Monday, April 6, 2015

Q & A with George Wigram: "What is the gospel?"

In an article titled "THE DEATH OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST," Bible scholar and theologian George Wigram (1805-1879) poses a question that is still relevant today, namely, "What is the gospel?" Here's what he says:

     "I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand, by which also ye are saved . . . how 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 of Cephas, then of the twelve. After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once . . . after that . . . of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all . . . of me also, as of one born out of due time" (1 Cor. 15:1-8).
     The assertion I am about to make may seem to many strange (nevertheless I believe it to be truth), that great and general as is the profession of religion in our own day, so little and so rare is the understanding of the gospel, that not one out of ten of the religious would be able to give a simple and a scriptural answer to the question, "What is the gospel?" If any one calls this assertion in question, let him go into the coteries of his religious society, and try whether the question, simple as it is, will not elicit answers so various, as to prove that either there are many gospels, or that the one gospel is most strangely misrepresented in the minds of most. The vagueness of the answers, when the question has been raised about this or that minister's preaching the gospel, also has often struck me forcibly. "Is the gospel preached where I attend? Oh yes! I thought you knew what an excellent, or what a pious, or what a devoted man our minister is," is a frequent reply, as though there were no such a thing as distinct truth in the world. And so, I believe, in many minds the case is, that there is no clear, simple, distinct truth known; but truth, instead of being known in that firm, unvarying form in which it has been presented to us by God in the word, is looked at rather in the fickle, changeable forms in which it has been received by man taught the fear of the Lord by the traditions of men. To illustrate what I mean, I would say, that in any mixed religious society, the mooting such a question as, What is the gospel? would be felt to be throwing down the gauntlet, or perhaps something worse. The Baptist, the Wesleyan, the Independent, the Nationalist, each has his own points in connection with the subject peculiar to himself to be defended. True, he may tell you they are minor points of difference, and that essentially they all agree: but this is a mistake; for, in the first place, they are so far major points, as to constitute, practically, that which fills and holds the mind; and secondly, if you hear the answer, you will find it is not the same gospel at all which is stated. Moreover the effect of introducing the division of clergy and laity (a division which practically holds quite as much among Dissenters as in the Establishment), has been to make almost every Christian who is not pledged in some way by office to the work, to feel that the task of answering questions is not his; and I do believe, that three out of four of Christians you might meet, would feel this was one of the questions which it would be expedient thus to avoid answering. Not that I mean to say that they have not their own statements of the Gospel, but that, in the known multiplicity of thoughts about it, they would rather not risk, as it would seem to them, entering upon controversy. Now, it does seem to me a most gracious thing on the part of our God, to have given us such a testimony upon the subject, as for ever to set aside all reasonings thereupon; while, if I have been right in my estimate of Christianity in our own days, most fully to exhibit its poverty. The statement to which I refer, is that which precedes these remarks. The way in which the apostle gets upon it is remarkable; not saying simply, now I declare unto you the gospel; but introducing it as connected with so many little circumstances affecting those to whom he wrote, as to give it the more point. "I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you . . . which also ye have received . . . and wherein ye stand; . . . . by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain . . . For, I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received," etc., etc. Such a way of introducing his subject was, in a peculiar way, calculated to call attention to it. And how blessed that subject! "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 of Cephas, then of the twelve. After that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time . . . so we preached, and so ye believed." This is the gospel! [Editor's note: While verses 1-11 give the context of Paul's gospel, verses 3b-5 give the actual content of the gospel message. Notice the four content conjunctions beginning in verse 3: "that Christ died . . . and that He was buried . . . and that He was raised . . . and that He was seen . . . ."] an artless simple tale of what befell Jesus. Observe, it is all about Jesus. The only actor, the only sufferer here is God. Man may be a spectator, and, through grace, a witness and a recipient, but the whole tale is about God, and his Christ. God, the Holy Ghost, had traced in the word many of the Father's thoughts about Jesus; and here we have this One anointed of the Father gleaning them all up for Himself, and fulfilling them all. Now, do let us remark how the whole action, from first to last, in the Gospel, is God's, and how there is no place assigned to man in it, but that of standing still, and seeing or telling of what God wrought. If we look also a little closely at the text, we shall find the matter dividing itself naturally into four parts; the death, burial, resurrection and manifestation of the Lord. And I think I may justly say here, that the maintaining the proportions of the component parts of truth is not an unimportant matter. To make the ointment used in the sanctuary, not only was the presence of all the appointed ingredients needful, but due attention to the just proportions was requisite likewise. Surely, in like manner, we corrupt the truth, when, knowing all the parts of it, we give a prominence to any one of them beyond, or less than that which the Holy Ghost in the word has; and, indeed, I do see truth now-a-days constantly so misused, and rendered of little effect. And is it not so with this very truth? The great stress which is now laid is upon the death of Jesus, so much stress, indeed, as almost to overlook the other three points: but here THE great stress is upon "the manifestation of the blessed Lord after the resurrection;" even as throughout the [book of] Acts we find the theme of testimony to have been Jesus and the resurrection. So strongly, indeed, does the apostle (Acts 17) seem to have pressed resurrection, that the poor ignorant ones to whom he spake thought that resurrection was a person as well as Jesus, saying (ver. 18), "He seemeth to be a setter-forth of strange gods," because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. Just so here the great stress is upon his manifestation, for while his death, burial, and resurrection are each of them mentioned but once, His manifestation is repeated six times over — to Cephas; to the twelve; to five hundred brethren at once; to James; to all the apostles; to me also. . . . I would press much the careful study of chapter 15 of the first Epistle to the Corinthians."1


ENDNOTE:

1 George V. Wigram, "THE DEATH OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST." The Inquirer [London: Central Tract Depot, September 1840], Vol. 3, pp. 376-379. Also see: G. V. Wigram, "The Cross, the Blood, and the Death of Jesus Christ," Part 3, number 3. Bible Truth Publishers.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

What gospel did the Apostle John preach?

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 the apostle Paul writes:

"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 that 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 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 [i.e. all the other apostles including the apostle John], yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I [Paul] or they [the other apostles], so we preach and so you believed." (1 Cor. 15:1-11, NKJV)

The apostle John preached the same gospel as the apostle Paul!

