Name three words that are heard at church, but rarely heard anywhere else. Words like redeem, partake, communion, eucharist or disciple are rarely used by any one who is not a faithful churchgoer. One of the most important words in Christianity is also a word little used outside of Christianity. Despite it’s foundational nature, “gospel” is a term that is unfamiliar to many
Ask a group of Christians to give a simple definition of the gospel and each Christian will give a slightly different answer. The essential truths will be the same but how they communicate those truths is as individual as the Christian. Some define the gospel with the words of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Others define the gospel based on First Corinthians 15:3-4: Jesus died for our sins, He was buried and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.
The gospel is the good news of God’s promise to save. The gospel is the message from God to men of how they can be forgiven and have eternal life. The gospel can be defined with wonderful simplicity and yet it cannot be fully understood because of it’s great complexity. The gospel message contains four key facts. The sinfulness of people. The Deity of Jesus. The death and resurrection of Jesus for sin. The only way to be forgiven is through faith in Jesus.
Every person is a sinner and guilty before God. God is holy- free from all sin. He created all things perfect, including mankind. The first two people, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God. Their sin brought a curse on themselves and the entire world. Because Adam and Eve are the parents of all people, they passed their sinfulness to their children. As a result, all descendants of Adam and Eve are sinners under the curse of death. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Romans 5:12)
Man is sinful, but God is gracious. On the same day man rebelled against God, He promised to send a Savior who would deliver men from the punishment of sin. The promised Savior was Jesus. Jesus is far more than a great teacher, a holy man, a beautiful example or an incredible sacrifice. Jesus is God. He is God the Son, the second person of the Trinity. Jesus is fully equal with God the Father. God in His grace gave His Son to be the Rescuer of man. “The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” (1 John 4:4)
Jesus became humanity’s Savior through His death on the cross. Because the punishment of sin is death, the only way sinners could be saved is for someone else to pay the punishment in their place. Jesus is the substitute provided and accepted by God. Jesus’ death on the cross was a death in place of sinners. He fully suffered the entire penalty of man’s sin. After His death Jesus was buried. The third day after Jesus’ death God raised Him to life again. Jesus rose from the dead in the same physical body that He had before His death. His resurrection is God’s testimony that Jesus is God and that His payment for sin was accepted by the Father. “Jesus our Lord . . . was delivered for our offenses and was raised again for our justification.” (Romans 4:24-25)
Jesus is the only way man can be forgiven. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) “Jesus said unto him, I am the way tthe truth and the lfie, no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (John 14:6) No one can do anything to bring salvation to themselves. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” (Titus 3:5) Salvation is entirely a gift of God, never a payment or reward. The only way to receive salvation is through faith in Jesus. Those will be saved who acknowledge they are sinners, believe Jesus is God who died for their sin and call out to Him for salvation. Those who attempt to gain salvation by their works are not saved and will not be saved until they repent of their works and rely on Jesus alone. Any attempt to work for salvation is a rejection of Jesus. “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of yoru are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4)
The gospel is the good news that God gave His Son to save you from your sin. The gospel is the good news that salvation is offered freely to all people. The gospel is the good news that whoever believes and trusts Jesus will be saved. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
Easter Sunday has just passed and it seems appropriate to take a moment for another consideration of Jesus’ resurrection. The Bible offers a number of facts that are legitimate evidences for the truth of the resurrection. Sufficient evidence exists in God’s Word to convince a reasonable person of the plausibility of Jesus’ resurrection.
The claim of that Jesus was resurrected begins with an assertion: Jesus was genuinely dead. The Roman soldiers guarding the cross would have never let a victim down unless he was definitively dead. The men who transported Jesus to the tomb and wrapped Him for burial would not have buried Him if they found the least evidence of life. Jesus was dead when He came down from the cross. The third day after His death, Jesus was restored to life by God the Father.
