The Simple but Powerful Gospel of Jesus Christ
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. …. For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For the Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18, 21 – 24
The word “Gospel” means “good news”. What’s the good news? It’s a simple message that doesn’t require great intellectual knowledge, nor should it need to be verified or confirmed by some miraculous sign or wonder. The message is this: Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God, and He came to earth to suffer and die on a cross for our sins, as was prophesied in the scriptures, but then was raised again from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven as Lord and King of the Kingdom of God. If you believe this, you will be saved, and will not perish.
“But to all who received Him (Jesus), who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1: 12
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3: 16-18
“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests on him.” John 3: 36
“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…” 1 Corinthians 15: 1-4
The gospel message is very simple, but it can come across as being complex and confusing. Most of the complexity and confusion come from not understanding the context of the message, or not having the essential background knowledge. I would like to now examine some of the context of the message as was presented in the Scriptures.
Belief in a single, living, personal, creator God
“I am the Lord, and there is no other besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me, that they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other; I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.” Isaiah 45: 5-7
Most of the biblical accounts of the apostles preaching the gospel involved situations where the audience consisted either of Jews or other devout gentiles, all of whom already believed in a single, personal God who was their Creator. The Lord Jesus also when teaching and preaching was mostly speaking to the Jews or Samaritans who He knew had a prior understanding of the nature and singularity of God. It is important to understand the message in this context.
A person who believes in multiple gods will be confused by the Gospel message, seeing Jesus as just another one of the many gods, and not perceiving that He was the physical representation of the one true God. In contrast, the writer of Hebrews spoke of Jesus, the Messiah, in this manner:
“In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of His nature, upholding the universe by His word of power.” Hebrews 1: 1-3
It is also a point of confusion if a person sees God as some impersonal force that controls the universe. Although God is all powerful and His Spirit does control the universe, He is also a personal God who needs to be addressed and related to in a personal manner, not a force that you can tap into and use to manipulate for you own purposes. Jesus as the Messiah, and as Lord and King of God’s Kingdom, has rules and standards that must be followed. He will later judge all men according to these principles. It is in this context that we must view the Gospel message.
Paul, when he encountered idol worshipers in Athens (Book of Acts chapter 17), expanded his message to address this issue of having an improper context:
“Now while Paul waited for them in Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was full of idols” Acts 17: 16
His message to the Athenians:
“Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: ‘To the Unknown God’. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of you own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17: 22 – 31
Adam and Eve’s Fall resulting in a Cursed World
“For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15: 21-22
The coming of the Messiah was not just to offer forgiveness to men for their sins, but it was also to restore mankind from the loss of paradise and access to the tree of life (i.e. immortality). We must understand that we don’t belong in this cursed world and we were not initially intended to be in this condition, but it was a result of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God when they believed Satan’s lie and wanted to become like God.
“Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it”, Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.’” Genesis 3: 17-19
“Therefore the Lord sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3: 23-24
Unfortunately today, especially in our western culture, the truth of God’s creation of Adam and Eve and the events of the garden of Eden have been lost due to the current teachings and beliefs about the origins of man, namely the theory of evolution and the scientific view of the timing and origins of our planet. I won’t go into what I see as the flaws of the scientific theories (see the many teachings on intelligent design if interested in a thorough presentation of this) except to say that these men are making assumptions that equate to making guesses that will eventually be proven wrong, and that it takes as much or more faith to believe these theories as it does to believe what has been revealed by God in His word. The Word of God wins hands down in my view.
The most important and undeniable reality that we all face (resulting from Adam’s sin) is our ultimate death. Also undeniable is the hopelessness and vanity that death presents to us when we realize that nothings goes with us when we die. Jesus came to restore hope and give us a reason to live. He has promised us eternal life in heaven, a place with no more tears and sorrow, no more injustice, no more death. We must recognize this truth as part of the context that the Gospel was presented in.
The Messiah as Lord and King
The Jews were expecting the Messiah to come and restore the Kingdom of God and to become the King. They weren’t wrong, they just didn’t recognize that He must suffer first and become a sacrificial offering to conquer death, as was prophesied in the Scriptures.
“But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ (Messiah) would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.” Acts 3: 18 (Peter’s sermon)
It is extremely important that we recognize that when Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, and later ascended into heaven, He was then place in the highest position of authority as Lord of Lords and King of Kings. If we believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of God, sent to earth by God the Father, then we must recognize Him as the current King and Lord of the Kingdom of Heaven of which we have become a part of as Christians. We must therefore recognize Him as our Lord, submitting to His commandments and regulations as such.
Consider this prayer from Paul in his letter to the Christians in Ephesus:
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints (Christians), and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:17-23
When the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is preached and understood in its full context it is able to change lives, transforming us into new spiritual creatures, born again to new life in God as supported by the truths of His revelation. The transformation is internal and has great value even now, but will especially have value when we must stand before the Lord Jesus in the future as Judge of our lives. This Gospel message is for everyone, not just those with high intellectual capacity or who can grasp intricate theories or high level wisdom. The most important ingredient is our faith, which is available to all men. If men will sincerely seek the God of creation they will find His Messiah, and the result will be powerful and transforming. Amen