“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you– unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures . . .” -1 Corinthians 15:1-4
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 Corinthians 15:1-4, Paul provides the most concise 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.
RELIGION VS THE GOSPEL
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 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 that you should trust in the perfectly 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.
- Religion promotes self-esteem, which is the “esteem of one self”–namely pride. The gospel promotes self-denial, which is to detest sin and denying self with humility and godly sorrow, and with a purpose and endeavor to walk before God so as to please Him in all things.
- Religion ends in either pride (because I think I am better than other people) or despair (because I continually fall short of God’s commands). The gospel ends in humble and confident joy because of the power of Jesus at work for me, in me, through me, and sometimes in spite of me.
1. Mandate of the Church is Impossible apart from the Power of God
All men of every culture are born radically depraved, at enmity with God, and restrain the truth. The conversion of a man and the advancement of the Church are an absolute impossibility apart from the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. Modern church growth strategies and many new methodologies often overlook this essential truth.
2. A True Gospel must be Proclaimed
“The Gospel is the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16), and the preaching of the Gospel is the great means and methodology of the Church. The Gospel is, first and foremost, God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). It answers the eternal question of how a just God can rightly justify wicked men (Romans 3:26). It points to Christ alone, who bore the sins of His people upon the cross, was forsaken of God, and crushed under the full force of His just wrath against sin. The Good News of the Gospel is that through Christ’s death, the justice of God was satisfied, and salvation was won for a great multitude of people. This is evidenced by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – “He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:25).
3. The Gospel Transcends Culture
The greatest need of all men of every culture is the clear proclamation of the Gospel. Men are saved through the Gospel and continue in sanctification through continued growth in the full counsel of God’s Word. Although differences in culture are to be considered, it is more important for the Church to be Biblically sensitive than culturally sensitive. A missionary was once asked how he preached the Gospel to a certain remote tribe. He response was. “I do not preach the Gospel to a remote tribe. I preach the Gospel to men!”
4. Superficial Evangelism is one of the Great Obstacles to the Church
Non-theological preaching, entertaining skits, and Gospel films are no substitute for the biblical exposition of the Gospel. Inviting men to raise their hands and pray a prayer is no substitute for the biblical call to repentance, faith, and personal discipleship. Biblical assurance of salvation does not flow from the sincerity of a past decision or a prayer, but from the examination of one’s enduring lifestyle in the light of Scripture.
Gospel of Jesus Christ
The greatest need of all men of every culture is the clear proclamation of the Gospel. Men are saved through the Gospel and continue in sanctification through continued growth in the full counsel of God’s Word.
THE CHARACTER OF GOD
The Holiness of God:
- “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You cannot look on wickedness with favor.” Habakuk 1:13
- “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” Isaiah 59:2
The Justice of God:
- “For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; the upright will behold His face.” Psalm 11:7
- “But the LORD of hosts will be exalted in judgment, and the holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness.” Isaiah 5:16
- “God is a righteous judge, And a God who has indignation every day. If a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He has bent His bow and made it ready.” Psalm 7:11-12
THE DEPRAVITY & CONDEMNATION OF MAN
All men of every culture are born radically depraved, at enmity with God, and restraining the truth (Romans 1:18, 30; 5:10). The conversion of man is absolutely impossible apart from the Holy Spirit in regeneration.
- “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
- “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment…” Isaiah 64:6
- “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.” Galatians 3:10
- Mans sinful nature: Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Galatians 3:10; Ecclesiastes 7:29; Job15:16; Psalm 143:2; Romans 11:32; 2 Chronicles 6:36; Isaiah 53:6; Mark 7:21-23; Job 15:14-16; Psalm 5:9; Jeremiah 17:9; Ephesians 4:18; Titus 1:15-16; Ecclesiastes 9:3; Romans 1:28-31; Ephesians 4:17-18; Matthew 15:19; Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21; Proverbs 21:10; John 3:19-20; John 8:44; Titus 1:15-16; Psalm 51:5; Psalm 58:3; John 3:6; John 3:20; Ephesians 2:3; Romans 8:7-8; 2 Corinthians 2:14; Psalm 10:4; John 3:20; Isaiah 64:7; Romans 3:10-12
Prior to conversion, every person is spiritually dead. The Scripture sees this spiritual death as a result of “our sins” – the sin imputed to us “in Adam” (Romans 5:12). Every person “walks in” or “practices” sin as a style of life. They do not walk according to the will of God, but according to the way of a fallen world that is hostile toward God and disobedient. Prior to conversion, not only does every person walk in the ways of a fallen humanity, but also, they live in a way that conforms to the will of the devil. This is a frightening truth! Prior to conversion, every person without exception is driven, or led about by the lusts of their flesh [i.e. the wicked desires of their fallen humanity that is hostile toward God and rebellious]. They indulge in their wicked desires and thoughts. Prior to conversion, God’s wrath abides upon a person (John 3:36). It is important to understand that man’s fallen and evil nature evokes the wrath of God. Read: Ephesians 2:1-8; Ephesians 4:17-18
THE GREAT DILEMMA
How can a just God rightly justify wicked men?
- “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD.” Proverbs 17:15
- “Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” Genesis 18:25
GOD’S RESPONSE TO THE DILEMMA
While maintaining His holiness and Justice the Bible also affirms that God is love, and that in love He has responded to the plight of man.
- Motivated by Love: God is love. “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:8-10
- The Cross of Christ: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:23-26
- The Resurrection: He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification. Romans 4:25
MAN’S RESPONSE TO THE GOSPEL
Repentance is an evangelical grace given to us by God, wherein the Holy Spirit makes a person aware of the manifold evil of their sin, so that they humbles them self with godly sorrow, detesting sin, and repulsing self, with a purpose and endeavor to walk before God so as to please Him in all things. (Acts 5:31; Acts 11:18; Acts 16:14; 2 Timothy 2:25) Repentance begins with recognition and confession that what God says about us is true– we have sinned.
- For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge. Psalm 51:3-4
A genuine recognition of our sinfulness and guilt will also lead to genuine sorrow, shame and even hatred for what we have done.
- For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. Romans 7:15
- Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Romans 7:24Apparent sincerity of confession alone is never definite evidence of genuine repentance. It must be accompanied by a turning away from sin.
- Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil. Isaiah 1:16
- . . . therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Matthew 3:10
Faith is an evangelical grace given to us by God. It is an assurance that rests upon the finished work of Jesus Christ alone for justification and eternal life.
- Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
- …God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Romans 12:3
- For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
Faith Based on the Promises of God:
- For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16
- Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith… Hebrews 12:2
- Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved… Acts 16:31
Example of a Believer:
- . . . worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh… Philippians 3:3
The Basis of Genuine Assurance:
True conversion: A true Christian is a new creation and will live a life that reflects God’s radical work of re-creation in his/her life.
- Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
- You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain…John 15:16
Assurance is based upon self-examination in the light of Scripture.
- Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test? 2 Corinthians 13:5
- These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:13
Test of Biblical Assurance:
1 John 1:5-7 (Walking in the Light), 1 John 1:8-10 (Confession of Sin), 1 John 2:3-4 (Obedience), 1 John 2:9-11 (Love for the Brethren), 1 John 2:15-17 (Hatred for the World), 1 John 2:24-25 (Perseverance in Doctrine), 1 John 3:10 (Righteousness), 1 John 4:13 (Spirit’s Testimony), Hebrews 12:5-8 (Discipline)