I. DEFINING THE GOSPEL
Now the content of the Gospel, is stated by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 15:1-6:
Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.
3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.
There are a few items about the Gospel from this text:
How it is disseminated:
1. The Gospel is proclaimed
2. The Gospel is received
3. The Gospel becomes a foundation on which to stand
Why it is important:
4. The Gospel is the means of salvation
5. The Gospel must be believed till the end of life to live in assurance of salvation
6. The Gospel must be passed down
What it is:
7. Christ died for sin according to the Scripture
8. Christ was buried and raised on the third day according to the Scripture
Who has witnessed it:
9. Christ was seen by Cephas (Peter) and then the twelve disciples
10. Christ appeared to 500+ people, many who are still alive
11. Christ appeared to James (his brother) and other apostles
12. Christ appeared to Paul
Who continues to bear witness to it:
13. Christ’s Gospel has transformed Paul
14. This witness of the Gospel is a united witness
Notice first the three fold process of Gospel dissemination: 1) it is proclaimed, 2) it is received, and 3) it becomes something to stand on.
It is Proclaimed
Some people believe that proclaiming the Gospel is just speaking it, but the fact is that true Gospel proclamation is both declared and demonstrated. If all the local church does is speak the Gospel, why should the hearers believe it? The Apostle Paul writes in I Thessalonians 1:5, “because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.” It is clear then, that the Gospel is spoken but that it also is demonstrated with power, in the Spirit, under and with conviction, and backed up with a personal testimony (in lifestyle, not just words) of its transforming work in your own life. So, if all we are doing is telling people about Christ, without the other elements, no wonder few believe our message!
To give you a picture, this would be like me saying, “You should become a Saints fan! There are lots of great benefits, and you get to support and cheer for a great team! The other fans love you, want you to be a part of the “Who-Dat nation,” and want you to come to a game or two. We are so sure you will enjoy yourself! Give it some thought, ok?”
Now, most of us are Americans and know that the Saints are an NFL team; they play American football and are based out of the city of New Orleans. Their colors are gold and black, they have a fleur-dis-lis on their helmet, and they have one of the best quarterbacks to play the game, Drew Brees, leading the offense. This is pretty common knowledge to an American who loves NFL football.
But what if I were communicating this to someone who grew up wondering the Sahara Desert in a Bedouin village? All of my communication would sound so strange to him/her. Here are some questions they would likely ask:
1. What is a saint?
2. What is a fan?
3. What does being a fan of a saint have to do with my life as a herder in the Sahara Desert?
4. Do I need to leave my current community to be a fan of the Saints, or can I still remain a Bedouin?
5. What on earth is the “Who-Dat nation?” Will I be branded a traitor for defecting to it?
6. What does being a citizen/fan of the Who-Dat nation have to do with going to a game?
And the list could go on and on, but the point is that without me providing a lot of information (and more than likely having to do some demonstrating), there is no way the Bedouin is going to be able to understand and become a Saints fan.
This is true also with the Gospel, while there are many in our social context that do understand the need for Jesus Christ, many more individuals do not. So, when we say, “Jesus Christ was born, died for sins, and was raised so that we may have new life and a future resurrection,” so many people with a modern/post-modern understanding of the supernatural and skepticism toward organized, traditional religion are asking, “Yeah, so what?”
To a Christian that can be devastating; that is why we need to make sure that these secular, agnostics/atheists/anti-theists are truly receiving and understanding not just the content but also the relevance of the Gospel we are trying to communicate to them.
This is incredibly important because Jesus told his disciples that they were to make disciples of all nations:
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20 NRSV)
Disciples are learners who are following a master, but how can you follow someone you cannot understand? Sure, the Holy Spirit does help someone to see their need for the Gospel, but he still calls us to be able to declare and demonstrate the Gospel in such a way that he can use it to bring them to salvation! If we refuse to do this, it shows are laziness and callousness toward those who do not have the benefit of our Judeo-Christian heritage. So, our proclamation of the Gospel must be in such a way that they can receive it.