Basic Christian Training
Lesson 1
A Gospel Panorama

O.J. Gibson

We live in a world entangled by troubles. How refreshing it is that the New Testament begins with good news. The first four books are called The Gospels. The word gospel means good news! The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell the good news that God sent His Son into the world to be our Savior.

That is good news because, as sinners, we need a Savior to deliver us from the penalty for our sins. The four Gospels tell the story of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as the only One who can forgive our sins and restore our broken relationship with God.

The core message of the Christian faith is the most incredible message ever heard by man, that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and…was buried, and…rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). The good news is, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus opened the way to heaven for anyone to come to God by faith, have their sins forgiven, and enjoy a new relationship with God. He has commissioned believers to proclaim this good news to everyone throughout the world (Mark 16:15). It is God’s message for everyone, and it is good news indeed!

What we Know About the Gospel

  • Its source – the good news comes from God, not man, for it is called the gospel of God (Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:2, 8-9; 1 Timothy 1:11).
  • Its central theme – the good news is about a living Person. It is the gospel of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1-3, 9; 15:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:2).
  • Its purpose – the good news is to save people from their sins and bring them to a new relationship with God. It is the gospel of our salvation (Romans 1:16; Ephesians 1:13).
  • Its objects are undeserving – the good news is “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).
  • Its duration – the good news is eternal. It is “the everlasting gospel” (Revelation 14:6).
  • Its message – the gospel is a call to action – believing and obeying the gospel delivers us from judgment (Mark 1:15; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; 1 Peter 4:17).

No one can afford to ignore the urgent message of the gospel. We must hear it to be saved (James 1:21). Faith is our response to the good news (Romans 10:17). Since faith (individual trust) is the required response, there is an urgent need to tell others the good news that Jesus saves people from their sins (Matthew 1:21; 18:11; Luke 9:56; 19:10; Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 9:16; 1 Timothy 1:15; Hebrews 7:25). Anyone who seeks to alter the message and lead people astray is under a curse (Galatians 1:7-9), particularly those who teach that works or rituals must be added to believing the gospel for salvation.

This gospel message was introduced in Genesis 3:15 and is known as The First Gospel (or protevangelium). It is good news that God promises a remedy for sin through a future Deliverer. God told Adam and Eve that hostility would exist between Satan “and the woman, and between [Satan’s] seed and her Seed.” The woman’s Seed refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. Satan seeks to kill and destroy the human race, but Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). The good news of Genesis 3:15 is that Jesus would come and strike Satan’s head, a mortal wound defeating him. Through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, He crushed Satan “having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15). Satan would strike the Messiah’s heel, which refers to Jesus’ physical suffering and death, but the good news is Christ rose from the dead victorious over sin, hell, and Satan. God sent the Promised Deliverer – Jesus Christ – who died and rose again. This message is the gospel of our salvation.

The Old Testament reveals the qualifications of the coming Savior and what is required for our salvation:

  • The Savior must be God – God alone is the Savior, and Jesus is His name (Isaiah 43:11; Luke 2:11).
  • The Savior must be a man – It was a man who sinned. Therefore, Jesus became a man to die as a substitute for all people (Genesis 3:15; Acts 2:22; Romans 5:12, 15-19; Galatians 4:4-5; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 2:9).
  • The Savior must possess the prophesied credentials – Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophecies to the letter, and He brought the gospel message to everyone (Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:17-21; 7:19-22).
  • God’s Deliverer is for all humanity – He is the Savior to Jews and Gentiles (Isaiah 42:1, 6; Jeremiah 31:31-33; Romans 1:16; Revelation 5:9).
  • Salvation comes from God – only God can save us; there is only one way to God (Isaiah 25:9; 43:11; Zephaniah 3:17; John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
  • Salvation requires a blood sacrifice – “without shedding of blood” there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22). The required blood sacrifices of countless lambs merely covered sins and pointed to the final, once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, 36; see also Hebrews 10:1-4, 10-12).
  • Salvation is ours through faith, not works – Abraham was declared righteous before God based on his faith in God’s promise, “And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6; see also Romans 4:3; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Separation from God

God created people —for His pleasure and glory (Isaiah 43:7; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Colossians 1:10; Hebrews 13:21; Revelation 4:11). God’s eternal purpose was for man to bear His moral likeness and thereby reveal His glory (Genesis 1:26-27; Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 10:31). He created all humans with free will. We have the freedom to love and obey God or not. God gave this freedom of choice to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.

