What is the gospel? The word gospel simply means " good news". The central message of the Bible is the gospel, or good news, about the person and work of Jesus Christ. In 1 Cor.15:1-4, Paul provides the most succinct summary of the gospel: The man Jesus is also God or Christ and died on a cross in our place, paying the penalty for our sins, three days later He rose to conquer sin and death and give the gift of salvation to all who believe in Him alone for eternal life.
The great reformer Martin Luther rightly said that, as sinners we are prone to pursue a relationship with God in one of two ways: The first is religion/spirituality and the second is the gospel. The two are antithetical in every way.
Religion says that if we obey God He will love us. The gospel says that it is because God has loved us through Jesus that we can obey.
Religion says that the world is filled with good people and bad people. The gospel says that the world is filled with bad people who are either repentant or unrepentant.
Religion says that you should trust in what you do as a good moral person. The gospel says you should trust in the perfect sinless life of Jesus because He alone is the only good and truly moral person who will ever live.
The goal of religion is to get from God such things as health, wealth, insight, power and control. The goal of the gospel is not the gifts God gives, but rather God as the gift given to us by grace.
Religion is about what "I" have to do. The gospel is about what I get to do. Religion sees hardship in life as punishment from God. The gospel sees hardship in life as sanctifying affliction that reminds us of Jesus' sufferings and is used by God in love to make us more like Jesus .
Religion is about "me". The Gospel is about JESUS.
Religion leads to an uncertainty about my standing before God because I never know if I have done enough to please God. The gospel leads to a certainty about my standing before God because of the finished work of Jesus on my behalf on the cross.
--- Mark Driscoll, Pastor of Mars Hill Church