What gospel are you preaching?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Q & A with Dr. Hendricks: "What is the essence of the gospel?"

Dr. Howard Hendricks (1924-2013), the beloved professor of Bible Exposition and Hermeneutics at Dallas Theological Seminary who was known affectionately to his students simply as "Prof," reminds us about "the essence of the gospel" in his book Teaching to Change Lives. Here's what Dr. Hendricks says: 
 
"Allow me to remind you that Christianity is based not merely on experience (though it produces an experience), but on historical fact.
     Paul reminded us of this in 1 Corinthians 15. What is the essence of the gospel? Paul said it is four historical facts:
     Christ died.
     He was buried.
     He rose again.
     He appeared to certain people.
     How do we know Christ died? Because he was buried. How do we know he rose again? Because he appeared to certain people.
     So content is critically important from a biblical point of view. We've got to know the truth God has revealed. Never forgets the facts of the word of God."1
 
 
ENDNOTE:
 
1 Howard Hendricks, Teaching to Change Lives (Atlanta: Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, 1987, & co-published by Multnomah Press), pp. 128-129.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

What Is the Gospel? - by Richard D. Emmons

Richard D. Emmons is professor in the School of Divinity at Cairn University in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. He is also senior pastor of GraceWay Bible Church in Hamilton Township, New Jersey.

     If you were to die tonight, do you know for certain you would go to heaven?
    I've heard all types of answers to this question: “I don't believe in heaven.” “I think I'm going to heaven.” “I hope I'm going.” “I'm not certain I'm going, but I try to be a good person.”
     Life does not cease at death; and eternal life versus eternal punishment is not merely a Christian concept. King David said he would “dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Ps. 23:6). Job said that after his skin was destroyed, meaning his body was in the grave, “in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:26).
      Yet not everyone “shall see God.” The prophet Isaiah spoke of sinners dwelling “with the devouring fire” and “everlasting burnings” (Isa. 33:14). The New Testament reveals the site of these burnings: the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:20; 20:10, 14-15).
      So what do you do when you want to tell someone you love how to avoid eternal punishment? You evangelize. You proclaim the Good News. You present the gospel. As the world grows closer to the coming of the Antichrist, many false gospels will be circulating. But only the gospel of Jesus Christ has the power of salvation.

      WHAT IS THE GOSPEL? The word gospel in Greek is euaggelion, which simply means “good news.” There are various types of good news, and the New Testament uses the word in a variety of ways.
      If you take the noun form, euaggelia, and add the verb form izo to the end, you have the Greek verb “to evangelize,” which literally means “to share good news.” This is the same verb used when the angels came to the shepherds in the fields and announced the birth of Christ. The angel basically said, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I evangelize you”: “I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (Lk. 2:10).
      When you share with people how they can obtain eternal life and avoid the Lake of Fire, you're sharing the gospel – the Good News.
      Four Bible books are called Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They present the Good News of the earthly ministry of the Son of God who came from heaven to reveal God the Father to mankind and then die a sacrificial death for our sins.
      The Hebrew Scriptures – 39 books written over a span of 1,000 years – call God “Father” only a dozen times. But in the Gospels, Jesus speaks often of His Father and tells us to pray, “Our Father in heaven” (Mt. 6:9; Lk. 11:2). Being able to call God “Father” is good news. In fact, the truth of Jesus is great news any way you look at it. The gospel of Jesus Christ offers people God's unending love, forgiveness of sin, help in time of need, direct access to the throne of grace, deliverance from the Lake of Fire, and eternal life in God's presence.
      No wonder the apostle Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek [Gentile]” (Rom. 1:16).
      The content of the gospel we share with people usually follows Paul's message in 1 Corinthians 15:

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 that word which I preached to you....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 [Peter], then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once....After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also (vv. 1-8).

     Christ died according to the Scriptures, was buried, was raised, and appeared to many. That is the gospel in a nutshell.

     THERE ARE MORE THAN 7 billion people on Earth. Out of that 7 billion, God in His grace reached out to me one day to open my eyes to grasp this Good News. Today He is reaching out to you. He is sharing the gospel with you purely on the basis of His goodness and grace, and He desires to lead you into a personal relationship with Him.
     If someone offered you a brand new car for free, would you respond, “No thanks. I have an old clunker I prefer to keep”? Chances are you would be thrilled with the offer. And not only would you be grateful to that person, but you probably would tell everyone else about it as well.
     God has made you an offer. He wants to give you forgiveness of sin, membership in His family, and a home in heaven forever. That is good news.
     Why can He make that offer? Because Jesus paid the penalty for your sins. He died in your place. Even though you may not care about Jesus, He still cares for you. In fact, He cares so much He died for you: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
     Why was it necessary for Jesus to die for us? Because God's holiness required a perfect, sinless sacrifice. You and I cannot die for each other; we are sinners by birth and by action. In all of human history, only Jesus was qualified to die to pay the penalty for someone else's sin. You no longer have to pay the penalty yourself in the Lake of Fire. You can obtain forgiveness through faith in Christ: “Christ also suffered [died] once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to god” (1 Pet. 3:18).
     The Lake of Fire was never prepared for people: “Then He [Jesus] will say to those on the left hand [unbelievers], 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels'” (Mt. 25:41). The Lake of Fire was prepared for the Devil and the demons. But it is also where people will spend eternity if they fail to respond to the Good News.
     A number of years ago, I was driving on the Garden State Parkway in North Jersey. There is a spot where the highway is walled in on both sides. That day traffic was tied up for miles because a German Shepherd somehow ended up on the highway. People wanted to help the dog; but the dog was so fearful, so crazed by what was going on, he wouldn't let anyone near him.
     Many people are like that. They fear those who want to help them. They fear or dislike Christians who share the gospel, even though we do it to save their lives.

