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The Gospel In A Nutshell

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The gospel is the most important message any human can understand. The gospel tell us both our identity and our destiny; it tells us who we are and what we are becoming. It makes the most audacious promises ever, and tells us how those promises can be secured. But what is the gospel? Paul give us the 'gospel in a nutshell' in 1 Corinthians 15.1-8.

1.The Priority of the Gospel

I would remind you, brothers

Paul was writing to Christians who already knew the gospel. The gospel is so important we need to be reminded of it and we need to remind others of it. The gospel is not only how we get saved, it is how we follow Jesus and live the Christian life.

My father had an annoying habit of reminding me of things I already knew; when I was leaving to go somewhere, he would use one of his favourite slogans: 'use your head' and 'be careful'. For Paul, the gospel is so important it is NO BOTHER to remind the Corinthians about it.

The gospel gives us our new identity in Christ. It tells us what we are without God, it shows us our need for God, it tells us what God has done for us in Christ, and it tells us who we are in Christ: forgiven, redeemed, loved, blessed, adopted, set free from the power of sin, seated with Christ in the heavenly places. 

2. The Singularity of the Gospel

The gospel which I preached to you

There is one gospel, and in Galatians 1.6-9, Paul reminds Christians that no other message can count as the gospel. He points out that some people quickly desert God for 'another' gospel'. Although God calls people to himself through grace, people can be seduced by a different gospel (usually through syncretism - the mixing of genuine Christian belief and practice with beliefs and practices of the dominant culture in a particular context). But a different gospel is a distortion of the gospel of Christ; a contrary gospel is one that differs from the one originally preached by Paul and the apostles. So the gospel Paul is reminding the Corinthians of is the same one he had preached to them.

NOTE: 

Every generation must accurately understand and clearly communicate the gospel; without the first, the second is impossible.

3. The appropriate response to the gospel 

Which you received

 There is always a human response to the gospel: receive, reject, ignore. Although this receiving cannot happen without the work of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 16:14), salvation always includes a human response. Paul is writing to people who have received the gospel: that is, by their own verbal affirmation, they agreed with and accepted what he is teaching. 

4. The appropriate posture to the gospel 

in which you stand 

The ONE gospel is what defines the “standing” (identity, life, perspective, values, ethics) of a Christian. It isn’t merely what saves us, it is the defining vision of the Christian life. Standing is not a passive position, but an active posture; there are forces that try to knock us off the gospel: ‘having done everything, to stand firm, stand therefore (Ephesians 6:13-14).

5. The benefits of the gospel

by which you are being saved

It is the one gospel that saves. If a person is being saved, it is because they have believed the one gospel. The gospel is God’s power unto salvation, and it works – it is able to save. 

The word saved (Gr. Sozo) is used of the deliverance of the Israelites from the Egyptians (Ex. 14:13), and of deliverance generally from evil or danger. In the New Testament, it is specially used with reference to the great deliverance from the guilt and the pollution of sin wrought out by Jesus Christ, “the great salvation” (Heb. 2:3). 

6. The requirements of the gospel

if you hold fast the word which I preached to you

The phrase hold fast is the Greek katecho, which means to hold back, retain, detain, to keep from going away). To “hold fast” implies active reliance. It speaks to a keeping, a cherishing, a possessing of the gospel. It is a person holding fast who experiences the benefits of standing and believing. There is no promise of salvation for a person who doesn’t believe or ‘hold fast’ the gospel. 

7. The priority of the gospel (Part 2)

  for I delivered to you as of first importance

Delivery Man: being a minister of the gospel is primarily about delivering the gospel to people. Paul was able to look back at his ministry and say, ‘I delivered the gospel to you’. Along with living a life consistent with and reflective of the gospel, this is the most important thing we can say about our ministries and our church. In our lives, loving the Lord with all our hearts, soul, mind, strength - this is at the core of who we are. In our ministries, delivering the gospel is central.

This is the baton we have to pass on; if we get this right, there is a chance everything else might fall into place. If we get this wrong, nothing else matters. 

Paul calls this of first importance. This is not second, or somewhere in a top-5 list; this is of first importance. Be sure that you are prioritising, focusing on, and being faithful with the gospel. Paul reminds Timothy of this core, central truth: 

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.Timothy: 1:15

God saves sinners through Christ: this is the gospel in a nutshell, the message Paul received, the announcement he is passing on. 

8. The unoriginality of the gospel

which I also received

Our job is to pass on the gospel, not to get theologically creative. Consider all that Paul tells Timothy:

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine. 1 Timothy 1:3

O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. I Timothy 6:20-21

By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. 2 Timothy 1:14

Our job is to be sure that we receive the gospel; we can’t pass on what we don’t receive. Then, rather than being creative and tampering with the content, our job is to pass one what we have been given.

