The Stewardship of God’s Truth Through Evangelism (Part 3)
Understanding Our Message
The Message of Grace
The fourth major area of importance in the doctrine of evangelism is a clear understanding of the message God has called us to proclaim. Obviously, if salvation is dependent on one’s understanding and reception of the message, it’s vital that we properly understand the message. Our message is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the message of salvation through His person and work. That sounds simple enough, but it is not nearly as simple as it sounds because of the many messages being proclaimed as “the Gospel.” The message, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31) has been assaulted from early on. Since the message is crucial to salvation, and if we are to be true to the Bible and to the grace of our Lord, we need to know the message, be able to share it clearly, and avoid the distortions. Concerning the problem of stating and misstating the Gospel, Ryrie writes:
Observe this random sampling of expressions of the Gospel taken from tracts, sermons, books, and radio and TV messages. I list them without documentation since the point is not who said these but what was said, and to illustrate how varied and confusing these statements are. If we gave even half of them to an unsaved person, which and what would he be expected to believe?
Here they are:
(1) Repent, believe, confess your sin to God, and confess Him before men and you will be saved.
(2) The clearest statement of the Gospel in the New Testament is found in Luke 9:23: “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
(3) Perhaps the most comprehensive invitation to salvation in the epistles comes in James 4:7-10: “So submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and make your hearts pure, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn, and weep. Turn your laughter into mourning and your joy into despair. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.”
(4) May the Lord reveal to the sinners that the only way for them to be saved from their sins is to repent with a godly sorrow in their hearts to the Lord.
(5) Utter the prayer of the prodigal son—ask Jesus to be your Lord and Master.
(6) Come forward and follow Christ in baptism.
(7) Place your hand in the nail-scarred hands of Jesus.
(8) Find Christ by praying through to Him.
(9) Believe in Him, trust Him, accept Him, commit your life to Him.
(10) We have the warning of Christ that He will not receive us into His kingdom until we are ready to give up all, until we are ready to turn from all sin in our lives.
(11) God offers eternal life freely to sinners who will surrender to Him in humble, repentant faith.
(12) Do we literally have to give away everything we own to become Christians? No, but we do have to be willing to forsake all.
(13) Matthew 7:13-14 is pure Gospel: “Enter through the narrow gate …”
(14) No one can receive Christ as his Savior while he rejects Him as his Lord.
(15) Give your heart to Christ.
Not all these statements are incorrect or equally good or bad. But they are not all saying the same thing. They are not expressing the same truth only in different words. The differences cannot be harmonized by saying, “It’s only a matter of semantics.” And yet they all purport to explaining the way of salvation.188
Certainly this illustrates the need to truly know the Gospel and be able to state it in a clear and precise manner. Much of this disparity in the way the Gospel is stated or misstated is found in the grace nature of the Gospel which is so contrary to man’s proud bent to depend upon himself rather than God.
For the next few minutes let’s think about heresy. To begin with, answer this question: What would you consider the most dangerous heresy on earth? Stop and think before you answer. The one I have in mind is not so bold and ugly that it would make angels blush. This one is subtle, rather attractive. For a long, long time it’s been a favorite of many. Actually, it has been around since the Garden of Eden. Let me give you a few hints:
It is philosophy found in numerous self-help books, many poems, and most rags-to-riches biographies.
It is a recurring theme in political speeches and commencement addresses. It flourishes in academia.
It feeds our pride, it fuels our self-centered bent, it pleases our flesh.
In a word, it’s humanism.
He then quotes a poem written by William Ernest Henley, a poem often heard, at least in part, in commencement exercises designed to motivate graduates to do their best, to work harder, to give it all they have and never give up. The last part of the poem you will recognize:
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.