     DO YOU KNOW WHERE you will spend eternity? If you were to die tonight, do you know for certain you would go to heaven?
     There is no room for doubt. And there is a way you can be certain. Jesus died to pay for your sins. God wants to put your sin on Jesus and transfer Jesus' righteousness to you. Faith is the key. Faith means trusting Jesus alone for the forgiveness of sin. You cannot trust in yourself, your good deeds, your theological training, or anything else. And in trusting Jesus, you are trusting in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They are one and the same.
     We do not know when we will die. Now is the time to welcome the Good News. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).
     Psalm 95:8 declares, “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness.”
     If you have never accepted Jesus as your personal Savior, you may do so right now by praying, “Dear God, I know I'm a sinful human being. I know I can't get to heaven by myself. I could never be good enough. I believe Jesus is Your Son. I believe He died on the cross in my place. I understand He's the only way into heaven. Please take my sin away and give me the gift of eternal life. Help me to serve You [now that I'm saved], and make me a follower of Jesus. Thank You, God, for doing this for me.”
     Millions of people throughout the ages have prayed a similar prayer from their hearts and have been transformed from the inside out and born into the family of God. The gospel is the power of God for salvation.
     If you were to die tonight, do you know for certain you would go to heaven? As the apostle John neared the end of his first epistle, he wrote the following:

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God (1 Jn. 5:13, emphasis added).

      Faith is the certain victory over death and the Lake of Fire. Faith assures us that we can “dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” And if that isn't good news, I don't know what is.

This article first appeared in the July/August 2014 issue of Israel My Glory magazine, published by The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. Copyright 2015 by The Friends of Israel. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

What's the "Bottom Line" of the Gospel?

Big Church pt. 4: Bottom Line from Shannon Oaks Church on Vimeo.

If you liked Andy Stanley's sermon “Big Church part 4,” then you've got to watch this video "Big Church pt. 4: Bottom Line" by Pastor John Turner! In the video, Turner stresses that the "Bottom Line" of the gospel is 4 simple facts. Here's what he says  (beginning at the 35:05 time-stamp in the video):
 
“That's why you know about Jesus today. Because of this guy [named Paul]. This is how the message of Jesus got out of Jerusalem. And out of the first century. And even though persecution heated up intensely around Jerusalem, Christianity began to multiply. And it began to spread. And in addition to being a missionary, Paul was also, as I've mentioned, an author. And he was an excellent thinker. He was very educated. He was a Roman citizen so he had access to a different kind of education than a lot of Jewish people would have had. And he spent those years, that decade, thinking and figuring out, how do I get the essence of Jesus' message out of an exclusively Jewish context so that I can communicate it to people who've never read the Old Testament? How can I communicate Jesus to people who haven't ever heard of Abraham or Moses or any of the Old Testament prophets? [Paul] worked on it and he reduced it down, down, down, down, down, until he got it to it's bottom-line. So that even if you'd never heard of these great Old Testament characters you can understand the gospel.

And in the book of First Corinthians, Paul really gets it down to the basics, down to just the irreducible minimums. And this comes from First Corinthians chapter 15. In First Corinthians chapter 15, we'll start in verse 1. Paul is writing to this church that he planted. And he says, “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you....” This is how we got started, when I planted this church, I preached this gospel to you then, and it seems like maybe you've forgotten it so “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.” [1 Cor. 15:1]

...which I received” he says [in 1 Cor. 15:3]. He says, “I received this” so this isn't my creation. I received this from God. I received this from the apostles, from those earliest followers of Jesus in Jerusalem, from James, from Peter - all the stuff I was able to receive I've boiled it down to the essence and this is where it comes down. And now he's going to define the gospel for us. Look at verse 3. “For what I received, I passed on to you as of first importance....” In other words, if you don't get anything else, get this! This is the top button. If you don't get this buttoned right your shirt won't ever line up again. Okay? This is where it starts. This is the foundation, and if you don't have a solid foundation it doesn't matter how pretty the building is, it's gonna collapse. This is the most important thing. This is “first importance”. He says, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas” - anybody remember who Cephas is? Cephas is Peter, right? So, “He appeared to Peter and then to the twelve.” [1 Cor. 15:3-5] And not just one or two or here and there but, “After that” verse 6, “He appeared to more than 500 of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” Some have died in the ensuing years. But think about this: 500 people at a time and they're still alive! I know this is hard to believe, but you could, if you wanted to, you could get on a boat and go from Corinth to Jerusalem and you could find a bunch of these people and they would tell you: “I was there. I was alive, and I saw it.” You could talk to them if you're skeptical about it because I understand, this is hard to believe. And verse 7, “Then He appeared to James, then to all of the apostles, and last of all, He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” Paul is just so refreshingly honest about himself. Look at verse 9: “For I am the least of the apostles, and do not even deserve to be called an apostle” - why? “because I persecuted the church of God.” Boy that's powerful! [Paul] says, “Look, I don't, I don't know why God chose me to bring this message to you. Of all the people God could have chosen to plant these little ekklesias [churches] all over the place, I'm the least likely candidate! But He chose me by His grace and that is now the central message of my life!”

And you know, you could take this entire paragraph from Paul, and you could bottom-line it to 4 sentences. And if you've ever wondered, “How do I respond when somebody asks me what the gospel is? You could say it in 4 phrases. These are the 4 phrases right here: Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised. He appeared. That's it! Christ died for our sins – because that was our real problem, was that our sin had separated us from God and so Jesus paid the penalty for that by dying for our sins, and He was buried because that's what you do with people who are dead. And back then they knew when somebody was dead. Trust me, the Romans were experts at killing people and at keeping people alive longer so they could suffer more. And so when the Romans said, “He dead.” Trust me, He was dead! They knew it. That's why they buried Him. The Romans would never have allowed Him to be buried if they didn't believe He was dead. He was buried! But, He was raised! And that validates His true identity. And, we know He was raised because “He appeared” [1 Cor. 15:5]. Not just to one or two of us at a time, but to more than five-hundred of us at once.

You could take Paul's paragraph and just boil it down to those 4 sentences. So we're just gonna practice repeating what the gospel is, in here. We're just gonna repeat these 4 sentences a couple of times just to make sure we all get what the gospel is. Is that, would that be okay? Alright. So we're all going to say this together on a count of three. One, two, three. Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised. He appeared. Let's say it again. Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised. He appeared.

[Someone asks:] "Now, what about back in Genesis 1? Are those 7 literal 24 hour days?" No, no, no. Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised. He appeared.

