Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, Part 2

To emphasize our point, let us examine several passages where people are evangelized by Christ’s followers. It is true that all one needs to hear is the gospel to be saved, but first one needs to understand what they are hearing before they can believe it. Clarification is in order regarding the nature of our language. We can hardly accept salvation from Jesus if we aren’t convinced we’re even in need of saving.

The Bible portrays mankind as lost and dead in sins and trespasses, Isaiah 59:2; Ephesians 2:1. The reality of our sin nature isn’t a cultural creation or a psychological impediment to man’s self-esteem; it is a given reality. Look into the world and see how naturally good mankind really is. Thousands of years on this earth haven’t created paradise; six billion warring wills have caused horrid wars and monstrous crimes that stagger the imagination. All of these lusts and desires emanate from within; they are not created by social climate or any exterior forces, James 4:1-3; Matthew 15:19-20.

The first century disciples of our Lord brought the message of the gospel to the world. We read in Acts how Philip was used of the Holy Spirit to convert the Ethiopian eunuch. He overtook this man while on the highway and found him already reading from the Old Testament from the prophet Isaiah, Acts 8:30. We have already seen that Paul stated how the Old Testament verified the historical events surrounding Christ’s death and resurrection; the Old Testament was God revealing His character and nature by showing His perfect ability to predict future events, so that when they came to pass people would understand that He was the true and only God. “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure,” Isaiah 46:9-10.

When Philip found the eunuch he engaged him at once in a discussion about the nature of the content he was reading. The eunuch blessedly acknowledged his ignorance and need of spiritual guidance, and Philip used the Old Testament, beginning with Isaiah, and expounded the gospel message, Acts 8:35. The eunuch, wanting to perform the commands of his Lord, inquired of Philip what hindered him from being baptized, as Jesus told His followers to do. Philip answered that faith was the requisite that kept him back: “If you believe with all your heart, you may,” verse 37. If the eunuch truly had saving faith in Christ resulting in salvation then water baptism was the first step on the road of his new life. The eunuch believed on and confessed his faith in Jesus Christ, which according to Paul resulted in the eunuch’s salvation, Romans 10:9-10.The message of the gospel, revealing the power of God to save sinners, did its job in the eunuch, 1st Corinthians 1:18.

Our next case study can be found in Acts chapter 10, and I highly encourage everyone to have an open Bible as we peruse these passages so you can judge for yourself the veracity of what I am saying. Peter had just come to the home of Cornelius the centurion. Cornelius was a God fearing man, perhaps a practitioner in Judaism, as the eunuch also likely was, Acts 8:27; 10:1-2. At the prompting of the Holy Spirit Peter spoke with Cornelius and his family. The message he declared was nothing less than the gospel of salvation: “We are witnesses of all things which [Jesus] did both in the land and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, through faith in His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins,” Acts 10:39-43.

The result was instantaneous and profound. Cornelius and his entire household who heard and understood the word believed Peter’s message and received the Holy Spirit, showing that they had been born again and were now children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, Galatians 3:26. Having been saved Cornelius and his household fulfilled Jesus’ first command to disciples by being baptized in water, as has been the pattern throughout Acts, Acts 10:47-48.

Note that in both instances so far (with Philip and Peter) the gospel is explained, heard, and believed. The result is that those who believe are saved. Peter’s message validates the historical importance of the events he describes; Jesus was not a myth, a publication of Christian imagination to launch a new religion or a fetish of Paul’s. Jesus is accurately described in the gospels in His life, death, burial and resurrection. This is the essence of the gospel message we bring to the lost. Jesus Christ died for our sins. He was the sin payment God offered up for us. When Isaac asked his father on their way to sacrifice where the lamb for the burnt offering was Abraham’s answer was telling: “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering,” Genesis 22:8. This God did in the person of Jesus. “He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself,” Hebrews 9:26. Jesus “by Himself purged our sins,” Hebrews 1:3. “Christ, our Passover [lamb], was sacrificed for us,” 1st Corinthians 5:7.

1 comment:

  1. Amen, Ian.

    Far too many are content to settle with John 3;16, with no understanding of why they need salvation or what was required for them to be saved. Unless we understand what it took for us to be saved, how can one truly believe Christ's sacrifice was needed to save us, or that it can?

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