Thursday, January 26, 2012

What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Are many Ministries preaching a truncated gospel?

To many Fundamentalist Churches, Evangelical Churches and many Campus Ministries, this is how they lay out the Gospel.

1) acknowledge that we are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness.
2.)recognize that only God can save us.
3.) acknowledge Jesus Christ died on the Cross for our sins and to bring us to God.
4.) the final step is that each individual accepts Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior to be saved.”

But is this the entire Gospel or is there a little more to it?
Saint Mark begins his account of our Lord's life: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ". (Mk 1:1). "Gospel" means literally "good news." The first four books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark , Luke, and John) are called gospels because they announce the "good news of great joy" (Lk 2:10)- the coming of a Savior. God himself in the flesh.

But what exactly is the substance of this "good news" that must be preached?

St. Peter's first sermon, which is preached on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:22-40), summarizes Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. Then he instructs his hearers: Repent, and be baptized… for the forgiveness of your sins" (2:38).

In this address the notion of "faith alone" does not appear at all.  Instead the gospel preached is the proclamation of who Jesus is and what he has done. Salvation (including God's forgiveness of sins) comes to  hearers through their response of repentance, baptism, and a subsequent life of obedience to God. When Saint Paul preaches the gospel, he makes the same kind of proclamation and calls for the same kind of response (see Acts 13:16-41; 1 Cor 15:1-11).

According to Scripture, then, the gospel is: a proclamation of the life, death and resurrection,and ascension of Jesus Christ which calls for our response of repentance, baptism and a life of obedience to God.

What is the Biblical View of Salvation? Because God is just and loves justice, if we hope "to see his face"-- that is to live with him in friendship- then we ourselves must become "upright," as he is. The First Letter of Peter puts it this way: "Be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, 'Be holy because I am holy' " (1:15-16).

How do we become Holy? We cannot save ourselves, and we cannot earn heaven on our own. Rather, we are saved by grace--God's merciful aid, given to enable us to become holy as he is holy. It's an absolutely unmerited, free gift of God, made possible through our redeemer, Jesus Christ and his atoning death on the cross for us. 

By Grace Alone absolutely  but NOT by Faith Alone.
Certainly, our faith in Christ's power to transform us is essential to our salvation by God's grace. But a mere intellectual assent to the truths of the gospel is not enough. Scripture insists that faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (see James 2:14-26) The only place in scripture where the words "faith alone" appear together is in James 2:17 where  scripture emphatically states one is not saved by faith alone.

When we are justified (literally, "made just") by God, he doesn't just declare us righteous as a kind of legal fiction so that we can escape eternal punishment. Divine justification actually wipes out sin and provides supernatural, renewing infusion of his power. By cooperating with grace, we become holy, fit to live with him forever. 

In this way good works, and the transformation of character they contribute to and reflect, are indeed necessary for salvation. (see also Mt 7:16-23; Mt 16:27; 25:31-46). "To the obedient," he promises, "I will show the salvation of God" (Ps 50:23).