"[Pastor] John, I was reading in Revelation. And there's this seven-headed dragon in there. And is that representing Oprah? Or is that representing president Obama? What is that?" No, no, no. Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised. He appeared.

"Look, there's some contradictions in the Gospels and one of them says He came on this day and the other....” No, no, no. Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised. He appeared.

"Yeah but what about womens' roles and charismatic gifts and should we always take communion every time we meet together and what about these small groups and is that forsaking the assembly?" Christ died for our sins. He was buried. He was raised. He appeared. That's the bottom-line. That's the foundation. That's the top button. That is “of first importance” [1 Cor. 15:3]. And we can figure out everything else, and it won't make any difference if we don't figure this out first! This is the gospel! Not infant baptism, not drums, not any of that kind of stuff. I know you got questions, but this is the core! This is the bottom-line! This is the part you cannot miss! And this, this is what we have in common with Christians everywhere. This is what unites us with the church in China. Not what day of the week we meet on. Not what kind of building we meet in. Not what we're wearing when we get together. This is what unites us with Christians in the first century, and the second century, and the fifteenth century, and if the Lord tarries this is what will unite us with our grandchildren's grandchildren. This is the bottom-line. This is the central message. And everything else is just a distraction until you nail this down.

And so the question this morning is really simple. Have you ever embraced that? Right there? [Pastor John points.] Like have you ever just really embraced it? Where you got this settled, deep inside your spirit, that yes, Christ died for our sins. Which means, He died for my sins. And He really was dead because He was buried. But God raised Him from death. And He appeared to people. And that has implications in my life. Have you ever just surrendered to that? Because if you haven't then nothing else matters. “Yeah, I come to church.” “Yeah, I give some money.” “Yeah, I volunteer to serve.” All that kind of stuff. But if you don't get this nothing else matters!

And so I'm just gonna give us an opportunity today. Because maybe for you, you're sitting here and today is the day the light bulb kind of came on and the dots got connected and you've never accepted this. And so that's what we're gonna do. I'm going to give you the opportunity to just embrace this personally. And I'm gonna pray. And then, I'm gonna talk to those of you who maybe have embraced this at some point in time, but you get a little bit distracted. And then I'm gonna pray for you, and then we'll be dismissed. Now for those of you who've never embraced this, what I'm about to pray, there's no magic formula here. You can use these words. You can change them to your own words. You can pray this out loud. You can pray this quietly in your own heart. You can think about this and pray this later when you get home. There's nothing magic about this prayer. But this is just an opportunity for you to affirm these 4 statements. Let's pray. You can pray something that's sounds a little bit like this. You can say: Father God, thank you for sending your Son. For loving me so much that you would send your only Son to die for the sins of the whole world, including my sins. Thank you for not leaving Him in the tomb, but for raising Him from the dead. Thank you for forgiving my sins. Thank you for receiving me into your family. [Now that I'm saved] I surrender to your leadership in my life. And I pray that in Jesus' name, amen.

Alright, now some of you may have prayed that prayer. Some of you probably prayed a prayer like that a long, long time ago – but here's what happens. (And we're going to see this next week a little bit more.) It's so easy for us to drift away from the simplicity of this message. Isn't it? It's so easy for us to get bogged down in this issue and that issue and like Sam was talking about, you know, all the differences in the denominations and what version of the Bible are you reading out of? And what translation is the best? And what, you know, all of that kind of stuff. It's so easy for us, who began with this simple, simple message, to drift away. And, and the natural gravitational pull is away from simplicity towards complexity. And what we end up doing is we end up converting people to doctrine instead of converting people to Jesus. And for that we must repent. And so for any of us who were saved by this terribly simple message, but have allowed ourselves to drift more towards the complexities of the doctrine, and allowed that to overshadow the simplicity of what Jesus has done for us – it's time for us to repent. And so would you stand and let me pray for all of us and then we'll be dismissed.

God, thank you for making it simple. Thank you for saving the apostle Paul, and for, for his fantastically inspired thoughts that have been preserved so diligently for us, where we can go directly to his words which come through the Holy Spirit, to us today. And we can see just how simple it really is. God, forgive us for making it harder than it has to be. Forgive us for making it complicated, and for giving people the idea that getting into your kingdom is like a combination lock – we got to get the right number to the right, the right number to the left, and all this kind of stuff, as if you are trying to keep us out, trying to make it difficult. We know that's not the case. You have gone to great lengths to make this easy and simple for us. And so forgive us for making your simple message more complicated than it has to be. Teach us the freedom of living in simplicity. Teach us, just, just burn into our hearts the simple facts that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, that He was raised, and that He appeared. And allow us to take that message with us with boldness into the world this week. I pray that in Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

THE SAVING GOSPEL

The following article is from the April 1973 issue of the Christian Victory Magazine, edited by Dr. Fred John Meldau and Dr. Maurice Dametz:

THE SAVING GOSPEL
     "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, If ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how 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" (I Cor. 15:1-5, KJV).
     So frequently the question arises - "Just what is the Gospel?" Here we have the inspired definition. It is one of the great summaries of divine truth. It will be noticed that it has four points:

     1. Christ died for our sins.
     2. He was buried.
     3. He rose again the third day.
     4. He was seen, that is, His was a physical resurrection - He had a real, visible body.
 
