The gospel is the good news of redemption through the propitiatory (serving or intended to appease God’s judgment towards sin) offering of Jesus Christ for one’s sins. The announcement of Jesus’ birth gives us the purpose and intent of His incarnation. In Luke 2:8-14 an angel announces the Birth of Jesus the Christ as “good tidings of great joy which will be to ALL PEOPLE.” A Savior who is Christ the Lord was born. Salvation cannot be found in religious rites, nor in the merits and works of man, nor through the keeping of the law. It is the Gift of God freely given to any and all who believe in the finished work of Jesus Christ upon the Cross. Scripture tells us; “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” – Titus 3:4-7.
What does it mean to be ‘justified’ (Rom. 3:20 )?
“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
Justified means ‘declared righteous’ (Just-if-I’d-Never-Sinned). This is even better than innocent. If you are justified you can point to Christ at God’s right hand and say ‘I belong to Him, that’s why I’m righteous’. Innocent Adam could not do this. So, if someone wanted to condemn you as guilty, he would first have to condemn Christ as unrighteous – and this is impossible.
So how can anyone be justified then before God (Rom. 3:22-25)?
“Even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed.”
As far as we are concerned, only by faith. As far as God is concerned, only by grace. By faith means that we trust in Christ, that He has paid the price for our sins and that this is enough. By grace means that we can only accept, we cannot do anything and we cannot add anything. But we are also justified by blood. By blood means that the Lord Jesus had to die (as our substitute). Ephesians 2:8-9; 13 demonstrates this a little better.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast…But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
What is meant by ‘Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood’? (Rom. 3:25)
‘Propitiation’ or ‘atonement’ means ‘covering’ (in Hebrew). In the Old Testament it was used for the lid (‘cover’) of the ark of the covenant. The tables of the law were in the ark (declaring that man was guilty). The cherubim looked down onto the golden lid of the ark which speaks of the immaculate glory of God (so they had to acknowledge that God had to condemn man). But then the lid of the ark was sprinkled with blood (Lev.16), the blood of an innocent victim, shed for a guilty people. So God could spare His people. This is a picture of what Christ has done: He gave his life, His blood was shed, so that God does not have to judge us. We are ‘covered’ by His giving his life for us.
Why did Christ have to be raised for our justification?
The work of Christ was done when He said ‘it is finished’ and delivered up His spirit (John 19:30 ). But without His resurrection, how would we know that His death was sufficient for God? Now that Christ is raised we have the proof. God was fully satisfied with Him and accepted His work (Romans 4:25 ).
The carnal man is typically concerned only with forgiveness and with not having to pay the cost of his actions. There is little, if any, contemplation of what happens after forgiveness—or why God gives forgiveness in the first place. For its true significance to be understood, Jesus Christ’s death must be seen within the context of all that God is working out. God is in the process of accomplishing much more than merely “saving” mankind or forgiving mankinds sins!
God determined, even before Adam sinned and this present evil world was founded, that Christ, the Lamb of God, would have to be sacrificed for the sins of mankind (1 Peter 1:17-21; Revelation 13:8). The present order of mankind rebelling against God was begun when Adam sinned in the garden of Eden and was subsequently banished. The relationship with God was severed; man had no access to Him and eternal life, represented by the Tree of Life:
“Then the LORD God said, Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:22-24)
God knew what would happen if He allowed these now-tainted human beings to take of the Tree of Life also—they would live eternally, but because of their corrupt state, they would be eternally miserable. They would become like Satan and the demons—in a miserable condition because of sin, yet not able to die. Therefore, God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden, placing a flaming sword in the path to guard the way back to the Tree of Life. Mankind was cut off from God.
Two cannot walk together unless they are in agreement (Amos 3:3) and when Adam sinned he plotted the course for all who would follow after him—a course that had some good but also some evil. Humanity would walk a path that ultimately could only end in death, one that was definitely not in alignment with the life of the Eternal God. The prophet Isaiah explains this division that sin—the transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4)—causes:
Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2); emphasis mine)
Romans 6:23 explains how far sin separates man from his Creator: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Sin, being the opposite of all God stands for, causes the bitter harvest of death to be reaped. Yet, even though He is under absolutely no obligation to do so, God gives the gift of eternal life (Jesus Christ) to pay the debt that every man incurs: the debt of his own, sinful life.
Most people believe that “eternal life” means “living forever.” However, length of life is only one aspect of eternal life. Satan and the demons will live forever, but their quality of life is the farthest thing from desirable! They do not have quality of life, because they are in constant disagreement with God—the source of eternal life!
Paul tells us in Romans 6:23 that God’s gift is eternal life, and in John 17:3, Jesus defines that gift further: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” God’s gift, then, is a life wherein a person knows—understands, has experience with—the Father and the Son. The gift is a life that not only stretches on forever, but also has a spiritual quality that makes such length of days desirable! That eternal quality—that perfection in living—has its only source in God, and a relationship with that supreme Source is only possible when man’s sins, the cause of the great gulf between man and God, are atoned for. For this reason, God sent His Son to pay the debt of mankind’s sins, so that man might know the Father and the Son in an intimate relationship, and be able to live life as They live.
“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right [power; authority] to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born [begotten], not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11-13)
With the true acceptance of Jesus Christ—that is, receiving His sacrifice—comes the power and authority to become a child of God! The eternal life that God gives as a gift is within the context of a family relationship. God plainly shows it is His purpose to increase His divine Family by bringing many children into it (Hebrews 2:10).
Repentance and Remission of Sin
Jesus’ words in Mark 1:15 come in the form of an urgent command: “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel.” Not only does Christ come to announce the soon-coming Kingdom of God, in particular to those whom God calls (John 6:44), but also to prepare the elect for their spiritual responsibilities now and in the Kingdom to come. Notice, though, that this emphasis on repentance does not end with Christ’s death. After His resurrection from the dead, but before His ascension to the Father, He tells His disciples:
Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:46-47)
Notice that following repentance is the remission of sins, which baptism signifies, being a symbolic dying to sin and resurrection to a new life (Romans 6:1-12). This is why on Pentecost Peter instructs the assembled crowd, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
Likewise, Paul teaches the men of Athens:
“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)
Repentance is a prerequisite to belief. What is repentance? Its basic meaning is “to change one’s mind” or “to turn.” Once a person hears the gospel and is convicted that his way of life is wrong, he must change his present behavior and “bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8).
The Fruit’s of Repentance
The fruit of Repentance can be summed up with three verses of Scripture.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:11-13)
Denying ungodliness and worldly lust signifies that we act in a responsible manner, sensibly and prudently. Depending of God’s grace (godliness is impossible any other way,) we exemplify self control saying no to worldly attitudes and behavior and yes to righteous and godly living. This includes being submissive to the governing authority of God’s Word (the Bible) in our lives. The key part of godly living is an eagerness and readiness to do good works! Grace is much more than just the unmerited love and favor of God upon us, the Greek defines Grace as the Divine influence upon the heart and it’s reflection in one’s life. Grace is seen, lived before others as an example and testament to the love of God and His Salvation through Jesus Christ.