The Gospel’s Claim on Our Lives
Unfortunately many followers of Christ do not have a clear understanding or grasp of the Gospel message. Rather than take the time to study and gain that understanding, they opt to let others be the communicators of the Good News. This robs the average believer of the opportunity and privilege of leading people to Christ.
The Gospel cannot be reduced to a set of points that can be scribbled onto a napkin. Admittedly God has used any number of ways to communicate the glorious good news of what Jesus accomplished on our behalf.
However, it is important that we grasp and can share the general outline of the Gospel message, which is contained in the entirety of the Bible and is particularly and wonderfully focused in the four Gospels.
Below is my summary of this message. If you look at various Gospel presentations in the Acts, you will see that not every point is mentioned every time. The Holy Spirit does not require that we hash through the entire story each time we share the Good News with someone, but he does want us to have a understand of the grand sweep of the Bible story about Jesus.
In the Beginning
It makes sense to start any story in the beginning; otherwise, we may find ourselves needing to stop and backtrack repeatedly to give our hearers needed background information. The background for the Gospel starts in Genesis with the creation and fall of mankind.
God blessed the first humans with everything they needed for a happy and abundant life, which was meant to be lived in fellowship and dependence upon the Creator. Satan successfully tempted them to suspect God of withholding something good from them, which resulted in their opting to live independently from their Creator. By disobeying God, sin entered the world bringing death, destruction, and the perversion of God’s wonderful creation. It was at this point that God promised Adam and Eve that one of their descendants would gain a victory over Satan, but at a great cost to himself.
The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:14-15 (ESV)
Son of Abraham
Later in the Bible narrative, we are introduced to Abraham, one of Adam’s and Eve’s descendants. This man was chosen by God to become the father of what was later to become the nation of Israel. He was a man of faith to whom God made some extraordinary promises, one of which was that one of his descendants would become a blessing to the entire earth.
I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” Genesis 22:17-18 (ESV)
When this promise was given, it is extremely likely that Abraham did not realize that the fulfillment of this wonderful pledge was to be narrowly focused upon one amazing individual, the Messiah. Later events would prove this to be so.
A Prophet like Moses
The descendants of Abraham became a nation which relocated in Egypt due to a famine in the land of Canaan, where they had been residing and which Abraham was promised would be the permanent land of his offspring. Eventually the children of Abraham were enslaved by the Egyptians and endured severe bondage under their hands. Within this context, God raised up a deliverer named Moses, whom God used to confront and defeat the ruler of Egypt and lead the Israelites out of bondage. Moses was a mediator between God and the people, a spokesman, judge, lawgiver, and prophet. Moses told the people that one day in the future, God would raise up another prophet like Moses, to whom the people must submit or be cut off from the promises and blessings of God. The Apostle Peter later identified this person to be Jesus.
Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” Acts 3:22-26 (ESV)
One like Joshua
Moses was not able to actually lead the people into the land of promise because he represented the old order of things, the Law, which can never bring God’s people into the promises. Human beings have no ability to obey God’s law. Instead it exposes the depth of corruption found in the human heart. A different person would have to be the one to actually bring God’s people into the fulfillment of God’s promises. His name was Joshua, or Jeshua, which means “God, Yahweh, is generous and saves.” He was a type of the Messiah, who would also be named Yeshua or Jesus, because he would save their people from their sins and bring them into the promised land of mercy, grace, life, liberty, and victory.
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21 (ESV)
Son of David
Later in the Bible story and the history of the Israelites, God raised up a mighty king named David, a man after God’s heart, to whom God promised that one of his descendants would rule on David’s throne forever.
When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 2 Samuel 7:12-13 (ESV)
Now we know that David’s dynasty eventually ended, and today there is no king sitting on a throne in Israel. So was God mistaken or was he exaggerating when he made this promise? Or would another king, a descendant of David, one day arise who would fulfill this prophecy exactly and completely?
