What is the Gospel? This is the title of a new book that seeks to answer that question. In the "Introduction," Gilbert notes that this writing project arose out of the growing confusion about the gospel and the lack of a unified answer. On pages 18-20, he provides a sample of different answers to illustrate the problem. So, in light of this new book and the time of year, I thought I might provide my answer to the question, "What is the gospel?".
The gospel is the glorious good news that God has done everything necessary for sinful human beings to enjoy eternal fellowship with their holy creator. God created to have fellowship with humans. That communion was conditioned upon perfect, personal and perpetual obedience to God’s law, which would have been won through the obedience of Adam, the covenant representative of humanity. But humanity fell into an estate of sin and misery when their representative Adam, and they in him, rejected God’s law. By this rebellion, sinners inherited the curse of everlasting death instead of the blessing of eternal fellowship with God. But in his great mercy, God did not abandon his plan to have fellowship with humans and leave sinners to perish under the curse of death, so he sent a second representative to achieve for sinners what was lost in Adam, and what they could not achieve for themselves.
Jesus Christ, who was God, entered history, lived a life of perfect righteousness in perfect obedience to God’s law. He rendered unto God what Adam and all of humanity failed to do and by his obedience he merited the blessing of eternal fellowship with God. But not only did he complete the righteous requirement for fellowship, he also satisfied God’s just demands by taking upon himself the penalty owed by sinners because of their rebellion. Although perfectly righteous and just, Jesus took the curse of sin upon himself on the cross, where the just died in the place of unjust sinners. But Jesus did not remain dead in the grave, for he was raised three days later. As the righteous one who took sin upon himself, sin could not keep him down. He rose from the dead as a declaration of his righteousness and as a testimony that the Father received his sacrifice, and as the first born of the dead, he was the first to enter into the promised blessing of eternal fellowship with God in a new creation.
Jesus Christ obeyed where sinners could not obey, and he paid the penalty for sin that sinners owe. By his righteous life, sacrifice on the cross, and glorious resurrection from the grave unto life in the new creation, sinners can be forgiven of their rebellion, be accepted by God as having perfectly obeyed his law and enter in to eternal fellowship with God in the new creation. What is true of Christ becomes true of the sinner, but only when the sinner receives and rests upon Christ alone by the sole instrument of faith. By faith alone, a sinner can be declared just by God, forgiven of sins, adopted into his family, renewed in the image of God, share in his heavenly glory, and empowered to persevere in this new pilgrimage of faith, until faith gives way to sight upon entrance into the fullness of an eternity of perfect love and communion with the triune God and the church that never ends.