Just before returning to heaven, Jesus pointed a nail-scarred hand at a world for which He had just died and told His followers to “go.”
The message they were to take was the simple gospel. Gospel means “good news” and refers to sharing the fact that—because of His sacrifice on Calvary—all men can be saved and go to heaven.
The “go” command is for every generation. The early Christians took the gospel to their world (Romans 10:18; Colossians 1:23); we must take it to ours. This task now falls to me, among others. Through this commission, Jesus told us to tell you His message.
Will you give me that opportunity?
The gospel has three facts to believe (1 Corinthians 15:1–4)
Fact 1: Christ Died for Man’s Sin.
While the gospel is good news, it has at the heart a tragedy: the death of Christ on a cross. God used this horrible event to pay the price for man’s sin (Isaiah 53:11; Romans 3:26).
Jesus’ death unfolded in a series of events:
- Betrayal and arrest (Matthew 26:47–56).
- Jewish trials (26:57–75). During these proceedings, Jesus was taunted, spit on, slapped, and struck (26:67–68; John 18:22). Eventually, though innocent, He was convicted of blasphemy, which was punishable by death under Jewish law.
- Roman trials before Pilate and Herod. Again, He was condemned, this time for rebellion (Matthew 27:1–25; Luke 23:7–11).
- Scourging (Matthew 27:26; John 19:1). This was a merciless beating with a whip.
- Abuse by Roman soldiers (Matthew 27:27–31). They stripped Him, clothed Him in a purple robe, put a crown of thorns on His head, hit Him on the head with a reed, spit on Him, and smote Him with their hands.
- Parade to the execution site carrying the cross (John 19:17).
- Crucifixion (Matthew 27:35–56). His hands and feet were nailed to a cross, and He was suspended on it for six hours—from 9:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Mark 15:25–37).
Fact 2: Christ’s Burial.
Isaiah foretold that the Lord would be associated with the rich in death and His grave would be with the wicked (Isaiah 53:9).
Jesus was crucified between two thieves; then “a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph” asked Pilate for permission to bury Jesus’ body (Matthew 27:57–58). With the help of Nicodemus, Joseph “wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre” (Matthew 27:57–60, John 19:39).
Fact 3: Christ’s Resurrection.
The underlying proposition to the whole Bible is Acts 13:30: “God raised him from the dead.” If this is not true, then there is no gospel. We can throw the Bible away, for it contains no hope for humanity. But thanks be to God, it is true!
What evidence is there? Jesus promised it, and He never lied (Matthew 20:19; 27:63; 1 Peter 2:21–22). He kept the scars from His crucifixion to verify it, which no one else could imitate (Luke 24:39; John 20:27). The Bible, the world’s most trustworthy source, records it (Matthew 28:1–6, 2 Timothy 3:16–17). Angels attested to it, and they are greater than any man who says otherwise (Luke 24:1–6).
There is much more evidence, but let’s focus on one sufficient, indisputable fact: “He shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days” (Acts 1:3). At least 515 eyewitnesses saw Him on twelve different occasions over a period of forty days:
- Apostles (Acts 1).
- Mary Magdalene (John 20:16–18).
- A group of women (Luke 24:22–24).
- Two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–35).
- Disciples, without Thomas (John 20:19–20, 24).
- Disciples, with Thomas (John 20:26–28).
- Seven disciples at the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1–23).
- Eleven apostles (Matthew 28:16–17).
- More than five hundred persons at once (1 Corinthians 15:6).
- Simon Peter (Luke 24:34).
- James (1 Corinthians 15:7).
- Paul (Acts 9:3–6; 1 Corinthians 15:8).
- John on Patmos (Revelation 1:1–20).
The resurrection of Christ is a fact proved, like other facts, by credible witnesses. Tim LaHaye points out that if you hit a hole-in-one playing golf Saturday, how would you prove it to incredulous friends on Sunday? You would call over your golfing partner to confirm that he saw it (Jesus: Who Is He?). Paul appeals to witnesses to the resurrection, and then he shows that it was not possible that so many people were deceived (1 Corinthians 15:5–7). If five hundred reliable witnesses are insufficient to prove a fact, then no number would be enough. A thousand or ten thousand would not be any more convincing.
The Gospel has three commands to obey
The Bible speaks of obeying the gospel (Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8), which implies that the gospel contains commands (a fact or promise cannot be obeyed). What are the commands?
