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)
The Gospel is Good 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).
- The central fact of Christianity is that one man, Jesus of Nazareth,
has in fact died and returned from the dead. The mortality rate for the
human race remains at a flat 100%. One man's overcoming death forever ought
to be interesting news, and very probably should be widely heralded by
millions as very good news indeed.
- The central announcement of the gospel is a proclamation, an announcement
of the love of God for all of mankind. John 3:16 is one well-known statement
of God's love for the world, "For God so loved the world that He gave
His only begotten Son, so that whoever would believe in Him should not
perish, but might have eternal life."
- The gospel does contain a declaration of the sinfulness of men and
God's wrath because God is a Holy and Just Being by nature.
- The gospel is not primarily an announcement that all men are lost and
headed for hell. However the lostness of all men is thoroughly discussed
in passages of the New Testament such as Romans 1-3.
- Since Jesus, the Innocent One, died on behalf of each one of us, His
sacrifice on the cross was God's way of justifying us sinners while at
the same time remaining in Himself Just and Holy.
- We are house guests in Someone else's universe. Either we run our own
lives, do as we please, and go our own way, or we acknowledge that "all
things were created through Him (Jesus), and for Him, and by Him all things
are held together" (Colossians Chapter 1).
- All men will one day bow before Jesus and acknowledge that He is Lord
of the universe, whether they have believed in Him unto salvation or not.
Thus Jesus stands inescapably at the end of every human life as Savior
or as Judge. "...for it is written, 'As I live,' says the Lord, 'every
knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.' So each
of us shall give account of himself to Jesus." (Rom. 14:11-12)
- God has ordained the delivery of a certain message, i.e., the gospel,
to the world, as His appointed method by which men are to be saved. Faith
(the ability to trust God) is imparted to those who hear this message,
enabling them to believe what they formerly disbelieved or did not understand.
This is stated in passages such as Romans 10, quoted below:
"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
The Holy Spirit's Work in Reaching Us
Jesus, speaking to His disciples on the night of His betrayal, assured
His disciples that He and the Father would send 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)
The Holy Spirit is responsible for three major tasks. He is to convince the world of:
- Their sin, because they have not believed the Truth
- Righteousness provided by the priestly actions of Jesus when He ascended into Heaven (Read the book of Hebrews thoroughly to see this).
- Judgement because this rebellious world has already been condemned along with its ruler, Satan, just as the Old World before the Flood was condemned when Noah built the Ark.
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
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.
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
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 sulphur, which is the
second death." (Revelation 21:5-8)
All Christians are Called to "Do The Work Of An Evangelist..."
Jesus has dispatched us 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
"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.