In my last post we looked at the first part of the Great Commission, we saw what the Gospel is, and that what Christ did was all prophesied in the Old Testament. In this second part of the message we are to take to the world, I want to look at proof that the Gospel is true, how it is received, and what it means to believe in vain.
How do we know the Gospel is true?
The truth of the Gospel stand or falls on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are two great evidences found in Scripture that prove its truthfulness. The first is Old Testament prophecy. Men have difficulty predicting what will happen tomorrow. An honest study of Bible prophecy will show that God is able to predict things with absolute accuracy hundreds, and even thousands of years in advance. All of the three points of the Gospel were predicted long before they came to pass.
The second evidence is the testimony of those who saw the resurrected Christ. We cannot go and ask every one of those who saw Christ after His resurrection, but we do have the written testimonies of quite a number of them.
Paul lists some of those who saw Him in I Corinthians 15:5-8 “And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”
Paul challenged those who questioned the resurrection of Christ to ask those who had seen Him. There were somewhere around 500 that had seen the risen Christ at one time and most of them were still alive at the time Paul wrote I Corinthians.
Another proof is that the apostles were hiding for fear of being arrested themselves until they were convinced that He had risen from the dead. After this, they became flaming evangelists for Him. They stood strong before kings and magistrates, even though they were threatened with prison and death. How do you explain this change if the resurrection of Christ is a lie?
There is a proof that is before all honest people today. It is the changed lives of those who truly trust Christ as Lord and Saviour. You will not see this in all who profess to be saved, but it will be seen in those who truly trust Christ for salvation.
How is the Gospel received?
I am sure that all who read this will agree that the Gospel is received by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). What is faith? There are a lot of differing ideas as to what faith is. Some think it is merely believing something to be true. Others believe it is believing something without proof. Still others think that it is something that you keep in the back of your mind to call up in times of trouble to comfort their hearts and minds. None of these are true faith.
What does God say faith is? Hebrews 11:1 He says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
We see that there are two elements to faith. First there is substance, and secondly there is evidence.
The Greek word translated “substance” means a setting under for support. The English word means to stand (stance) under (sub). What we hope for in faith always has something to support it. It has something that causes us to believe what we believe. There is some proof that causes us to hope (the word translated hope here means to have confidence or trust). In the case of Christian faith it is our belief in the promises of God that cause us to trust Him, first for salvation, then for living.
The Greek word translated “evidence” means to give proof. The second part of faith is the evidence that we truly trust. If you study Hebrews Chapter 11 you will see that each of those listed in the “hall of faith” did something because they believed God.
The Gospel is received by looking at the evidence of the Scriptures and finding therein proof that God is, that we will all stand before Him as a righteous judge, that we are without hope in our selves, and that the only way of salvation is through Christ. Then based upon the truths of Scripture, we trust Christ alone to save us.
If our faith is real there will be some evidence in our lives. II Corinthians 5:17 says that we are a new creature in Christ and that things change in our lives. James says that a faith that doesn’t produce works is a dead faith and cannot save (James 2:18-26). Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us we are saved by grace, through faith, without works. Verse 10 tells us that the new creature we become is created in Christ Jesus unto good works. Works are not part of faith, they are the evidence that confirms that faith is real.
The faith by which we receive the Gospel is a faith that trusts God based upon the facts of Scripture. It is also a faith that is evidenced by our lives. This is what it means to work out our own salvation (Philippians 2:12).
What does it mean to believe in vain?
I Corinthians 15:2 says “…unless ye have believed in vain.” What does it mean to believe in vain?
It means that one can believe and still not be saved. Here are some ways one can believe in vain:
Believe in Jesus as an historical person without trusting Him alone for salvation
Believe in Jesus as one who will meat one’s needs without trusting Him as Lord
Believe in Jesus without repentance from dead works (Hebrews 6:1)
Believe in a false Jesus or a false gospel
We receive the Gospel by exercising biblical faith. When a person truly trusts Christ it will show. The new convert will not be perfect but there will be real, lasting change.
The parable of the sower in Matthew 13 shows what I am trying to get across. The first soil, the wayside, represents those to whom the things of God were not made understandable. This means the “teach all nations” part of the Commission was not completed.
In the second soil they received the word with joy, but when the trials come those who received it are offended and turn from it. This represents those who are told that Christ will make all of their troubles go away. When we say “Jesus is the answer” we are promoting this type of evangelism. While our Lord is the answer to all of our troubles, this type of evangelism teaches that salvation is about us and solving our problems. Salvation is really about God and bringing Him glory.
The third, soil where the weeds abound, represents those who hear and understand but are too busy dealing with the cares of the world to do anything about it. They often say something like “When I get older I’ll take the time to look more closely.”
The fourth soil is the good ground where the seed takes hold and produces fruit. To have this kind of soil the ground must be broken up, the rocks and weeds must be removed, and the soil must be properly prepared.
The rocky and weedy grounds are examples of believing in vain. In the first they believe the truth, but they think of it as something to make their lives better. They trust God to help them in times of trouble, but not for the saving of their souls. Those in the weedy ground believe the truth but not enough to act on what they believe.
To conclude this part of biblical evangelism on the message we are to take to the world let me say that it is more than “Jesus has a wonderful plan for your life.” It is more than “Jesus died for your sins and will save you if you only believe.” It is first a message of condemnation that brings conviction of sin and a repentant heart. Only then can the person understand the good news of the Gospel.
The Gospel in not good news until the bad news is understood. The Gospel is the good news that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again for our justification. I hope you can see why the bad news must be understood before this becomes good news. What difference does it make to an atheist that Christ died for our sins if he doesn’t believe that God’s judgment is coming? What difference does it make to a person who believes that God is all love and will eventually forgive everyone? What difference does it make to someone who doesn’t believe in an eternal hell?
To reach a lost world we need to do more than just sell a prayer. It is important that we get out the whole message.
Copyright 2017 Pierre Coovert, All rights reserved