It is significant that in the previous chapter Paul stated: "I had rather speak five words with my understanding...than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue" (14:19). Here in the definition of the Gospel are five words - "Christ died for our sins" [1 Cor. 15:3, KJV] - and no five words that the Apostle ever uttered are more precious. These five words set forth the centre-point of the Gospel, that is, crucifixion (Christ died) which is substitution (for our sins) by divine revelation (according to the Scriptures). This is the keystone in the arch of divine truth. Paul gave priority to this - "I delivered unto you first of all." [1 Cor. 15:3, KJV] There is no human opinion here - it is "according to the Scriptures," - the fulfillment of scores and scores of prophecies and types. It is absolute proof.
     The second statement is, "that He was buried." [1 Cor. 15:4, KJV] And why was He buried? He was not to see corruption. [Psalm 16:10, KJV; Acts 2:27, KJV] He was buried as a proof that He was dead. He was put in a tomb which was closed tight, and there He remained until the third day according to the Scriptures.
     The third statement is that "Christ rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." [1 Cor. 15:4, KJV] Glance through the Book of Acts and see how this was the theme of all the Apostle's preaching and teaching - "Jesus and the resurrection." [Acts 17:18, KJV] A risen and living Christ who is able to save and to keep. Christianity is nothing at all without the person of the risen, living and loving Christ.
     The fourth general statement in the Gospel is that "Christ was seen." [1 Cor. 15:5, KJV] He came up from the grave in a real body. It was a spiritual body, but a real, visible body nevertheless. He appeared again and again in the body to His disciples. He was seen of Cephas, then the twelve, then five hundred, then James, then the Apostles, and last of all, Paul. In that same body He went to heaven and sat down on the right hand of God. He is coming again in that same body and He is going to change our bodies like unto the body of His glory. This is the Christian's blessed hope, and this Gospel is the saving Gospel."1


ENDNOTE:

1 "THE SAVING GOSPEL," by Dr. Maurice Dametz, co-editor of Christian Victory Magazine, Dr. Fred John Meldau, editor, Christian Victory Magazine (Denver: Christian Victory Publishing Company), Volume 47, April 1973: pages 4-5.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Clarity of the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15

This post is an excerpt from a previous article I wrote titled "Getting the Gospel Right".

The glorious gospel is clear, not confusing. In contrast to this, the groundless gospel is unclear and quite confusing! Consider for a moment that if the historical facts of Christ's burial and resurrection appearances are not absolutely essential for someone to know about and believe in order to go to heaven as Tom Stegall of Duluth Bible Church asserts, then their presence in the gospel message simply confuses the issues. Groundless gospel advocates admit to preaching the maximum consisting at least of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, but require something less than this to be believed. Stegall acknowledges that "it is quite common for Christians to reference 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 and then state that the gospel is the message that 'Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again.'...since the burial happens to fall in-between these two pillars [i.e. Christ's death and resurrection], it gets included each time this passage is quoted...I myself routinely quote it this way".1 Notice here that although Stegall only claims to be preaching "the gospel," in reality he believes he's preaching more than the gospel! This simply highlights the incongruity inherent in the groundless gospel because Stegall is including supposedly non-saving truth (i.e. Christ's burial) in his saving message. But Dennis Rokser correctly and somewhat incongruently points out "that THERE IS NO INCONGRUITY BETWEEN THE GOSPEL that was PREACHED by Paul and THE GOSPEL which was BELIEVED by the Corinthians! There was no MAXIMUM preached and MINIMUM believed!"2 Stegall's new mini-gospel is truly an issue of incongruity that requires either semantical gymnastics or a lack of personal integrity to maintain.

Obviously the apostle Paul is not guilty of confusing the gospel message. In his first letter to the Corinthian Christians Paul writes: "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, - and not with clever speech, so that the cross of Christ would not become useless (1 Cor. 1:17, NET, italics added). In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul affirms that "we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor. 4:2, NIV, italics added). If Paul is not guilty of distorting and confusing the issues involved in eternal salvation, who is guilty of confusing the gospel message? In answer to this question consider how a pro-groundless pastor named Billy might witness to a Gnostic named Mike. Interestingly enough, Pastor Billy is the same Billy whom Stegall describes in his book as the young boy who doubted that Jesus was buried in a tomb for three days and that He appeared to His disciples after His resurrection.3 However, Billy is not a seven year old boy anymore. He went on to attend the University of Minnesota Duluth and is now pastor of a small  fundamentalist church.

Gnostic Mike: I was just reading about the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 and had some questions. I was wondering if you could help me out?

Pastor Billy: I'm sure I can help. What are your questions?

Gnostic Mike: It seems clear that Paul delivers his gospel in a four part formula, right?

Pastor Billy: Well, there are four parts but only two are really the gospel and essential to believe.

Gnostic Mike: Really? I'm glad you're explaining this to me because I didn't get that from reading the text. Paul uses the same grammatical structure to introduce each of the four verbs in verses 3b-5.

Pastor Billy: Yes of course, but Christ's burial and post-resurrection appearances are only proofs, you don't really have to believe them.

Gnostic Mike: I can see how they might be proofs of his death and resurrection, but why don't you have to believe them? After all, isn't Christ's resurrection a proof that He is God (cf. Acts 17:31; Rom. 1:4)? You still have to believe in Christ's resurrection, right?

Pastor Billy: Yes of course. But Christ's burial and post-resurrection appearances are not saving events.

Gnostic Mike: Really? Didn't Paul include them in the words of salvation in his preaching in Acts 13:26-41? I understand that only Christ's death paid the full penalty for sin, but Christ's burial and appearances are included in the gospel. Isn't the gospel "the power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16)?

Pastor Billy: Well you see, the double occurrence of the phrase "according to the Scriptures" in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 marks out the essentials of the gospel.

Gnostic Mike: Are you saying that Christ's burial and appearances aren't according to the Scriptures? 

Pastor Billy: Ummm. 

Gnostic Mike: And according to the Scriptures wasn't Christ's resurrection from the dead a resurrection from the grave (Isa. 53:9-10; Acts 13:29-30; 1 Cor. 15:4)? 

Pastor Billy: Hmmm.

Gnostic Mike: Wouldn't Paul be guilty of garbling the gospel by including non-saving truths in the saving message?

Pastor Billy: Actually, we just leave them out when we share the gospel so that clears things up.

Gnostic Mike: But Paul makes it clear that Christ's burial and appearances are included in the content of his gospel.

Pastor Billy: It takes much time and study to really understand the gospel message.

Gnostic Mike: I'm trying to understand. You're saying the gospel declares that Christ died for our sins - what about the phrase "according to the Scriptures," does a person have to believe that?

Pastor Billy: Well that's a proof too.

Gnostic Mike: So I don't have to believe it?

Pastor Billy: You have to believe what it proves.

Gnostic Mike: This is kind of confusing.

Pastor Billy: I'm glad I'm here to explain it to you.

Gnostic Mike: So I have to believe that Christ died for my sins but I don't have to believe that it was "according to the Scriptures" because that's just a proof. What if I believe Christ is a spirit?

