Throughout the ages the gospel has been attacked over and over again by satanic forces that want to water down the truth of salvation found only in Christ. That attack will continue all the way through the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus. The cults always distort and twist the truth of salvation by grace but lately, the attack and distortion is coming from within our own evangelical circles.
Some are promoting a cross-less salvation, or a works salvation. Whatever the changes are that depart from what the Bible teaches bends the truth and weakens the marvelous fact of what God did to save lost humanity.
While many more points can be listed, below are seven essentials that are necessary pillars of salvation by grace through faith in Christ.
(1) The Issue of Sin
The gospel is the good news (uangelion) that God has saved, spared, delivered, rescued us from sin that has entrapped and snared us. Salvation is distinctly a rescue operation from the power and the penalty of sin. And sin is "the missing the mark" (hamartia) with the results that men have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). This implies that human beings can no longer measure up to who God is. Sin then will keep a person from the presence of the Lord, and even more, that person must die because God cannot tolerate sin in His universe!
Any presentation of a gospel message that ignores the problem of sin, is not the gospel of Scripture. "What are people being saved from?" must be part of the mix. It is a key component of what the gospel is all about. Just as there can be no "Christ-less" gospel, there can be no removal of the problem of sin from the presentation of the gospel. There are those who want to proclaim a "positive" gospel that paints over the subject of sin. It is an effort to avoiding something unpleasant and negative. But this is a modern secular psychological ploy to simply use a salvation vocabulary with SIN, one of the key ingredients removed from the formula and from the definition.
John the Baptist made it clear that Christ came to "take away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). John alludes to Isaiah 53 that tells us why the Messiah must die. Isaiah says the Suffering Servant must die "for our transgressions" (53:5a) and be "crushed for our iniquities" (53:5b). The lost require a "healing" (53:5c) because like sheep they have "gone astray" (v. 6). "But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him" (v. 6b). Notice that the Messiah will be dying for iniquities (plural) and for the principle of sin in the singular, iniquity (v. 6b). The penalty of sin must fall upon the Messiah. He will bear the iniquities of sinners, but in doing so, as God’s Servant, He "will justify the many" (v. 11). In doing this He will have to die (v. 12) and intercede for the transgressors (v. 12b).
One cannot understand the full implications of the story of the Fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve, without understanding the consequences of sin. Sin entered into the world through Adam’s transgression which then brought on death (Rom. 5:12). The wages of sin is death (6:23), Christ died for sins (1 Cor. 15:3), and gave Himself for our sins (Gal. 1:4). By His blood shed on the cross, we now have forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:14). And finally the last book of the Bible tells us that Christ’s blood "washed us from our sin" (Rev. 1:5).
Though there is much more that can be said about sin and its relation to the gospel in defining it, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 gives many of the required components. On the issue of sin these verses tell us "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (v. 3). There can be no understanding about the gospel without fully understanding why Christ died—to save us from our sins! Secular psychology has put a coat of paint over the subject of sin. It has almost been removed from the language of evangelism. And it has been removed as part of the problem of how and why the believer struggles today.
The gospel is about Christ saving us from both the penalty and the power of sin. The substitutionary work of Christ upon the cross is infinitely perfect in its sufficiency. Therefore the sinner who trusts in Christ not only is forgiven, but he is even justified forever (Rom. 3:24). God has never treated sin lightly. Forgiveness may impose no burden on the sinner, but he is forgiven and justified only because the undiminished divine penalty has been borne by Christ (1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18).