked men (Acts 2:23). On the cross, He stood in the place of His guilty people and their sin was imputed to Him (II Corinthians 5:21). As the sin bearer, He became accursed of God, forsaken of God, and crushed under the weight of God’s wrath (Galatians 3:13; Matthew 27:46; Isaiah 53:10). Through His death, the debt for sin was paid, the demands of God’s justice were satisfied, and the wrath of God was appeased. In this manner, God solved the great dilemma. He has justly punished the sins of His people in the death of His only Son, and therefore, may freely justify all who place their hope in Him.
Through the death of His Son, God may now be both just and the justifier of even the most vile sinner who places his trust in Him (Romans 3:26). However, the Gospel is more than liberation from the condemnation of sin; it is also deliverance from sin’s power. In his first epistle, the apostle John tells us, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God” (I John 5:1). This new birth which enables a man to repent and believe unto salvation, also enables him to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). Through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, the believer’s heart of stone, which was spiritually dead and unresponsive to God, has been replaced with a heart of living flesh that is both willing and able to hear His voice and follow Him (Ezekiel 36:25-27). Though he was once a bad tree bearing bad fruit, he is now a good tree planted by streams of water, yielding fruit in its season, and with leaves that do not wither (Matthew 7:17-18; Psalm 1:3). Thus the believer is not only justified, but is also the very workmanship of God created in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10). In fact, this ongoing moral transformation in the believer’s life is the basis of his assurance and the evidence of true conversion.
The Gospel is astounding news, but the question remains: “How may it be obtained?” “What must a man do to be saved?” The answer is clear, he must “repent and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). The Scriptures refute any argument or suggestion that a man might be saved by his own virtue and merit. In ourselves, we are destitute of both, and even what may be called righteous deeds before other men, are nothing but filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). Therefore to be saved, to obtain the salvation promised in the Gospel, we must reject any and all confidence in the flesh, and trust in Christ alone (Philippians 3:3). The Christian is the man who has agreed with God concerning his sinful state, has renounced all confidence in his own virtue and merit, and has place all his hope for salvation in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16