Swindoll goes on to say:
What seems so right is, in fact, heresy—the one I consider the most dangerous heresy on earth. What is it? The emphasis of what we do for God, instead of what God does for us. Some are so convinced of the opposite, they would argue nose to nose. They are often the ones who claim that their favorite verse of Scripture is “God helps those who help themselves” (which doesn’t appear in the Bible). Talk about killing grace! The fact is, God helps the helpless, the undeserving, those who don’t measure up, those who fail to achieve His standard. Nevertheless, the heresy continues louder now than ever in history. Most people see themselves as “masters” of their own fate, “captains” of their own souls. It’s an age-old philosophy deeply ingrained in the human heart. And why not? It supports humanity’s all time favorite subject: self.189
The Problem We Face
Perversion of the Gospel Message
In Acts 15:1, very early in the life of the church, we read these words: “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Verse 5 tells us that these were men from the sect of the Pharisees who had believed. They were members of the church, but from within the ranks of the church itself, a controversy arose concerning the exact nature and content of the message of the Gospel.
Reasons for the Problem
Should we be surprised at these attempts to add to the Gospel message? No, not at all. Not if we seriously believe the Bible and believe its teaching regarding Satan, man, and the many warnings regarding false prophets and teachers. Let me suggest several specific reasons:
(1) The Condition of Man
Second Corinthians 4:3 says, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing,” First Corinthians 2:14 says, “The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
The message of the good news is hidden from the lost or the unregenerate because of their natural spiritual blindness. It’s a message so unique and beyond human understanding that apart from the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit, it could never reach man’s heart or his head. Why is that?
(2) The Nature of the Message
Because it is a message of the cross and it is a message of pure, unadulterated grace. It is contrary to man’s heart. To man, the message of the cross is either a stumbling block or foolishness (1 Cor. 1:23). As a message of grace, which excludes works as a means of obtaining salvation, it goes against the grain of proud, self-dependent humanity. Mankind is inherently religious and always thinks in terms of what he can do and earn before God and before men (John 6:27-29; Rom. 4:1-6; 10:1-4; 3:23; 11:6).
(3) The Activity of the Adversary
Added to man’s inherent blindness and natural bent is the blinding activity of Satan, who as the god of this world, blinds the minds of the unbelieving to keep the glory of this message of grace from man’s understanding (2 Cor. 4:4; 2 Tim. 2:24-26). The attack on the Gospel is not fundamentally a work of man, but a work of man’s adversary. For this purpose, Satan employs his own agents and may even use well-intentioned, but misguided Christians. So, there is a fourth cause of this siege against the Gospel of grace.
(4) The Agents of the Adversary
Connected with Satan’s desire to blind men to the grace message of the Gospel are Satan’s agents or ministers, people who are generally counterfeits themselves and who seek to pass off a counterfeit message. Second Corinthians 11:1-4, and 13-15 teach us that Satan has his own ministers who appear as harmless ministers of light, wolves in sheep’s clothing. They may be well meaning, sincere, and unaware of who they are serving, but being themselves deceived, they are nevertheless serving the purposes of the devil by distorting the simplicity of the Gospel message in one form or another.
Satan, whose very name means adversary, is called “that old serpent.” This pictures him as deceiving and deceitful. The Lord called him a liar and the father of lies. He is God’s number one adversary and thus the number one adversary of the message of the Gospel. As such, we should expect him to do everything in his power to confuse, distort, and deceive men with regard to the key issues of salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone.
Thus, 1 Peter 5:8 warns us to be on alert because our adversary the devil walks about seeking whom he may devour. Then in 2 Peter 2:1f he warned against false teachers. Paul likewise warns against false teachers in 1 Timothy 4:1f and again in 2 Timothy 4:3f. But what are we to look for? How do we recognize them? When it comes to the Gospel message we should be looking for a counterfeit, something that looks very much like the real thing, but is not. What do we look for to determine a counterfeit? The best defense against a counterfeit is alertness along with an accurate and precise knowledge of the authentic message. I understand that bank tellers, rather than studying counterfeit money, study genuine money in preparation for discerning the counterfeit bills. The better they know the real thing, the better they become at discerning the false. The same is true with the Gospel.
As a part of understanding the authentic message of the Gospel, let’s look first at its nature. This will help us to define it more precisely and protect us against adding to its message.
