DOES JESUS CHRIST SAVE US, OR DOES THE GOSPEL SAVE US?
by Shawn Brasseaux
“Dear Brother Shawn, Your article is great! It really helped me in understanding difficult Biblical topics. Could you clarify this statement of yours? ‘God applies that forgiveness by faith when we trust the Gospel of Grace—that Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He was raised again the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3,4).’ Do we have Scriptural basis in saying we have forgiveness by faith when we ‘trust’ the Gospel of Grace? Salvation comes from, through and by the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation does not come from the gospel. Can we find anywhere in the King James to ‘trust the gospel?’ I understand that 1 Corinthians 15:2 says ‘by this Gospel we were saved…’ but is it Biblical to conclude trusting this Gospel is what saves us? or trusting Jesus Christ saves us? We don’t trust the Gospel to save us but we trust Jesus Christ to save us and this Gospel of Grace is what we believe. Thank you so much. Waiting for your reply.”
“Hi Brother ____. Glad to be of service to you, friend! Thank you for allowing me to clarify. While I understand what you are saying, and I agree with you, please allow me to point out some things I think you have overlooked. I will try to make this as clear and as plain as possible. Since you are replying to our “Are lost people forgiven?” article, I trust that you have read it in full and you can refer to it again if needed. (https://forwhatsaiththescriptures.wordpress.com/2014/12/07/are-lost-people-forgiven/)
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Faith is believing God’s Word to you. God’s Word to us, God’s Good News (“Gospel”), His message to us, is that His Son is the Saviour. While this is true, the Bible gives a more specific explanation. Faith needs to rest on a clear understanding of God’s Word. The clear understanding is established when we hear or read “Christ died for our sins…” (1 Corinthians 15:3). Without the Gospel message, we have no firm understanding of Jesus Christ (who He is and what He did).
While it is certainly true Jesus Christ is the Saviour, on what basis can He save? What did He do to be the Saviour? You cannot answer these questions without the Gospel. “Christ died for our sins…” (1 Corinthians 15:3).
While it is certainly true Jesus Christ is the Saviour, on what basis does He save? How does He save? You cannot answer these questions without the Gospel. “Christ died for our sins…” (1 Corinthians 15:3).
Why does a holy, righteous God want to have anything to do with us sinners? How can we go to heaven if our sin prohibits fellowship with God? Again, you cannot answer these questions without the Gospel. “Christ died for our sins…” (1 Corinthians 15:3).
Jesus Christ died, shed His blood, and paid for our sins in full. His blood is the atonement for sins. His blood covers our sins. We cannot cover or make up for our sins by performing religious works of any kind. Christ was buried to put away our sins (Hebrews 9:26). He was raised again (resurrected) to justify us (declare us righteous before God) (Romans 4:25). This is called “the Gospel of the Grace of God” (Acts 20:24). Grace is what God can do for us freely through the propitiation (fully satisfying payment) of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:24-25). “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
As I pointed out in that article you read earlier, the Gospel is the means whereby God can “impute” (apply, reckon, or “count” in Romans 4:5) the merits of Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork to the believer. The finished crosswork of Jesus Christ is very valuable, but we do not know its true worth unless we know the Gospel that clearly communicates its value. Christ’s shed blood can provide forgiveness, but that forgiveness is not actually true of us as individuals until we as individuals believe the Gospel. “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5).
The Lord Jesus Christ indeed does the saving from sins and hell, but what about Jesus must we believe in order to be saved? What must we do to have Christ’s righteousness imputed to us? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). We are to rely on Jesus Christ as the propitiation, or sufficient payment, for our sins. Unless you know exactly what He did to save you, He cannot save you. The Gospel tells us how He saves us. He puts away our sins and gives us His righteousness in their place!
