The Content Of The Gospel

by Lambert Dolphin

 

Based on radio, television, and movies, hardly anyone these days seems to understand or appreciate the message Jesus gave to His disciples to be delivered to all mankind. That message was good news, not bad news. It was the best possible news human ears could ever hope to hear. It would seem that counterfeit Christianity is to be found these days on every side. Real life in Jesus is a rare commodity---and sadly the message that goes out under the name of Christ is often blurred, unclear, distorted, or not really heard at all.

A brief summary of this central message of the New Testament, the Evangel, commonly called "the Gospel" is contained as a prologue to the Apostle Paul's great chapter in First Corinthians discussing the resurrection of the dead.

"Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast---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, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep." (1 Corinthians 15:1-20)

First, the Gospel is indeed Good News not Bad News

Our English word gospel is from the Old English godspel that is, god = good and spel = tale or talk. The Greek word used in the New Testament is euaggelion which combines the adverb eu = good or well with aggelos = messenger. ( eu is the opposite of kakos = evil).

 

"But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!' But they have not all obeyed the gospel; for Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?' So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ" (Romans 10:14-17).

 

The Holy Spirit's Work in reaching us---Three Principal Tasks

Jesus, speaking to His disciples on the night of His betrayal, assured His disciples that He and the Father would send God the Holy Spirit into the world after He, Jesus, had ascended into heaven following the resurrection:

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:7-11)

 

Bountiful Grace, Unlimited Atonement

Some Christians believe that Jesus died for only the Elect. I am among those who believe that Jesus died for all persons who have ever lived or are yet to be born, whether or not they choose to accept Him into their lives. The issue we must all face before God then is, "Do I wish to be forgiven?" "Am I willing to be loved by my Creator and to accept His full provision for all the sins I have committed in the past, or will commit in the future?" "Am I willing to live in a universe governed ultimately by self-giving love?" "Am I willing to allow God to put the old self-life of Adam in me to death?" "Am I willing to allow God to indwell me as Lord of my life?"

"...and he is the expiation (ilasmos) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)

 

It Is God Who Calls: The Elect Have Been Chosen And Prayed For, None Is Lost

On the night of His betrayal, arrest and trial, Jesus prayed to His Father a great and marvelous prayer of Intercession, commonly known as the Great High Priestly prayer. In this prayer we find the assurance that all who have been chosen by God will come to Him:

"I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word. Now they know that everything that thou hast given me is from thee; for I have given them the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from thee; and they have believed that thou didst send me. I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine; all mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in thy name, which thou hast given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled. (John 17:6-12)

In regard to the complex and paradoxical issue of Election and Predestination, I believe it may have been the late Donald Grey Barnhouse, who served as Pastor for many years at Philadelphia's Tenth Presbyterian Church, who once gave this simple illustration:

A group of people are all standing in a room which has several doors. Above one door is a sign which reads "All who will may enter."

Those who choose to enter the door find on the back side of the door a sign which reads, "Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world."

 

The Gospel Is A Universal Message In Every Age

"...I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment. He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." (Revelation 21:5-8)

Terms such as "faith," "believe," "repent" "accepting Christ as personal Savior," "trusting Christ" can become clichés and code words devoid of content for many in today's society. There are many related issues to the simple statement that "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." Does the gospel obligate us in any way? Is it necessary to understand the Lordship of Christ in order to be saved? What is the place of "good works" in the gospel, and what role does the Law have in our salvation? What does it mean to be "born-again"? What happens at the point in time we become a Christian? After I have accepted Christ into my life, what happens if I get back into sin?

As much as I am able I will be happy to address questions from non-Christians, searchers-after-truth, new Christians and anyone else who has unresolved questions about the Christian faith. Please feel free to email me.

 

All Christians are Called to "Do The Work Of An Evangelist..."

The king of a bright, distant land (where we who are Christians hold citizenship), has dispatched us into the darkness of Planet Earth as ambassadors, i.e., as qualified emissaries, to deliver a message of good news. This message is called "The Gospel." As ambassadors we need to understand the content of the message, to be able to answer questions from the hearers, and to help the listener respond so as to become a member of our King's family:

"All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."