1. Free Will
When God put man in the garden of Eden, He “commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’” (Genesis 2:15-17). Adam and Eve enjoyed a personal relationship with God, walking in fellowship with Him every day, God caring for them in every way. They had only one rule (law) to follow, which would ensure the continuation of their relationship with God. They had the freedom to obey or disobey, to believe or not to believe God’s word.

2. The Sinful Choice
The devil appeared to Eve in the form of a serpent and lied to her. He deceived her so that she ate the forbidden fruit, and she gave it to Adam to eat. They chose to believe Satan’s lie rather than the truth of God’s word. The moment they ate the fruit, they sinned, and that act of disobedience brought about a fatal change called the Fall of Man (Genesis 3:1-7). The result of the fall is death, “for the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

3. The Consequences of Sin
In the Bible, death always means separation. As soon as Adam and Eve sinned, they died spiritually, meaning they were separated from the relationship and fellowship they had with God (Genesis 3:8). Then, at some future point, they died physically. Physical death takes place when our soul and spirit are separated from our bodies (Hebrews 9:27). The Bible also describes something called the second death. That is eternal death, which occurs when a person is separated from God for eternity in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).

Every relative of Adam is affected by Adam’s sin. We have inherited Adam’s sin nature. Everything produces after its kind – dogs give birth to dogs, apple trees grow apples, and sinners reproduce sinners. Man is a sinner both by nature (Ephesians 2:3) and by practice (Romans 3:23), and death is the punishment for our sins (Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23). Every person is born “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1, 5). To be born “dead” refers to spiritual death that we experience from birth. We are born separated from God and in need of His salvation.

Those who deny that they are sinners need only visit the nearest cemetery to realize that sin’s consequences are real and every human being will suffer sins’ deadly penalty. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Sin is also the root cause of all trouble, fear, guilt, sickness, pain, and alienation from the life of God.

Substitution for the Sinner

What makes the gospel such good news is that a holy God, who hates sin, still loves the sinner (Ephesians 2:4-5; 1 John 4:10). There seems to be a moral dilemma because God is perfectly righteous and must punish our sin with the death penalty it deserves, including spiritual, physical, and eternal death (Exodus 34:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; Revelation 20:14-15). Yet, God is a perfectly loving “Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). He “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). How can God’s perfect justice and His immense love for humankind be reconciled?

1. God’s Solution – Substitution
God resolves this dilemma through substitution. Through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, God demonstrates “His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). God is just. He satisfied the law’s requirement of death for sin’s punishment – Jesus died in our place. God can now offer forgiveness because Jesus shed His blood for our sins, for “without shedding of blood there is no remission” (forgiveness) (Hebrews 9:22; cf. Revelation 5:9). God is the justifier. He righteously justifies (declare righteous) all sinners who have faith in Jesus Christ because sin’s debt is paid (Romans 3:21-24).

The Bible describes Christ’s substitutionary death for us. Christ “Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (Isaiah 53:4-6); “the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 2:24; 3:18). God the Son became a man to die for the sins of humankind (Acts 2:22). He had to be sinless; otherwise, He would have to die for His own sins (2 Corinthians 5:21). His life was of infinite value that it might provide a ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:6). God desires all men to be saved, and He provided the only way of salvation (1 Timothy 2:4-6). Only God can be a Savior of man (Isaiah 43:11; 45:21). Jesus is God and satisfied that demand (Matthew 1:21-23).

2. Old Testament Illustrations of Substitution
God’s plan to send a Deliverer (a Substitute, a Savior) is God’s way of salvation. But man has always looked for another way to save himself. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25). Many people are like Adam and Eve and try to look and act respectable. Our first parents “knew that they were naked” before God “and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” to conceal their shame (Genesis 3:7), but “there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). Their outward efforts did not cover their sin before a holy God, and He rejected their efforts. A person cannot make himself acceptable to God by trying to look respectable on the outside because God knows that “There is none righteous, no, not one…There is none who does good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10, 12).

a. A Substitute for Adam and Eve
God provided a substitute for Adam and Eve to cover their sin. God killed an animal, shed its blood, and clothed them with “tunics of skin” (Genesis 3:21). God illustrated that the death of an innocent victim must cover their sin and that its blood must be shed. Acting respectable will never make us acceptable to God (Isaiah 64:6).