The Nature of the Gospel Message
If we can determine the basic nature or essence of the Gospel message, then we will not only be more able to accurately define it, but be more on alert to anything that is contrary to its nature or essence. God’s program of salvation is theocentric—God centered. God’s main purpose according to Ephesians 1:6 and 2:7 is to bring praise to the glory of the exceeding riches of His grace. As a part of that, several things stand out in the New Testament revelation of God’s grace in salvation through Christ.
By Grace Through Faith
Salvation is by grace through faith ALONE in the work of God in Christ ALONE, not by religious or moral works which men perform.
Paul defines it as the Gospel of the grace of God in Acts 20:24:
But I do not consider my life worth anything to myself, so that I may finish my task and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.
Every salutation in Paul’s letters and Peter’s begin with “Grace to you,” and many of them close with a similar emphasis as 2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (The following passages draw our attention to this: Acts 15:11; Rom. 3:21-28; Rom. 4:1-16; Rom. 5:1-11; Rom. 11:6; Gal. 1:6; Gal. 2:21; Gal. 5:4; Eph. 2:5, 8-9; 3:2; Col. 1:6; 2 Thess. 2:16-17; 1 Tim. 1:13-16; 2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 2:11; Tit. 3:5-7; Heb. 12:15; 13:9.)
A Free Gift
As a work of God’s grace, it is also A FREE GIFT. The words ‘grace’ and ‘gift’ stand opposed to the concept of works as a means of receiving what is given. The Scripture make this clear in bold statements and by the many references to salvation as a free gift from God without cost to us. Salvation in Christ is free, but it is not cheap. Salvation cost God the death of His Son, the Lord Jesus. Someone put it this way: Grace is not grace and free is not free if I must pay some price. Cheap suggests something which we purchase at a great discount relative to its value. Free suggest something which we don’t purchase at all—it’s something we get as a GIFT!!!
The Word is very clear in its emphasis on this matter. Carefully note Paul’s bold statements and emphasis in Romans 4:1-5 and 11:6. Note also the uses of the word ‘gift’ in relation to salvation drive home this principle even more (cf. John 4:10; Rev. 21:6).
G. H. Lang said regarding Revelation 21:6, “The water of life is not acquired by the process of fighting a life-long battle and conquering at last. It is a free gift, imparting spiritual life to the spiritually dead” ( Revelation, p. 94). Compare also Revelation 22:17.
The Apostle Paul called eternal salvation a free gift (or gift) no less than nine times (Rom. 3:24; 5:15 [twice], 16 [twice], 17; 6:23; 2 Cor. 9:15; Eph. 2:8). James also spoke of the new birth as a gift from God (Jam. 1:17-18). The author of Hebrews spoke of eternal salvation as “the heavenly gift” (Heb. 6:4).
As one pastor put it, “There is nothing left for us to pay. No cost to count. Just a free gift to receive by placing our faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone. Now that is good news.”190 There are costs to discipleship and for eternal rewards, but not for salvation. Many today are confusing the calls to discipleship with the message of salvation. This is a perversion of the free Gospel of grace.
Received by Faith
As a work of grace, salvation is received by faith or belief in the person and work of Christ. As John 6:28-29 makes clear, faith is not a work any more than the hand of a beggar who reaches out to receive a gift of bread is a work. The great emphasis of the New Testament is that salvation is received through faith in Christ. Discipleship is costly, but salvation is free through faith. Matthew, Mark, and Luke deal primarily with the costs of discipleship written in a context to believers to challenge them to become committed disciples. These three gospels are basically manuals of discipleship, and the calls for discipleship in these gospels should never be construed as teaching us how to be saved.
On the other hand, the Gospel of John is concerned primarily, though not exclusively, with salvation. In John 20:31, the Apostle John states his purpose and that purpose is to point people to salvation through faith in Christ (see John 1:7, 12; 2:11, 23; 3:15-18, 36; 4:39, 41). The word ‘believe’ is found 85 times.