In I Corinthians 15: 1-20, where the gospel is defined for us, note that the first emphasis is that Christ died for our sins. This immediately brings into focus the Person of Jesus: His life, His teachings, His accomplishments, His present status as Lord of the universe. Also raised is the issue of human sin, guilt, and ultimate accountability to God. The death, burial and resurrection of our Lord are established as historic facts. The authenticity of the message is attested to by the apostles and by every generation of hearers down to the present, including the changed-life manifested by you, the ambassador delivering the message. The message must be delivered with tact, with love, and hopefully in contemporary language free of clichés and archaic imagery.

 

Some Biblical Presuppositions for Evangelism

 

What is the gospel?

The term "gospel" is widely used in Christian circles. It has also lost its meaning for modern-modern man--as have many other older, classic Bible words. Words like gospel desperately need to be understood and explained both within the Christian community and--even more so--when talking to non-Christians about our faith. The following notes are a short study-guide for recovering the deep meaning of the great New Testament word "gospel."

Dictionary: 1. OE: Godspel, good talk or news, from "gød"=good + "speil." Spell is from speil = talk, tale: a spoken word or form of words believed to have magic power. 2. The "glad tidings." 3. Euangelion from Greek eu = good, well and angelia, message. Eu is the opposite of kakos, evilly. (English words using eu: eulogize, eucharist, eugenics, euphemism, euphoria, euthanasia).

Usage: "Gospel" is used 93 times in the NT: Matt. 4:23, Matt. 9:35, Matt. 24:14, Matt. 26:13, Mark 1:1, Mark 1:14, Mark 1:15, Mark 10:29, Mark 13:10, Mark 14:9, Mark 16:15, Luke 9:6, Luke 20:1, Acts 8:25, Acts 8:40, Acts 14:7, Acts 14:21, Acts 15:7, Acts 16:10, Acts 20:24, Rom. 1:1, Rom. 1:3, Rom. 1:9, Rom. 1:15, Rom. 1:16, Rom. 2:16, Rom. 10:16, Rom. 11:28, Rom. 15:16, Rom. 15:19, Rom. 15:20, Rom. 16:25, 1Cor. 1:17, 1Cor. 4:15, 1Cor. 9:12, 1Cor. 9:14, 1Cor. 9:16, 1Cor. 9:18, 1Cor. 9:23, 1Cor. 15:1, 2Cor. 2:12, 2Cor. 4:3, 2Cor. 4:4, 2Cor. 8:18, 2Cor. 9:13, 2Cor. 10:14, 2Cor. 10:16, 2Cor. 11:4, 2Cor. 11:7, Gal. 1:6, Gal. 1:7, Gal. 1:8, Gal. 1:9, Gal. 1:11, Gal. 2:2, Gal. 2:5, Gal. 2:7, Gal. 2:14, Gal. 3:8, Gal. 4:13, Eph. 1:13, Eph. 3:6, Eph. 3:7, Eph. 6:15, Eph. 6:19, Phil. 1:5, Phil. 1:7, Phil. 1:12, Phil. 1:16, Phil. 1:27, Phil. 2:22, Phil. 4:3, Phil. 4:15, Col. 1:5, Col. 1:23, 1Ths. 1:5, 1Ths. 2:2, 1Ths. 2:4, 1Ths. 2:8, 1Ths. 2:9, 1Ths. 3:2, 2Ths. 1:8, 2Ths. 2:14, 1Tim. 1:11, 2Tim. 1:8, 2Tim. 1:10, 2Tim. 1:11, 2Tim. 2:8, 2Tim. 2:9, Phlm. 13, 1Pet. 4:6, 1Pet. 4:17, Rev. 14:6.

