“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures . . .” —1 Corinthians 15:1–4
The word “gospel” is an old English word that simply means “Good news.” It is news, as Paul says here, of Christ’s death and resurrection. He died. He was buried. He was raised. Why is that good news? We can easily see how that is good news for Jesus. (Especially the resurrection part!) It might also have been good news for his friends. But why does Paul consider this to be good news for everyone?
The answer lies in what his death and resurrection actually accomplished. According to Jesus, he came, expressly, “To give [his] life as a ransom for [literally, “in the place of”] many.” Jesus claims here that he died for others. Now why do others deserve to die? The answer, in a word, is sin. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23). Everyone on earth dies. Death is not, according to the Bible, the genius of evolution, clearing away the old to make room for the new. Death is divine judgment. We die because we have done things wrong. This is why death hurts so much. Humans are created in the image of God. This means that they are made to reflect God into the world. They do that by trusting him, and enjoying him, loving him and finding their identity in him. But when we make things other than God central to our happiness and identity, this is a terrible insult to God. We are saying that he is not worthy of our worship and love. For this reason there is a penalty leveled against the whole human race.
But, because God is so kind and loving, he sent Jesus to earth to take the penalty for everyone who puts their trust in Christ. All those who place their trust in Christ will not experience the divine penalty that they deserve, but will find forgiveness, acceptance, and blessings in Christ. We can be accepted before God on the basis of Christ’s good works and his sacrificial death in our place.
But the good news does not stop there. Jesus also rose again, breaking the power of death. And this means that everyone who trusts in Him will live anew with him. This new life is ultimately life in heaven with God forever. But it begins now. When people believe in Jesus, they find that they are not the same person they used to be. They are born again. God takes away their sinful heart and gives them a new heart. Though far from perfect, a Christian’s life is genuinely new.
Prodigal God – Tim Keller
What is the Gospel – Greg Gilbert