The Analogy of the Faith Principle of Interpretation
One of the most basic principles of interpretation is the ‘analogy of faith.’ This principle says that unclear passages should be understood in light of clear ones, not the other way around. The difficult passages need to be explained in harmony with clear ones. In other words, if a passage has two or more possible interpretations, and only one fits well with the Scriptures as a whole, the Bible student is bound to select the interpretation which is in harmony with the rest of biblical revelation. Thus, though a passage may have two possible interpretations in isolation from other passages, when placed alongside clear, unambiguous passages, only one interpretation exists. The passages mentioned above are very, very clear, and should guide us in our understanding of the Gospel message and the rest of the Scripture. God’s Word does not contradict itself. When we find a passage that could be understood contrary to these clear passages on salvation by faith alone, we need to recognize that such a contradictory understanding of these unclear or more difficult passages must be wrong, and we need to examine them more closely in the light of other factors.
Those who argue that something other than faith is a necessary condition for salvation apparently either simply ignore or do not agree with this principle of interpretation. Instead, they base their view of the conditions of salvation on a few difficult ‘problem passages’ while they ignore or twist the clear ones.
As an illustration, compare Galatians 6:8-10. To say that Paul is saying that we can reap eternal life (that is get saved by doing good) is to contradict the theology and purpose of the rest of this epistle as well as the rest of Paul’s writings. Rather, Paul is speaking about the rewards and the quality of life we will experience both now and in eternity. For a similar passage and emphasis, compare 1 Timothy 6:17-19.
In writing about the Judaizers who wanted to add the works of the Law to the Gospel message, Zane Hodges writes:
Of course, the Judaizers must have appealed to the Scriptures. The authority of the Mosaic law rested in the written revelation of the Old Testament. But this appeal was misguided. It misconstrued both the Old Testament itself and the new revelation which had been made through the Son of God.
In a quite similar fashion, contemporary attacks on the complete freeness of the Gospel of God’s grace likewise appeal to Scripture. But invariably the appeal rests on a misconstruction of the passages in question. This is usually accompanied by the failure to face the plain meaning of the most direct statements about the way of salvation. The confusion that results is enormous. The consequences are calamitous.191
Again, speaking about Satan’s attack on the freeness of the Gospel message Hodges writes:
But the attack has been launched again and again down through the centuries and in no age more often than in our own. The specifics may vary widely, but the format remains fundamentally the same.192
Here are just a few of the ways the attacks come:
- “Unless you believe and are baptized according to biblical custom, you cannot be saved.”
- “Unless you believe and persevere in good works, you cannot be saved.”
- “Unless you believe and yield your life to the lordship of Christ, you cannot be saved.”
- “Unless you believe and come forward and profess Christ publicly, you cannot be saved.”
- “Unless you believe and repent and turn from your sins, you cannot be saved.”
But against these claims and others, “the true saving Gospel stands in profound and majestic contrast: ‘And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.’”193 (Rev. 22:17).
John 3:16 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
Bearing in mind ‘the analogy of faith’ principle, Chafer has some interesting insights:
Approximately 115 New Testament passages condition salvation on “believing” and 35 passages condition salvation on “faith,” the latter being an exact synonym of the former. These portions of Scripture, about 150 in all, include practically all that the New Testament declares on the matter of human responsibility in salvation.194
Later, Chafer had this to say in connection with public confession plus faith as a means of salvation:
First, to claim that a public confession of Christ as Savior is required in addition to believing on Christ is to contend that 150 passages in which believing alone appears are incomplete and to that extent misleading. A certain type of mind, however, seems able to construct all its confidence on an erroneous interpretation of one passage and to be uninfluenced by the overwhelming body of Scripture that contradicts that interpretation.195
What then is the Gospel message? The word “gospel” is the translation of the Greek euangelion which means “glad tidings” or “good news.” But the word is used to describe various types of good news, so one needs to know what good news is in view in any passage contextually.
- 1 Thessalonians 3:6 describes the good news of their faithfulness.
