Questions and Answers – The Gospel


Most Sundays I go out into the neighbourhood with Soon-Jong Kim door to door evangelising. When people are friendly we get to share the Gospel a few times a week. I’m also blessed to be able to share the Gospel at the office that I work and I don’t think a week goes by without the opportunity to give a defence for the hope that I have in Christ Jesus.

You know what? Mostly I share the Gospel with people who go to church. Sounds weird, but it’s sadly true. Most church goers are pew warmers who have no idea if they are saved, how they might be saved or even if its necessary to be saved in the first place.

Before you read the short form below know this: The Gospel is the most important thing we hold to as Christians. It’s what defines us, what separates us from other religions and cults. It needs to be clearly understood, correctly articulated, in complete agreement with Scripture. A step out here or there renders it null and void.

Consider Paul’s strong words to the Galatians,

6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”

Want to hear the verse in context? Galatians 1: 6 – 9
What is this about?

Below is my shorthand of the Gospel truth. It’s not a comprehensive theological treaties, its supposed to be usable. Check it out; comment below.

What is the Gospel?

To find out more about Crystal Park Baptist Church click here. Click the image to enlarge.

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17 thoughts on “Questions and Answers – The Gospel

    • The JW’s are out in full force on Saturdays. I counted 35 this week. On Sunday it’s the two of us. One group brings works the other grace. The fields are ripe for harvest but the workers are few.

  1. Good. You have the main “God-Man-Sin-Christ” elements.

    I’ve tried to unpack it from 1 Corinthians 15 – the most explicit text – here: http://conservativechristianity.wordpress.com/2008/12/01/conserving-the-gospel-3/

    There my aim was more to delineate which doctrines are essential to the gospel. And I don’t think that every sharing of the gospel with the man on the street needs to include all of them in detail.
    Frankly, I’m not sure that every gospel presentation must include all of the gospel. Part of it depends on how much a person accepts or cooperates with what you’re sharing. Sometimes, we need to be content to leave ‘a pebble in the shoe’, as Greg Koukl puts it (http://www.amazon.com/Tactics-Game-Discussing-Christian-Convictions/dp/0310282926)

    • I have a bit of polishing to do to make it readable. I read your post. I do find that when presenting the Gospel more often than not I need to pull on the strings of every doctrine. Christology, Theology, Bibliology whateverology. It’s like God makes the human mind so complex that a 4 step presentation will never be enough (I’m currently smiling to myself and thinking of the I in TULIP).

  2. I think it communicates all the relevant elements. Well summarised. If I had to do a similar “cheat sheet” though I would focus more on the original nature of the God-Man relationship. God has created an estate and put Man in place as governor of that estate. It was his loving gift to us. Man was completely free. The fall of man has thus created a void and modern Man is free no longer. The only choice that we have is to rebel against God and die. To me the purpose of all histroy after the fall is thus God wanting to restore our relationship to him. “Israel oh israel how long have I….”

    In my experience the gospel has a strong appeal if we focus on the type of life that God has always intended for us and if we manage to somehow communicate just a spark of His love for us.

    Your write up focuses more on the other side of the coin – the sin and damnation concept.

  3. This looks like fundamentally the same gospel that I encountered last weekend and reacted to here.

    I’m not posting this to be polemical, but I do feel that it is important for people to realise that what is generally accepted as the Christian Gospel in South Africa is a woefully inadequate understanding. Too many people reject the substitutionary atonement theory without knowing that it is a distortion of the Christian Tradition.

    • “a distortion of the Christian Tradition.”

      Justin Martyr (100-165) said, “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family, yet you did not commit the deed as in obedience to the will of God.” 1

      Eusebius of Caesarea (275-339), “And the Lamb of God not only did this, but was chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins; and so He became the cause of the forgiveness of our sins, because He received death for us, and transferred to Himself the scourging, the insults, and the dishonour, which were due to us, and drew down upon Himself the appointed curse, being made a curse for us.” 2

      And the list goes on to Augustine and beyond (would you like more?). Substitutionary atonement is taught in Scripture and by the church. It and Christianity are indivisible from one another.

      1. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 95, in Alexander Roberts (ed.), Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol 1 (New York: Scribner & Sons, 1892). As quoted in Pierced, 165.
      2. Eusebius of Caesarea, Demonstratio Evangelica, x. 1; The Proof of the Gospel (ed. and trans. W. J. Ferrar; 2 vols.; Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2001) 2.195–96.

      • Thank you for your reply, Mark. To be honest, had I read more of your blog before posting, and realised what a strong Calvinist you are, I would probably not have done so. I appreciate that questioning substitutionary atonement is probably as unthinkable for a Calvinist as denying the universal salvific will of God is for an Orthodox Christian. We clearly have very different ideas on what the Christian Gospel is.

        But, although I don’t intend to get into a debate on this, I would point out in response to your response above, that it is just as easy to proof text the Fathers as it is to proof text the Scriptures. After all, the Gnostics appealed to the same Scriptures as the Orthodox did, as Saint Irenaeus knew all too well. The phrases that you highlight are indeed found in the Church’s tradition, just as they are found in the liturgical texts that we still use. However, the interpretive and systematic spin that they are given in the development of substitutionary atonement theory is alien to the Tradition. It all comes back to hermeneutics and the interpretive lenses through which we read the texts. The sacrificial death of Christ is indeed a central theme in Christian Tradition, but when that is made into a system and isolated from other central themes, which are conveniently forgotten, then we are indeed faced with a distortion of Christian Tradition.

  4. Hi Macrina

    Please accept that brother Mark is a Christian first and a Calvinist somewhere thereafter, and worthy of our time

    You concede that atonement is a central theme.

