Christianity has lost the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. From Roman Catholicism to contemporary Christian music, the gospel that is proclaimed in the Bible has been twisted and diluted. Instead of the glorious message of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, we have a message of self-improvement, financial gain, and motivational hype.
Instead of rambling about the current horrid state of Christian teaching, I'll define the true gospel of Jesus Christ so we can soak in its glory. The best place to find a definition of the gospel in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 15. Let's take a look at the first few verses:
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, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:1 - 8)
A simple description of a phenomenal reality. This passage from Paul shows the gospel is not hard to explain. Humanity is corrupted by sin and God requires justice for the wrongdoing we have committed against him. Normally, we would have to individually pay for our sins. However, Jesus Christ died in our place and took the punishment we deserve to face. Then, he rose from the tomb, showing he had defeated sin, death, and the devil.
This straightforward explanation covers the entirety of the gospel, but it doesn't go in-depth into certain areas. An in-depth discussion is not necessary to bring someone to salvation. If someone confesses with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believes in their heart that God raised him from the dead, they will be saved (Romans 10:9 - 11). Understanding the basics of the gospel is all that is required before someone can have true saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
A cursory glance at the simple message proclaimed above can lead to many questions. What is sin, and why is humanity corrupted by it? Why does God require punishment for our sin? Who is Jesus Christ, and how did his death pay for our sin? These are some of the questions that can come up.
I'll flesh out the gospel of Jesus Christ by answering these questions. The answers will be simple and straightforward as we could do entire studies on each of these points. First we have: what is sin? Sin can be thought of as high treason against God. There is a transcendent moral law God has established, and when we sin, we are breaking that law (1 John 3:4).
Why then is humanity corrupted by sin? The first humans God created (Adam and Eve) sinned against him by eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15 - 17, Genesis 3). God had commanded Adam and Eve to not eat of this fruit, but they ate the fruit, so they broke God's law. This sin was the catalyst for the corruption of humanity. Sin entered humanity through Adam and Eve's action and has spread to all humanity (Romans 5:12 - 14).
Why does God require punishment for our sin? God is completely holy and any sinful action breaks his holy moral law (Isaiah 6:1 - 7). When a law is broken, the person who broke that law is punished. This is the same principle present in human law and God's law. But God's law requires an eternal punishment because we can never fully satisfy the justice of the eternally holy God. A finite creature cannot fulfill the requirements of the infinite God.
Who is Jesus Christ? In short, Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity incarnated in human flesh (Matthew 1:18 - 25, Acts 2:22 - 36, Romans 1:1 - 7). We can't go fully into the doctrine of the Trinity or incarnation here, but understanding that Jesus is God is an important point. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the three members of the Trinity who are individually distinct while being of one essence at the same time. God is three in one, as is often said. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, took on human flesh and lived for around thirty-three years on earth.
How did Jesus' death pay for our sins? We already know that a finite creature cannot fulfill the requirements of the infinite God. It follows that only the infinite God can fulfill his own requirements. God requires justice for sinful acts committed against him (which covers all sin ever committed), but only God can fulfill this justice. So the Father sent his Son to take on human flesh and bear the punishment of our sin which was the wrath of God and death (Romans 6:23, Romans 2:5). As Jesus Christ was both fully God and fully man, he could stand in the place of humanity while also bearing the full wrath of God. Through this act, the righteousness of the perfect Christ can be imputed to us so we no longer have to fulfill the requirements of God's justice (2 Corinthians 5:11). We can be saved from sin and death.
At its core, the gospel is simple. There are many theological points to study further and in more depth, but these can be tackled after someone has believed in Jesus Christ and been saved by God. If the gospel is so straightforward, why is it not proclaimed in its true form by many Christian leaders today? The sad answer is that money, fame, and power are more important to some people than the salvation of sinners.
The Bible hasn't changed its message, but people have. Jesus Christ is proclaimed from Genesis to Revelation, but some people can only see teaching on financial prosperity and self-improvement techniques. Instead of proclaiming Christ crucified from the Bible, pastors are more interested in proclaiming ways for people to boost their finances and self-esteem. It's sickening to watch the corruption of Christianity as it is corroded by the world.
Proclaiming the true and pure gospel of Jesus Christ doesn't make one wealthy, famous, or powerful. It usually leads to ridicule and hatred. Was Jesus adored by every person he came across? No! He was hated by many people and eventually they were able to execute him by crucifixion. The fame and wealth of Christian celebrity pastors should be setting off alarms for Christians around the world. But it's not, as people are more concerned with having their egos stroked and emotions stimulated than hearing the truth.
Christianity is in bad shape. But hope remains in God, that he will resurrect the dead souls of people in churches around the world. If we proclaim the true and pure gospel of Jesus Christ, the world will hate us, but souls will be saved. And isn't that what really matters?