The gospel begins with God. This is often lost in our "me-first" culture. We hear the word gospel, and we think it means primarily good news for us. And that is true, in one sense. The gospel is good news for humanity. But the message of the gospel begins with God himself. This is because the storyline of the Bible begins with God himself.
The Bible opens with the declaration that the One, True and Living God created everything that we see. As the Creator, he owns the entire universe. Everything exists by him and for him. But God is not only the Creator. He is also the Holy, Just, and Good Creator. This means everything he does is perfect and righteous. He rules the universe with righteousness and justice. And he calls his creation to submit to his holy, righteous decrees, given to us in His Word.
Tragically, humanity, which was made to bear God's image, rebelled against God. We have chosen to live according to our own standard, rather than according to God's Word. The Bible calls this rebellion sin and clearly states that this is the fate of all people. The Bible is also clear on the consequence of sin - death, both physically and spiritually. This means that from the time of Adam til now, every person born on this earth is spiritually dead and willingly enslaved to sin. Sounds like bad news, doesn't it?
But, the gospel is good news. The gospel declares that humanity's rebellion against God is not the end of the story. Though we were rebels against him, God chose to send his Son - Jesus Christ - in order to redeem his people from their bondage to sin. Jesus accomplished this redemption through his own life, death, and resurrection. His was a life of perfect obedience. Unlike Adam, Jesus perfectly obeyed the Word of his Father. He did not sin, but instead trusted in the goodness of God. And even though he was innocent, Jesus gave up his life by dying on the cross. When he died on the cross, he did so as our substitute, bearing the Father's wrath for our sin. He died our death!
But he did not stay dead! On the third day, Jesus rose again, proving that his death satisfied the Father's wrath. The empty tomb guarantees that all who look to Christ will escape spiritual death and find salvation.
So, how can we partake of this great salvation? By turning away from our sin and putting our faith in the finished work of Christ. No one can be saved by good works. How could weak, sinful people ever do enough good things to satisfy an infinitely holy God? Instead of trusting in our good works, the Bible calls us to trust in the good work of Christ. When we trust that his life, death, and resurrection count for us, then we are justified before God. The Father counts Christ's life toward us, meaning that we gain his perfect righteousness. And the Father places our sin upon Christ, meaning that he paid sin's penalty for us. And in that great exchange, we are reconciled to the Father. We are saved, and we stand righteous before God because of Christ.
This is the gospel, and it is good news for sinful people like you and me.