The Suffering Servant
Later, Isaiah the prophet announced that one day a servant of God would arise who would suffer on behalf of the people. Isaiah 53 goes into great detail about this future individual who would actually bear the sins of Israel, but would eventually be given great honor.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12 (ESV)
Who would this person be?
The Glorious Son of Man
The prophet Daniel saw a heavenly vision of One like a Son of man who inspired dread and awe.
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. Daniel 7:13-14 (ESV)
Who is this glorious heavenly being? What would his coming kingdom look like? The Jews came to identify this son of man as the coming Messiah.
Enter Jesus -Son of Eve, Son of Abraham, Son of David
At just the right time, God sent his Son to be born as a human to a virgin named Mary. This also fulfilled a prophecy made centuries before. (Isaiah 7:14) Matthew’s Gospel introduces Jesus, son of Mary, in this way.
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Matthew 1:1 (ESV)
Matthew wants his readers to understand that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised descendant of Eve, Abraham, and David, the one who would defeat Satan, bless the nations, and rule forever as a king!
John the Baptist Announces Jesus to the World
John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, was the greatest of all prophets (Luke 7:28), which may seem surprising, since very few of his words were recorded in the Bible. Surely Isaiah, the most quoted prophet in the New Testament who foretold the sufferings of Christ, was greater! But no, Jesus, who knows all about these things, honored John in this regard.
John was given the privilege of identifying and presenting Jesus the Messiah to the world. There could be no higher calling than to present Jesus to the world! If you think about it, every disciple shares in that calling every time we present the Gospel!
John identified Jesus in three of his ministries: Lamb of God, Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, and Son of God.
“This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ 31 “I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” 32 John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. 33 “I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ 34 “I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” John 1:30-34 (NASB)
Lamb of God
Jesus’ title of Lamb of God takes us all the way back to the time of Moses and the Exodus, when God commanded that each Israelite family sacrifice a lamb and smear its blood upon the doorposts and lintels of their homes. Those people who stayed within the houses which were identified by the lambs’ blood were spared the horrific judgment inflicted on those who were not so protected. The firstborn in every unprotected home died.
When John told the people that Jesus was God’s Lamb, he let them know that he would die as a lamb for the sins and deliverance of Israel and all those would come to trust in him through the Gospel. I wonder if John fully grasped that Jesus, God’s eternal Son, would die so that other sons could be forgiven and brought into God’s family? Jesus fulfilled the ministry of God’s Lamb that had been foreshadowed in the Old Covenant. This ministry connected Jesus to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, who bore the sins of the people. This also fulfilled the Old Testament type of Joshua, who led the people into their inheritance.
The Lamb of God ministry, the first one announced by John, was totally unexpected by John’s hearers. Imagine what they must have thought! Israel looked for a Messiah to deliver them from bondage, but they did not understand that he would do so by dying for their sins. The Lamb of God ministry made everything else possible. Jesus fulfilled God’s promise to Eve that one of her descendants would crush Satan’s head, while at the same time suffering a wound. Jesus was wounded to death, but he rose again in total victory over Satan!
The Lamb of God ministry is many faceted. His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection accomplished the following.
- Propitiation – Jesus satisfied the wrath of Almighty God by taking our place in judgment. He took away our sins and our deserved punishment.
- Justification – Jesus became sin on our behalf that we might become the very righteousness of God in the greatest exchange of all time.
- Redemption – Jesus destroyed the power of everything that formerly held us in bondage: sin, sickness, death, demons, men’s traditions, legalism, addictions, etc. Any bondage we experience was defeated by Jesus’ death and resurrection.
- Reconciliation – Jesus was alienated from his heavenly Father in order to make a way for us to come into God’s family and into an intimate loving relationship with Abba Father.
- Sonship – Through the new birth and the indwelling Holy Spirit, every true believer now has all the privileges, power, and opportunities connected with being God’s own son (or daughter). Qualitatively we have the same relationship with God the Father as Jesus does, because we have the Spirit of the Son living inside us. Being children of God means we have his life, authority, and share in his victory and rule.
These amazing gifts that come from trusting in Christ are worthy of meditating on and studying in great depth and detail, but, wait, there is more!
