In many Christian churches in Nigeria today, the sad reality is that the gospel–the good news that is central to the Christian faith–is not being preached. From my observation, the biggest reason is the assumption that everyone who comes to church already knows what the gospel is.
While it is true that church goers have a general idea of what the gospel is about i.e. believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, it is my experience that they usually don’t know what that actually means. This is what I’d like to explore in this article.
It is important to lay good foundations to understand what the gospel actually is. To lay this foundation, we would have to go back to Genesis, to the garden of Eden. When Adam sinned, he did not just have sin on his account but on the account of all humans that will ever be born (with the exception of Christ–I’ll get to that in a bit). This is what Paul explains in his letter to the Romans: “So then, just as one trespass brought condemnation for all men…” (Rom. 5:18a). The one trespass of Adam in the garden made us sinners by proxy because we all are his descendants.
So, we are by nature “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). What this means is that we deserve punishment from God for our sins. And as many of us were taught in Sunday School, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). What kind of death will this be? The Bible tells us that it will be an eternal death, it burns forever and ever.
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. — Rev. 21:8
And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. — Matt. 25:46
The foundational preamble to the gospel message is this: We are sinners who deserve the full punishment of our sins.
“being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” — (Eph. 2: 4-5)
God has not left us to ourselves to do the impossible task of saving ourselves (Matt. 19:26), He has made a way of salvation through Jesus Christ, His Son.
Jesus Christ came into the world to live a perfect life, obeying every law at all times throughout His life. The Bible says: “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.” (1Pet. 2:22).
Although He was without sin, “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5).
And so, on the cross, a great exchange was made. Christ bore on His body all of the punishment of the sin of all those who would put their faith in Him and those who put their faith in Him as their only way of salvation will get the righteousness that Christ has based on the perfect life that He lived.
In a single verse, the Bible says: “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2Cor. 5:21).
What does it mean to believe?
In simple terms, to believe is to trust. And to trust in Christ for salvation, in plain terms, means this: That you abandon any trust you have in your good works as a ground for acceptance before God and that you trust that the life He lived, He lived for you; the death He died, He died in your place.
“How can I be sure that I am truly counted as righteous when I trust in Christ?” one may ask. The answer is this: that you can trust God; that He is faithful to His promise. The promise of salvation He made to Adam and Eve from the beginning, you can trust that He is faithful to keep it. In addition to God’s character, the Bible tells us that: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Heb. 11:16). You can be sure by faith–by trusting that the God of the Bible is consistent and faithful; and He has demonstrated that throughout Scripture, therefore, He can be trusted.
The perks of Christianity
It is true that Christ died; it is also true that He rose again from the dead. The Bible says: “He was delivered over to death for our trespasses and was raised to life for our justification.” (Rom. 4:25). The resurrection of Christ is a sign of many things that should cause a Christian to rejoice:
It shows that Christ’s sacrifice has been accepted by God (Rom. 1:4)
It shows that Christ has defeated death and that we, who believe in Him, will do so too at last. (1Cor. 15:20). In simple terms: Because Christ has risen, it is a sign of hope that we too will rise.
It tells us that Christ has gone up to the Father, seated at His right hand and continually makes intercessions for us (Rom. 8:34). Now, we have access to the Father and we can pray to Him through His Son, our Great High Priest.
These are but a few of the reasons for a Christian to be hopeful for the future and rejoice in the present.
The cost of Christianity
The Bible describes saving faith with various consequences following it.
One who puts their genuine faith and trust in Christ becomes a new creature (2Cor. 5:17).
He or she now has to continually mortify (kill) the deeds of the flesh–sin (Rom. 8:13).
He or she is to put on the new man (Eph. 4:24) and to practice righteousness (1 John 3:7) not as a means of obtaining salvation but to show that you are now saved from sin.
True faith might mean you have to stop watching certain shows, stop wearing certain clothes, stop listening to certain music; not because these things will save you, in fact, you have been saved but you know these things do not reflect your current status as a disciple and servant of Christ.
It is important to share the cost of being a disciple of Christ because Christ Himself shared it in this manner:
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’...” (Luke 14:28-30).
The urgency of the gospel
There is only one thing that is certain in life, which is not disputed by any rational person: everyone is going to die. We do not know how much time we have left, we do not know whether our souls will be required of us tonight like the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21) or we have seventy years left. Whatever be the case, it is wise to take the message of the gospel seriously and apply to oneself as soon as possible.
Remember: “…man is appointed to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Heb. 9:27)
It is important that we understand our sin and its consequences before we can appreciate Christ and His sacrifice.
It is important to note that we cannot go to heaven by doing good things. Our good works, the Bible tells us, are like filthy rags before God (Isa. 64:6). How could filthy rags appease God’s holy anger against sin.
He therefore made a way through Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life we could not live and died the death we should have died. So that by believing in Christ, God can justify us by Christ’s righteousness and be just by punishing Christ for our sins.
This is love beyond words.
It is my hope that the Lord Himself makes this plain in your hearts and minds, that you might believe in Him if you have not already and that you might praise Him even more, if you already have believed. Amen.