Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
- Mark 1:14-15

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What is The Gospel? - Introduction

Updated 12-28-15

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes."
Romans 1:16

“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which 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 according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
1 Corinthians 15:1-3

"Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead."
Acts 17:30-31

“In these days I feel bound to go over and over again the elementary truths of the gospel.  In peaceful times we may feel free to make excursions into interesting districts of truth which lie far afield; but now we must stay at home, and guard the hearts and homes of the church by defending the first principles of the faith.  In this age there have risen up in the church itself men who speak perverse things.  There be many that trouble us with their philosophies and novel interpretations, whereby they deny the doctrines they profess to teach, and undermine the faith they are pledged to maintain.  It is well that some of us, who know what we believe, and have no secret meanings for our words, should just put our foot down and maintain our standing, holding forth the word of life, and plainly declaring the foundation truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” 

Charles Spurgeon - The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol.32, p.385

The Amazing Gospel

Most people marvel at the size of the universe, at the stars in the sky, and at the whole of creation, but this wasn’t even the most difficult thing God has ever done.  God created the universe easily—with just a word, He spoke it and it came to pass.  Now, contrast that with what God had to do in order to justify the heart of wicked mankind—Jesus Christ, God Himself, had to come down to earth and become a man, die a horrible death, and drink down the awful cup of wrath that we deserved. 

The gospel story of all that went into our redemption is something we too often take for granted, but it is more awesome and amazing than the words of man can ever begin to describe.  The study of it will lead to a greater knowledge of the heart of our incredible God, which will lead us to a greater love and devotion for Him.

Every word and doctrine in the Bible is given from God and is important.  However, some doctrines are more important than others.  Our eternity does not depend upon the peripheral issues in the Bible, but it does depend entirely upon the gospel.  It is this gospel in which we stand and by which we are saved.  If you do not understand it, you understand nothing in Scripture.  If you are wrong about the gospel, you are wrong about everything.  The gospel is the most important part of the most important book ever written, and yet there are many who foolishly chase after other things and do not think it worthy of their time.  1 Peter 1:9 tells us that the very outcome or goal of our faith is salvation—not prosperity, good relationships, or a better life in this world.  There are many promises given to us in the Bible, but the greatest promise of them all is salvation; and it is the gospel of Jesus Christ that the power of God for salvation is found. 

Hebrews 2:1 warns us about the importance of the gospel and says that, "We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it."  We must pay not a little more attention, but much closer attention to the message of our great salvation, lest we drift away.  Many assume they already know the gospel to the peril of their own souls.  We must anchor our souls to the gospel and not drift away, for it is our only hope of escaping the wrath that we deserve for our sin.  Hebrews 2:3 says, "How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?"  We will not.

You can profess to be wise but be a fool if you think you already know everything there is to know about the gospel.  Paul warns in 1 Corinthians 8:2, "If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know."  The gospel is a lot more than knowing God has a wonderful plan for our lives, that we are sinners, and that Jesus died for us; but the message we hear preached today seldom goes deeper than that.  You can study the gospel for a thousand lifetimes and yet still barely scratch the surface of the glorious wonder of all there is to know.

The gospel is not something people need to know initially in order to be saved so that they can move on to bigger and better things.  There are no bigger and better things!  The gospel is the thing we need to know—not just initially for salvation, but for a lifetime of growing in holiness.  This is what 1 Corinthians 15:1 refers to when it says that this is the gospel "in which also you stand." 

There have been men and women throughout history who were fueled by a passion for God that seems so far above and beyond what we have in our own lives.  These saints caught a glimpse of the greatness of the gospel of Christ and this is what fueled their passion for God. 

The gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ.  Too many men, myself included, forget that in all of their learning about the details of the gospel.  J.C. Ryle in his book Holiness said, "Their talk is more about salvation than about the Saviour—more about redemption than about the Redeemer—more about justification than about Jesus—more about Christ’s work than about Christ’s person.  This a great fault, and one that fully accounts for the dry and sapless character of the religion of many professors...Cease to regard it as a mere set of abstract propositions and abstruse principles and rules.  Look at it as the introduction to a glorious, personal Friend.  This is the kind of Gospel that the Apostles preached."

We must study the gospel of Jesus Christ in order to know Jesus.  We cannot grow into greater love and devotion of Christ unless we know His holy and just character, unless we understand our unholy and sinful nature, and unless we understand all He has done to purchase our redemption.  Paul Washer says in The Gospel's Power and Message that, "Genuine and enduring passion comes from an ever-increasing, ever-deepening understanding of what God has done for His people in the person and work of Jesus Christ," and that, "We are saved from our sin, reconciled to God, and brought into fellowship with Him as sons!  What more could we desire, or what more do we need?"  Nothing else in this world, nor any of the other promises of God matter in comparison to the privilege of knowing Him and the costly gift of salvation given to us.  It is then that we can understand how wonderful this gospel and this God truly is.

