What is the Gospel ?
In our previous lesson “I Make Known To You The Gospel – Part 1” we learned that the meaning of the word “gospel” is.. “good news”, sometimes called “glad tidings”. The gospel of Christ, is the “good news” or “glad tidings” of Jesus Christ, and His sacrifice for the sins of the world. Romans 1:16 says; “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
In 1 Corinthians 15, verse 1, the apostle Paul wrote; “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel..”
The book of Mark is introduced, in Mark 1, verse 1, with these words; “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
In part 1 of our lesson, I quoted the words of the author or a word study, concerning the word “gospel”. That author wrote; “the Gospel – literally, “God’s good news.” See 2097 (euangelizō). The Gospel (2098 /euaggélion) includes the entire Bible..” And you know, it makes perfect sense, that anything in the bible, that has anything to do, with Jesus Christ, would be a part of the good news about Christ.
But not everyone agrees with that way of thinking. I mentioned in our previous lesson, that many people believe that the whole of the gospel, is stated in 1 Corinthians 15, verses 3 thru 8. Here’s what they say the gospel is, beginning in the middle of verse 3, an ending with the beginning of verse 5; “..that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures; And that He appeared!” And then verses 6,7, and 8 simply tell us who He appeared to after His resurrection.
But that’s all that they think the gospel is; The FACT, that Jesus died, was buried, was resurrected, and appeared to others. That’s it! But I would argue, that those facts ALONE, wouldn’t really constitute any particularly “good news”. Oh, I suppose it would be good news for the one who was resurrected, but would it be good news for anyone else? Just think about it for a second. If that were all there was, to the gospel of Christ, how would that benefit anyone? Well, if that’s all there was to it, it wouldn’t benefit anyone.
Those four facts, that Jesus died, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day, and that he appeared to some people; Those facts, all by themselves, don’t help me or you, one single bit. Before that would be of any benefit to us wouldn’t we need to know what sin is? And wouldn’t we need to know that we are guilty of sin? And surely we’d have to know, that the death burial and resurrection of Jesus, was for the very purpose of offering you the forgiveness of your sins? And what about the blood of Jesus. 1 Cor 15 tells us nothing about the blood of Christ. “The blood of the new covenant” as Jesus Himself phrased it, in Mathew 28, verse 28. What could be more of an integral part of the gospel of Christ, other than His blood?
Well of course, we’d have to know about all of those things, before 1 Corinthians 15:3 thru 5, was of any benefit to us at all.
But that’s just an example of people not understanding the implications of what they say. That’s not the whole gospel! That’s just the most basic “core” facts of the gospel. As a matter of fact, Paul wrote in the very beginning of verse 3, BEFORE he stated what these “core” facts of the gospel are; He wrote; “For I delivered to you, as of FIRST IMPORTANCE!”
Paul didn’t claim that he was going to deliver the “whole gospel” start to finish. He’d have to quote almost the entire bible to do that! What Paul said was, that here is what is “of first importance” to you, concerning the gospel. And the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is indeed, “of first importance” to all of us!
That’s kind of how God expressed it in Ephesians 2, verse 8, when Paul wrote; “For by grace you have been saved. through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” God’s grace, gave us the “gift” of the sacrifice, of Jesus Christ. And that is of “first importance”! Everything else is secondary, to that one fact. “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” as Paul put it, in 2 Corinthians 2, verse 2.
Now, do you know WHY so many people WANT to believe that there’s nothing more to the gospel than the fact that Jesus died, and was buried and was resurrected? It’s because they don’t want to have to DO anything, to secure their own salvation. They want Jesus, to have done it all. That’s why they want the gospel to be so short and simple; Because they want salvation to be that short and simple. And although salvation is pretty simple, it’s not quite that simple, that there’s nothing for us to do.
People don’t really like being told that they must obey, what the Lord has told us to obey. They pretend, that verses like Hebrews 5:9 have no bearing whatsoever on the subject. Yet that verse says explicitly, “He has become the author of salvation to all who OBEY Him.”