The Power of the (gospel) Message: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live." (Romans 1:16-17)

The Main Points of the (gospel) Message: "Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast--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, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God." (1 Corinthians 15:1-9)

The Heart of the (gospel) Message: "Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men; but what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to be proud of us, so that you may be able to answer those who pride themselves on a man's position and not on his heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:11-21)

The Specific Content of the Gospel is not to be messed with: "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel--not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ." (Galatians 1:6-12)

The (gospel) Message Illustrated: "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified. Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on the law shall live by it. But the righteousness based on faith says, Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' (that is, to bring Christ down) or 'Who will descend into the abyss?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved. The scripture says, 'No one who believes in him will be put to shame.' For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For, 'every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.' But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel; for Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?' So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ. But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for 'Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.' Again I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, 'I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.' Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, 'I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.' But of Israel he says, 'All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.'" (Romans 10)

Bible Encyclopedia: GOSPEL - gos'-pel (to euaggelion):

The word gospel is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word which meant "the story concerning God." In the New Testament the Greek word euaggelion, means "good news." It proclaims tidings of deliverance. The word sometimes stands for the record of the life of our Lord (Mark 1:1), embracing all His teachings, as in Acts 20:24. But the word "gospel" now has a peculiar use, and describes primarily the message which Christianity announces. "Good news" is its significance. It means a gift from God. It is the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins and sonship with God restored through Christ. It means remission of sins and reconciliation with God. The gospel is not only a message of salvation, but also the instrument through which the Holy Spirit works (Romans 1:16).

The gospel differs from the law in being known entirely from revelation. It is proclaimed in all its fullness in the revelation given in the New Testament. It is also found, although obscurely, in the Old Testament. It begins with the prophecy concerning the `seed of the woman' (Genesis 3:15), and the promise concerning Abraham, in whom all the nations should be blessed (Genesis 12:3; 15:5) and is also indicated in Acts 10:43 and in the argument in Romans 4.

In the New Testament the gospel never means simply a book, but rather the message which Christ and His apostles announced. In some places it is called "the gospel of God," as, for example, Romans 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:2,9; 1 Timothy 1:11. In others it is called "the gospel of Christ" (Mark 1:1; Romans 1:16; 15:19; 1 Corinthians 9:12,18; Galatians 1:7). In another it is called "the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24); in another "the gospel of peace" (Ephesians 6:15); in another "the gospel of your salvation" (Ephesians 1:13); and in yet another "the glorious gospel" (2 Corinthians 4:4 the King James Version). The gospel is Christ:

He is the subject of it, the object of it, and the life of it. It was preached by Him (Matthew 4:23; 11:5; Mark 1:14; Luke 4:18 margin), by the apostles (Acts 16:10; Romans 1:15; 2:16; 1 Corinthians 9:16) and by the evangelists (Acts 8:25).

We must note the clear antithesis between the law and the gospel. The distinction between the two is important because, as Luther indicates, it contains the substance of all Christian doctrine. "By the law," says he, "nothing else is meant than God's word and command, directing what to do and what to leave undone, and requiring of us obedience of works. But the gospel is such doctrine of the word of God that neither requires our works nor commands us to do anything, but announces the offered grace of the forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation. Here we do nothing, but only receive what is offered through the word." The gospel, then, is the message of God, the teaching of Christianity, the redemption in and by Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, offered to all mankind. And as the gospel is bound up in the life of Christ, His biography and the record of His works, and the proclamation of what He has to offer, are all gathered into this single word, of which no better definition can be given than that of Melanchthon:

"The gospel is the gratuitous promise of the remission of sins for Christ's sake." To hold tenaciously that in this gospel we have a supernatural revelation is in perfect consistency with the spirit of scientific inquiry. The gospel, as the whole message and doctrine of salvation, and as chiefly efficacious for contrition, faith, justification, renewal and sanctification, deals with facts of revelation and experience. --David H. Bauslin (ISBE, http://www.studylight.org/enc/isb/)

See also an older message, The Content of the Gospel.


Seven Steps to Starting Fresh with God

1. Surrender. Allow God to help you grow as you submit to His authority. So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in His good time He will honor you. I Peter 5:6.

Surrender means:

Humbling yourself before the God of the universe.
Admitting that God is all-powerful and releasing your struggles to Him.
Refusing to escape into the old patterns, habits and attitudes that continue to distract you from destructive direction of your life.
No longer saying, "I can handle this myself."
Submitting to God's way of doing things, even though you don't understand it.
Getting past your pain and fear and clinging to hope in God and His love for you.
Setting aside your human understanding and becoming childlike, acknowledging that you have no answers that work.