From the sermon True Gospel – Part 2 – What is the Gospel? by Paul Washer:

“When I look in the mirror, I do not see a person that I am very proud of.  I’m motivated by the fact that God has not given me what I deserve.  I deserve Hell, and God has not given me Hell.  Not only has He not given me what I deserve, He has given me what I do not deserve, and that’s Him. 

I would never mention something so low as Heaven.  Heaven could never motivate me—streets of gold and gates of pearl could never carry me on to the finish line.  It’s Him.  It’s Him that makes Heaven Heaven.  If you never learn that, you’ll be quite deluded, you won’t have much strength.  It’s Him, and what He has done for us—that’s the only thing.

Another question: in all the churches, you always hear about the gospel.  But do you know what is the gospel?  Do you have an idea?  Have you ever one time in your life understood what is the gospel? The word “gospel” comes from a Latin word “evangelicon” and it means “Good, happy news”.  The gospel is not bad news, it is good news.  But it starts this way: God is just.

I have a question for you: Do you prefer God to be unjust, or do you want a just God?  Who wants an unjust God?  A bad God?  Anyone?  No, nobody wants an unjust God.

God is just.  But you say: “It’s Ok.”  No!  It’s not ok.  The fact that God is just is your greatest problem. Your greatest problem is that God is just.  You say: “Why is that a problem?”  Why?  Because you are not just.  You have sinned.  The Bible says: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God You have sinned.  You have lied.  You have had malicious thoughts.

If God is just, He HAS to satisfy His Justice.  And the only way that that is possible is by punishing you in Hell for all your sins.

“The boastful shall not stand before Thine eyes; Thou dost hate all who do iniquity.”
Psalms 5:5

What does this text say?  Does it say that God just hates the sin and loves the sinner?  No, it says that He hates all those who do iniquity.  And you say this, “But what about John 3:16?  John 3:16 says, ‘For God so loved the world...’  It’s in the Bible.”  Yes, it is in the Bible and it is true, but Psalms 5:5 is in the Bible and it is just as true and you have got to deal with it.  That is the problem in American Christianity.  You only take one side of the coin.

“Behold then the kindness and severity of God…”
Romans 11:22

You will hear sermon after sermon after sermon about the love of God and yet the Bible speaks explicitly about the hatred of God and most of you have never heard one sermon about it.  You are only getting one side of the story.  And that is very dangerous. You only take one side of the coin.  And I don’t know if you have studied logic, but that is impossible. Coins always come with two sides.

You say, “God doesn’t hate because God is love.”  And I tell you, “No, God does hate because God is love.”

He loves the unlovable.  His love is so strong that He even loves the objects of His own hatred. 

Some preachers say, Jesus is all you need!”  Let me tell you, Jesus is all you have.  And apart from Him, the only thing that would await you is the just, furious wrath of Almighty God. 

It is not so much that you say you know Him, it is more that He says He knows you.  I can go to the White House and tell the guards, “I know the President.”  They still would not let me in.  But if the President comes and tells the guards, “I know Paul Washer,” I’m getting in no matter what.  Heaven is the same way.  Jesus says in Matthew 7:22 that, “Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord…’ but I will say, ‘Depart from Me, I never knew you.’”

There are many who claim to be saved.  I ask them, “What are you saved from?”  They usually reply, “From sin.”  You are not saved from sin.  Sin is not looking to destroy you because of your wickedness, God is.

God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every dayIf a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He has bent His bow and made it ready.”
Psalm 7:11-12

Indignation – anger aroused by something unjust

God had a plan to save you.  Christ’s death was not some accident.  It was the only way a just God could allow a wicked sinner like you and me into Heaven.  God displayed His Son on the Cross as a propitiation.  This word is very important.  Apart from this word you cannot understand the gospel.  It is a sacrifice to God that would allow Him to show mercy to criminals.

The greatest problem in Scripture is this: If God is just, then He cannot forgive you.

God saved you:

FROM Himself,
FOR Himself,
And BY Himself.”

The Gospel Will Result in a Changed Life

"I remember just a while back a man in my own town in Illinois who was a known drug addict, drug dealer, fornicator, absolutely everything…He passes away and the pastor of one of the largest Baptist churches in the area is standing there at the funeral.  The place is loaded with every person that has hardly ever been in church, drug addicts and everything you can imagine are all there in church to honor their dead friend and that pastor gets up and he says, ‘I praise God.  I know this young man.  He sowed a lot of wild oats, but when he was nine years old I was there when he prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his Savior and he is in heaven today.’

And all those lost sinners went straight out into the street justified in their sin because of conservative, evangelical Baptist preaching.  That is typical in almost every church in this country.  It is true.  It is true and it is pathetic.  It is pathetic.

Salvation is not a flu shot.  It is not a magic prayer that we say one time and then live the rest of our lives in blatant sin.  It is a work by God to transform and bring those to life who are spiritually dead and it will result in a changed life.

Let’s say I was invited to speak at your church and I am late.  I say, ‘I apologize for being late.  I was changing my tire on the side of the road and a lug nut rolled out and I grabbed it without looking and I was hit by a logging truck going 120 miles an hour that weighs 30 tons, and that’s why I am late.’

