Many people around the world who embrace “Christianity” have never heard the true Gospel. They believe Christianity is nothing but a different set of rules, substituting Christian dos and don’ts for those of other religions. They continue to believe they must earn their way to God and then do their best to deserve the benefits of salvation. That’s not the true Gospel.
Accepting Jesus as your Savior with the belief that you are now going to abide by a certain set of rules is not the Good News. Why? Because then salvation still depends upon your performance. And I can guarantee you that the devil will make sure you know that your performance is not quite good enough. He is the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10).
The truth that makes the Gospel the nearly-too-good-to-be-true news is that we are accepted by God through what Jesus did for us. The revelation of God’s grace will deliver you from a performance mentality to a total trust and reliance upon the Lord. Salvation is all about God’s faithfulness, not ours!
Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.”
The book of Romans communicates that the Gospel is the power of God. It’s what produces the life of God in people. However, the word Gospel has become a religious term that has lost much of its meaning today. Many people associate Gospel with anything that has to do with religion, specifically the Christian religion. But Gospel literally means “good tidings” or “good news” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words).
The Greek word euaggelion, which was translated “gospel” in seventy-four New Testament verses, was so rare in writings outside of the New Testament that it’s only found twice in extrabiblical manuscripts. The reason for this is because this word not only meant good news, but was actually describing nearly-too-good-to-be-true news.
Much of Christian culture today associates the Gospel with “You’re a sinner. If you don’t repent, you’re going to hell.” Now, these are true statements. There is a heaven and a hell, a God and a devil, and you will go to hell if you don’t repent and receive salvation. But even though all of that is truth, it’s not good news. It’s not the Gospel.
As a matter of fact, it’s the complete opposite of what Paul was teaching. Romans 2:4 says that it’s the goodness of God that leads us to repentance, not judgment and condemnation. That is the good news.
The Gospel is directly related to the grace of God. That’s the only way this forgiveness of sins can be obtained. It isn’t through our holiness or good works. God doesn’t take the good people and save them; He justifies (extends salvation toward) the ungodly (Rom. 4:5).
This causes many problems for religious people. Religion teaches that right standing with God comes as a result of our own goodness and works. Religious teachers say, “You must come to our church. You must pay your tithes, read your Bible, and pray more. Then, if you do these things just right, God will accept you.” That’s anti-Gospel! It’s against the good news of God’s grace because it’s putting the burden of salvation on your back. And you can’t bear it. Nobody can save themselves.
Understanding the Gospel isn’t only believing in salvation, but it’s also recognizing the means by which this salvation is obtained. “If you’ll act good and do good, then you’ll be good” isn’t the true Gospel. Notice what Paul said while addressing the Ephesians at the very first ministers’ conference:
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God
Another way Paul could have said this is, “I am testifying of the Gospel, which is the good news of the grace of God.” The words “gospel” and “grace” are terms that can be used interchangeably. The good news, or Gospel, is the grace of God.
Even the word salvation is misunderstood. Evangelical Christianity says that salvation is a one-time occurrence, an experience when your sins are forgiven. That’s true; there is a moment when you pass from death to life. But that is not all that happens. It’s an incomplete definition. Salvation isn’t limited to the initial born-again experience.
Salvation is everything Jesus purchased for us through the atonement. Sozo, the Greek word that was translated “saved” in the New Testament, means more than forgiveness of sin; it also means healing, deliverance, and prosperity. It’s a word that summarizes everything that Jesus provided for us through His death, burial, and resurrection.
James 5:14-15 vividly illustrates how salvation includes both healing and forgiveness of sin:
Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:  and the prayer of faith shall save [sozo] the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
Salvation is a package deal, and it’s all accomplished by the grace of God, not our works. However, Satan is always trying to deceive us. He is the one who wants us to believe we must earn things from God. He is the one causing us to doubt the Lord’s willingness to use His ability on our behalf, and unfortunately, the church is often reinforcing that belief.
I’ve had many believers come up to me in the prayer lines asking, “Why am I not healed? I’ve fasted, prayed, and studied the Word. I pay my tithes and go to church. I’m doing the best I can. What does God demand?” When I hear that, they have just given me the answer to their question. They aren’t pointing to what Jesus did; they are pointing to what they have done, and that always leads to failure. Unfortunately, many people believe that God moves in their lives proportional to their performance.
Paul was dealing with this error in the book of Romans. When Paul said that he was not ashamed of the Gospel (Rom. 1:16), he was saying, “I am not ashamed to tell people about the goodness, grace, and mercy of God.” However, the religious folks of Paul’s day believed he was preaching heresy. They thought that people needed to relate to God based on how sorry they were. God wasn’t happy with them or the way they were acting. They were just worms in His sight. Sound familiar?
On the surface it looks like a humble position. In reality, it’s actually making a person’s relationship with God dependent on self. “Look what I have done for the Lord, how holy I’ve been, and how much I’ve denied myself.” This is a very self-centered, self-dependent way of approaching God that never produces any fruit in your life.
Religion wants to make sure that people know they are sinners and on their way to hell. However, the truth is that they already know that.
Romans 1:18-19 says,
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;  because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath [past tense] shewed it unto them.
God’s wrath has already been revealed intuitively inside every person. So, when someone wonders, If I just tell people about the goodness of God, what will make them understand that they are sinners in need of salvation? Paul’s answer was that they already knew. The point is that you don’t have to bombard people with the fact that they are sinners; deep in their hearts they already know. You may need to spend some time on that issue in order to make your point and strike that chord in their hearts. But condemning them and restricting them to religious dos and don’ts is not the best approach.
It’s the Gospel—the nearly-too-good-to-be-true news—that God has provided. It’s salvation by grace that empowers men to receive the forgiveness of their sins, the healing of their bodies, the deliverance from Satan’s oppression, and more. We don’t need to convince people that they’re sinners; we need to show them the way out. That’s the Gospel!
Do you need to be healed? The power for healing is in the Gospel. Do you need to be prospered financially? The power for financial prosperity is in the Gospel. Do you need to be delivered from the power of demonic influence, from depression, from yourself, or from something else? The power for deliverance is in the Gospel! The Gospel is the power of God. It’s nearly too good to be true.
This month I’m excited to offer the Romans Collection. This is packed full of my teaching on grace. It includes the Grace: The Power of the Gospel book and study guide, along with the CD or DVD series. In addition, there’s the Life for Today Study Bible and Commentary: Romans Edition. To order any of these materials, go to our website: www.awmsa.net, call our office, or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for your partnership with Jamie and me in the true Gospel. It’s releasing the power of God into hearts all over the world, and you have a big part in all of that.
We love you,