We have been asking What is the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ? (207) In another article (218) we looked at the differences between repentance and faith. We saw that repentance is a turning from; whereas faith is a turning to. Repentance is turning from both pride (the popular self-esteem movement) and despair (the nihilism of the X generation). Faith is turning to the true content of the Gospel, which has its essence in the cross. Therefore, the true content of the Gospel is critical because without it, we will be forced back to the attitudes of pride and despair.
This brings us to the essence of the Gospel. What is the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ? It is first a promise. 1 John 2:25 says, "And this is the promise that He hath promised us, [even] eternal life" (KJV). Second, it is a method. The only legitimate response to a promise is faith. But then, the question is raised: Is the promise conditional, or unconditional? That is to say, does the promise require something of us, or does it stand on God's performance alone? We have seen that the condition of the Gospel is repentant faith. In other words, in order to possess the eternal life the Gospel has promised, we must repent of our pride and despair and put our trust in the God of the promise, Jesus Christ.
But, we are a devious lot. The notion of being in a one-on-one, face-to-face relationship with God is a fearful thing. So, to assuage our fear, we erect barriers to maintain the distance from God that we think we need in order to survive, while simultaneously engaging in religion so that we may comfort ourselves with the idea that, because we are religious, we have the promise: eternal life. So, in our deviant faith, we create safe harbors that allow us to think we have the life while at the same time we maintain our distance from Him Who is the Life.
For some of us, this deviant faith means trusting in the accuracy and authority of some church; for others of us, this deviant faith means ignoring the church; and for others of us, this means trusting in the accuracy and authority of our own selves as we play church. But all of these are deviations from the Gospel.
The Gospel, plain and simple, is a promise of eternal life to those who will reject every distance-generating barrier and embrace the truth that Jesus died for our sins to close the distance. All who really want a condition of no-distance between themselves and God can find in the promise the answer to their want. All who want to maintain the distance will find a way to maintain it until the Day of Judgment.
The vast majority of the Bible was written to expose the methods men use to maintain the distance. This is because the promise is simple, but the deviant methods of man are complex. The promise is often given in a single verse; but the explanations take whole books. For those who want no distance, the Bible says to draw near to Him and He will draw near to you.