There are only two possibilities, logically.  One is I am absolutely insane or I am a liar.  Why?  Because it is absolutely against nature!  It is impossible to have an encounter with a logging truck going 120 miles an hour that weighs 30 tons and not somehow be changed by that encounter. 

Now how can you say you have had an encounter with God and not be changed?  You say you have had an encounter with God, but you have not been changed!  So God now has less power than a logging truck?”

Getting Back to Fundamentals: What is the Gospel?

Let me share a quick video (3:41) which contrasts the Gospel message with how evangelism is often done today:

These are the questions used today in modern evangelism:
1.  Do you know you're a sinner?
2.  Do you want to go to heaven?
3.  Would you like to pray and ask Jesus into your heart?

If people say yes to all three, we pronounce them saved.  We live in an age of "easy-believism" and savvy marketing that has watered down the message of the gospel into four spiritual laws or five things God wants you to know.  We present Christianity in a way that makes it easy for someone to make a decision.  I have been guilty of this myself.  I went with my friends to witness and talk to people in public about Christ years ago as a young believer and people weren't very receptive.  I had a background in sales and marketing before I became a teacher and a coach, so I made my message less offensive and changed it to, "Hey, God's got a wonderful plan for your life," and more people wanted to listen.  I made it easier for people to listen about Christ when I cut corners and left out the parts of the gospel that were most offensive to people.

Paul Washer warns in The Gospel's Power and Message that we must "not succumb to the lie that we can advance the gospel through our brilliance, eloquence, or clever strategies.  Such things have no power to bring about the 'impossible' conversion of men."  Only the Holy Spirit can transform the hearts of men, and He can only do this through the biblical message of the gospel.

“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”
Galatians 1:8-9

Paul pronounced a curse upon anyone who would present a gospel different than the one from Scripture, and I have had to pray for forgiveness for my man-centered presentation of the gospel. Jesus Christ is the message of the Biblical gospel; however, modern preaching is obsessed with prosperity and having "your best life now."  Mark 8:36 says, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?"  The focus of our preaching should be on glorifying God through the gospel message and on saving people's souls. 

“You hear people urging others to come to Christ: come to Christ so that you can get forgiveness, come to Christ so that you can get heaven, come to Christ so that you can get satisfaction, come to Christ so that you can get success, come to Christ so that you can get your best life, come to Christ so that you can get all the things you’ve ever dreamed of.  Blasphemy!  You come to Christ to get God!  We have taken God Himself out of the gospel and given His gifts instead!  You say, “What do you mean?”  Ladies and gentlemen, do you think it’s possible in our day to be more satisfied with the things of God than we are with God Himself?  To be more consumed with the things of God than we are with God Himself?  We have taken God, Himself, out of the gospel and rejoiced in His gifts.  This is wrong!  Ladies and gentlemen, you will not go to heaven if you don’t want God!  God is the gift of the gospel!  He gives us Himself!”

David Platt

The gospel and the world are in direct opposition to one another.  We cannot hold onto both, we must choose one and reject the other.  1 John 2:15 says, "Do not love the world or the things of the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."  Those who love the world are not of God, and the worldly gospel they preach is no gospel at all.

Spurgeon said in the quote at the beginning of the post: there are too many people today who "deny the doctrines they profess to teach, and undermine the faith they are pledged to maintain," and we are to declare the foundational truths of the gospel.  This series of posts is written specifically to declare these foundational truths.

We preach the importance of fundamentals as coaches, but I have been guilty of neglecting this important focus on the gospel in our Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) huddle.  I used to spend too much time teaching on "being a better teammate" and things like that, but I changed the focus of our study and we really got into the fundamentals of the Christian faith: the gospel message itself.  This took most of the school year to complete and it was an awesome learning experience, but I must warn you that it will offend many people.  I had a student who said, "That sounds pretty harsh," when we began to study the attributes of God and he stopped coming to FCA.  We must not beat around the bush: God is extremely harsh when it comes to sin, and we cannot understand God’s gospel and plan of salvation without that fundamental truth. 

Preachers cannot be more concerned with numbers than with preaching the truth.  Man's greatest need is not prosperity, it is to be saved from the eternal condemnation that his sins deserve.  The things of this world are nothing in comparison to this gospel message of Jesus Christ, and we are accursed if we fail to preach this gospel faithfully and biblically.  We are accursed if we add to it, leave anything out, or attempt to modify it in any way.
It is important to realize that the Holy Spirit cannot do His work of convicting people of sin and regenerating hearts unless we preach the true gospel message given to us from Scripture.  Romans 10:17 says that, "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ."  It is only through the preaching of the gospel that saving faith can be produced.  The Holy Spirit has nothing to do with today's worldly and false gospel—it is devoid of the power of God to transform men and is useless.  Jesus commands us in Mark 16:15 to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation," so let's do that and make sure that they hear the true gospel that can save them, not some watered-down version of it that will deceive them into thinking they are okay, but damn their souls to hell.
The gospel message will be broken up into seven parts:

The Gospel
7 - Salvation

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