I’m very happy to have readers around the world, even in countries where some of us would think there isn’t enough freedom to be able to discover or read such a blog site as this. Being mindful of all you wonderful people out there-brothers and sisters in my human family-I thought it necessary to make the gospel I believe and profess available…
The Greek word translated “gospel” in the New Testament means “good news”, and in the context of the Bible the gospel is the “good news” about Jesus Christ. So what exactly is that good news, and what does it mean for us? Jesus said:
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).
The Bible is ultimately the story of a love-gift from God, available to everyone. That gift is forgiveness of all our sin, and eternal life.
A RELIABLE MESSAGE
Contrary to the common view on the street the gospel, the scriptures and the essential Christian doctrines were not all invented hundreds of years after the time of Christ’s life on earth. Below I’ve quoted one of the apostle Paul’s definitions of the gospel-one which he himself had learned from those who were disciples before him. Cambridge educated Sir Norman Anderson, who was a Professor at Harvard, lectured at Princeton, and was the Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of London, said that Paul’s letter to the Corinthians which contains this definition can be confidently dated to around 55 AD (NOTE 1).
Dr. Gary R Habermas, a New Testament historian, received his PhD from Michigan State University and his DD from Emmanuel College, Oxford. In his book “The Historical Jesus”, Habermas discusses the creed quoted below and writes:
“That this confession is an early Christian, pre-Pauline creed is recognized by virtually all critical scholars across a wide theological spectrum” (2).
Here is Paul’s first century definition of the gospel of Jesus Christ:
“Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: 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 Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time….Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also…” (1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 8).
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE GOSPEL
1 WE CAN BE FREE OF THE PENALTY FOR SIN
“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).
Our sin has separated us from a perfect, holy God, because he cannot tolerate sin – he cannot wink at it or ignore it and live with it. He cannot populate his heaven with people who are opposed to his ways and who want to live their own way instead. Not only this, but the consequence of sin is death, both physical and spiritual. It affects us all, no matter how good we may think we are: none of us can match up to God’s standards. God has to be true to his own nature, and he cannot deny his justice any more than he can deny his love.
God loved us and he had a plan to destroy sin and ultimately its outcome – death. God’s plan was to send his son to earth as a man, and to die as a sacrifice for sin. Only Christ could fulfill that mission, because only Christ could be a perfect and sinless offering. When Jesus died on the cross-for all people of all of time-he satisfied God’s holy justice, and paid the “price” of our sin.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t sin any more, it means that there’s nothing standing between us and our creator, except our own reluctance and determination to continue in sin. If we turn from our sin, we are completely forgiven, and we are in a right relationship with God. Paul said:
“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8: 1).
Untold numbers of individuals, churches, denominations, religions and organizations pile more and more requirements, laws, regulations and commitments onto their followers, claiming that these are necessary to gain God’s acceptance or to gain illumination, or claiming that only commitment to the organization and its rules can ensure salvation.
However, Jesus said “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11: 26). He did NOT say “Whoever believes and goes to XYZ church and gives at least ten percent of their income will never die”!
I’m not saying that we can live however we want to live: we can’t. But if we turn from sin, and turn to Jesus who takes away our sin, we are completely forgiven and free to live a new life.
“According to the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:3).
The sacrifice of Christ was foretold, prophesied, and written down hundreds of years before it happened. As an example, read Isaiah chapter 53. An entire copy of the book of Isaiah was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls written before the time of Christ, and there is virtually no difference between it and the book of Isaiah found in our Bible today.
2 OUR SIN WAS BURIED WITH CHRIST
“…He was buried…” (verse 4).
Jesus “became sin” for us. He was buried in a tomb, contrary to many modern attempts to deny Christ and write another story of his life. You wouldn’t bury someone who isn’t dead. His disciples witnessed his death. The Roman guard sealed and guarded the tomb, at the request of those who wanted him dead and who gloated over his death. They and the religious leaders who wanted him dead ensured that he was dead and buried.
Our sin was buried with him, and baptism is symbolic of our association with him, and with the burial of our sin and our past sinful lifestyle.
3 WE CAN HAVE NEW LIFE NOW, AND ETERNAL LIFE IN CHRIST
“…he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (verse 4).
The doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus has always been under constant attack, even from within the church. No wonder, because it’s one of the most essential doctrines, perhaps the most essential. Without it the gospel is empty, pointless and powerless. The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates his power over death, his divine nature, and his ability and willingness to give us eternal life with him, as he promised very clearly many times. See Acts 2: 27 – 31 and 13:34 – 37, with Psalm 16:10.
4 HE DEMONSTRATED HIS POWER OVER DEATH TO THE DISCIPLES
“…and that he appeared…” (1 Corinthians 15:5).
Paul listed those who had seen Jesus alive after his resurrection. He was the last to see him. Those who went about spreading the good news had nothing to gain except persecution and death. Yes, people do give their lives to become martyrs to other religions, but no-one will die for something that he knows is untrue. Neither did they KILL in order to spread their beliefs or agenda. Instead they risked and in many cases lost their own lives.
Paul, when converted, voluntarily gave up his position of influence and power to become a hunted and hounded man. His enemies complained that he had “turned the world upside down”. There was no timid cowering in quiet corners for Paul: he wanted to tell the world that Christ had risen from the dead, and that he had seen him. He suffered multiple attacks and attempts on his life, before finally being executed. Such was his conviction that the gospel was true. He would not have willingly died for something he knew to be untrue. He was prepared to die, as they all were, because they were convinced of Christ’s resurrection, and that His resurrection ensured theirs, just as Christ had promised. The promise is available to all who accept the gospel.
Thanks for reading. The second part of this post will be published a week from now. This post is a summary of a series I published over two years ago
1 Lee Strobel “The Case For Christ” (Pub. By Zondervan, © 1998) p. 230.
2 Gary R Habermas “The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ” (College Press Publishing Company, Joplin, Missouri, © 1996 Gary Habermas) p 153.