Pastor Billy: Oh no, you have to believe Christ is human.

Gnostic Mike: Don't the facts of Christ's burial and appearances highlight His humanity? I mean, who ever heard of a spirit being buried?

Pastor Billy: Yes of course, but you don't have to believe them, you just have to believe Christ is human.

Gnostic Mike: But how will I believe Christ is human if I don't believe His body was buried or that He appeared to anyone?

Pastor Billy: Well, His death sets forth His humanity.

Gnostic Mike: But I'm a Gnostic. I believe Christ's death was only spiritual, not physical. And in the resurrection Christ's spirit was raised up, not His body. Immortality is conceived as escape from the body. I don't get it, you want me to believe Christ is human but you have removed His burial and resurrection appearances from the gospel. It doesn't make sense.

Pastor Billy: Here, I have some sermon tapes for you, why don't you listen to these.

Gnostic Mike: Thanks. I'm glad you're here to walk me through this. Otherwise I don't think I'd understand what you're saying. So let me see if I got it so far. I have to believe that Christ died for my sins, I don't have to believe the phrase "according to the Scriptures" because it's just a proof - although I can't believe it was according to some other holy book. And I don't have to believe that Christ was buried, but I have to believe He is human. How am I doing so far?

Pastor Billy: I think you're getting it.

Gnostic Mike: I hope I can remember all this! So the next part of the gospel I have to believe is that Christ was raised on the third day, right?

Pastor Billy: Well, we only require that you believe Christ rose from the dead.

Gnostic Mike: So if I believe Christ rose from the grave that's enough?

Pastor Billy: Oh no, you don't need to believe that Christ rose from the grave because that adds in His burial, you only need to believe that He rose from the dead.

Gnostic Mike: So all those people who believe Christ rose from the grave are adding to the gospel?

Pastor Billy: Well we try not to say that, they just don't understand the simplicity of the gospel message!

Gnostic Mike: It sounds kind of complicated to me.

Pastor Billy: Maybe you'd like to start coming to my church? I'm sure it would help clarify things for you.

Gnostic Mike: Are you saying I need your church to have it all make sense? That sounds kind of cultish.

Pastor Billy: I don't know why people always accuse us of being cultish...although we are the only doctrinally sound church in the city. But first things first. The important thing is that you get saved by believing my groundless gospel.

Gnostic Mike: That's what I'm trying to understand...so where were we? You were saying I have to believe Christ rose from the dead but not that He rose from the grave because that adds in His burial. So do I have to believe Christ rose from the dead on the third day? I mean, it says His resurrection on the third day is "according to the Scriptures," right?

Pastor Billy: Technically it does say that, but there are many passages throughout the New Testament which never mention the third day. We find that when a truth is mentioned frequently enough in the Bible it actually overrides another truth that's not mentioned quite as frequently. We like to tell people that an emphasis of one truth automatically means the exclusion of a related truth.

Gnostic Mike: I don't follow you on that one. But shouldn't this passage in 1 Corinthians 15 be considered "of first importance" (1 Cor. 15:3)? I mean, shouldn't we understand 1 Corinthians 15 in its own context and then those other gospel passages in light of the most important one?

Pastor Billy: Don't take everything so literally. After all, 1 Corinthians 15 is only one passage so it can't really be considered that important. There are many other verses throughout the New Testament that never reference a third day resurrection.

Gnostic Mike: So if I understand you correctly you're saying that even though Christ's resurrection on the third day is said to be "according to the Scriptures," I only have to believe He rose from the dead but not that it was "on the third day," right?

Pastor Billy: Now you're getting it!

Gnostic Mike: Actually, the gospel didn't seem confusing until you started explaining it to me!

Pastor Billy: That's because you're not saved. Often God uses human instruments like myself to explain these deep truths of the gospel.

Gnostic Mike: I don't know what I would do without you pastor. I sure wouldn't be able to understand the gospel simply from reading my Bible!

Pastor Billy: But once you understand it's so simple! We can't let the textual nuances of 1 Corinthians 15 override our carefully engineered system of theology, which of course is based on a synthesis of arbitrarily selected Scriptures fitting an unspecified numerical profile and the conversion experiences of many Christians in the world today.

Gnostic Mike: It sounds like I have a lot to learn! So you don't mind if I review all this one more time? I just want to make sure I'm getting this.

Pastor Billy: Sure but I don't have much time. I'm writing another book explaining the gospel.

Gnostic Mike: Okay...I'll try to make it quick. So you're saying I have to believe that Christ died for my sins - but now here I have another question. If Christ's resurrection on the third day is said to be "according to the Scriptures" but I don't have to believe that part about "the third day", why can't I simply believe that Christ died? I mean, I don't really have to believe the "for my sins" part, do I? I can just cut that out too, right?

Pastor Billy: The gospel isn't always consistent or clear like it may seem at first glance. You don't have to believe that Christ rose "on the third day"4 but you do have to believe that He died "for our sins". I know it sounds complicated but this is only the first time someone like myself has explained it to you.

Gnostic Mike: Yeah, I think I understand. It's still confusing me a bit though.

Pastor Billy: You're moving in the right direction. We can't take the passage in 1 Corinthians 15 so literally. Such an interpretation is too rigid and wooden. I mean honestly, who ever preaches that Christ "appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve" (1 Cor. 15:5)?!

Gnostic Mike: But didn't Paul preach it (1 Cor. 15:1)?

Pastor Billy: Well, Paul may have preached it, but only to the Corinthians in reference to the specific issues at that church.

Gnostic Mike: But doesn't Paul say that all the other apostles preached the same gospel message (1 Cor. 15:11)?

Pastor Billy: Let's not squabble over details. You'll just have to read my book. Actually, I carry extra copies of it with me for times like these. Here, why don't you take one?

Gnostic Mike: Actually I was wondering if I could just get a Bible? Mine's falling apart.

Pastor Billy: Oh, uh, I have one back at the church if you visit on Sunday. But let's not get sidetracked. Does what I've been explaining to you make sense?

Gnostic Mike: Well, not really. I'll have to go home and listen to your sermon tapes and look over your book. Your gospel is confusing me a bit.

