What is the gospel? In a nutshell, it is the good news of Jesus Christ. Paul put it this way in I Corinthians 15:1-4 - "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel
which I preached to you, which also you received and in which 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 first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." Paul mentions many details in these verses which we will consider shortly. For the moment, however, let's look at the big picture. I want to suggest that from these verses (as well as the rest of the Scriptures) we can see that the gospel is composed of facts to be believed, commands to be obeyed, and promises to be enjoyed. In this lesson we will explore each of these three aspects as revealed in the word of God, and underscore the importance of each facet.
THE GOSPEL INCLUDES FACTS TO BE BELIEVED.
This is the starting point for any potential disciple. When one hears the New Testament, many statements are presented and a choice must be made: Will I accept or reject these statements as true? Although such is outside the scope of this lesson, there are numerous reasons to accept the facts of the gospel as true (for a consideration of some reasons, please study our lessons from
02/12/05). The gospel is reliable and trustworthy, regardless of how incredible some of its claims may seem.
The New Testament sets forth many facts concerning the Savior, Jesus Christ. One must believe these facts (and others) if he is to be a true believer in the gospel:
- The fact of Jesus' birth: He was conceived of a virgin miraculously and born in Bethlehem (cf. Luke 2; Matt. 1:18-25; Micah 5:2).
- The fact of Jesus' ministry: "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem" (Acts 10:38,39). Jesus was well known for His teachings, miracles, and acts of compassion.
- The fact of Jesus' crucifixion: He was scourged and then hung on a cross at Calvary for six hours before dying (cf. Matt. 27).
- The fact of Jesus' burial: He was buried in a rich man's tomb.
- The fact of Jesus' resurrection: On the third day, He rose from the dead by the power of God! (cf. Matt. 28).
- The fact of Jesus' appearances after His resurrection: He appeared to over five hundred people after being brought back to life (cf. I Cor. 15:6).
- The fact of Jesus' ascension and exaltation: He left Earth and returned to heaven to reign at the right hand of the Father. "This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses, [and has been] exalted to the right hand of God" (Acts 2:32,33).
Many of the above facts are mentioned in the opening verses of I Corinthians 15. Consider them again at this time - "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which 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 first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all of the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy 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; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed" (I Cor. 15:1-11).
THE GOSPEL INCLUDES COMMANDS TO BE OBEYED.
As important as it is to be knowledgeable of the facts, to understand and believe them, without personal obedience to the will of God, the facts of the gospel alone are impotent to save. A rebellious soul with a head full of knowledge of God's word is still a lost person. There are a host of New Testament passages that stress obedience. For example, Jesus asked in Luke 6:46 - "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?" He had this related truth to share in Matthew 7:21 - "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven." Even if one knows enough to call Jesus "Lord," this alone will not save him. One must do the Father's will! In other words, there are commands to be obeyed.
Let us consider at this time some of the commands (and related declarative statements) in the gospel:
- The command to believe: "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me" (John 14:1). "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins" (John 8:24).
- The command to repent: "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). "Unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3).
- The command to be immersed: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16).
- The command to be faithful: "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Rev. 2:10). "Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful" (I Cor. 4:2).
Some might be wondering: How important is it to know the facts and obey the commands of the gospel? II Thessalonians 1:8,9 makes the answer exceedingly clear - "In flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power."
There are many more commands we could explore (e.g., Matt. 7:12; I Cor. 16:13,14; etc.), but let us proceed to our final major point.
THE GOSPEL INCLUDES PROMISES TO BE ENJOYED.
Once knowledge of the facts is acquired and one submits in obedience to the divine will, there are many wonderful promises to enjoy and to be encouraged by. Many of these blessings in Christ are related and overlap to varying degrees. Let us consider a few at this time:
- The promise of salvation: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). "Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Heb. 5:8,9).
- The promise of forgiveness: "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Eph. 1:7). "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).
- The promise of new life: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (II Cor. 5:17). "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4).
- The promise of seasons of refreshing: "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19).
- The promise of peace: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6,7).
- The promise of an inheritance: "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world'" (Matt. 25:31-34). "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son" (Rev. 21:8).
Living faithfully as a Christian in a very ungodly world is not easy. Keeping one's attention focused upon the blessed promises of the gospel can help us with the daily challenges of life. Such wonderful promises serve to motivate and encourage us to uphold our fidelity to the Lord, His word, and His church. We do not want to forfeit such treasures.
Praise God for His wonderful gospel! May we always believe its facts, obey its commands, and enjoy its promises!
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.