Tag Archives: Gospel

The Gospel Messenger

Last time we looked at the Gospel, as summarized nicely in Greg Gilbert’s book What is the Gospel, but largely as expounded in Scripture.  We concluded that God, Man, Christ, Response was a helpful outline for discussing the Gospel message as defined by the Bible.  In this post, I want to look at the marks or characteristics of the Gospel messenger that Jesus provides in Matthew 10.  Before beginning, I’d like to point out a helpful book on this subject entitled Marks of the Messenger, which is one of the best books on the evangelist that I’ve read. 

If we are going to look at what Jesus had to say about the characteristics of His Gospel messengers, namely His apostles, we must first look at 3 assumptions for them, and likewise us.  The first assumption is that the Gospel messenger believes the Gospel.  This is beyond simply knowing facts about the Gospel, or Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, but extends much deeper to an actual acceptance of the Gospel facts and a reliance on the sufficiency of Christ’s righteousness and substitutionary atonement on behalf of the sinner.  It is literally placing one’s faith fully and totally in Jesus and relying on Him and Him alone for salvation from sin and the wrath of God. 

Two, the Gospel messenger must be a student of the Gospel.  What’s interesting, as we will see, in Matthew 10 Jesus makes the transition from referring to the twelve as disciples to apostles.  Disciple means learner or student, while apostle means a delegate or messenger sent forth.  If we followed this idea we would see that this chapter marks a transition from learning the Gospel at the side of Jesus to now going forward and proclaiming the Gospel.  Familiar to us is the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19 where Jesus instructs us to go forth and make disciples, or as we just defined, learners.  Of what?  Of Jesus and His Gospel, which is found in God’s Word.  Being a Christian is not a pass to stop learning, but instead should instill a desire and hunger to learn about God.

The third assumption we must make for the messenger of the Gospel is that they live in light of the Gospel.  Now, let me clarify here that I am not saying one is to “live the Gospel”.  The Gospel is a proclamation and is the good news.  It would be quite difficult to live that.  However, Christians are called to walk or live in light of what they believe, namely the Gospel.  This is the proverbial walk matching your talk.

With these three assumptions firmly grounded, let us look at the passage from Matthew 10.

1 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. 2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. 9 Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, nor two tunics nor sandals nor a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. 11And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

Now there is a lot going on here, but I think it would be most helpful to summarize or list the characteristics that Jesus defines here for the Apostles, and subsequently us, in their corresponding verse(s).

  • Proclaim the Gospel (vs. 7) “And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”
  • Compassion for people (vs. 8 ) “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.”
  • Pure Motives. Not Gospel Peddlers. (vs. 8-9) You received without paying; give without pay. 9 Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts
  • Trust God (vs. 10) [Take] “no bag for your journey, nor two tunics nor sandals nor a staff, for the laborer deserves his food.”
  • Proclaimers not Convincers (vs. 14) “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.”
  • Be Wise (vs. 16) “so be wise as serpents”
  • Be Pure (vs. 16) “innocent as doves”
  • Be vigilant  (vs. 17-18) “Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.”
  • Anxiety Free (vs. 19) “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.”
  • Persevere (vs. 22) “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
  • Gospel student (vs. 24-25) “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.  It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master”
  • Boldness (vs. 26) “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.”
  • Faithfulness to the Gospel (vs. 27) “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”
  • Fear the Lord, not man (vs. 28) “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
  • Realize value/identity in Christ (vs. 29-31) “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
  • Confess Christ (vs. 32-33) “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
  • Steadfast (in the face of opposition, even from family/friends)  (vs.  35-37) “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.  Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
  • Self-Denial (vs. 38-39) “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

So what’s a person to do with these qualities?  Memorize them?  Strive to attain them?  No, in actuality if we return our focus to the three assumptions that we defined at the beginning, Believe the Gospel, Study the Gospel, Live in light of the Gospel, then these characteristics will be ours.  Surely there will be stronger characteristics than others, and surely in all of this we must rely upon the strength of the Lord and pray to be fit messengers of His Word, but when we saturate ourselves in the Gospel all the characteristics we need to be faithful Gospel messengers will be pervasive in us.

