What is the Gospel?
The Gospel in Financial Terms
We are Spiritually Poor
In Matthew 5:3 Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. In Luke 4:18 Jesus said He preaches the Gospel to the poor. The poor are the special category of people that receive the Gospel. There’s only one reason people have debt, and that’s because they’re poor.
The Greek word for poor is ptōchos and it means “reduced to beggary, lowly, afflicted…helpless, powerless…lacking in anything.” It’s not talking about being somewhat poor…it’s talking about people with absolutely nothing of value. There’s an example of this kind of poverty in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus: Luke 16:20-21 There was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at [the rich man’s] gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 So it was that the beggar died. That’s POOR! This has to be one of the most pitiful descriptions of an individual in Scripture. Twice he’s called a beggar and the word for beggar is ptōchos. It’s the same word for poor in Luke 4:18 and Matthew 5:3.
Jesus isn’t talking about financial poverty in Matthew 5:3 or Luke 4:18. He’s talking about spiritual poverty. The way this beggar looked financially is the way we look spiritually. The Gospel is for people who recognize this reality. The Kingdom of Heaven is for people who know they have as much going for them spiritually as this man had going for him financially. Why are we so poor spiritually? For the same reason people are poor financially: an absence of anything valuable. People who are spiritually poor know they have absolutely nothing with which they could purchase or obtain salvation. They know they’re sinners. As a result they recognize their spiritual bankruptcy and don’t trust in their own righteousness.
Isaiah 66:2 The LORD says, ‘On this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit.’ Why? Because these are people receive the Gospel knowing they can’t make it to heaven on their own. They know they have nothing with which they could redeem themselves or pay back their spiritual debts or ransom themselves; therefore, they’re thankful to have Jesus redeem them.
We have a Sin Debt
Because of our sin, we each have a huge amount of sin debt against God. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray in Matthew 6:12 He encouraged them to say, “Forgive us our debts.” In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, the man doesn’t have a huge criminal record, but he does have a huge amount of debt. The servant pleaded with the king for mercy. In Matthew 18:27 it says, “The master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.” The forgiveness of the man’s debt pictured the forgiveness of his sins.
Ransom and Redemption
A ransom is something paid to cancel or erase a person’s debt. In Matthew 20:28 Jesus said He “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
When someone pays the ransom for another’s debt, it’s known as redemption. The individual who pays the ransom is known as a redeemer. Titus 2:14 says, “Jesus gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed.” Peter discussed what was required to cancel our sin debt and he said we “were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pet 1:18, 19). This promise of God stands for all who put their trust in Jesus Christ and his atoning work on the cross.
Double Imputation of Sin and Righteousness
“Impute” is another accounting term, which refers to moving assets from one side of a ledger to the other. The Greek word for impute is logizomai, and it occurs forty-one times in Scripture.
Romans 4:8 says “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.” In other words, blessed is the man whose sins are not put to his account. God is just though, and no sin can go unpunished or unaccounted for. If our sin is not imputed to our account, it has to be put to, or imputed to someone’s account. For everyone who trusts him, Jesus says, “You can put your sin to my account. Your sin can be imputed to Me!”
With our sin imputed to Christ’s account we can be considered innocent, but we’re not considered righteous. To be considered or accounted righteous, righteous behavior is required. But Isaiah 64:6 says, “Our righteousness is like filthy rags.” Even our best efforts aren't considered righteous in God’s eyes. The only way to have right standing before God, is to have Christ’s righteousness imputed to our account.
This amazing reality is captured beautifully in 2 Corinthians 5:21 when Paul says, “God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Our unrighteousness moves from our side of the ledger to Christ’s, and His righteousness moves from His side of the ledger to ours.