Pastor Billy: Call me if you have any more questions. God's Word isn't always as clear as it seems. But once you understand it's so simple!

This story serves to illustrate the real tragedy of the groundless gospel. We simply cannot improve on the gospel, but we can detract from it by clouding it's clarity with human viewpoint and distorting it's message with reductionist reasonings. This is a serious error when it comes to evangelism because the unsaved have no grid other than their darkened minds to interpret our message of life. Let's encourage one another to proclaim the gospel clearly so that it can truly be dynamite for Christ! "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power [dynamite] of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes"! (Romans 1:16, NIV)


ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Stegall, The Gospel Of The Christ, 559.

2. Dennis Rokser, "The Issue of Incongruity - Actual or Artificial? Pt. 2," In Defense of the Gospel blog, http://indefenseofthegospel.blogspot.com/2008/05/issue-of-incongruity-actual-or_08.html (accessed December 20, 2009), emphasis his.

3. Tom Stegall, The Gospel Of The Christ, 561-562. 

4.  In Stegall's list of what he believes to be the five "essential, defining elements of the Gospel," any mention of "the third day" (1 Cor. 15:4) is noticeably absent. (Stegall, THE TRAGEDY OF THE CROSSLESS GOSPEL Pt. 1," The Grace Family Journal [Spring 2007]: 9.) Far from being an accidental oversight, this omission is entirely purposeful. In his new book Stegall makes it clear that the reference to the third day is not, in his opinion, an essential point of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. (Stegall, The Gospel Of The Christ, 559.) In contrast to Stegall's partial gospel, Everett F. Harrison highlights the Biblical truth when he writes: "This much is clear from the whole discussion, that Jesus, both in His predications [cf. Jn. 2:19; Matt. 12:38-41, etc.], and in His teaching following the resurrection [Lk. 24:46-48], laid great stress upon the time element, and the early church sought to impress the same thing in its witness (Acts 10:40; 1 Cor. 15:4)." (Everett F. Harrison, Lewis Sperry Chafer, Ed., Systematic Theology, 8 Vols. 5:241.) William Lane Craig concludes: "the 'third day' motif [was] prominent in the earliest Christian preaching, as it is summarized in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5." (William Lane Craig, Jesus Under Fire, 150.) It is clear that Stegall's reductionist reasonings are flawed even according to his own standards because although the mention of "the third day" in 1 Corinthians 15:4 is said to be "according to the Scriptures" - a phrase which supposedly deciphers the essential elements of the partial gospel - Stegall still omits the third day time element from his gospel! Ironically, Stegall's own words bear witness against him when he writes: "This is a transparent example of doctrinally-driven exegesis, of doctrine being imposed upon Scripture rather than derived from Scripture." (Tom Stegall, THE TRAGEDY OF THE CROSSLESS GOSPEL Pt. 3," The Grace Family Journal [Fall 2007]: 4-5.)

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Biblical Basis for the 4 Part Gospel

Here's some good thoughts on why the gospel creed in 1 Corinthians 15 has 4 parts. Please click here.

I've already discussed this issue at length in some of my other articles, so I'm not going to repeat myself here other than to say, I see 4 here: "Christ died...buried...raised...appeared...." (1 Cor. 15:3-5).




Friday, February 6, 2015

Jesus Martinez

My friend Peter has been wanting to understand and explain the truth of the gospel more clearly and effectively. Today he gave me a handwritten letter and asked me my knowledge of the Word to make sure that he was on the right track, or in other words, that he was understanding and presenting the truth. Here's what he wrote:

"The gospel is when an individual realizes they are a lost sinful individual deserving God's judgment in Hell. A person has to place 100% trust in Jesus Christ (God's Son sent to earth to save sinful man from eternal separation from God). That 100% trust in Jesus Christ (and 0% human effort) is 100% trust in the cross of Christ, having the sins of mankind nailed to Him. It is the cross alone that redeems an individual from Hell [1 Pet. 1:18-19]. The burial, resurrection, and appearances aren't paying for sin.

Why is it important to mention the burial, resurrection, and appearances in the gospel? The reason why is because just believing the cross for payment [without believing the rest of the gospel] isn't the key. There could have been another Jesus by the name of Jesus Martinez. So the case in point is that it has to be the Right Jesus (God's Son sent to earth to save sinful man from Hell by dying on the cross for mankind's sins, then being buried, raised and appearing). So when one says to preach the whole gospel, the death of Christ with the burial, resurrection and appearances [see 1 Cor. 15:3-5], what one is saying by including the burial, resurrection and appearances is another way of saying preach the Right and True Jesus Christ, God's Son, to save one from Hell when one trusts Him alone. So they don't think Jesus Martinez.

The burial, resurrection, and appearances, like I said, don't pay for sin but prove that the sins were completely paid with the death and validate the Right Jesus Christ (who is at God's right hand) who saves. It's important to mention the burial, resurrection, and appearances to an individual in case they have never heard of Jesus Christ before."

This article was originally posted on this website on September 8th, 2010.

Monday, November 3, 2014

What's the gospel according to the Greek?

One of the things I found very interesting when I translated the Greek text of 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 into English was that there is an interrogative pronoun (tini with the acute accent on the first vowel) in verse 2 that most English translations don't translate, at least not as a question. But the apostle Paul is asking the Corinthians a question about the gospel.1 He's basically asking them: What have I preached to you? What is the good news I preached to you? Then Paul proceeds to remind the Corinthians (and us today) of what the gospel really is.
 
What follows is my personal translation of 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 from the Koine Greek New Testament. The Greek text I used is from The Reader's Greek New Testament, 2nd Edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007).
 
A Free Grace translation of 1 Corinthians 15:1-5:
 
1 Now I declare to you, brothers, the gospel, which I announced as good news to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 through which also you are being saved. For what announcement have I preached to you if you know it? Except if not, you believed to no purpose. 3 For I delivered to you in first order of importance that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas then by the twelve.


