God’s Solution: The Gospel
The law is not God’s final word to us. He did not give us a law to condemn us only to leave us in that state of condemnation. Rather, he gave us the law to diagnose our problem so that we might then search for the remedy. God could not have given us the gospel without the law. Picture a doctor approaching you and telling you that you should take a medicine that he then hands you a prescription for. You have no idea why, and as far as you know, you are perfectly healthy. Most likely, you would not take the medicine (and probably shouldn’t!). Now, picture if that same doctor called you and told you that you had a deadly disease, and that he had a cure for it. He then writes you a life-saving prescription. In that first situation, the medicine would not seem like good news at all, because you were not aware of the problem. But in the second scenario, the same news becomes the best news of your life!
The gospel does not bring contrition or sorrow on account of sin. That is the effect of the law. The gospel has its own unique role in God’s plan of redemption. The gospel is God’s promise. In God’s law, we are told what we should do, and in the gospel, we are told what God has done for us. These two messages, though not contradictory, are distinct and they must be kept separate, so that one does not look for contrition in the gospel or salvation in the law.
As we looked at how Paul discusses the law in the book of Romans, we can also look at how he speaks about the gospel in his letter. After coming to the conclusion that the law cannot save, but convicts guilty sinners, he expounds upon the righteousness of God which comes “apart from the law” for all those who believe (Rom. 3:21-22). The law shows us that we have no righteousness to offer to God, that we cannot save ourselves by our own strength. The gospel shows us that the righteousness we need to stand before God is not our own, but it is given as a free gift of God’s grace.
In short, the gospel is the message of what Jesus Christ has done for the salvation of the world. He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, and rose from the grave. The gospel does not contain any commandments or admonitions, but it is a pure promise. The term “gospel” means “good news.” News is something that is reported on. It’s an event which happened objectively in history that is then explained. A command is, by definition, not news. The gospel is good news; in fact, it’s the best news one will ever hear! The gospel is the message that Jesus Christ has won salvation for the world!
Baptized into Christ: A Guide to the Christian Life is coming later this month.