The Simple Gospel?
When you hear the word “gospel” or the phrase “the gospel of Jesus Christ,” what comes to mind? For me, it used to be that I thought of the “The Four Spiritual Laws,” a gospel tract put out by Bill Bright of “Campus Crusade for Christ.”
In summary, the four laws state that God loves us and offers a wonderful plan for our lives. We, as humans, are sinful and separated from God. Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our sin. And we must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
But is that all there is to it? Is that the totality of the gospel, in reality? Is that what the Bible teaches the gospel is? That is really the big question.
Well, I looked up the meaning of the word “gospel,” and it means “God’s Good News.” So, then the question comes down to, “What is the ‘good news’?” What all does it entail? What are we saved from? What are we saved to? What happens to us when we believe “the gospel”?
I read on “Bible Hub” (on the internet) that the gospel includes the entire Bible. The Apostle Paul was called of God to preach the gospel, and he claimed that he taught “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27), which was the complete gospel, the complete “Good News” of God.
So, when we are called of God to share the gospel, which we are all to be doing, we must know the gospel isn’t some simplistic four step process and then you are “in,” and then you are “good to go,” and now you are saved, and you have eternal life with God, and heaven is your eternal destiny.
The gospel is not some simple formula we follow so we can be forgiven our sins and so we can go to heaven when we die. When we believe the gospel, we believe all of what the Scriptures teach about Jesus and about what he did for us, and why he did it, and what should result from that belief.
The gospel also doesn’t describe just some steps that we take to “receive Jesus” into our lives, and then if we do, it ends there. The gospel of Jesus Christ describes, too, what our lives should look like from our new birth until the day that we die, or until Jesus comes to take us home.
Our faith and our salvation from sin are also not one-time events which take place in our lives whereby we secure our eternal salvation and heaven as our eternal destiny. The Scriptures teach conditional and progressive salvation, and if we don’t meet those conditions, we don’t have salvation.
[Rom 8:24; Rom 13:11; 1 Co 1:18; Jn 8:31-32; Jn 15:1-12; 1 Co 15:2; Col 1:21-23; 2 Tim 2:10-13; Heb 3:6, 14-15; 2 Pet 1:5-11; 1 Jn 2:24-25]
What’s the “Good News”?
Let’s begin with Jesus’ words. He said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” Luke 9:23-25
Jesus didn’t say, “Receive me into your heart and now you have the hope of heaven as your eternal home which can never be taken away from you.”
No! He said if we want to come after him, we must deny (disallow) ourselves (our flesh). And daily we must die with him to sin, and to self, and we must follow (obey) him. For, if we hold on to our old lives of living for sin and self, we will lose them for eternity. But if we lose our lives (die with him to sin and to self), we will be saved.
[See also 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 8:31-32, 51; Jn 10:27-30; Jn 14:23-24; Jn 15:1-11]
So, why did Jesus die on that cross? To save us from our sins? Yes! To give us eternal life with God? Yes! But that’s not the whole picture. He died on that cross that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. And he died that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave his life up for us (1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:19-20; 2 Co 5:15).
Jesus also died on that cross so that we might be delivered (saved, rescued) from our slavery (bondage, addiction) to sin so that we might now be slaves of God and of his righteousness. For we are slaves to whomever we obey, either of sin, which leads to DEATH, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness and to sanctification, and ends in eternal life (Rom 6:1-23).
For, eternal life with God is the end result of a life lived for the Lord in submission to him, in repentance, and in walks of obedience to his commands, in his power, and in his strength, according to his will and purpose, and for the glory and praise of God, no matter how short that time period is, as long as it continues faithful to the end (See above Scriptures).
Paul taught the same things that Jesus taught. He taught that the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who walk (in conduct, in practice) according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh. For, he said if we walk (in practice) according to the flesh, we will not inherit eternal life with God.
[Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:10; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8]
He said, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:5-8).
And he said, “But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:20-24).
He also said, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14).
So, please know that all of this is the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we walk according to the Spirit and in obedience to our Lord, not in absolute perfection, but consistently, it results in eternal life with God. But if we walk according to the flesh in habitual deliberate sin, we will die in our sins, no matter what we say we believe or we confess with our lips.
By Jonathan Foreman
I give you my destiny
I’m giving you all of me
I want your symphony
Singing in all that I am
At the top of my lungs
I’m giving it my all
So, I lay my head back down
And I lift my hands and pray
To be only yours I pray
To be only yours I pray
To be only yours
I know now you’re my only hope