What really is the Gospel?

gracetidings:with dr doug mamvura

The word Gospel has become a religious term that has actually lost a lot of its meaning today. Many people associate Gospel with anything that has to do with religion, specifically the Christian religion. But the word gospel literally means “good tidings” or “good news”.

The Gospel is good news, not bad news. This definitely limits what we mean by the word gospel.

Paul’s letter to the Romans was aimed at helping the Roman believers who were mostly Gentiles and had received the Gospel, and had been born again.

Unfortunately, these people were troubled by the Jewish believers who were trying to mix the Old Testament law with Christianity.

In the early days of the church, many born again Jews truly believed that Christianity was simply an extension of Judaism. Therefore, they considered all of the basic tenets of the Jewish faith, specifically the Old Testament law, dietary regulations, the rite of circumcision and many other Jewish religious observances to still be the foundation of their new faith in Christ. They were trying to mix the Old Covenant with the New. Does this sound familiar even today?

Paul’s letter to the Galatians contains several strong, harsh rebukes against legalism. He told them that “If anyone preaches any other Gospel that what I preached let them be accursed”. He went on to call them “foolish” and “bewitched” (Galatians 3:1) for believing this legalistic lie, telling them that if they were trusting in such things as circumcision for their salvation (Galatians 5:3), they had fallen from grace.

The revelation of God’s grace contained in Romans delivers believers from a performance mentality- which bases the relationship with God on our own efforts to a total trust and reliance upon the Lord, His goodness and grace. Salvation is all about God’s faithfulness and love and not ours. We have to constantly place our faith in God’s goodness and not our own.

In Romans 1: 16 -17 Paul states that “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, the just shall live by faith.”

The Gospel is what produces the life of God in people. Most people associate the Gospel with teaching that says, “You are a sinner. If you don’t repent you are going to hell”. Indeed, these statements are true. There is a heaven and a hell, a God and a devil and you will go to hell if you don’t repent and receive salvation. But even though this is all true, it is not good news.

Many people have mistakenly thought that preaching on hell and scaring people out of it is the Gospel. This is not what Paul taught in the book of Romans. A closer look at the scriptures shows that “It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance” (Romans 2:4).

Although it is true to tell someone that their sin has separated them from God and caused them to be worthy of eternal damnation, the good news is that Jesus came and bore all of our sin for us. We don’t have to atone for our sin. We don’t have to become holy enough to earn salvation. It is a gift. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

It is very sad to note that most of the religion today, focuses on the first part of that verse “For the wages of sin is death” and calls it the Gospel. They preach their hearts out about hell, fire, and damnation. This is not Gospel. The true Gospel specifically refers to the means by which we are saved. We are saved by grace through faith in what Jesus did for us not by faith in what we do for Him. The Gospel is God’s free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The good news is that God doesn’t want to send anyone to hell. You don’t have to go through a tremendous amount of religious instruction or observance. It is a free gift. All you have to do is to believe and receive. You just have to believe what Jesus has done through His death, burial and resurrection and receive the cleansing from all your sin and freedom and liberty it brings. This is what the true Gospel is. Anything other than this is not the Gospel.

The Gospel is directly related to the grace of God. That is the only way this forgiveness of our sins can be obtained. It wasn’t through our holiness or good works. God doesn’t take just the so called “good” people and save them. He justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5).

This is where we start having challenges with our religious colleagues. They will tell you that one has to first of all do this that and the other and become holy before you can be saved. Religion teaches that right standing with God and blessings come as a result of our own goodness and works. They will tell you “You must come to this church. You have to pray and fast twice a week. You also have to pay your tithes and make sure that you bring your seed and then God will accept you.” This is “foolish” to quote Apostle Paul. This is anti- Gospel. It is against the good news of God’s grace because it is putting the burden of salvation on your back and you definitely can’t bear it. Nobody can save themselves. The bible says “whilst we were still sinners, Christ came and died for our sins” (Romans 5:8) showing that salvation has nothing to do with our good works.

This is why in Galatians Paul angrily rebuked the pervasion of the good news. We see the same thing happening in our churches today. People don’t totally deny the foundational truths of the Gospel. However, they just pervert it and say “Yes Jesus is the Saviour. But you also have to be good and holy in order for you to be saved”. This is not true. While it is important to be holy, and do good works that is not done to be accepted by God, it is done in response to one expressing their love for the goodness of God.

The Gospel isn’t only just a belief that there is salvation, but it is also the specific method by which this salvation is obtained. There is definitely punishment for sin but the Gospel emphasizes God’s answer to it. The Gospel specifically refers to what Jesus did for us. It is based on His performance, not ours. Our good works and “holiness” do not earn us salvation. We must get away from this dependence of self. It is very sad to see that much of what is called Gospel today, is actually promoting trust in self rather than trust in the Saviour. That is false religion and this is prevalent in most of our churches today.

Grace is what sets true Christianity apart from every other religion in the world. Every false religion, even religious Christianity, puts the burden of salvation upon an individual. Salvation is based upon your performance and your observance of all rituals and rules. Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation.

To many people, Christianity is nothing but a different set of rules, doctrines, regulations whereby they must earn their way to God. That is not the true Gospel and this is exactly what we see Apostle Paul confronting both in the book of Romans and Galatians. True Gospel speaks of the good news of salvation independent of our performance. It is by God’s grace that we are saved through faith not works lest any man boasts (Ephesians 2: 8-9).

l Dr Doug Mamvura is a graduate of Charis Bible School. Feedback: drdoug@corporatemomentum.biz or Twitter @dougmamvura

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