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. Howard Hendricks: "What is the essence of the gospel?"

Dr. Howard Hendricks, the beloved professor of Bible Exposition 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.