Unbelievers were told to believe.
The jailer, a Roman with no knowledge of Jesus, was told to believe in Christ (Acts 16:30–31). Then Paul taught him “the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house” (16:32), for faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17; cf. Acts 2:36–37). This resulted in repentance (he washed their stripes) and baptism (the same hour, 16:33). Then he rejoiced as a saved man (16:34; Mark 16:15–16; Hebrews 5:9).
Believers were told to repent.
Peter told those on Pentecost who were convinced that Jesus was God’s Son to repent of their sins, and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37–38).
Penitent believers were told to be baptized.
Upon confession, Philip baptized the first Ethiopian convert to Christ (Acts 8:37). Saul of Tarsus believed in and confessed Christ on the Damascus road (Acts 9:6; cf. Romans 10:9–10). He was sorry for his sins (penitent), as shown by his fasting and praying. Thus he was simply told to “arise, and be baptized, and wash away” his sins (Acts 22:16; cf. 1 Peter 3:21).
Since God is impartial (Acts 10:34–35), He requires the same things for all to be saved. If you obey the simple gospel, you, too, will be saved.
The Gospel has three promises to enjoy
The first promise of the gospel is salvation (Mark 16:16).
It is referred to as “the gospel of your salvation” (Ephesians 1:13). Paul wrote: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16).
Salvation is always from something—one is saved from a burning building or saved from drowning. Our greatest leaders have saved us from great enemies —George Washington at Valley Forge; Abraham Lincoln in the Civil War; Eisenhower on D-Day.
Jesus is a great Savior because He saves us from the greatest villain and rescues us from the greatest danger. Satan is out to deceive us (John 8:44), hinder us (1 Thessalonians 2:18), ensnare us (2 Timothy 2:26), oppress us (Acts 10:38), condemn us (1 Timothy 3:6), devour us (1 Peter 5:8), and destroy us in hell (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
Jesus proved that He is more than a match for the devil (Matthew 4:1–11). He defeats him in our lives by enlightening us (John 8:32), helping us (Hebrews 13:5), freeing us (Romans 8:2), uplifting us (Luke 1:52), justifying us (Romans 8:30), forgiving us (Colossians 2:13), and saving us in heaven (Titus 3:5).
The second promise of the gospel is peace (Romans 10:15; cf. Ephesians 6:15).
Peace is one of humanity’s greatest needs. H. G. Wells described a character “not so much a human being as a civil war” (The History of Mr. Polly). Many people are walking civil wars who enjoy no peace.
Men are without peace because they are without God, the source of peace. Isaiah recorded, “There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22). The wicked are not only those who do bad things, but also those who do not acknowledge and follow God (Isaiah 59:8).
Men are without peace because they seek it in the wrong places. Alcohol, drugs, sex, cannabis, and nicotine provide diversion (and destruction, Proverbs 13:15; 20:1), but not lasting peace. Work and recreation keep one occupied, but in quiet moments inner turmoil returns. Paul wrote, “To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).
Men are without peace because they believe it requires peaceful circumstances. The gospel promises peace in the midst of conflict (Matthew 5:1–12). Sometimes the gospel even puts us in conflict with others (2 Timothy 3:12).
Yet God’s peace can “rule” in our hearts regardless of external relationships (Colossians 3:15). Some of the earth’s most violent weather occurs on the seas, but the deeper one goes, the more tranquil the water. Oceanographers report that the deep ocean floor is absolutely still. This is what Christ offers. The world rages all around, but the inner man has peace passing understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Peace with God is only possible on the terms of unconditional surrender. We cannot give God Sundays but keep the rest of the week for ourselves. We cannot give up most sins but keep one pet habit. We must deny ourselves to follow Him (Luke 9:23). James said, simply, “Submit yourselves therefore to God” (James 4:7).
The third promise of the gospel is hope (Colossians 1:23).
Paul said, “Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three”
(1 Corinthians 13:13).
- Faith looks back to the cross and finds Christ, a Savior.
- Love looks up and finds Christ, a Mediator and Friend.
- Hope looks forward and anticipates Christ returning, a triumphant King.
Of these three great virtues, hope may be the most distinctively Christian (Titus 1:2; cf. Ephesians 2:12).
One may ask, “If I become a Christian, what’s in it for me?” The gospel will rescue you from the consequences of your past sin, give you present peace of mind, and fill you with hope for the future.