- In Matthew, gospel is used concerning the gospel of the kingdom all but once and the one exception speaks of the good news of Christ’s death.
- Mark’s use of gospel uniformly speaks of the person of Christ.
- Luke’s use underscores the centrality of Christ and also the kingdom of God which was being offered to Israel.
- John does not use the word gospel at all.
- In Galatians 1:6-7, Paul talks about a gospel which is a different gospel, but not really a gospel at all because it is a perversion of the true gospel of God’s grace in Christ or salvation as a gift without cost through faith alone in Christ alone.
As we turn to the epistles, we find that it is Paul who gives us the precise definition of the Gospel as we use it today in terms of the message of salvation and the good news about Christ’s death and resurrection. He died and He lives. Dr. Ryrie writes:
In days past (and even today) we heard much about the “full Gospel” which included experiencing certain ministries of the Holy Spirit. To be saved one not only had to believe but also, for example, receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Churches which taught this doctrine were sometimes called “full Gospel” churches.
Today we hear about the “whole Gospel,” which includes redemption of society along with the redemption of individuals. But Paul wrote clearly that the Gospel that saves is believing that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead. This is the complete Gospel, and if so, then it is also the true full Gospel and the true whole Gospel. Nothing else is needed for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life.196
With this in mind, let’s look at Paul’s clear definition of the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15.
The Gospel Defined and Defended (1 Cor. 15:1-11)
Declaration and Warning (vss. 1-2)
“Now” introduces the new subject which Paul now addresses, the resurrection, which Paul intends to show as an integral part of the Gospel message. There were those at Corinth who were denying the doctrine of the resurrection as Paul had taught it. As a Greek city, this denial among the Corinthians probably came from the influence of Platonic philosophy and Orphic teaching.
This philosophy refused to accept the resurrection of the body and held that the body is only evil and a prison, a bond, a dungeon or grave of the soul, a body tomb and that at death the soul is freed. When a Greek with this background heard the Gospel, he was ready to believe in the immortality of the soul, but balked at the resurrection because to him resurrection meant to again be in bondage. They also thought resurrection meant resurrection to a body far inferior to the glorified body Christians are promised through Christ (Phil. 3:20-21).
In the process of answering these denials of the resurrection, the Apostle Paul gives us what is in essence the Gospel in a nutshell. He points us to the most fundamental and essential parts of the Gospel message of the Bible.
Let’s look at some of the details of 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.
“I want to make clear” is a causative verb, gnorizo, “to make or cause someone to know” and not simply to remind. In essence, in view of what he says next, he was reminding them of what they already knew and should have been grounded in. In this choice of words, however, there seems to be a slight rebuke. As the rest of this verse shows, he is writing to cause these believers to know again or to relearn what they had already heard and received.
“To you” is, in this context, what we call in Greek grammar a dative of advantage. Making known the Word is always an advantage if men will respond and eagerly and carefully apply it. But like the Corinthians, people are too ready to put other things first, or to either subtract from or add to the message of the Word as with the Gospel. Or we hinder it by being occupied with the personality presenting the message and miss the message, or we hinder it by our prejudices.
“The Gospel” focuses on the specific issue that Paul wanted to make known and clear, the content of the Gospel message. Concerning this message Paul says four things: (1) We preached it to you, (2) which also you received (the past), (3) in which also you stand (the present), (4) by which also you are saved (present sanctification and ultimate glorification).
“You are being saved.” The Greek has the present continuous tense which may refer to continual salvation from the power of sin in the lives of believers. It may also refer to the day-by-day salvation of the inhabitants of Corinth as they received the message and became part of the church of Jesus Christ. Also it could be a futuristic present stressing the certainty of salvation through faith in Christ.
