What is the gospel?
“Gospel” means “good news.” A gospel is an announcement about something that has happened in history. The Christian message is good news. It is not good advice.
What does that mean? It means that Christianity is unique. It means that Christianity is different from all the other religions in the world. Other religions say, “This is what you have to do in order to get connected to “the Source.” This is the moral standard you must achieve—this is the religious ritual you must perform in order to find acceptance with God.
All the religions of the world—including counterfeit versions of Christianity—tell you that, if you want to find peace with God, then you’ve got to meet some extraordinarily high standards. That’s religious moralism. That’s legalism. But it is not Christianity. Religious moralism comes to you with a crushing burden of perpetual moral responsibility. But Christianity comes to us with a joyful announcement that Jesus, the Christ, has carried that burden of responsibility for you—in your place. That’s why Jesus says, it is his righteousness, not yours that makes you acceptable to God. The apostle Paul puts it this way:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
Of course Christians will obey God’s law. But we do it, not in an effort to be accepted by God, but because we know we are already accepted. We are accepted on the basis of what Jesus has done for us. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Do you see? Christianity is news—the good news—good news that God saves sinners. God saves people who are completely unable to meet the moral standards. All that other religions offer is the crushing burden of moral advice: “Follow these laws. Meet these standards. Perform these rituals. And then, maybe, in the end, God will accept you.”