Unlike other religions (or even other falsified biblical religions), Christianity centers around the truth of the Gospel: “Jesus Christ – God’s promised Rescuer and Ruler – lived our life, died our death, and rose again in triumphant vindication – as the first fruit of a new creation – to bring forgiven sinners together under His gracious reign” . This gospel is described through out the Bible in the most astounding terms: Angels long to look into it all the time (1 Peter 1:12); it does not simply bring us power, but it is the power of God itself (Rom.1:16); it is also the blessing of God with benefits, which accrue to anyone who comes near (1 Cor.9:23); it is even called the very light of the glory of God itself (2 Cor.4:4-6).
The Gospel has the life of God; after it has regenerated us, it is the instrument of all continual growth and spiritual progress (Col.1:6). Paul is showing that we never “get beyond the gospel” in our Christian life to something more “advanced” (Col.2:6-8 and Galatians). The gospel is not the first “step” in a “stairway” of truths; rather, it is more like the “hub” in a “wheel” of truth. It is not just the A-B-C’s but the A to Z of Christianity.
We are not justified by the gospel and then sanctified by obedience, but the gospel is the way we grow (Gal.3:1-3) and are renewed (Col.1:6). It is the solution to each problem, the key to each closed door, the power through every barrier (Rom.1:16-17). The main problem in the Christian life is that we have not thought out the deep implications of the gospel, we have not “used” the gospel in and on all parts of our life. Richard Lovelace says that most people’s problems are just a failure to be oriented to the gospel–a failure to grasp and believe it through and through. Luther says, “The truth of the Gospel is the principle article of all Christian doctrine… Most necessary is that we know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.” The gospel is not easily comprehended. Paul says that the gospel only does its renewing work in us as we understand it in all its truth. All of us, to some degree, live around the truth of the gospel but do not “get” it. So the key to continual and deeper spiritual renewal and revival is the continual re-discovery of the gospel. A stage of renewal is always the discovery of a new implication or application of the gospel–seeing more of its truth. This is true for either an individual or a church.
The gospel opposes both religion and irreligion (Matt.21:31; 22:10). These two errors represent the natural human tendency: they can be called moralism/legalism, and hedonism/relativism. They are both ways to avoid Jesus as Savior and keep control of our lives; both are based on distorted views of God. The Gospel will say to both at the same time: “I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe” (vs. antinomianism); and “I am more accepted and loved than I ever dared hope” (vs. legalism). To “get the gospel” is to turn from self-justification and rely on Jesus’ record for a relationship with God. The irreligious does not repent at all, and the religious only repent of sins. But Christians also repent of their righteousness. That is the distinction of the Gospel, which produces love, joy, humility and gratefulness, and all godliness in our lives.