“If you hold firmly to the message I preached to you.” This takes us to the important issue of the message or what is believed. Literally, “by what word I preached unto you if you hold fast or possess.” The Greek text places stress on the content or the exact substance that was delivered by the apostle. If they possess or hold to that message, then salvation and deliverance is theirs to receive and experience. In the Greek text, the “if” is a first class condition which assumes the fact of what is stated. Paul assumes and believes they do possess the message by personal faith, but if one does not hold (possess) the exact message he delivered to them, then their faith is vain.
“Unless you believed in vain.” This certainly does not indicate the loss of salvation as a possibility, nor that a faith that does not persevere is not true saving faith. Instead, Paul is saying that (a) faith that does not encompass the whole Gospel, the Gospel as it was delivered to them, is a faith that is to no purpose or is futile; or (b) that a faith lodged in a purported resurrection of the Messiah would be groundless if the message of Christ’s resurrection were untrue. If Christ was not crucified and resurrected, salvation is impossible (cf. vss. 15, 17).
By way of application, let’s consider two points:
(1) Faith is worthless unless the content and object of faith is valid. There are two aspects of this: (a) The object of faith must be able, willing, and available to save. “So he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Heb. 7:25). (b) Faith in Christ which saves involves thoughtfully trusting in the entire message of the Gospel. You cannot trust in part of the message and reject the rest of it. You cannot trust in the person of Christ and reject the work of Christ. You cannot trust in the work of Christ and reject the person of Christ. You cannot trust in the death of Christ and reject His resurrection.
(2) We have a grave and vital responsibility to make the issues crystal clear as they are revealed in the Word. We must present the true message of the Gospel as it is given to us in the Bible neither adding to it nor subtracting from it because of our background or traditions or human prejudice.
So, what is the Gospel? In the words that follow, Paul expounds on the derivation, definition, and defense of the Gospel he preached or delivered to the Corinthians.
Derivation of the Gospel (vs. 3)
With the words, “For I passed on to you … what I also received,” Paul affirms that what he delivered was what was imparted to him by others, by the Lord himself on the Damascus Road, and by those apostles who had personally been with the Lord as eye witnesses and with whom Paul had met and talked (cf. Gal. 1:1-18 and 2 Pet. 1:19-21).
Definition of the Gospel (vss. 3-4)
The centrality of what was delivered is set forth in the words, “of first importance” (vs. 3a). “Of first importance” ( en protos) may point to first in time or first in importance. Here, it stresses not time, but importance, the primary and vital essentials of the Gospel message, the doctrines foremost in importance for salvation.
The central declarations of the Gospel message is:
(1) “Christ died for our sins” (vs. 3).
- The Gospel concerns the death of a person, the person of Messiah of Old Testament expectation, the God-man, the one and only one qualified to die as man’s representative and substitute.
The Gospel teaches His death was for sins, ours. This is necessary because, as Scripture teaches us, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23), and that “there is no one righteous, not even one” (Rom. 3:10). Connected with this is the fact of God’s perfect and absolute holiness, that God is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity (Hab. 1:13). The death of Christ was to pay the penalty of sin and to satisfy the holiness of God (1 John 2:2).
(2) “He was raised on the third day” (vs. 4).
The Gospel declares that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead to authenticate Christ’s person as God’s Son and prove the value of His death as our means of forgiveness and justification through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:4; 4:24-25).
Defense of the Gospel (vss. 3-10)
The testimony and evidences for the historic events of the Gospel message:
These historic events were anticipated in the Old Testament (vss. 3, 4). This states the fact that both the death and resurrection of Christ was anticipated by the Old Testament Scripture as foretold by the prophets. This even includes His burial: For His death there is Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. For His resurrection we have Psalm 16:8-11; 22:22f; Isaiah 53:10-12. For His burial, Isaiah 53:9.
The matter of Christ’s burial (vs. 4). Why mention the burial of Christ? Because it is a strong testimony for the fact of His death. He was buried only after the Roman soldiers were sure he was dead, was wrapped in burial clothes and spices, and laid in a sealed tomb guarded by Roman soldiers. Then, after the resurrection, there was the evidences of the empty tomb with the grave clothes (John 20:3-10).
