Before we can begin to talk about the church we need to make sure that we understand the message of the Gospel. Romans 1:16 teaches us that the message of the Gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes….” It is through the Gospel that individuals are saved, delivered from sin, and made a part of the church. Apart from the Gospel there is no Church.
One of the clearest explanations of the Gospel is found in 2 Corinthians 5:21. There it says,
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Here we see that God the Father sent Jesus into this world for a reason. As the Son of God, Jesus was absolutely perfect. As Paul puts it, He knew no sin! This is not only amazing, but it was also necessary. You see, Jesus came for a reason. He had to come on our behalf. Because of our sin we were spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1). There was absolutely nothing that we could do to please God, and appease His righteous wrath. This is why Jesus had to come on our behalf. As a perfectly righteous substitute Jesus was able to come and die as a sacrifice for sins. As Romans 5:8 puts it,
But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Going back to 2 Corinthians 5:21, this substitutionary death occurred so that we might be declared righteous by God. This is what Paul meant when he said “that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Here we see the doctrine of imputation. Our sin was imputed, or credited, to Christ which He paid for on the cross. Furthermore, His righteousness was imputed, or credited, to us through faith. When we put our faith in Christ, by God’s grace, we are forgiven (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This is the Gospel message, and it is through this Gospel message that an individual becomes a part of the people of God—the Church. Through His death, burial, and resurrection Christ has created the Church. This has massive implications for our discussion of the church for two primary reasons. First of all, you cannot be a part of the church unless you put your faith in Christ. The only true members of the church are true disciples of Christ. Secondly, the Gospel reveals what Christ thought about the church. Specifically, it reveals that Christ loved the church.