    Well, one of a few, what are the others that should be noted?

    Jesus often says we should believe in and follow him, to serve our need for salvation. Dare I go so far as to say believing in him includes grasping fully what he died for.

    Blessings
    MH

    • MH,

      I don’t mean to imply that being a Calvinist makes Mark less worthy of respect as a person. It’s just that I don’t see it as my vocation to engage in online discussions with people whose commitments are pretty irreconcilable with my own. And given that Mark says that the substitutionary atonement and Christianity “are indivisible from one another,” I suspect that he probably agrees.

      I fully agree that believing in Christ includes grasping at least something of what He died for – although I would hesitate to say that we are able to grasp anything fully. Christ died in order to conquer death and restore life to those in the tombs, in order to renew the Image of God within us, to heal us from corruption and enable our ascent to God. He did not die in order to placate a vengeful God. If you are interested, I post some quotes here and hope to write something more on this in the next couple of days. But I don’t think that it’s really appropriate to consider this in what is after all Mark’s combox. I probably shouldn’t have posted my comment originally, but was just really frustrated at how many South Africans seem to identify the Christian Gospel with the substitutionary atonement… and so when I came across a post doing just that I reacted.

  5. Hi reformbama, I’ll email, been a while ey. Great to see your name again.

    Hi Macrina

    I was saying Bro Marko is worthy of our time, thus don’t retreat. Hey he is worthy of our respect as well, Not sure why you brought that up tho?

    I think any who have read this far down the list of comments would probably be interested in your “quotes” either way lemme know if you do put together a body of work on this subject. I’d be interested to scan it.

    Sincerely tho, methinks it would be simple enough to sift down whatever angle you choose to the same raw form: Adam/Eve Fall, We sin, Sin is Death, Jesus takes away Death, through Jesus we are drawn to Pa. Dearest Mark spread that out a little. Surely it can be said with the more colourful and tasty flavours of Mathew Mark Luke John and Paul. Sure throw in some Catholic Tradition and insense and the whole understanding thereof seems richer. It’ll still boil away to the same core: Our need to Be With God for eternity, achievable though Christ. Hey maybe you have more?

    You were frustrated with SA-n’s way of identifying the “Gospel” Show us a better or your definition then. I to get frustrated with the use of the word “Saved” which I think is misleading to new Christians. Oh the semantics!

    Be Blessed
    MH

    • Hi MH and Macrina,

      I’m listening in to your debate.

      MH, I love this sentence, “You were frustrated with SA-n’s way of identifying the “Gospel” Show us a better or your definition then.” Macrina, Is it fair to say that too often in SA people ‘do church’ but very seldom do they know or ascribe to the Gospel (which should be what put them in the pew in the first place); they’re ritualistic pew warmers rather than passionate proselytes. How would you articulate the Good News to the dead wood cluttering our isles?

      Macrina, your sentence, “It all comes back to hermeneutics and the interpretive lenses through which we read the texts.” is insightful.

  6. MH,
    If you are interested I’ve posted a (rather long) summary of a talk on different understandings of salvation by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), a respected Orthodox theologian, here.

    Mark,
    There’s actually a rather deceptively simple way of dealing with pew warmers: get rid of the pews!

    I know that that sounds rather tongue in cheek, but worshipping in a church without pews actually does make an enormous difference. But underlying that is of course a rather different approach not only to worship but to the Gospel – that it is not simply about intellectual assent, but about doing, not simply about the rational mind, but about the body, not simply about God doing something for us, but about our participation in that. And of course that ritual might just have something to teach us…

    (Just in case this prompts you to go and find the nearest Orthodox parish, I should warn you that the Greek parishes in this country all seem to have pews. Mores the pity!)

  7. Hi Macrina

    Interesting first name “Metropolitan” The whole effort tempts me to repeat 1Cor 1:23 but it holds some marrow, Plus I am thankful for your tasty angle.

    Am so thankful this good-fella also struggles with the firm tense of “Saved”. It concurs with my thinking here: https://markpenrith.wordpress.com/2009/09/18/the-gospel/

    Back to the Models, if we must, M3v2 has biblical roots and is seen as fulfilling OT. Prototypes. We must understand the model so as maintain a One-God truth and consider the transaction as on behalf of us. Add to that the Transaction was driven by Love and we’d appease a few other names on your note

    So if Metro is worthy then the above suites me fine making it a working Model and not so easily fobbed off by even clever folk “The Greeks”.

    It’s always very simple for all to understand ie I “fully” grasp that Christ’s death was the wage of my sin done thru His Love for me that I may be with the Father thru Him for eternity by “believing” in it’s simplicity.

    I must concur with you tho that the herbs and spices of your note were well worthy.

    Please practise patience with my selfish singlemindedness on this, realising that I have probably wrongly drawn strength from Metro’s affirmation that it has biblical roots and in line with OT. Constructs. Your lines on Traditions etc and high value thereof have left me with some to digest.

    Blessings
    MH

  8. Hi MH,

    Glad you seem to have liked the post. For the record, “Metropolitan” is an ecclesial title that refers (historically at least) to the leading bishop in a particular territory. As an Orthodox Christian I use ecclesial titles, but if you are uncomfortable with these, the appropriate name, which is generally used in academic circles is Kallistos (first name) Ware (surname). (I put his surname in brackets because that is what is generally done for monks, but shouldn’t have done it in this context as it only adds to the confusion! Sorry.)

    Also for the record, what he presents is not simply his own vision but represents the common faith of the Orthodox Church. Although I’m probably not the best person to comment definitively on this, it is also not that different from the understanding of the Catholic Church, especially regarding salvation as a process rather than a once-off event of intellectual assent.

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