What The Gospel Is

Grace For The Journey


19JuneEvangelicals sometimes have ways of speaking and communicating that actually leave out crucial aspects of the gospel. Perhaps the following scenario will be familiar to you.

A parent comes to me and says, “Pastor, my 8-year old child wants to meet with you about getting baptized.”  We agree to meet, I sit down with the parent and with the child, and I say, “Johnny, why do you want to get baptized?”  He replies, “Because I don’t want to go to hell.”  I clarify, “Yes, but Johnny, getting baptized doesn’t save you.  You have to accept Jesus into your heart in order to be saved.”  Johnny asks, “How do I do that?” I reply, “All you have to do is ask Him to forgive you of your sins, and then ask Him to come into your heart.”  And so we kneel and pray, and Johnny asks Jesus to forgive him of his sins and to come and live in his heart.  We make arrangements for his baptism on the very next Sunday, and all’s well that ends well, right?


What did I fail to mention

In my “gospel” presentation to Johnny?

I never mentioned anything

About the death and resurrection of Jesus,

And neither did Johnny.

Perhaps I was assuming that he already understood all that.  But that is precisely the problem.

We cannot make assumptions

That people know the gospel –

Especially the part about

The death and resurrection of Jesus for sinners.

If you leave that out,

You are leaving out the very thing

That Paul says is of “first importance”

In his gospel preaching.

You would be leaving out

The part of the message

That actually accomplishes our salvation.

Don’t assume the gospel.  Someone has said, “What is assumed in one generation will be forgotten in the next.”

If your gospel proclamation

Does not contain at its heart

The announcement of Jesus Christ

Crucified and raised for sinners,

Then it is not gospel proclamation.

And if it’s not gospel proclamation,

Then no one will be saved.

And there’s no consequence

More grave than that.

That is why it is so important for us to master what the Apostle Paul says is of “first importance” – the gospel.

There is perhaps no other place in scripture that offers a more succinct summary of the gospel than what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

This gospel has at least six characteristics. It is first of all…

  1. Pre-eminent: “as of first importance.”

This means that . . .

Of everything that Paul taught the Corinthians,

There is nothing more important than the gospel.

It doesn’t matter what else you get right.  If you get this message wrong, then everything else is wrong too.  This is of “first importance” because to miss this is to miss salvation.

There is no authentic Christianity

Apart from the gospel

Rightly preached

And rightly believed.

  1. Apostolic: “For I delivered to you… what I also received”

The language that Paul uses here (“delivering” … “receiving”) was basic terminology among the ancient rabbis for the giving and the receiving of God’s authoritative message.  In this case, Paul is not talking about what has been handed down from rabbis but a message that has come down to him from the apostles.  Paul received a direct revelation of the gospel on the Damascus road in his encounter with Jesus.  But in this text, he accesses traditional material that has been handed down from the apostles to express what the gospel is.

This shows that the message Paul preaches

Is in keeping with that of the other apostles.

That means that the message you and I preach

Had better be in keeping with the apostles as well.

Which means that it needs to be

In agreement with the Scriptures.

  1. Event: “that Christ died… that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day… and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve”

Notice that . . .

The gospel we believe

Is the announcement of events

That are focused on

The life and ministry of Jesus.

There are four phrases introduced by the word “that,” and those phrases indicate the death, burial, resurrection, and appearances of Jesus.

The two core events of Paul’s gospel

Are the ones identified as

“In accordance with the Scriptures.”

In particular, the core consists in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The burial part confirms that he was dead. The appearances confirm that he was raised.

But the core of the message is

The death and resurrection of Jesus.

If your gospel presentation

Doesn’t include the death and resurrection of Jesus,

Then it is not the gospel.

  1. Biblical: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures… that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures

The two chief parts of the gospel narrative – the death and resurrection of Jesus – are both in accordance with the Old Testament Scriptures.  The death and resurrection of Christ are prophesied in a number of Old Testament passages.

Perhaps the death of Jesus is most prominently set forth in Isaiah 53:5-10, where the prophet says, “But He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stipes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not his mouth.  By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?  And they made His grave with the wicked and with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief.  When You make His soul an offering for sin …”

Likewise, Jesus’ resurrection is anticipated in Isaiah 53: 10-12, “When You make His soul an offering for sin.  He shall see His offspring; He shall prolong His days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.  He shall see the labor of His soul , and be satisfied.  By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.  Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great.  And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

These statements are premised on the idea that the servant will experience life after suffering.  They portend a resurrection from the death.

Jesus’ death and resurrection are not God’s Plan B. They are Plan A from before the foundation of the world (Acts 2:23), and that plan was prophetically disclosed centuries before the actual events took place.

  1. Personal: “Christ died for our sins”

If this part weren’t true,

Then none of the rest of it would matter.

Christ’s work wasn’t simply a set of events.

His death and resurrection were fundamentally for us.

The text says that “Christ died for our sins.”

This means that Jesus’ death

Actually accomplished something.

This means that Christ died

In the place of sinners and

Took their sins upon Himself in His death.

Paul expresses this truth in different ways elsewhere:

Romans 5:6, “Christ died for the ungodly”

Romans 5:8, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us…”

Christ did what He did “for sinners,” that includes you and me.  It was personal – “for sinners.”  And it is only good news to us sinners because it was for us.

Jesus died in our place

And took the penalty

That we deserved.

Because of Christ’s substitutionary

Work on the cross,

God offers us

Forgiveness of our sins.

  1. Historical: “He appeared to Cephas …”

The appearance to Peter may be the one reported in Luke 24:34, where the two disciples who had walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus report, “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon.”  “The Twelve” is probably a reference to the apostles, which would then make sense of the appearance to “all the apostles” in verse 7.  This is probably including Jesus’ appearance to all the apostles including Thomas in John 20:26-29 and Luke 24:36-53.

What is remarkable

Is that Jesus appeared

To so many

After His resurrection.

The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:6, “Then He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

As someone has already pointed out, it is very unlikely that 500 people would have the exact same hallucination at the exact same time.  This is a lot of people, and Paul is saying that although some of them have died, many of them are still alive to check this by.  These are eyewitnesses, and they are still alive at the time Paul is writing this a couple decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 15:7, “Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”

This would be James, the half-brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55; Galatians 1:19), the leader of the church in Jerusalem, who was not a believer apparently until after the resurrection (John 7:5).  He is mentioned in this list because he was “one of the most respected leaders in the early Christian church” (Schreiner).  So James’ testimony carries weight.

Then Paul concludes his historical account of the resurrection of Christ by saying in 1 Corinthians 15:8, “Then last of all, He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”.

Paul talks about his own encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road.  The Paul uses, “one born out of due time” speaks of a totally unexpected event.  It would have been totally unexpected for someone like Paul – a Pharisee and persecutor of the church – to come to faith in Christ.  And yet he did.  And he got to see Jesus with his own two eyes.

So . . .

The gospel is preeminent, apostolic, event, biblical, personal, and historical.

Is this the gospel that you know?

Is this this gospel that you believe?

Is this the gospel that you share with others?

I hope and pray that it is because this is the only gospel that there is and because this is the only that gospel that saves.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”


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