The Gospel: "The Power of God unto Salvation"
Study Outline by Richard M. Bennett
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith." (Rom. 1:16-17)
My own difficulties in listening to evangelists in my fourteen years of searching as a Catholic priest were 1) Christian radio programs and 2) Christian tracts.
fter an agonizing search in face of being told what I must do to be saved, I discovered Biblically that
A. The first thing that must be understood about the Gospel is that it is "concerning Jesus Christ our Lord", in the words of Paul in Romans 1:3. While the Gospel is proclaimed to all, it is not about us, or about anything that happens in us. It solely concerns what Jesus Christ did and His death.
B. The Gospel is an historic fact. The Bible proclaims the fact that God has in concrete historical fact saved all His people from destruction. Biblical faith is not concerned with recommending techniques, whether mystical or ethical, whereby salvation may be obtained; rather that is the burden of all false religion. The Gospel "by which ye are saved" (I Cor. 15:1-4) is a finished and complete work of Christ Jesus. All the Bible passages that tell how a person is made right before the Holy God make clear that it is always based on Christ’s finished work alone, as in Romans 1:1-3, 1:16-17, 3:21-31, 5:6-10, Acts 13:32-33. Rather than outlining some process in which any of us are to be involved, the Bible declares that God’s deed of redemption is already done. It is objective and true.
C. What the Gospel is not: it is not a process! The type of witnessing that states, "If you will do this and that or take these steps, then God will save you," is a false gospel, a return to man made religion, implying that God can be manipulated. The Gospel does not do this. It declares historical facts: God has acted already in Christ the reconciliation that is the Gospel. Rather than offering possibility thinking, what every person is commanded to believe on is objective and complete fact. God has redeemed all of His own (Is. 44:22, Rom. 5:18, II Cor 5:14-21).
II. The God before Whom We are Saved
In witnessing to the lost we proclaim "the knowledge of the Holy" "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding." (Prov. 9:10) Knowledge of the Holy is defined by the Bible as knowledge of Who God is in Himself as the All Holy One. Unless a person understands something of God’s attributes and that He is All Holy, there is no reason to desire the perfect righteousness of Christ in salvation. Thus, Scripture asks the question "
Exod 15:11 "Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?"
I John 1:5 "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all."
James 1:17 "The Father of lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning..."
Exodus 3:14 "And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you."
Psalm 145:17 "The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works."
Revelation 4:8 "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come."
Revelation 15:4 "Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? for Thou only art holy."
Psalm 5:5 "...Thou hatest all workers of iniquity."
Psalm 7:11 "...God is angry with the with the wicked every day."
Leviticus 10:3 "...I will be sanctified in them that come nigh Me, and before all the people I will be glorified..."
I Peter 1:16 "Be ye holy, for I am holy."
III. Biblical understanding of what it is to be saved
A. Being saved is not simply having one’s sins forgiven, for every one will sin again after salvation, though he will not continue in sin. Being saved is expressed by John as having eternal life and by Paul as having God’s righteousness in Christ, and thus being sons and daughters of God.
1. I John 5:13 "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the son of God."
2. Philippians 3:8-9 "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."
3. Isaiah 61:10 "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels."
4. Romans 4:5 "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."
5. Romans 3:21-22 "But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference..."
6. Psalm 71:15-16 "My mouth shall show forth Thy righteousness and Thy salvation all the day; for I know not the numbers thereof. I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of Thy righteousness, even of Thine only."
7. 2 Peter 1:1 "Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,"
8. Jeremiah 23:6 "In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.
9. Romans 8:15-16 "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God."
B. Before the All Holy God we proclaim what Paul says is "revealed" and "manifested": a person’s right standing before Him is solely Christ’s righteousness imputed to the believer. "The righteousness of God which is by [the] faith[fulness] of Christ unto all and upon all them that believe." Justification is God’s righteous judgment of the believer in Christ, declaring him guiltless in regard to sin, and declaring him righteous in regard to his moral standing.
IV. Two main points of receiving the Gospel and the tension between them
A. Biblically, receiving the Gospel has two main points.
1. Believe on the Lord Jesus!
John 8:24 "if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins."
John 12:36 "believe in the light, that ye may be children of light."
John 20:31 "these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through His name."
Acts 15:7 "hear the word of the Gospel and live."
Acts 19:4 "that they should believe on Him...Jesus Christ."
1 John 5:13 "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God."
2. Faith to believe is a free gift of God, without His grace no person can believe.
Ephesians 2:7-9 "That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness toward us, through Jesus Christ. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast."
Romans 11:6 "And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace."