b. A Substitute for Adam and Eve’s Sons
Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve, were taught that the death of a substitute lamb must cover their sin. Abel offered the necessary blood sacrifice demonstrating his faith in God, but Cain offered God the fruit of his work in the fields. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice as a covering for his sin, but He rejected Cain’s offering. Many people today are like Cain and have their own idea about how to approach God. Cain brought a bloodless sacrifice. He tried to be accepted by God through his own labors, his own good works, but not based on faith in what God said, and God rejected his offering. (Genesis 4:3-5). God will always reject those who seek His acceptance based on their meritorious works. The way to God is by a blood sacrifice, not human works. Good works – “the way of Cain” – will never make us acceptable to God (Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Jude 11).

c. A Substitute – the Passover Lamb
One of the most memorable stories in the Old Testament was the Exodus when God delivered Israel out of Egyptian slavery. Moses demanded that Pharaoh let God’s people go free. Pharaoh refused, and God sent ten plagues upon Egypt. The last plague was the death of all the firstborn sons throughout the country. But God offered a way of escape. God told His people to take an unblemished lamb for each household, shed its blood, roast it in fire and eat it. Then, each family was to apply the animal’s blood to the doorposts and lintel of their home. God said, “And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:3-14, 21-27). This event perfectly illustrates how a substitute lamb took the place of a person who was condemned to die. The meal was called the Passover. The Jewish Passover Feast is still celebrated to this day. This event points to Jesus, “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Through His death, He took the place of those condemned to die (John 3:18; Romans 5:18).

d. A Substitute for Sinners
The need for a substitute for all sinners was illustrated millions of times by the Jews as they brought perfect, sacrificial lambs as a sacrifice for their sins. The death of the lambs covered their sins but never took them away. The sacrifices were a mere “shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:17). He died on the cross for our sins and did not cover our sins but took them away (Hebrews 10:1-4; cf. John 1:29).

e. The Substitute for Us
All of the previous sacrifices pointed to the Lord Jesus Christ’s perfect sacrifice on the cross – the once-for-all blood sacrifice that takes away sin forever (Hebrews 9:12-14; 10:10, 12). God’s plan to save people from their sins was in His mind “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). Once man sinned, God set His plan in motion to save us from our sins “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1Peter 1:20). By faith, we believe in Him, and we are saved (Acts 16:31). God fulfilled His plan of salvation by sending the Son of God Himself to be our Savior (Hebrews 1:1-2). God’s plan of Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross (suffering for us and being punished instead of us) was the “hidden wisdom” that God concealed from Satan and the forces of evil through the preceding ages (1 Corinthians 2:7-8). The depths of His love and grace for sinners will be the endless story in heaven, “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6-7).

If Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the only way to God, how were Old Testament believers saved? They were saved on the same basis as we are; that is, by grace, through faith, without meritorious works (Ephesians 2:8-9). When people offered blood sacrifices in the Old Testament, God covered their sins. In a sense, God saved them on credit. We are familiar with a promissory note or an IOU. These are written documents where one party promises to pay an amount at a future date. Every sin we have ever committed was an IOU that needed to be paid. When Jesus died on the cross, He paid all of the IOUs on behalf of the people who had sinned. Jesus paid their debt of sin. They believed God would provide a way to forgive their sins, and God credited righteousness to their account because of their faith.

Those who offered blood sacrifices in the Old Testament believed that God would pay their sin debt at some future point. They all died in faith, not having seen the fulfillment of the promised Deliverer, the Messiah. Yet, they were persuaded that the promises were true and embraced them (Hebrews 11:13). We read of Abraham’s faith. “And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3; James 2:23). God did the same for all Old Testament believers who trusted in Him. He credited the work of the Lord Jesus to their account just as He does to ours (2 Corinthians 5:21). Some people in the Old Testament period trusted in the Lord by faith and were credited with the righteousness of God, and others did not have faith to believe, so the message was of no benefit to them (Hebrews 4:2). Those with no faith would die in their sins and face judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

The good news that we must believe today is, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

3. The Only Acceptable Substitute to God
It is incredible, but true, that there is a Substitute for sinners and that He was willing to die in our place and pay for our sins. Jesus Christ is the only acceptable substitute and sacrifice for our sins. God the Father is well pleased with His Son (Matthew 3:17). He is fully satisfied with the finished work of Jesus dying on the cross. Christ settled our debt of sin and made us acceptable in God’s presence. He said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). No more sacrifice for sins is needed, nor are our iniquities remembered again (Hebrews 10:17-18). God is favorably disposed toward us because of the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:1). The Lamb of God has fully paid for the sins of the world (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2). His resurrection displays God’s acceptance of Christ’s final sacrifice (Acts 2:22-24).

Salvation for the Believer

Each individual must come to God for salvation, receiving Christ as his personal Lord and Savior (John 1:12-13). Thus, our response to God places us into one of two groups: the godly or the ungodly, and members of different spiritual families with different fathers, different fruit, and different destinies.

