What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Jesus, though God, is also human. As such, He is our example for how we should live. Therefore, as aspiring evangelists, we should do evangelism like Jesus did. But what did He tell people? What message did He preach? In other words: what is the Gospel of Jesus Christ? In this post we seek to explain how Jesus preached the Gospel.
Overview of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
One of the early disciples summarized Jesus’ preaching. In Mark 1:14-15, we read:
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the Gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.”
Jesus preached a two-part sermon.
- What is happening: the time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand
- What you must do: repent and believe in the Gospel.
Let’s look at both of these points in more detail, and then we will explain what exactly the Gospel is.
The Kingdom of God (The Good News)
As we have said before, the call to repent and believe doesn’t make sense without context. Why do we need to repent? Why do we need to believe?
Typically we answer such questions by saying “because of our sin.” And that’s true. But notice how Jesus preaches the Gospel: the backdrop for the Gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t merely sin, but the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God is God’s perfect plan for the world.
Before humanity fell into sin, the world was perfect. God ruled over the world and His law was obeyed. But once sin entered the picture, mankind has set up millions of kingdoms in rebellion against the true Kingdom.
So what does it mean when Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is at hand? Think of it this way: imagine a country in rebellion against its leadership. Around every corner, there are rebel groups engaged in guerrilla warfare. The country that once was lawful, peaceful, and beautiful is now war-torn, and many are suffering for it. But then one day, the king of this country decides to put an end to all the rebellion. He will remove all the rebels, and there will be peace in the land once again.
When Jesus announces that the Kingdom of God is at hand, He is essentially announcing that the King of Heaven is going to put an end to the rebellion. This is wonderful news! It’s what we want God to do. How often have we cried out to God to finally put an end to all the evil in this world? The time has now been fulfilled! Jesus’ announcement is that God will soon eliminate evil from the world and establish His kingdom.
The Kingdom of God (The Bad News)
Yet this wonderful news has a dark side. The Good News is that God will remove all causes of sin from this world. Matthew 13:41 says “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers.” He will defeat His enemies and set up a Kingdom where everything will be perfect. The bad news is that you and I are God’s enemies. We are the causes of sin. The problem is this: the Kingdom of God is perfect, and we are not.
In other words, when the King comes to stomp out the rebellion, we will be found with blood on our hands. We have been part of the rebellion.
You might be in shock. “How could Jesus actually think that I am a rebel? Sure, I’m not perfect. But I’m not a rebel.”
This was Jesus’ genius as a spiritual teacher: He convincingly showed that rebellion begins in the heart. It’s not just explicit outward actions.
Jesus’ Teaching on the Heart
For example, in Matthew 15:18-20, Jesus says:
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.
And in Matthew 5:21-22, He says concerning anger:
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire.
In verses 27-28 He says concerning lust:
You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
We could go on. But the point is clear: the cause of the most awful evil in the world (murder, rape, war) finds its source in the evil of our hearts. Each of us, to one degree or another, have been complicit in the universal rebellion against God.
Therefore, when the Kingdom of God is put in place, we should expect to find ourselves on the outside. We should expect to hear the words of Matthew 22:13.
Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ
So Jesus’ message seems to have both good news – the Kingdom of God is coming! – and bad news – we are enemies of God’s kingdom.
Thankfully, there is more Good News for us rebels. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus tells us that He is going to die (and rise again). He says in Mark 10:45,
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.
Jesus here is explaining the Gospel: that He would die in our place. A ransom is simply the price required to free someone. So Jesus is saying that His death is our freedom. Jesus died as a criminal upon a Roman cross, and while suffering and dying He cried out:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mark 15:34.)
Jesus had said that those who are enemies of the Kingdom shall be cast into the outer darkness (Matthew 22:13). But on the cross, Jesus took our place. It was Jesus who was cast into darkness, alienated and left alone to die on the cross. He died and rose again so that the enemies of the Kingdom could become children of the Kingdom.
Repent and Believe
Let’s return back to Jesus’ outline. Jesus says “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” We have already discussed the beginning and the end of Jesus’ message. We have discussed the good and bad news of the Kingdom, and we have explained the Good News of the Gospel.
But the Gospel of Jesus Christ must be responded to. As Jesus says, we must repent and believe in the Gospel. What does this mean?
Let’s return to the example of a King putting an end to a rebellion. If God is the king and we are the rebels, then the command to repent is to put down our weapons, to stop resisting. The word repentance literally means to change one’s mind. So it is to recognize God for who He really is – not a cruel tyrant against whom you rebel, but as the loving King of the universe you owe everything to.
What about the word believe? The word is related to the word for faith, and both words simply mean trust. More specifically, faith is trust in an authority. The authority here is the King. So the command is to stop living as though we are the final authority and trust God.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ in Summary
So how does Jesus preach the Gospel? One way to summarize it is like this.
- God, the King of the universe, is establishing a perfect Kingdom upon earth. Those who are enemies of God shall be cast out of the Kingdom, and those who are righteous shall live forever in this Kingdom.
- God is a loving King: He became a man in Jesus and was cast into the outer darkness in your place so that you can be adopted into the Kingdom.
- Therefore, lay down your weapons. End the rebellion. Trust in the King, and enter the Kingdom.