Ephesians 2:5 "...by grace ye are saved."
Titus 2:11 "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men."
Titus 3:7 "That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life..."
1 Timothy 1:14 "and the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus."
Ephesians 3:7 "In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace;"
Romans 3:24 "Being justified freely, by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."
B. The Biblical tension between these two points must be evident in our witnessing. This tension is expressed in these texts:
John 6:29 "Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent."
Philippians 2:12-13 "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure."
John 1:12-13 "But as many as received Him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
John 4:10 "Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water."
V. The Biblical Gospel presents the spiritually dead condition of man
A. The human heart and mind is not capable of free choice. It is spiritually dead.
Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it.?"
Mark 7:20-23 "And He said, ‘That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man."
Romans 3:10-11 "As it is written, ‘There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God."
Romans 5:10 "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son..."
Romans 8:7 "...the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."
B. Rather than wounded, the human heart and mind is dead in its sins and trespasses.
Ephesians 2:1 "And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;"
Colossians 2:13 "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses;"
John 3:19-20 "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds be reproved."
C. The dead must first hear the voice of the Son of God. The use of the actual words of the Scripture is of utmost importance. Scripture cleanses one’s mind of faulty understanding, so that his thinking and praying becomes more Biblically aligned: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation: ‘but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." John 5:24-25
D. It is unscriptural to think that salvation begins by Christ first coming into the sinful heart of a man. The dead and ungodly person must be made acceptable to God IN CHRIST as Ephesians 1:3-14 shows. Then, and only then, does Christ come to sanctify the one already saved. The verses below are often wrongly used to evangelize. Rather these words are addressed to believers: "And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write: ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne.’" Rev. 3:14, 20-21
VI. Presenting the Gospel the way the Bible does
A. Biblically believing on Christ, trusting on Him, or coming to Him has an essential negative side that is often not mentioned in present day tracts and witnessing. However, in the Bible, it is often first and is always a big part of the message. It is always part of trusting on Him because Christ came not to save a person in his sins but from his sins. The Lord Jesus’ message is, "Repent ye, and believe the Gospel." (Mark 1:15)
1. He came to "call sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32) and He insisted that "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.: (Luke 13:3-5).
2. The risen Lord teaches in His word "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations." (Luke 24:47)
a. Peter proclaims, "Repent ye therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out!" (Acts 3:19)
b. Everywhere Paul went he preached, "repent and turn to God and do works meet for repentance" (Acts 26:20), "testifying to both Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 20:21)
c. Repentance is so essential to saving faith that if repentance is neglected, a person does not have saving faith. conviction of sin is the first work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the lost (John 16:8). Without conviction of sin, a person does not have salvation. "And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) "[God] now commandeth all men everywhere to repent." (Acts 17:30).
VII. Correct Biblical questions (asking questions was the Lord’s way of witnessing)
1. "How can we sinners stand before the All Holy God?"
2. "Before God, what is your purpose in life?"
3. "What is the central message of the Bible?"
4. "How can you and I have eternal life?"
5. "God is all Holy. We are all sinners. How, then, can anyone have a relationship with Him?"
6. "How does the Bible say a person is saved?"
7. "Why did the sinless Christ die on the cross?"
VIII. Putting all of this together: Biblical format
A. Scripture proclaims Who God is and Who Christ is (God Our Righteousness). It also proclaims who we are as dead in trespasses and sins. This is the basic understanding from which we witness.
1. While it is true that peace comes in this life and in heaven hereafter, asking a person how he is to get to heaven is to start in the wrong place. such a question concentrates on the benefits first. The Scriptural format is to address the problem here and now with which each of us is faced, namely, the All Holy God. How can any of us live before Him?
2. Our witnessing therefore is to announce:
a. the Holiness of God
b. the believer’s righteousness in Christ
c. every unsaved person’s condition is that of being spiritually dead
d. God’s grace to which we call, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13)
B. A profession of faith is between God and the individual. See Romans 10:8-10 where for the two conditions of v. 9 to be met God’s grace must be manifestly moving the individual. To use it as an evangelistic tool is to give false assurance.
IX. Non-Biblical Terminology, Men’s words
The following words and phrases which are often used in modern Evangelical circles are Biblically wrong. These expressions can lead an unsaved person to think that some specific behavior on his part is necessary for him to be saved. When these phrases are used, even saved people may mistakenly teach error when witnessing to lost people.
A. "Give your life to Jesus (to be saved.)" This teaching is error for these reasons:
1. Eternal life is a free gift. (Eph 2:8-9; Rom. 5:15-18, 6:23) A person does not "give" anything for a free gift. This free gift is given to a person by God when He places that person in Christ Jesus. With the gift of salvation also comes the gift of faith to believe that this is what God has done. (See also John 5:24-25.)