The eyewitness reports (vss. 5-10). Finally, Paul points to the many eye witness accounts of the fact of Christ’s resurrection as the final evidence which includes five hundred brethren at one time.
Declaration of the Gospel (vs. 11)
With verse 11, the Apostle calls our attention to our responsibility in view of the facts. We must proclaim this wonderful message so people can believe and be saved. It is not an easy message, however. It is a message that goes contrary to man’s natural bent, to man’s own human wisdom. I remember one conversation with my supervisor when I was in seminary in the 1960s. I worked with underprivileged youth in West Dallas, and though he never tried to keep me from witnessing to the kids, for him, the message of the Bible concerning the death of Christ was nonsense. He was as nice a guy as you would ever want to meet and work for, but in one of our conversations concerning the Gospel, he said, “Hey Doc (for some reason he like to call me Doc), you don’t really believe all this stuff concerning the necessity of the shedding of blood and the sacrifice of Jesus for sin, do you? That’s antiquated religion! We need to get beyond that and progress in our religious thinking. We just need to follow the example of Jesus in learning to love people.” But just listen to what Paul said about this kind of thinking in 1 Corinthians 1:20-31.
What then is the message we must proclaim to save those who believe? What are the essential ingredients that must be made clear?
(1) All people are lost, separated from God and in need of God’s salvation. Why? Because “all have sinned and come short of God’s glory,” His perfect holiness. God is holy and sin separates man from God and the penalty of sin is death (Isa. 59:2; Rom. 3:23; 6:23). All men, immoral, moral, and religious have sinned and come short of God’s holiness and God can accept no one who falls short of His holiness.
(2) No one can be saved by their good works whether religious or moral. No matter how hard one tries, no one can save themselves by their own religious works or wisdom. Men have nothing, no religious works, no personal righteous, no human goodness, with which they can boast before God or that will gain them eternal life (Isa. 64:6; Ps. 143:2; John 3:3-6; Tit. 3:5-7; Rom. 4:1-4; 1 Cor. 1:30-31).
(3) But God loved the world and proved it by giving us His Son to die in our place. God’s Son became true humanity that He might die in our place and pay the penalty for our sins in order to bring us to God and give us eternal life as a free gift without cost (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8-9; 1 Cor. 1:30-31; Eph. 2:8-9; Rev. 21:6; 22:17). Jesus Christ alone is man’s means of redemption and access to God (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
(4) How then do we receive this gift of salvation? By faith in this Gospel message, by faith alone in Christ alone; faith in the person (the God-man Savior) and work of Christ who died for our sins, who took our place, and was then raised on the third day as a proof of our redemption and justification through faith, personal trust, in Him (John 1:12; 3:16; Rom. 4:25-5:1; Eph. 2:8-9).
Regarding the ‘Terms of Salvation’ often used in presenting the Gospel which misstate the Gospel message, Lewis Sperry Chafer wrote:
Outside the doctrines related to the Person and work of Christ, there is no truth more far-reaching in its implication and no fact more to be defended than that salvation in all its limitless magnitude is secured, so far as human responsibility is concerned, by believing on Christ as Savior. To this one requirement no other obligation may be added without violence to the Scriptures and total disruption of the essential doctrine of salvation by grace alone.197
188 Charles C. Ryrie, So Great Salvation, Victor Books, Wheaton, 1989, pp. 23-24.
189 Charles Swindoll, The Grace Awakening, Word Books, Waco, TX, 1990, pp. 17-19.
190 Brad McCoy, “Free, Not Cheap,” Grace Evangelical News, Oct.-Nov. 1988, p. 1.
191Zane C. Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege, Redencin Viva, Dallas, TX, 1981, p. 7.
192 Ibid., p. 3.
193Ibid., p. 4.
194 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Vital Theological Issues, Roy B. Zuck, General Editor, Kregel, Grand Rapids, 1994, p. 122.
195 Ibid., p. 126.
196 Ryrie, So Great Salvation, pp. 39-40.
197Chafer, Vital Theological Issues, p. 117.