The Bible presenets several evidences that Jesus was miraculously returned to life. The guards assigned to watch over Jesus’ tomb told the priests of the angelic visitor, the removal of the stone and the empty tomb. These men were not disciples of Jesus. They were at best unconcerned about Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah. They had no agenda but the protection of their own interests. The priests who instigated the crucifixion believed the Roman soldiers’ testimony, but conspired with them to lie about the actual events. The priests bought off the soldiers and convinced them to confess to what would ordinarily have been a capital crime- falling asleep while on watch- rather than admit the supernatural events of that day. While not conclusive proof for the resurrection, these facts compel one to consider carefully what did happen that Sunday morning.
Seven weeks after Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples stood in front of large crowds in Jerusalem and announced that Jesus had risen. The disciples indicted the Jews for their part in crucifying the Messiah and then declared God had restored Jesus to life. Of the tens of thousands of people in Jerusalem who heard this message, including the religious leaders who had condemned Jesus to death, many would have known the exact location of Jesus’ tomb. If Jesus was still in the grave, any of those who rejected the apostles preaching could have readily shown the disciples and the masses the body of Jesus. No one did. The inability of the skeptics to refute the apostles claim gives strong evidence to the empty tomb and points to the genuineness of the resurrection.
The four gospels and the letter of First Corinthians dedicate significant sections to Jesus’ resurrection. The first gospel was written less than 20 years after Jesus’ death. The letter to the Corinthians was written about 25 years after Jesus’ death. Many eyewitnesses of Jesus death and resurrection were still living. The gospel writers and the apostle Paul mention specific individuals who saw the risen Jesus. Any of these eyewitnesses could testify to having personally seen Jesus alive after His resurrection. Besides the specific ones named, Paul cites an additional five hundred Christians who saw Jesus alive after His death. The multitude of witnesses gives strong evidence that would be practically incontrovertible in any case today. When one considers the intense persecution the first believers faced because of their commitment to Jesus the possibility of a conspiracy to dupe the world seems incredibly unlikely.
The resurrection is a certain event that can be attested to by strong evidences. The claims of the Bible about Jesus are believable. He is the Savior who died for sin and now lives forever. Because Jesus is alive, those who believe Him will have eternal life.
Christianity stands unique among all the religions of the world. Only Christianity claims that it’s God became human, died and then returned to life. The claim that Jesus rose from the dead is one celebrated and remembered every Sunday of the year by Christian churches all across the world. The resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in all human history. The resurrection of Jesus is the seminal moment in Christianity. That event changed everything.
The New Testament is filled with declarations that Jesus died and then rose again. The resurrection is explained in all four gospels and the book of Acts. Jesus’ resurrection is expressly taught in many of the epistles and in the book of Revelation. The resurrection of Jesus is a crucial truth on which Biblical Christianity is built. Without the resurrection there is no Biblical Christianity. Without the resurrection there is no forgiveness of sin. Without the resurrection there is no salvation. Without the resurrection there is no eternal life. Without the resurrection, God is a liar, Jesus is a fraud and every gospel preacher is a charlatan.
The resurrection is important because without the resurrection the gospel is a lie. “And if Christ be not dead, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17)
The resurrection is important because without the resurrection the Christian life is pointless and worthless. “What advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32)
The resurrection is important because without the resurrection the Christian has no hope of eternal life. “And if Christ be not raised, then they which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” (1 Corinthians 15:17-18)
The resurrection is important because it is the ultimate display of the power of God that is now at work in the believer. “And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead.” (Ephesians 1:19-20)
The resurrection is important because it is the evidence that Jesus is the Savior He claimed to be and that the Bible declares Him to be. “Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body.” (John 2:18-22)
The resurrection is important because it is the powerful declaration that Jesus is God. “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead:” (Romans 1:3-4)
The resurrection is important because if it is untrue, God’s Word is a lie. “We are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.” (1 Corinthians 15:15)
The resurrection is the lynchpin on which all the gospel hangs, the certification that all the gospel promises are true and the certainty that God is true. Rejoice every Sunday because Jesus the Savior has risen.