The Baptizer in the Holy Spirit
John the Baptist also announced that Jesus is the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit. This is not secondary to the Lamb of God ministry. Rather, it builds upon it. The baptism in the Holy Spirit equips and empowers God’s people to be effective witnesses, effective trumpeters of the Good News, effective goers and disciple makers. It connects us to the Great Commission.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8 (ESV)
The baptism in the Holy Spirit was not given to make our lives and church services better; rather, it’s purpose is to propel us out into the world as his witnesses. The Great Commission launched the church out into the world. Without the empowerment connected to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we will be less effective in our pursuit of the Great Commision. The gifts and power associated with this baptism are most effective when they operate outside of the four walls of the church building, out in the community where the need is the greatest. May God forgive us for being so selfish and turned in on ourselves that we have focused the power and use of the gifts primarily for the church’s benefit.
Jesus’ ministry as Baptizer in the Holy Spirit fulfills the promise God made to Abraham so long ago. The Spirit empowered church has been commissioned to bring the Good News about Jesus Christ to the entire world, in which new children of God are being born again on a daily basis, who will populate the new heaven and earth as part of God’s ever expanding family and rule.
The Son of God
Lastly, John the Baptist announced that Jesus is the Son of God. This connects Jesus to God’s promise to David and to Daniel’s prophecy of the coming kingdom of the glorious Son of Man.
John’s Gospel introduces us to the eternal Logos, who became a human being, the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus has been exalted to the highest glory and rule. He has become King of kings and Lord of lords.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:8-11 (ESV)
Jesus, the everlasting king, will rule over the nations and all creation for all eternity. He will come again in glory one day to judge the living and the dead, another privilege of kingship, and will assign all people to their eternal destiny. Afterward he will rule as the glorious eternal Son of Man, whose kingdom will never end.
What Do We Do with This Glorious Good News?
Jesus is the Gospel message. The Jewish leaders of his day rejected him and his kingdom, instead putting him to death. When Peter preached his first Gospel presentation on Pentecost, his hearers were struck to the heart because of their complicity in this heinous deed. They had played some part in the murder of the Chosen One, the Messiah, the coming Judge of the whole earth. They were desperate to try to get things right. How could they do it?
Our sin has been similar. We were not in the crowd that yelled, “Crucify him,” but we have been among the throng who has rejected his claims to Lordship. Just as those who heard Peter’s first sermon begged for a way to get things right, the Gospel should stir us up to be reconciled to the coming King and Judge.
The glorious good news of the Gospel demands a response. If we reject it, we will one day encounter the Judge of all the earth and give account for our rejection of God’s King and his claims on our lives. If we are indifferent, we will face the same fate. How can one justify being uninterested in the most important person in the universe? But, if we respond properly, this is what it may look like.
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. Acts 2:36-41 (ESV)
- If the Holy Spirit makes the gospel come alive to us, we will realize that we must do something. The Gospel is not something you simply acknowledge: “Oh yeah, I know that…” True repentance makes us want to take action. It is a change of mind that leads to a change of direction which ends in a changed life.
- Repentance means we accept the Bible’s message that we are sinners and lost people who desperately need a Savior. It means we believe what we heard. Repentance and faith go together. They are inseparable twins. When people repent or acknowledge their sins without faith in Christ, it is pretty worthless. Faith takes us from the place of acknowledging our sin to the place of receiving forgiveness and all the blessings associated with Jesus’ Lamb of God ministry.
- Be baptized. Water baptism is our public declaration that we belong to Jesus and he is Lord. In this act of obedience we tell the world that we serve the coming King. When we submit to water baptism, we enlist in the Christ’s army of witnesses and become Great Co-Missionaries.
- Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The baptism in the Spirit empowers and equips Christ’s followers to be Great Co-Missionaries, his witnesses throughout the earth, starting right here in Alamance County. We cannot honestly say that Jesus is Lord without embracing his commission, the Great Commission. Faith and obedience cannot be separated.