Now here’s a belief that I just learned about last week. But it’s been around for a very long, long time. It’s even written about in Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopedia. Have you ever heard of “The Resurrection Creed” ? Well, the belief is, that 1 Corinthians 15, verses 3 thru 8 has been a creed, which of course means that it’s been a “statement of faith” which was used by Christians, from even before the apostle Paul wrote it down in his letter called 1st Corinthians. Now that letter, is estimated to have been written somewhere between Ad 54 and 57 AD. And that’s only about 21 to 24 years after Christ was crucified, and resurrected.
But yet, many people believe that within that time span, the early Christians put those words together themselves, the words of those verses, and used them as a statement of faith (a creed) to express to others their faith in Jesus as the Savior. Some people even believe that God did indeed inspire Paul to include that “creed” in his letter to the Corinthians; While others believe that it wasn’t a part of the writing of Paul, but that someone else added that passage to the scriptures.
And I had never even heard of such an idea, until last week. The oldest Christian creed that I was aware of, is called the Nicene Creed, which was established in the year 325 AD, at the Council of Nicaea. This was the “official” statement of faith, authorized by the Roman emperor Constantine, when he made Christianity the official religion of Rome. Now here’s what the Nicene Creed says..
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages.
Light of Light; true God of true God; begotten, not made, of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made;
Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate, of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man. And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried. And the third day. He rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father, and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, whose Kingdom shall have no end.
There’s nothing un-scriptural about that is there? And although all those statements are true, we don’t find one passage of scripture that says all those things. Those are simply statements of man, that agree with the bible.
And here’s what some people call “The Resurrection Creed” from 1 Corinthians 15:3 thru 8..
“That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; And last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.”
Personally though, I don’t believe that if Christians had put those words together, and had made a “creed” out of them, that God would have inspired Paul to include that in his letter, as if those were God’s own words. After all, we are told in 2 Timothy 3:16, that “ALL scripture is inspired by God..”
And so I believe that those words WERE inspired by God, and that they were NOT simply the words that some Christians had strong together to be used as a “statement” of their faith.
Now let me tell you about another idea that is taken from that same passage in 1 Corinthians, that I find to be very strange; But yet, although I find it strange, it is believed and defended by members of the church of Christ. The idea is really based on verses 5 through 8, of 1 Corinthians 15.
So let me just read those verses; “..and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; And last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” And so almost immediately after His resurrection, Jesus APPEARED to all these people. And what is key to this idea promoted, is that Jesus appeared to all these people, in His physical body. And so the notion is, that the foundational element taught in this passage, and really the foundational element to the whole rest of the chapter, is the notion of a everyone being resurrected with our original physical bodies.
And I was quite surprised when I heard this idea taught by members of the church. I guess that I just kind of assumed, that members of the church would be familiar with verses 42 & 44 in this very chapter. Verse 42 says; “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body.” Now we know that physical bodies are indeed “perishable”. Yet what is raised will be “imperishable”. And then verse 44 says; “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” And verse 46 goes on to say; “However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; Then the spiritual.”
And so you can see why I was so surprised to hear a church of Christ member, teaching that the very fundamental purpose of what Paul calls “the gospel”, (the death, burial, resurrection, and physical appearance of Jesus) was to teach us that there will be a physical resurrection of our original bodies. Well, that idea is simply anti-scriptural!
Now, I believe that it is should be obvious to everyone, what the purpose was, for the physical body of Jesus to be resurrected. In order for people to believe the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ, the resurrection form the dead had to be proven! It had to be proven! Because as Paul wrote in verse 14, of this same chapter; “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain!”
Well, how are you going to prove, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, without a body? What would it prove, to simply raise the Spirit of Jesus from the realm of hades? You can’t see a spirit; Even though that’s what it’s all about, the resurrection of our own spirits, to live eternally with God; But still, how you gonna prove the resurrection of a Spirit, that you can’t see?
The answer is; You can’t prove it! You need a body to prove the resurrection of the dead! And that is the # 1 purpose that God had, in resurrecting the physical body of Jesus; To prove to ALL, that Jesus had indeed been resurrected from the dead. That physical body can’t inherit heaven anyway. That’s what we’re told in verse 50; “Flesh and blood CANNOT inherit the kingdom of heaven. Neither does the corruptible inherit incorruption.” Of course, in the case of Jesus, there was one more reason for resurrecting His physical body. And that reason was to fulfill the scriptures which said, “Neither will Thou allow Thy Holy One to see decay.” Psalm 16, verse 10