ENDNOTE:

1 The Expositor's Greek New Testament affirms that in 1 Corinthians 15:2 the apostle Paul is asking the Corinthians a question. It translates the Greek text of verse 2 this way: "In what word (I ask) did I preach (it) to you? - (you will remember) if you are holding (it) fast! - unless you believed idly!" (See W. R. Nicoll, The Expositor's Greek New Testament, Volume 2, page 919.)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Charles B. Williams' N.T. translation of 1 Corinthians 15:1-5

"Now let me remind you, brothers, of the essence1 of the good news which I proclaimed to you, which you accepted, on which you now are standing, and through which you are to be saved,2 unless your faith at first was spurious.3 For I passed on to you, among the primary principles of the good news,4 what I had received, that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that on the third day He was raised from the dead, in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, and then by the Twelve." (Charles B. Williams, The New Testament: A Translation in the Language of the People [Chicago: Moody Press, 1950], pages 386-387, footnotes his.)

FOOTNOTES:

1 Implied in phrase, among the primary principles.

2 At last.

3 Lit., in vain.

4 Grk., among the first things; good news implied.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Living Bible Paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 15:1-5

Now let me remind you, brothers, of what the Gospel really is, for it has not changed—it is the same Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then and still do now, for your faith is squarely built upon this wonderful message; 2 and it is this Good News that saves you if you still firmly believe it, unless of course you never really believed it in the first place. 3 I passed on to you right from the first what had been told to me, that Christ died for our sins just as the Scriptures said he would, 4 and that he was buried, and that three days afterwards he arose from the grave just as the prophets foretold. 5 He was seen by Peter and later by the rest of "the Twelve."a (1 Corinthians 15:1-5, The Living Bible)


FOOTNOTE:

a The name given to Jesus' twelve disciples, and still used after Judas was gone from among them.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dr. David Jeremiah's Study Notes on the Gospel

"[1 Corinthians] 15:3-7 Here is the standard by which every definition of the gospel must be measured. It must include four elements: Christ's death, burial, and resurrection as well as the testimony of the witnesses to the Resurrection. The gospel cannot be preached the way it should be without proclaiming all four truths." (Dr. David Jeremiah, The Jeremiah Study Bible [Worthy Publishing, 2013], pg. 1592.)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dr. Bob Utley's "FOUR ASPECTS OF THE GOSPEL"



Dr. Bob Utley begins to discuss the "FOUR ASPECTS OF THE GOSPEL" at the "3:44" time stamp of the video. (This is where he begins to discuss First Corinthians chapter 15, verse 3).

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dr. David Jeremiah's devotional: "DEFINING THE GOSPEL"

In his book Sanctuary: Finding Moments of Refuge in the Presence of God, Dr. David Jeremiah shares the following true story in a daily devotional titled "DEFINING THE GOSPEL":

"Duncan McNeil, the Scottish evangelist, once said that in school he had a seminary professor who insisted on opening his theology classes with a question. No one could ever anticipate what the question would be. One day he said to his students, 'Gentleman, can someone give me a definition of the gospel?'

A student rose and read John 3:16: 'For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.'

The professor said, 'That is a good gospel text, but it is not a definition of the gospel.' Another student read 1 Timothy 1:15: 'How true it is, and how I long that everyone should know it, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - and I was the greatest of them all.' Again the professor declined to accept it; he waited for what he wanted. Finally, a student stood and read 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, much to the professor's delight. It was evident that he had the reply he desired; he said, 'Gentlemen, that is the gospel. Believe it, live it, preach it, and die for it if necessary.'"1


ENDNOTE:

1 David Jeremiah, Sanctuary: Finding Moments of Refuge in the Presence of God (Nashville: Integrity Publishers, 2002), pg. 277.

Monday, June 30, 2014

What does it mean to preach the Gospel?

The Strongest Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Zondervan: 2001) is a good layman's resource that I have found very helpful in personal study. It has improved on the original Strong's Concordance in a number of ways. For example, The Strongest Strong's has updated and expanded some of the Hebrew and Greek definitions of the original. In the introduction (page x) it says, "Our dictionaries are based on the latest dictionaries, lexicons, and word study books, reflecting great advances in Biblical scholarship."

One update that I have found very helpful in The Strongest Strong's is the expanded definition of the Greek word euangelizo. The Strongest Strong's gives this excellent definition of euangelizo

"to preach (bring) the good news (gospel), often with a focus on the content of the message which is brought. In the NT it always refers to the death, burial, resurrection, and witness about Jesus Christ, including its implications for humankind's relationship to God" (see page 1613, number 2097 euangelizo).

The word euangelizo is used in both Acts 13:32 and 1 Corinthians 15:1 to describe the gospel preached by the apostle Paul - a gospel which according to both texts includes Christ's death, burial, resurrection, and appearances to witnesses (see Acts 13:28-31 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-5). This is the Strongest definition of "the message preached to save those who believe" (1 Cor. 1:21)!

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Gospel Message


1 Corinthians 15:1-11

     The gospel is very simple. Even a child can comprehend its content and respond to its message. The apostle Paul encompassed the heart of the gospel in just twenty-eight words - "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and . . . He was buried, and . . . He rose again the third day according to the scriptures; and . . . He was seen" (vv. 3-5). Paul was not ashamed of that gospel (Rom. 1:16) and proclaimed it wherever he traveled, assuring his readers in Rome that he had, up to the time of his writing, "fully preached the gospel of Christ" from Jerusalem all the way to the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea (Rom. 15:19). In his heart, this first century missionary had determined that wherever he engaged with unregenerate men he would preach "Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (2:2). The church at Corinth was reminded of Paul's burden "to preach the gospel in the regions beyond [them]" (2 Cor. 10:16).
     "The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess. 1:8) "is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16). It was the gospel that Paul preached to the Corinthians (Acts 18), knowing that only through that message would they be saved (v. 2). The good news of Christ, the crucified One, was the very foundation of their salvation. Paul delivered the message he had received (v. 3), and God did a work of grace in their hearts as they responded favorably, in faith. The "light of the glorious gospel of Christ" had penetrated their darkened hearts and given "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:4, 6). Has that light pierced the gloom of your heart? Christ died for sinners - trust Him today!

(Excerpted from the Fundamental Evangelistic Association's FEATURE Bible Study Guide, April - June 2014, page 15. Used by permission.)