What Are the Essential Elements of the Gospel of Christ?
Scripture reminds us to “rightly [divide] the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). We must be careful to accurately present the gospel. For that reason, we must be able to identify its key elements.
We all stand as sinners before a holy God.
A technical definition of the word gospel is “good news.” Yet, just as a jeweler displays a beautiful ring or necklace against a dark velvet background to accentuate its beauty, so God first tells us the bad news to show just how good the good news of the gospel really is. That bad news is that we have all sinned—sometimes in ignorance, but often knowingly.
Seeing our complete weakness, and our inability to do anything to alleviate our wretched condition, God did the ultimate for us. “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6–8).
Because there was no other way to satisfy the righteous demands of God, because of our inability to improve ourselves (much less save ourselves), because we faced a future in Hell because of our sin, God, in His great love, sent His own Son to come down from Heaven and to die on the cross in our very place.
Paul personalized this by saying, “[Christ] loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father.
We know that God is perfect. We know that man is imperfect and sinful. The only way God could resolve this serious sin issue was to send His Son, Jesus, to take our place and to pay the price for our sins.
Why Jesus? Because Jesus, who was both God and man, without sin or fault, was uniquely qualified to bridge the gap between sinful humanity and a holy God:
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18–19 NIV).
The gospel is not about what you or I did to please or reach God; we did everything to displease Him. Rather, the gospel is about how God reconciled Himself to us through Jesus Christ. Quite simply, Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father.
- Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
- The apostle Peter echoed Jesus’ words: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
- Paul said the same thing: “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
If we, as Christians, were to say that God could be reached through any other means, we would be guilty of misrepresenting the gospel! For on that cross, some 2000 years ago, all of the sin of the world was poured upon Jesus Christ as He became the sin sacrifice for us. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The cornerstone of the gospel is Christ’s death and resurrection.
Jesus’ final words on the cross were “It is finished!” This can be translated several ways.
- “It is made an end of.”
- “It is paid.”
- “It is performed.”
- “It is accomplished.”
What was made an end of?
Our sins and the guilt that accompanied them.
What was paid?
The price of redemption.
What was performed?
The righteous requirements of the law.
What was accomplished?
The work that God had given Jesus to do.
What was finished?
Satan’s stronghold on humanity (see Colossians 2:14–15).
Paul puts the gospel in a nutshell: Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, He was buried, and He rose again the third day (see 1 Corinthians 15:3–4).