The Essentials of the Gospel
Throughout the ages the gospel has been attacked over and over again by satanic forces that want to water down the truth of salvation found only in Christ. That attack will continue all the way through the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus. The cults always distort and twist the truth of salvation by grace but lately, the attack and distortion is coming from within our own evangelical circles.
Some are promoting a cross-less salvation, or a works salvation. Whatever the changes are that depart from what the Bible teaches bends the truth and weakens the marvelous fact of what God did to save lost humanity.
While many more points can be listed, below are seven essentials that are necessary pillars of salvation by grace through faith in Christ.
- (1) The Issue of Sin
The gospel is the good news (uangelion) that God has saved, spared, delivered, rescued us from sin that has entrapped and snared us. Salvation is distinctly a rescue operation from the power and the penalty of sin. And sin is "the missing the mark" (hamartia) with the results that men have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). This implies that human beings can no longer measure up to who God is. Sin then will keep a person from the presence of the Lord, and even more, that person must die because God cannot tolerate sin in His universe!
- (2) The Son of God - God Incarnate
There would be no gospel if our Savior was not the impeccable righteous Son of God.
Jesus Christ could not save us if He were just another human being. He would be part of the sinful race, and if He tried to die in my place under the wrath of God on the cross, He would simply be dying for His own sins! The wonder of wonders—Jesus Chris is fully man (without sin) and fully God. He is the God/Man! He, the second person of the Trinity, took upon Himself flesh in order to participate in the human race. The proof of His uniqueness is His virgin birth. The sin nature was not passed down to Him because He had no human father.
- (3) Christ a Substitute for Sinners
There is no gospel without the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross. He took the place of sinners under the wrath of God. This was predicted by the fact that an innocent animal had to die to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve following their disobedience to the Lord’s command to not eat of the forbidden fruit. The Lord slew an animal and "made garments of skin FOR Adam and his wife, and clothed them" (Gen. 3:21). The FOR implies clearly a covering. Their nakedness somehow exacerbated the issue of sin.
- (4) The Cross of Christ
The cross is central to the message of the gospel. There are some who are now teaching a "cross-less" salvation. I need to make this clear. They believe Christ’s death on the cross is essential but that one can be saved without a reference to His work on the cross. The cross is not something magical but it was the instrument used to crucify the Son of God by which He died for sinners. If the human mind can defuse the idea of the cross, it will do so. One wonders why someone would want to downgrade or make little of the idea of the cross.
- (5) The Resurrection of Christ
There is no gospel without the truth about the resurrection. This is a cardinal doctrine of Scripture. It will be the Lord Jesus who will give new life not only to the church saints but those who have died as believers in other generations of the past.
- (6) Complete Justification by Faith
There is no gospel without the truth of justification by faith. Some have problems getting their hands around this subject. Many do not fully understand what the doctrine is all about. Justification (dikaioo) carries the idea of being completely acquitted of sin before the bar of God. The Lord imputes (puts to our account) the very righteousness of Christ. Therefore God sees us clothed in His righteousness not our own. Paul saw the things he had accomplished as dung "in order that (as he said) I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law" (Phil. 3:8b-9). Salvation he adds, "is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith" (v. 9b).
- (7) What it Means to Believe in Christ
The gospel is "good news," but it is personal good news. Christ did something specific on the cross for the individual. Unless the offer of redemption is personalized, one does not become a child of God.