Four words I use to help people understand the Gospel are God, man, Christ, and response.
• First, the Gospel starts with God. More accurately the Gospel is God. If we understand the Gospel to be good news, the good news is not just that we “get” Heaven. The true good news is that we receive God Himself. The reason the Gospel starts with God is because all things are by Him, through Him, and for Him. He sustains all things yet needs nothing. The true understanding of salvation is not that God needs us, but we desperately need God. In His presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures evermore. In His eternal plan, God spoke the world into existence and placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In the Garden, Adam and Eve enjoyed both God’s presence and provision. All would have been well if the first humans had obeyed God. Unfortunately for the world, they did not.
• Second, God gave Adam and Eve specific commands. As the Sovereign Creator, He had every right to do so. One of the commands given to our first parents was to not eat from a specific tree in the Garden. Tempted by Satan with the false promise of becoming like God, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and the world has never been the same since. In Romans 5, we learn that sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve and along with sin came death. Adam and Eve were banned from God’s special place and their relationship with each other, as well as, with God was quite different. Yet, in the justice and discipline the Lord gave to them He also gave a promise. There would be an offspring of Eve that would eventually crush Satan.
• Third, the beauty of the Gospel is that the One who was offended is the only One who can provide a solution and He does. God is Holy, which means He is without evil. He hates sin. Because He is just, He must punish sin. The incredible picture of the Gospel is that God provides a substitute, Himself. Because of Adam and Eve’s decision to disobey God, man’s greatest need is reconciliation with God. In order for man to be reconciled to God, then God’s wrath needs to be satisfied toward sin. What we learn in Romans 3 is that God put Christ forward as a propitiation for our sin. In short, God the Father provided God the Son to absorb the punishment each of us deserved for our disobedience. The Bible also reveals that this was the plan all along and not just a reactionary decision. Before God said “Let there be light” there was already a Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world. God’s action in Creation was done in full knowledge of the substitution that would be necessary for man to have eternal relationship with Him. In the cross of Christ, God lays on Jesus all of our sin. In becoming our sin, Jesus also becomes a curse (Gal. 3) and God the Father pours out His wrath toward sin. In the exchange, Jesus is given full responsibility for our sin and we are given the full benefit of His righteousness. God is both just and the justifier.
• Fourth, Christ’s righteousness will not be given to all, but to those who repent and believe. To repent means more than just being sorry for our sin, but to turn away from our sin. To believe means to trust that God’s wrath has been satisfied in Christ and we stand justified before God in Christ alone. The decision to repent and believe also means submission to Christ as King. Salvation is not just for those who voice prayers but for those whose entire heart and life is yielded to Christ. Of course all that we need to repent, believe, and yield our lives daily to Christ comes through Christ. Apart from Him we can do nothing. The good news of the Gospel is that Christ is our answer for justification, sanctification, and glorification.