The Gospel Message

Recently I had the privilege of teaching on the topic of “Evangelism and the Believer”, a subject addressed in chapter 11 of John MacArthur’s discipleship curriculum Fundamentals of the Faith.  Before beginning a discussion on the believer’s rights and responsibilities to share the Gospel, it’s critical to explicitly define the Gospel.  As J. Mack Stiles asserts in his book Marks of the Messenger, we can never assume the Gospel.

I remember being asked “What is the Gospel?” recently in an interview and my first reply was “Based on what definition?”  The reason I responded as such was because so often it seems we are confused with the term Gospel and I knew the question that was being asked was not really, “What is the Gospel?”, but instead “How would you share the ‘Plan of Salvation’ with an unbeliever?”  So where did this confusion over the Gospel come from?  Well, I have a hunch it’s rooted in “decisionism” or an attempt by man to seal a quick decision for Christ through a 5-miunute “Gospel” presentation.  It’s seems we’ve adopted this approach and made it into “Tract-theology” such that no one really needs to think biblically anymore about what the Gospel really is.  All we really need to know are 4-Spiritual Laws or how the bridge between God and man can be built.  Don’t get me wrong, tracts have their place, but they cannot be a substitute for the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the Bible, we see a progression of the Gospel, from the Old Testament proclamation of the promise for Good News to the 4 Gospels which proclaim that the Good News has come, to the Epistles which proclaim that the Good News is Jesus Christ.  But what is this Good News?  More specifically, if there is Good News, certainly there must also be bad news; otherwise the Gospel would just be ‘news’.  In other words, what makes it so good? 

This is where I think the helpful little book by Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel, is so beneficial.  Essentially, it summarizes the redemptive narrative found from Genesis to Revelation into 4 useful points, each of which the Bible speaks to exhaustively.  Below, I want to briefly take a look at each point, just loosely using Gilbert’s book as a guide. 

God

Any discussion on the Gospel must have its source in God.  This is true whether in a witnessing situation or just unpacking the realities of the Gospel from Scripture.  To this point Gilbert asks 2 questions” Who made you? and To Whom are you accountable?  The answer to each is God.  So who is God?  Genesis 1 says God is the Creator of the world (1:1) and man (1:26).  The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1:19-20 that God has revealed Himself, “namely His eternal power and divine nature” through His creation, such that man is without excuse for not knowing Him.  God is not only Creator, but Sustainer of His creation (Colossians 1:17, Hebrews 1:3).  He is not hands-off, as deists would like to think, but He is a very personal, interacting, God.  As such, this means His creation, namely man, is accountable to Him (Romans 9:21).

In addition to this “general revelation” of God through creation, God has also provided “special revelation” of Himself by way of Scripture.  1 John 1:5 tells us that “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” God’s character begins with His holiness, as all other attributes by way of this are likewise holy.  In Exodus 34:6-7 we read of God revealing additional attributes of His character to Moses, “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.’”  Summarizing the attributes God lists we see that He is:

  • Merciful
  • Gracious
  • Slow to anger
  • Abounding in steadfast love
  • Faithful
  • Forgiving
  • Just

But we’ve encountered a major problem here.  In verse 7 we see the following statement, “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.”  Which is it?  Forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin? Or not clearing the guilty, i.e. punishing the guilty?  It seems this is a paradoxical statement that contradicts itself.  Hang on to that thought; we’ll come back to it in a minute.

Man

Our next point, upon which Gilbert briefly summarizes the Gospel, is Man.  Here, we may ask What is the problem? Or perhaps more directly stated, What’s wrong with the world?  As we saw earlier, God created man in His image (Genesis 1:26) and called His creation good.  However, in Genesis 3, we read of the Fall of Man, the familiar story of the serpent, Satan, deceiving Eve to eat of fruit, which God had forbidden.  Eve, upon eating the fruit, subsequently shares it with her husband Adam.  In Genesis 3:15, we see a summary of man’s fall and a brief preview into our next point, “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.”  Because of Adam’s sin, all of his posterity likewise fell with him.  In Romans 5:12 we read, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”  What is the problem or what’s wrong with the world?  You are!  And me too.  All of us are what’s wrong with the world because all of us have sinned.  Think what’s wrong with the world isn’t sin?  Just watch the evening news and you’ll see man’s depraved sinful nature being  put on display.

