Would everyone please take a piece of paper and write what you would tell someone how to be saved in about 5 minutes...
Years ago I went with a friend, a new Christian, to a youth rally. A young so-called evangelist spoke to several hundred teenagers, and his message consisted simply of listing many things God could do for them: give guidance in decisions, provide a perfect mate, help in overcoming temptations, etc. The he invited all who wanted these benefits to come forward and ask God for them - and that was it! No gospel at all, just the results of the gospel. My friend said later, "wasn’t it great to see so many go forward to be saved?" I replied, "Wasn’t it gruesome to see so many go home deceived." No gospel, no salvation, no matter how sincerely you respond. Turn to Romans 1:16.
The true gospel – a clear, biblical, Holy Spirit empowered, anointed message – is God’s tool to convert sinners from death to life. It embodies God’s power (dunamis) and, when presented clearly, that power is released to convict and save. What amazes me as I hear special speakers and pastors preach is how often the gospel they give is cloudy – or empty of the gospel entirely. That can be both dangerous and deadly!
Turn to Galatians 1: 6-9. In this passage there are three positions:
In verse 6 Paul’s position is called "the gospel of grace;" in verse 7 it is "the gospel of Christ." So his position is that of the grace of God. What is that exactly? There is only one passage where he succinctly defines the gospel – 1 Cor. 15.
Vs 1 & 2 designate the gospel – it is how they were saved. Vs. 3 & 5 define the gospel – Christ died, Christ was buried, Christ arose, and Christ was seen alive. See the phrase, "according to the scripture"? That leads us to conclude that the good news of God’s grace consists of two basic truths – Christ died, Christ arose. His burial was proof He died, and His appearances were proof He was raised back to life. Look at vs. 3 again – "Christ died for our sins." The Greek word translated for is not the common word pros, but UPER, meaning "in place of, on behalf of," showing that His death was a substitutionary death. So the gospel that holds the supernatural power of God to save is the substitutionary death of Christ for our sins, and the bodily resurrection of Christ.
This is the message Paul preached in Galatians – 1:4, 3:1. "Evidently set forth" means "to write in public", to make it such a living reality it was as if they were at Golgotha to see it happen, as if it was reenacted in the public square before their eyes.
However, the point of this epistle is justification by faith, and it is the "by faith" part that is emphasized. The Judaizers, on the other hand, were teaching that the gospel was something other than a gift of faith. Faith to the Apostle Paul wasn’t just a mental assent to a series of facts. The Greek work translated "believe in" is found over 150 times in the New Testament and means "to trust, depend on." You believe in the strength of a chair but, until you rely on it to hold your weight, you’re not trusting in it. You can believe Jesus lived and died, but until you trust your eternal destiny to His death and resurrection, you’re not believing in Him in the gospel sense. The poet wrote:
"Upon a life I did not live,
Upon a death I did not die,
Another’s life, another’s death,
I hang all my eternity."
There’s a second position here, that of the Judaizers. In Galatians 1:6 Paul writes of another gospel that is not another. That sounds contradictory, but there are two different words for "another" in Greek. 1:6 is heteros, meaning "another of a different kind." It is used in Mark 16:12 where Jesus is seen in a different body, His resurrected body. The second word is ALLOS, "another of the same kind," Galatians 1:7 Paul is surprised the Galatians’ have shifted to a different kind which is not a gospel at all. For example, if I put Macintosh and Delicious apples on a table you see they are both apples but they are apples of the same kind – juicy and delicious, but a wax apple on the table would be an apple of a different kind. The gospel of the Judaizers was not a gospel at all. They perverted the true gospel by adding something to it- the necessity to do certain works to be saved. In Galatians 4:10 it is the Messianic Law, and in Galatians 5:6 it is circumcision. In other words, "let Moses complete what Christ began. Add your works to the work of Christ, for His work alone isn’t enough."
Ever heard of Herbert W. Armstrong? Ever gone to a priest to tell him how you prayed to trust Christ’s death and resurrection? Paul is saying anyone who tampers with the clear, simple gospel will be accused and dammed to eternal torment. Man or angel, as in the angel Moroni, who appeared to Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, tampering or adding to the gospel is dangerous business.
In Galatians 1:6 "removed" in Greek is in the present tense and means the Galatians Christians were moving away from the gospel of the grace of God, moving in the direction of the Judaizers. Galatians 4:10 indicates they had begun observing feast day, so their gospel had become cloudy. For example, here on a table are three glasses, one glass full of pure milk, one with strychnine added to it, and another the milk is diluted with water, The diluted milk is not pure or poisoned, but neither is it the pure gospel which Paul preached.
Let me give you two examples of a sincerely presented but cloudy gospel. The first example is that some would tell you to be saved you have to "give your life to Christ". In the New Testament God does the giving and we do the receiving. In 2 Peter:1:3-4 it shows that when we trust Christ death and resurrection, God gives us His very nature. It is not what we give God but what He gives us. The second example is some say that, to be saved, you must "invite Jesus into your heart or life". They quote Revelation 3:20. This is not a salvation passage, but written to a church of believers. Jesus comes into your life as a result of being saved, not in order to be saved. Once saved you are sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14), but you don’t tell people to be sealed by the Holy Spirit to be saved, right?
I believe there are four essential truths that go into the gospel, including one, which seldom gets shared much.
Look at your summary. Is your gospel clear or confusing? Will you ask God to help you share the gospel over the holidays?
...now will everyone please look at what you had written on the piece of paper. Can you now "make the gospel clear" to any unbeliever
within five minutes?
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