2. Acceptance. Accept the full reality of your situation. Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. Psalm 139:1

Acceptance means:

To stop lying to yourself about the failures, sins and heartaches in your life, and to begin to acknowledge the truth about your situation.
To consider what you criticize in others as a clue to what you may be denying in yourself.
To face your past, your pain and your failures head-on.
To stop blaming others for your difficulties.
To seek, receive and apply God's wisdom To look at what you've done in the light of God's mercy and grace.
To accept that you are unable to help yourself without God's help.
To name your character defects and mistakes rather than deny them.

3. Confession. Begin to open up about the reality of your life. Confess your sins one to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16

Confession means:

You submit yourself to God's way of handling secrets, respecting His desire for openness and vulnerability among His people.
You are willing to overcome your fear of rejection by revealing your failures to another person.
You reject your habit of self-protective secretiveness.
You admit to at least one other person that you have fallen short of God's best, including your character defects and judgment errors.
You have stopped trying to mask your true feelings.
You have chosen to humble yourself before both God and others. You renounce your independence and admit that you need help from fellow believers. You put your vague sense of guilt into written or spoken words and express the situation without making excuses.

4. Responsibility. Take responsibility to make necessary changes for spiritual growth to occur. For we are each responsible for our own conduct. Galatians 6:5.

Taking responsibility means:

You face your problems rather than escape them.
You take the time to grieve your losses and experience pain.
You believe Jesus' words: "Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted."
You stop playing the role of victim.
You are willing to bear the full responsibility of your misconduct.
You no longer blame others for your sins.
You reach out to Christ, who is fully capable of understanding your emotional pain having suffered abuse and rejection Himself.
You look beyond your losses at God's deeper purposes.
You accept the hope that God's plans for you are always good and loving.
You refuse to allow anything from your past to be an excuse for lack of growth or character development.

5. Forgiveness. Forgive your own failures and the failures of those who have hurt you. If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. Matthew 6:14

Forgiveness means:

You hand back your rights to God (the rights you usurped from Him) and invite Him to be in charge.
Asking for forgiveness and making restitution for the damage you've done.
You no longer energize yourself with rage or hatred.
You step out of the past and into the present.
You accept the pardon of the Cross for others as well as for yourself.
You obey Jesus' instructions to forgive so that you can be forgiven.
You begin a process of forgiveness which may continue for a lifetime Living in the light of God's forgiveness.
To sift through your life and discard the resentments and hurts of the past.

6. Transformation. Transform your pain into a purposeful mission out of your desire to share with others and love them. All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. II Corinthians 1:3-4

Transformation means:

To step out of your pain and into the needs of others.
To participate in God's process of working all things together for good.
To seek ways of applying past pain to positive purposes.
You stop saying "Why me, Lord?" and start saying, "What do you want me to do?". Being a giver instead of a taker.
Learning to listen rather than always needing to be heard.
You allow your humbling experiences to give you a servant's heart Investing your spiritual gifts in the lives of others.
The discovery of your God given spiritual gifts and the utilization of those gifts in reaching and serving others.

7. Preservation. Protect the spiritual gains you have made and persevere through life's inevitable struggles. So make every effort to apply the benefits of these promises to your life. Then your faith will produce a life of moral excellence. A life of moral excellence leads to knowing God better. II Peter 1:5

Preservation means:

You establish boundaries that prevent your return to sick and sinful behaviors.
You continue to forgive and to be forgiven.
You avoid secrecy by remaining accountable to others, while being a trustworthy confidant for their secrets.
You choose to be part of a godly community Reading God's Word, meditating upon it, praying daily, and practicing spiritual disciplines.
Developing, with God's help, a deep and godly character.
Being patient with yourself when you slip.
Moving forward while remembering where you've been.
Continuing the process of surrender - day by day, year by year.

The Content Of The Gospel

by Lambert Dolphin
Web Pages: http://ldolphin.org/