“Israel slides back like a backsliding heifer.” (Hosea 4:16)
Preachers often warn Christians and churches about backsliding. The term is familiar to some people, but others find it is confusing. Backsliding is used to describe a Christian who was once obedient to the Lord, growing in the Lord and serving Him faithfully. The once obedient Christian backslides by turning back to sin. The term comes from the Old Testament where God frequently rebukes Israel for its backsliding. The image is of a cow that plants its feet and pulls hard against the leading of its master. Israel was resisting the leading of God by turning away from Him to pursue idolatry and practice all manner of evil. A backsliding Christian is one who resists the leading of the Holy Spirit to pursue his own sinful way. Like the Israelites, the backsliding Christian turns his back on what he knows to be right to practice all forms of idolatry and wickedness.
The backslidden Christian lives in sin and does not grow in Christ. The backslider may maintain an outward appearance of religion while also pursuing sinful habits. He slides back spiritually, abandoning the progress he has made in obedience, ignoring the spiritual disciplines and forsaking the imitation of Jesus. The backslidden Christian takes off the Christlikeness he had once put on.
A serious warning needs to be given to the backslider. Backsliding is a serious problem because it is indistinguishable from false Christianity. The backslider may actually be an unsaved person who has deceived himself and others into thinking he is saved. The Christian who is in sin will not have assurance of salvation because their own heart will condemn them. (1 John 3:20) The backslider dare not attempt to comfort himself with the knowledge that because he is a Christian he can contiue in willful sin and still go to heaven. Willingness to live in sin is not a characteristic of a Christian, but of an unsaved person. “Whoever abides in Christ does not live in sin. Who ever lives in sin has not seen Him nor known Him.” (1 John 3:6) Those who refuse to repent give the lie to their profession of faith. A genuine Christian will eventually repent of sin, fall under the chastening of God (Hebrews 12:6) or die an untimely death (1 John 5:16).
The proper response to backsliding is repentance. Hosea 14 teaches backsliders to confess their sin to God and ask for His forgiveness. Backsliders must turn away from the sin they once loved to turn back to God. God promises the repentant He will hear and heal them. God promises the backslider that if he will confess his sin then God will not fail to cleanse him from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
March 27 Roundtable
Pastor Dave Chambers
Pastor Joe Herr
Pastor Tom Schierkolk
Pastor Bill Rowland
The Bible says in the book Revelation that God will imprison Satan for one thousand years and will then throw Satan into the Lake of Fire forever. Since God has the power to restrain Satan why didn’t He do so as soon as Satan rebelled? Why didn’t God keep Satan out of the Garden of Eden and away from Adam and Eve? Why did God allow Satan to tempt men to sin?
The Bible does not give a direct answer to this question. Despite that, what the Bible reveals about the character and purposes of God helps in the formulation of an answer. Romans 9:21-23 speaks of the Sovereignty of God in His dealings with men. God allowed some, like Pharaoh, to persist in sin to show all mankind His wrath, power, patience and glory. God in His grace and wisdom allowed Satan to tempt Adam and Eve so that through their sin His wrath, patience, mercy and glory would be known to all people. Because man sinned we learned first hand that God is Holy and always punishes sin. We also learned that God is an overwhelmingly gracious God who gave His Son to die for our sin. Through sin we learn about God what we could never have known any other way. The sin of Satan and the fall of man allowed God to show that His grace is far greater than our sin.
The righteous angels study the gospel looking from the outside into something mysterious to them. (1 Peter 1:12) The angels do not understand the mercy and grace of God in the same way men do because the angels are not recipients of His grace. In the end, the plan of God that allowed sin will result in incredible, eternal praise to Him. “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10) All the redeemed will praise God for His righteous judgment of the wicked. (Revelation 19:1-2) The plan of God which allowed sin also allows people the opportunity to truly and personally know “the grace of God that brings salvation.” (Titus 2:11)
The words at the end of Genesis apply to this question. “You thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good.” (Genesis 50:20) Satan was bent on the destruction of man, and God allowed Satan to work great evil. All the evil Satan desired also accomplishes the eternal good that God ordained. God allowed Satan to tempt man for our eternal good and His eternal praise. Though a full answer cannot be given to this question we can rest in the character of God. God is perfect, wise and good. The Judge of the whole earth will do right. (Genesis 18:25) You can trust Him.