9. The heart of the gospel

Christ died for our sins

In this brief statement, we have the who of the gospel (Christ), the what of the gospel (died), and the why of the gospel (for our sins). The promised messiah took our place and died, bearing the penalty of our sins. This is the gospel in a nutshell.

Here's an expanded version: 

The Gospel is the good news that God became man in Jesus Christ to reconcile lost people to himself. He lived a perfect, sinless life on our behalf and died on the cross for our sins. He was buried, and on the third day rose from the dead, securing our redemption forever. Having triumphed over Satan and the forces of darkness, he ascended into heaven as Lord.

Note that the Gospel is a fact-based message. It is rooted in history in real events that actually happened. These events are confirmed in Scripture and affirmed in the historic creeds of the church. The preaching of the gospel is centred on these events (life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus) and what they mean.

At the heart of this statement is the word for; Chris died for our sins. Notice these other verses describing the 'for-ness' of the gospel.

Affirmed by Jesus:

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45 

And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many”. Mark 14.24

Taught by Paul

  • Romans 5:6: Christ died for the ungodly 
  • Romans 5:8: Christ died for us 
  • Galatians 2:20: Who . . . gave Himself for me 
  • I Timothy 2:6: Who gave himself a ransom for all 
  • Galatians 1:4 Who gave himself for our sins 

Taught by Peter

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous. I Peter 3:18.

There is much more we could say about this idea so central to the New Testament idea of salvation. But here's the big point: Jesus took our place and bore the penalty of our sin when he died for us. It is through his death that we can be forgiven and receive a new relationship with God. This relationsship is accomlished by means of atonement.

The Old Testament atonements offered by the high priest were temporary and a foreshadow of the real and final atonement made by Jesus. Jesus atoned for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). This atonement is received by faith (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9). Man is a sinner (Romans 5:8) and cannot atone for himself. Therefore, it was the love of the Father that sent Jesus (1 John 4:10) to die in our place (1 Peter 3:18) for our sins (1 Peter 2:24). Because of the atonement, our fellowship with God is restored (Romans 5:10). 

10. The authenticity of the gospel

In accordance with the scripture 

The PROMISE of the gospel: the gospel is preached and promised – in different ways and different forms - all through the Old Testament: to Adam and Eve in the garden, to Abraham, through the law, through David, through the prophets.

The ONE gospel is biblically accurate. When the apostles preached the gospel in Jewish synagogues, they built their case from the Old Testament. At that time, the Old Testament were the only scriptures, and they could preach the gospel from the Old Testament. 

11. The historicity of the gospel

that he was buried

The burial of Jesus is the confirmation that he was really, completely, and absolutely dead. The burial of Christ is essential; not only does it confirm his death, but all of the historical events surrounding the resurrection are based on a real burial. The burial of Christ is affirmed in the Apostle’s creed: crucified, died, and was buried.

12. The confirmation of the gospel

he was raised on the third day

The death of Christ and his resurrection were the core features of gospel preaching by Jesus, Peter, and Paul The original context of witness is very literally that of an eye-witness of the resurrection. This was a pre-requisite for being an Apostle (of the same status as the twelve, apostle with a capital ‘A’. The resurrection confirmed that Jesus really is who he claimed to be - the Son of God; it also confirmed that his sacrificial death in our place worked - it accomlished what God intended it to do.

13. The historicity of the gospel – Part 2

he appeared to Cephas; to the twelve; to more than five hundred; to James; to all the apostles; to me.

It is difficult for us to appreciate the degree to which the gospel was described as a ‘fact based’, historical message. This really happened, therefore … Paul underscores this by listening the people and groups to whom Jesus appeared alive after the resurrection, including over 500 at one time. At the time, he was writing 1 Corinthians (appx. 53/54 AD), about 20- 25 years after the resurrection. Thus, many of those 500 would have been alive and available for interview. 

14. There is one gospel

So we preached

Paul is again highlighting the consistency of his ministry: it’s not just that there is one gospel, but this was the gospel that he preached. In the same way, years after you have planted a church, birthed a campus ministry, or developed a children’s ministry curriculum, you want to be able to look back and say, so we preached. There will be some things you get wrong, but the gospel should not be on that last.

15. There is one response

So you believed

This is a beautiful statement reminding the Corinthians that the gospel they received was the right one. If Paul is calling them back to anything, it is the gospel he preached and they believed, not something new. Faith (believing) is how we come to participate in the benefits available in Christ, through the gospel.

SUMMARY

The biblical gospel can be summarized in three core ideas, summarized in Paul’s statement from 1 Corinthians 15:3 - Christ died for our sins. The three gospel elements are the identity of Jesus, the work of Jesus, and the results of that work. This is God's good news - He saves sinners through Christ's death, burial, and resurrectin.