2. Sin is what separates a man from God (Romans 3:23). Such phrases as "give your life to Jesus" wrongly presumes that a person has something worthy of God to give. Spiritually dead people cannot give anything that will save them from their sins. Because man is dead in sin, Christ Jesus gave His life for the sins of His people (Galatians 1:4). There is no Bible verse that says or teaches that a lost, spiritually dead person "gives" anything, not even his life, in order to be saved.
3. When a lost person is taught to "give his life to Jesus" to be saved, he may think that he has to give his service, time, works, money, etc., to be saved. This may lead the lost person into a works gospel, which can never save. Getting saved is not a "trade-in" by which a person gives something to Jesus to be saved. A person is saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone--and nothing else. See Eph. 2:8-9. Repentance is also God given and not a human "trade-in" item, "Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." (Acts 5:31)
B. "Accept Jesus into your heart." This humanistic concept is not Biblical.
1. The Biblical concept of justification is that by it the believer is made accepted in Christ. The whole theme of all of Ephesians Chapter 1 is summarized in verse 6, "To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved."
2. The terminology, "accept Jesus into your heart" is backwards. It assumes wrongly that the person himself makes the choice to accept Jesus into his human heart and that he initiates the action which will save him.
3. When the believer does abide in Him by faith and in love keeps His commandments, He does dwell in that person’s cleansed human heart. "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me." (John. 15:4) The whole process of sanctification ("Christ in you, the hope of glory" Col. 1:27) depends first on a person being positionally in Him, clothed with His righteousness.
C. "Give Jesus control of your life to be saved." This teaching is in error because
1. The Sovereign God of the universe controls His creation. He is the One "Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will." (Eph. 1:11)
2. Nothing any person might think of to give God in exchange for salvation is acceptable before God. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us..." (Titus 3:5) Jesus Christ Himself was the only sacrifice for sin acceptable to the Holy God, and that sin offering was accomplished completely at the cross. The sacrifice for sin is finished.
1. A person is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by a promise of controlled behavior". Controlled behavior is a process, following on salvation rather than the initiating cause of salvation.
A. We ask questions, as did the Lord Himself. Using the actual words of the Bible, we present:
1. the Holiness of God
2. His Holiness and Goodness in declaring the righteousness of Christ to be the covering of each person He saves
3. Christ saving work is factual and complete
4. All are commanded to believe on Christ
5. To do this, one must repent of all his or her own efforts and cry out to Him for His free gift of grace.
B. The central point of God saving the ungodly is that He does so by imputing the righteousness of Christ to the one who believes. this is the theme of Romans Chapter Four and is summarized wonderfully in verse five, "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." The reason why God imputes Christ’s righteousness to the believer is to show who He is. "To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." (Romans 3:26) Unless modern Evangelicals return to this clear Biblical understanding in their witnessing, it will become easier and easier for them to promote an inner process or technique like unto Rome’s.
C. Coming to Christ is initiated by the Father Who draws each individual (John 6:44) and has given each one to Christ (John 6:37). Salvation is accomplished by God’s grace alone. It is His free gift through faith alone. (Ephesians 2:8-9).
D. Coming to Christ is having eternal life now, which life will be fully glorified in heaven. In witnessing, to talk about "getting to heaven" not only changes the focus from who God is to man’s fulfillment, but it also fails to make clear that through the precious faith that is ours now as believers, we already have eternal life. so rather than talking about getting to heaven, we are bold to proclaim to the lost, "And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent." (John 17:3) And what is written we likewise proclaim, whether in the supermarket or on the telephone, "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God."
E. Two extremely great offenses to God and His gospel are 1) the attempt to negate His power by so-called free decisions of the unsaved, and 2) the unbiblical idea that justification, which is an act of God, is located in the believer’s heart rather than in Christ alone and in the heavenlies.
6. When full credit is given to God and His grace, when His word, which is powerful, is used, He saves, and we are humbled. All is as stated in Ephesians 1:6, "To the praise of the glory of His grace."
Richard Bennett spent twenty-one years as a Roman Catholic priest in Trinidad, West Indies. In 1986, he was saved by God’s grace alone and formally left the Roman Catholic Church and its priesthood. He is married and settled in Portland, Oregon. Since 1990, he has been director of the evangelistic outreach, Berean Beacon.. The ministry’s internet web page is: http://www.integrityonline.com/cl/berean the radio broadcast: http://www.cnnw.net/~findlife/bbradio.htm