The Gospel is the heart of Christianity. It is the core of Christian theology. Other important doctrines and teachings exist, and we can and do get them wrong; but if we get this wrong, the consequences are eternally fatal. As Paul said, this is of “first importance.” (1 Corinthians 15:1)

And if we get it right? The Gospel is “the power of God unto salvation.” (Romans 1:16).

I’ve been thinking on this as I prepare my next sermon. I thought I’d share a few key insights.

THE NATURE OF THE GOSPEL

1. The Gospel is more than an offer; it is a COMMAND. When we stand before people (and before God) and present the message, we plead with them to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20). Yet this plea is not like that of a desperate boyfriend looking for his girlfriend to marry him; it is the plea of the King’s messenger to His own rebel subjects to lay down their arms before He has to destroy them. We implore them because God takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). As Paul said, God now commands everyone everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). We plead and implore, yes, but we do so with AUTHORITY.

2. The Gospel commands REPENTANCE. The Gospel involves turning away from sin. It involves a recognition of one’s sinfulness and recoiling from it, running instead to Christ. This repentance is not optional; it is a duty, a command to be obeyed (Acts 17:30), and failure to do so is sin. We must command sinners to repent.

3. The Gospel is, first and foremost, about FORGIVENESS OF SIN. It’s interesting that though many modern evangelistic presentations begin with statements like “Jesus loves you,” not one of the evangelistic presentations recorded in the New Testament ever uses those terms. There are 13 evangelistic presentations recorded in Acts (Acts 2:14-39, 3:12-26, 4:8-12, 5:29-32, 7:1-60, 10:34-43, 13:16-41, 17:22-31, 22:1-21, 23:1-6, 24:24-25, 26:1-29) A look at them does not reveal even one mention of God’s love, but eight of them emphasize forgiveness and ALL of them mention sin, guilt, or darkness. To preach the Gospel without telling unbelievers of their sin is to fail to preach the Gospel at all.

4. The hope of the Gospel is the RESURRECTION. Modern evangelism tends to emphasize the Cross, and Jesus’ death on our behalf. This is not wrong. However, Jesus did not stay on the Cross – God raised Him to life. A look at the above 13 evangelistic presentations in Acts shows that all but two talk about resurrection. Christ’s resurrection vindicated His claims to be the Messiah and to being God. We must emphasize Christ raised!

5. Certain truths are essential to the Gospel. “For I delivered to you as of FIRST IMPORTANCE what I also received: that CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that HE WAS BURIED, that HE WAS RAISED on the third day IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE SCRIPTURES, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve… 8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But 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 that is with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-5, 8-10)

See that these things are of first importance. They are essentials that cannot be removed from the Gospel.

THE ESSENTIALS ACCORDING TO PAUL

According to 1 Corinthians 15:

1. Christ died and was buried.

2. If He died, He was mortal – thus He was a man. Denying Jesus came in the flesh is to deny the faith entirely (1 John 4:2-3).

3. Christ died for OUR SINS. We are sinners. A person who denies he is a sinner cannot be saved – knowledge of one’s sin is vital for salvation (1 John 1:10). Again, a Gospel proclamation that does not confront sin is not a Gospel proclamation.

4. Christ died FOR our sins. Christ was punished as our substitute (Isaiah 53). He died in our place, taking the wrath of God that we deserved. Note that our sins had to be punished – they could not be simply ignored or forgotten. God is a holy God.

5. He was raised from the dead. Christ has the power to lay down His life AND to take it up again (John 10:18). This proves two things. First, we have assurance that death is not the end – we will be raised again. Second, only God can give life to the dead. Jesus, by taking up His life again, proves He is God.

6. This was all in accordance with the Scriptures. The Gospel presupposes the authority of the Bible. Rejection of the Bible’s authority is incompatible with salvation.

7. It is by the grace of God that a saved person is what He is. God saves; we don’t. Salvation is a gift; it is not earned or deserved. Salvation is, from beginning to end, the work of God, for even our efforts toward salvation (faith, repentance) are but the grace of God working through us. We can take no credit or praise for our salvation.

8. God’s grace is not in vain. God cannot fail. He cannot be defeated. This is important, for if God can fail in His grace toward anyone, what assurance do we have that His grace toward us will not be in vain? Who is to say, if His grace can fail, that we really will be raised from the dead and given eternal life?

May God bless you by these thoughts.

Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be The Glory)

– Jeff Jones

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