The idea that there is a particular message that constitutes the ‘good news of Jesus Christ’ becomes clear when we look at how the Bible refers to ‘the Gospel’.
In Mark 16:15 Jesus tells us to ‘proclaim the Gospel.’ In Galatians 1:6–9 Paul warns us to jealously guard the Gospel.
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the Gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (Galatians 1:6-9)
In Romans 1:16 he reminds us that ‘The Gospel is the power of God for Salvation.’ In all these areas Jesus and the apostle Paul are very clearly referring to the ‘words’ of the Gospel, not the ‘works’ or the ‘effects’. Of course, these three things are intrinsically linked. The words of the Gospel have effects. Mark makes this clear in chapter 16:20 when he records that, as a result of the disciples’ preaching (i.e. speaking out the Gospel), ‘. . . the Lord worked with them and confirmed His word by the signs that accompanied it.’
May we conclude then that when we’re talking about ‘the Gospel’ we’re looking at something that communicates the message, the words, of Salvation?
Across denominations, Christians seem to agree that there are several key verses in Scripture that are helpful in explaining the message of Salvation. Paul’s letter to the Romans especially focuses on this question of ‘What must I do to be saved?’ and the Gospel presentation known as The Roman Road incisively covers all the key points:
The Roman Road
The Bad News
- The Problem: We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (we’ve all done things wrong). Romans 3:23.
- The Predicament: We can’t earn our way into heaven. The Bible says no-one is good enough. The standard of heaven is perfection and we all fall short. Romans 4:4–5.
- The Penalty: Sin leads to spiritual death and separation from God. Romans 5:12.
The Good News
- The Provision: God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to die to pay the ‘penalty’ that was rightfully ours. Romans 5:8.
- The Pardon: The free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23.
- The Process: The way to receive the free gift is by confessing with your mouth that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believing in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead. Romans 10:9–10.
Perhaps this kind of illustration is familiar? There are many ways of explaining the message of Salvation, or delivering the words of the Gospel. It is, however vital to recognise the difference between the works, the effects and the words of the Gospel.
All three are vital in Christian witness, but alone they are of extremely diminished wealth. James’ Epistle is well known for its emphasis on the essentiality of backing up our words with ‘works’. As he famously claims ‘. . . faith without deeds is dead’ (James 2:26). This whole Epistle is a call to action – if you believe, then do, wake up and act on it!’
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1: 22–25).
Keep on keeping on…
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