Romans 1:16 says: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” The “Gospel of Christ” is a message all about Jesus Christ. What specifically about Him? According to the King James Bible, the Gospel of Christ is “the power of God” that can “save” those who “believe.” What exactly do they believe? The Gospel of Christ. What is the Gospel of Christ? Chapters 3-5 of Romans will talk about His finished crosswork as the way to righteousness (justification) unto eternal life and heaven.
Ephesians 1:12-14 also says: “ That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.  In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,  Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” We heard “the word of truth,” “the gospel of [our] salvation.”
According to this passage, you have to first hear the Gospel, then you can trust in Christ, and finally you get the Holy Spirit. What is the Gospel of our salvation? Again, please refer to the first five chapters of Romans. We trust in Christ, definitely, but why trust in Him? Because there is saving power, cleansing power, in His shed blood, and that is most clearly expressed in the Gospel of Grace. “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Because the Gospel is the Word of God, it is just as powerful as anything else God does or speaks (just as powerful as Calvary’s cross).
By the way, concerning the “salvation” in 1 Corinthians 15:2, that is deliverance from misery/defeat rather than deliverance from sin (a common misunderstanding about the verse). You can see our study about that linked at the end of this study.
SUPPLEMENTAL – WHAT GOSPEL?
There is a common assumption that there is only one Gospel message in the Bible. This is a misconception. We can avoid it by understanding there are at least two basic Gospel messages in the Bible. (While there is only one Gospel message today, God did not reveal it until the Apostle Paul. God has other Gospel messages valid at other times in human history.)
We read in Matthew chapter 16: “ When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?  And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.  He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.  And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.
“ From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.  Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.  But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”
The 12 Apostles are often assumed to be preaching in the Four Gospels, “Jesus Christ will die for our sins, He will be buried, and He will rise again.” However, the 12 Apostles had no idea about Calvary. In fact, the only piece of information these Apostles were expected to know about Jesus was, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). In verse 17, Jesus approved of these words of Peter: Jesus did not censure Peter for not talking about Calvary since Calvary had not yet been revealed yet. Notice how Peter did not say, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, who will die for our sins.” Peter was preaching “the Gospel,” but he was not preaching our Gospel. Peter’s Gospel message was that Jesus was Messiah/Christ/Son of God. There is nothing about Calvary in Peter’s confession. The Gospel of the Kingdom committed to Peter and the 11 involved who Jesus was (Christ/Messiah), not what He was going to do at Calvary (as in our Gospel of Grace). We must be careful to “study… rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Read in Matthew 16:21 how Jesus “began” to tell His disciples about how He was going to go to Jerusalem, and suffer, and be killed, and rise again the third day. This means that He had not mentioned Calvary to His disciples prior to Matthew 16:21!!!! Furthermore, when Peter learns of Jesus’ coming death, Peter denies it will happen! Matthew chapter 16 again: “ From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.  Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.  But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”
Luke 18:31-34 is the parallel account: “ Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.  For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on:  And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.  And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.” Calvary was hidden from the Apostles!!! They could not have been preaching our Gospel in Matthew through John! They were preaching “the Gospel of the Kingdom” (Matthew 4:17; Matthew 9:35; Matthew 24:14)—Jesus is Messiah/King/Christ. Hence, we say that when we believe the Gospel of the Grace of God, we have God’s righteousness imputed to us. It is not merely enough for us today to believe Jesus is Christ/Son of God (as in the Gospel of the Kingdom). We have to believe “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3)—that distinguishes our Gospel message from the Gospel the 12 Apostles preached.
If we just say “Jesus saves us,” that is true in both the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of the Grace of God. That is too general a Gospel message, for why does Jesus save us? Not merely because He is Messiah/Christ (as in the Gospel of the Kingdom). But, when we say, “Christ died for our sins,” that is more specific and that is the Gospel message God through the Apostle Paul gave us (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day.” That is the Gospel message we should preach, the Gospel of the Grace of God. “Jesus saves” is too simplistic, and does not go into enough detail to serve as an adequate basis for faith today.