This blog was first published on May 10, 2014. Enjoy.
What Is The Gospel?
I remember the first time I really tried to share Jesus with someone. It was spring of my senior year of high school. I knew that I was heading to the Word of Life Bible Institute that fall, and had been making a conscious effort to live for God more. I was working at a local greenhouse/flower shop and one of my duties was to take care of the trees that were for sale. I was talking with the owner’s son and my “Gospel presentation” went something like this: “Look at that tree. Look at it. It didn’t just happen. Look at the tree. Someone made it. Just look at the tree!” I remember my emphasis growing with every repetition to look at the tree. (Side note: I was referencing a cherry tree, which I think are very beautiful trees.) I know that I expected this boy to fall down on his knees and worship God, or raise his hands and exclaim, “Praise Jesus” or something similar. Instead, he just kept looking back and forth between me and the tree, confusion all over his face. I noticed the confusion, which just lead to a more emphatic command to look at the tree. I remember talking about God and that He is the Creator of all things…..such as the tree. However, this boy did not get saved! And I can’t imagine why not! After all, I told him to look at the tree!
I share that story with a mixture of hilarity and absolute horror. Hilarity because I can only imagine what was running through his head. Horror because I never shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with him!
So what is the Gospel? The word gospel simply means good news. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news about Jesus. So what is that good news? As I look back on my sharing about God…and the tree…. with that boy, I know that I was saved. I know that I knew how I was saved. However, I had no clue how to articulate it with someone else. So consequently, all that came out was blubbering about a cherry tree and God creating it, and a strong command to look at it.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: 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…” Paul captures the Gospel in those two, short verses. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the sacrificial death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus died in our place to be the propitiation, or satisfaction of God’s wrath, for our sins. He was buried (in a borrowed tomb, by the way, because He wasn’t going to need it for very long!) and He was bodily raised from the grave on the third day. His blood-shedding death pays for our sins. His bodily resurrection from the grave gives us eternal life.
If we share about God’s love, mercy, grace and forgiveness, but we do not share about Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, we have not shared the Gospel. If we talk about God as our Father, protector, guide and help, but we do not share about Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, we have not shared the Gospel. If we share of any of God’s attributes, but we do not share about Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, we have not shared the Gospel.
Why is this so important? If we are not clearly sharing the Gospel, then what is it that we are asking people to believe? Are we simply asking them to believe there is a God? James 2:19 says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe – and they shudder.” This verse tells us that the demons believe in God. They are afraid of His power. But the demons are not saved. They do not have relationship with God. They have an eternity awaiting them in a real place called Hell. So there obviously has to be more to it than that.
If we stop short of sharing the Gospel, then we are giving people a false hope. We’ve only invited them to believe in some big God somewhere, not a God who lovingly desires to have a personal relationship with us. We’ve invited them to say a prayer, not put their faith in Jesus’ sacrificial, atoning work on the cross and His bodily resurrection from the grave.
This isn’t just a matter of semantics or differences in terms; it’s actually a matter of eternal life and death.