Let’s Get Personal
The Gospel makes a claim upon our lives which requires a personal response. What God is looking for is our surrender to Christ and obedience to his call to be and make disciples, to show our love for God and man by announcing the glorious Gospel of grace, the message of reconciliation to God. (Romans 1:5)
Our sin earned the punishment of death and separation from God. The Gospel offers to us sinners the free gift of life through faith in Christ! The repentance that is prerequisite to receiving this gift also comes as a gift from God. (Acts 11:18) Faith is also God’s gift. (Ephesians 2:8) The Holy Spirit works within the hearts of those who hear the Gospel both to “will and to do”God’s purpose for their lives. (Philippians 2:13) All this comes to us by grace. But grace, the free gift, begs for a response from us.
When we become followers of Christ who experience the glorious liberation provided through Jesus’ Lamb of God ministry, and when we receive the empowering of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, we then face the call to be a Great Co-Missionary. Just as Jesus came to serve and give his life away to help others come into the family of God, we are likewise sent into the world (John 20:21) as ambassadors of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
It is joyful thing to be born again and receive the blessings of salvation and very thrilling to experience the power and presence of God’s Spirit, but the call to obey the Great Commission comes with a pretty hefty price tag. It is called the cost of discipleship – the laying down of our lives for the sake of the Gospel, motivated by our love and appreciation for Jesus and our heavenly Father.
Over the past many decades, I have noticed that the church tends to get caught up in the Lamb of God ministry and become focused on the glorious good news of the Gospel as it pertains to what Christ has done for us and in us. We sometimes think that the height of discipleship is gaining an ever greater understanding of the heights, depths, and riches of God’s Word. But if our grasp of God’s Word is not also outwardly directed, haven’t we missed the mark to some degree?
I have also noticed that those who receive the baptism of the Spirit tend to become enamored with the presence, power, and gifts of the Spirit, often within the four walls of the church building. But Jesus took his anointing and power into the highways and byways. That is where the Holy Spirit is already at work.Until we take the power of the Spirit outside our church meetings, we have missed the mark and become inwardly focused.
Many churches are “Word” churches, who emphasize “sola scriptura,” the all sufficiency of God’s Word. Other churches become “Spirit and power” churches, focusing on the things of the Spirit. Other congregations have made it their goal to be Word and Spirit (or power) churches, combining the best of both worlds.
Today God is challenging us with another emphasis to be added to the mix: the Great Commission. We are to be Word – Power – Great Commission churches. This new emphasis delivers us from the selfish preoccupation with ourselves and our own blessings and turns us outward. It connects us to the heart of the Good Shepherd, who cares about the harassed and helpless sheep, who have no one committed to going out into the harvest to shepherd them into the kingdom and family of God.
The missional pastor is willing to leave the ninety-nine in order to go after the one who does not know Jesus. In answer to Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 9:35-38, pastors and churches are called to take their care for people to those outside the family of God, too. The love and rule of God are continually expanding.
If we do not mesh a love for God’s Word, an embracing of the power and gifts of the Spirit, and the responsibility to fully engage in pursuing the Great Commission, we have not fully grasped or embraced the claim of the Gospel upon our lives.
Have you received Jesus as your Lamb of God and your Savior? Have you invited him to be your Baptizer in the Spirit, your equipper and empowerer? Have you bowed your knee and surrendered your life to the Lord, the glorious Son of God, the one who makes a claim on the lives of all who come to him? If not, I invite you to take those steps now. Below is a sample prayer.
Jesus, I have never truly understood who you are. Now I see that you are the focus of the entire Bible. You are the Lamb of God who gave his life for me. I receive all you died to give me. Thank you for forgiving my sins, giving me eternal life, making me righteous and God’s child, and setting me free to better serve you. Please baptize me in the Holy Spirit and empower me to be your witness. I surrender my entire life to you, my glorious Lord. Use me as you see fit. I ask especially that you will give me opportunities to share the Gospel with others and to disciple those who come to you in repentance and faith. Amen.Follow us on Facebook.