1. Sons Of Disobedience
Everyone is born separated from God and is by nature disobedient to God. Our sin nature exhibits itself in the sins we commit daily in thought, word, and deed (Ephesians 2:2; 5:6). We are the “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3), indicating we are under the condemnation of God. We are called the children “of the devil” (1 John 3:8, 10). Our sins are many, and our unrighteous acts exclude us from the kingdom of God and will incur the wrath of God (Romans 2:8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Colossians 3:6).

2. Sons Of God / Children of God
Every person who believes that the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross to save him from the penalty of sin becomes a child of God (John 1:12; Romans 8:16-17; Galatians 3:26). The positive response to the good news is considered to be obedience to God (Romans 2:7; 16:26; 1 Peter 1:2) because the gospel is a command to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31). To believe in Him is the same thing as to have faith in Him. The Bible says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Though our sins were many, we are now “washed…sanctified…[and] justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). We no longer walk in darkness, but in the light, and are “sons of light” (John 12:36; 1 Thessalonians 5:5). We are not saved by good works, but we are saved for good works (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 3:8). God’s design of salvation was that those who had been dead in sins might live for righteousness (1 Peter 2:24).

The significant difference between the two families is in their faith. The sons of disobedience, following Cain, have faith in their own efforts to make themselves pleasing to God. They will not obey the gospel and come to God through faith in the finished work of Christ alone. They trust in their own goodness, ideas, and way of life. In contrast, the children of God have come to the point where they know they need a Savior. They have repented of their sins (Luke 13:3; 15:7; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19). They have turned to God in faith (Acts 20:21; 26:20). Their faith is in the blood of Christ alone to save them (Romans 3:25). His blood alone can cleanse them from all sin (1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5).

Conclusion

The salvation of man was in the mind of God before the creation of the world. He desired a relationship and fellowship with those who were willing to love and obey Him by choice. The beginning of disobedience did not take Him by surprise. The Lamb of God was set aside, even slain, in the mind of God before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:19-20; Revelation 13:8). “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son” (Galatians 4:4). “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke…by the prophets,” now spoke to man through His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2). The gospel message tells us that Christ has died and paid for our sins, meeting every claim of God’s justice. The Son has risen from the dead for man’s justification. God offers eternal life to all who will come to Him through faith in His Son. To receive the Son and to have Him is to have eternal life (John 1:12; 1 John 5:12). The wrath of God abides on the one who does not believe (John 3:36). Have you obeyed the gospel? Do you now walk as a child of obedience, a child of light, and a child of God?


BCT Lesson 1 Study Guide
A Gospel Panorama

  1. Adam and Eve lived in a perfect environment with only one rule (law). What was the law, and what was the consequence of breaking the law (Genesis 2:15-17)?
  2. What does Adam’s response to this test tell you about his faith in God’s word (Genesis 3:1-7)?
  3. Use the following verses to define sin (Isaiah 53:6; Matthew 5:28; Romans 3:23; James 4:17; 1 John 3:4).
  4. What is the condition of all men since the time of Adam (Romans 5:12)? Why?
  5. God’s justice demands that sin’s penalty must be paid. What is the spiritual punishment for sin established by God at creation (Genesis 2:17; Ezekiel 18:4)?
  6. What happens if a person dies physically in this condition (Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:11-15)?
  7. What qualifications must the Savior have?
  8. What requirements must be met for salvation?
    1. John 1:29
    2. Hebrews 9:22
    3. Ephesians 2:8-9
    4. Romans 10:9-10
  9. What solution did God use to reconcile His perfect justice and His perfect love (1 Peter 3:18; cf. Acts 4:10-12)?
  10. How does the Old Testament illustrate substitution?
  11. Paraphrase (rewrite in your own words) Isaiah 53:4-5
  12. Paraphrase (rewrite in your own words) 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 and explain how this passage summarizes the gospel message.
  13. What was one reason for God veiling His redemptive plan until it was completed (1 Corinthians 2:7-8)?
  14. How then were Old Testament believers “saved” (Hebrews 11:13)?
  15. What is the relationship between salvation and doing good works (Ephesians 2:8-10)?
  16. How does the life of Abraham demonstrate this concept (Romans 4:1-5; James 2:18-23)?
  17. Is salvation possible based on works (Titus 3:5-8; Hebrews 9:22)? Why or why not?
  18. Briefly explain how and when you became a Christian. If you have not yet received Jesus Christ, what do you believe is holding you back?