The second question is Am I in trouble?  If you and I are what’s wrong with the world because of sin and as we learned earlier we are created by God and are accountable to Him, then the obvious answer to the question of ‘are we in trouble’ is a resounding yes!  Sin is a violation of God’s law in act, attitude, or thought and all men have violated God’s law.  His law is the righteous standard by which He judges us and hold’s us accountable.  Romans 3:23 says that all of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.  What is the trouble that we’re in?  Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death….”  The wages of sin, i.e. what you and I have earned as a result of our sin, is death.  Not merely a physical death, but a spiritual death.  Cursed and cast into hell under the wrath of God.  Are we in trouble?  You better believe we are and it has eternal consequences.

Christ

Here we ask, Did God provide a solution to the problem?  In other words, How can what is wrong with the world be made right?  We read of how God did this in that familiar passage from John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  In short, God provided the solution to the question, that only He could answer, in the person of His Son Jesus Christ.  Could the solution have simply been to destroy everyone and everything and start over?  Yes, but while this would have put the justice of God on display, it would not have put the full character of God on display.  What of His mercy?  His love?  His grace?  You may say, well what about the flood?  God destroyed everything except Noah, his family, and the animals on the ark.  Yes and while this certainly put His mercy on display  for them, justice was not fully satisfied because the sins of Noah and his family had not been punished, as well those sins “passed over” before and after (Romans 3:25).  The only way to make what is wrong with the world right, the only way that God could declare that He is a God that forgives “iniquity and transgression and sin” while “ by no means clear[ing] the guilty” was through the penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross.  The Apostle Paul wonderfully summarizes this in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.  3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”  

God’s standard of perfect obedience to His law could only be met in the person of Jesus.  Through His perfectly obedient and sinless life Jesus fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law.  While God’s justice could only be satisfied through the death of Christ on the cross in the place of guilty sinners.  This allowed God to be both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:26 Which brings us to our final point.

Response

What makes this good news for you?  As we’ve learned, the Gospel is good news.  It’s good news because it saves from the bad news which says every single one of us are guilty sinners deserving of death, hell, and the wrath of God.  This good news is that God sent His Son Jesus Christ to live among a sinful, rebellious people, to take the punishment of all who have faith in Him, and to reconcile the relationship between the sinner and God through the redemption that is in Christ’s shed blood.  What can you do right now to share in this good news?  Ask God for mercy.  God has commanded that everyone repent, or turn from their sin, and place their faith in Jesus Christ.  Unbeliever, your response is to obey that command, crying out in godly repentance for your sin and then trusting that Christ alone can save you because of who He is and what He has done.  Repent and believe the Gospel.

Believers, the good news of the Gospel didn’t end for you upon your salvation, even though you’re justification was complete.  The good news for you began there.  Because of the Gospel, God calls you to obedience also through worship, holiness, and a life given to your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  The Gospel isn’t a one shot deal, it’s a lifetime of understanding and a daily reflection on the facts that God made you and you are accountable to Him, that you are what’s wrong with the world, but in spite of that God sent His Son Jesus to live, die, and be raised again so that what is wrong could be made right for the one who repents and believes.  Keep repenting and believing the Gospel.

 

Sermon of the Week: 10/12/11 – The Essence of the Gospel

I’ve haven’t been able to post yet this week, but I’m working on a few new articles and have some others in the works.  Until then, this week’s sermon is from Dr. Joel Beeke, “The Essence of the Gospel”.  Dr. Beeke is professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary as well as pastor of Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation, Grand Rapids, MI

2002.03.03.E The Essence of the Gospel – Dr. Joel Beeke – 330221270