So far we have considered faith in the widest and most general sense as related to all the statements and promises of God in the Bible. However, there is one part of the Bible’s message which is of the greatest importance because it decides the eternal destiny of every human soul. This part is called “the gospel,” and it reveals the way of salvation from sin and its consequences.
Very often people think of “the gospel” as something of a vague and emotional nature which is impossible to explain in a rational way. Even in the preaching of “the gospel” there is often so much emphasis on an emotional response that the impression is created that the whole of salvation consists of an emotional experience.
Yet this is incorrect and misleading. The actual gospel message, as stated in the Bible, consists of definite facts, and salvation consists of knowing, believing and acting on these facts.
The Four Basic Facts of the Gospel
What are these facts which constitute the gospel? For an answer to this question we may turn to two passages in the writings of Paul: Romans 4:24-25 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.
In Romans 4 Paul analyses the main features of the faith of Abraham and sets forth Abraham’s faith as an example to be followed by all Christian’s believers. He points out that according to the Old Testament Scriptures Abraham was not justified before God by his works, but that his faith was imputed to him for righteousness. Then in verses 23-25 Paul directly applies this example of Abraham to us as believers in Jesus, for he says:
Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offences, and was raised because of our justification.
The gospel, as here stated by Paul, contains three definite facts:
Jesus was delivered to the punishment of death for our offences;
God raised Jesus up again from the dead; 3) if we believe this record of the death and resurrection of Jesus on our behalf, we shall be justified or accepted as righteous before God.
In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 Paul reminds the professing Christian’s at Corinth of the gospel message which he had preached to them and through which they had been saved, and he again sets forth for them the basic facts of the message.
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
Again we see that the gospel consists of three definite facts:
1) Jesus died for our sins,
2) He was buried,
3) He rose again the third day.
Paul also emphasizes that the first and most authoritative of all testimonies to the truth of these facts is not the testimony of the men who were eyewitnesses of Jesus’s death and resurrection, but the testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures, which had prophetically foreshown these events hundreds of years before they actually took place. The testimony of contemporary eyewitnesses is only mentioned later as supporting that of the Old Testament Scriptures.
If we set side by side the teaching of these two passages from Paul’s epistles – Romans 4:24-25 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 – it is possible to determine the basic facts which constitute the gospel.
These facts all center exclusively in the Person of Jesus Himself – not in His earthly life and teaching, but in His death and resurrection.
Here are the four basic facts:
1) Jesus was delivered by God the Father to the punishment of death on account of our sins;
2) Jesus was buried;
3) God raised Him from the dead on the third day;
4) righteousness is received from God through believing these facts.
The Simple Act of Appropriation
Let me restate that there is a vital difference between faith in the mind, which is nothing more than the intellectual acceptance of the facts of the gospel, and faith in the heart, which always results in a positive response to the facts. The whole New Testament makes it plain that the experience of salvation comes to each soul only as a result of this personal response to the gospel.
Various different words are used in the New Testament to describe this personal response to the gospel. All the words thus used have one essential point in common: They all denote simple, familiar acts which anybody can understand and carry out.
For example, Paul explains that salvation comes through believing with the heart and confessing with the mouth the truth of the gospel (see Rom. 10:8-9). He concludes his explanation of the way of salvation by saying, “For ‘whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’ ” (Rom. 10:13).
Here the simple act which brings with it the experience of salvation is that of calling upon the name of the Lord; that is, asking God out loud for salvation in the name of the Lord Jesus Jesus.
In Matthew 11:28 Jesus uses the simple word come to describe the response which He requires to the gospel invitation, for He says:
Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Jesus adds to this invitation a very gracious and assuring promise.
The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out (John 6:37).
Thus the invitation is supported by the promise, and the promise creates the required faith in those who desire to accept the invitation.
In speaking to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, Jesus uses the simple act of drinking, which was appropriate to that particular situation, to express the necessary response to the gospel. He says:
But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:14).
Here the act of receiving salvation is compared to that of drinking water. In this instance the promise is given first – he will never thirst – then later in the New Testament the promise is supported by an invitation. Jesus says:
If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink (John 7:37).
And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely (Rev. 22:17).
In John 1:11-13 the word used by the apostle John to denote this active response to the gospel is receive. In these three verses John writes, concerning Jesus:
He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Here the key thought is that of personally receiving Jesus. The result of this response of faith is described by John as becoming a child of God, or “being born of God.” Jesus Himself refers to the same experience in John 3:3, where He calls it being born again. He makes it plain that without this definite, personal experience no person can ever hope to enter God’s kingdom, for He says:
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Once again this challenge to respond to the gospel by personally receiving Jesus is supported by a definite promise from Jesus Himself.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me (Rev. 3:20).
Here Jesus speaks directly to each individual soul who has heard the gospel and who desires to respond by opening the heart’s door and receiving Jesus within.
To each soul who will make this response, Jesus gives a clear, straightforward promise: “I will come in.”
We have seen that in each case where the gospel is presented, faith is required to make a simple, personal response. The word used to describe this response may vary, but the essential nature of the response is always the same. In the cases which we have considered, the following words are used to describe this response: to call; to come; to drink; to receive.
As we have pointed out, each of these denotes a simple, familiar act such as anybody can understand and carry out. There is one other vitally important feature which is common to all these acts: Each is an act that the person must do for himself; no one can perform any of these acts on behalf of another person.
Each person must call for himself; each person must come for himself; each person must drink for himself; each person must receive for himself. So it is with the response to the gospel. Each person must make his own response; no person can make the response required from another.
Each person will be either saved or lost solely by his own response.
It is the duty of every responsible Christian’s – whether minister or layman – to be thoroughly acquainted with these simple facts of the gospel and also with the various ways in which the New Testament presents the need for a personal response to the gospel from each soul.
Most members of within the churches had never once had the basic facts of the gospel presented to them and had never been faced with the need to make a personal response to those facts. They had exchanged paganism for a form of Christianity; they had memorized a catechism; they had been through a form of baptism; they had been accepted as church members; many of them had been educated in mission schools – yet of the essential facts of the gospel and the experience of salvation they had no knowledge nor understanding whatever.
The supreme purpose of every true Christian’s church, the chief duty of every Christian’s minister, the main responsibility of every Christian’s layman, is to present to all who may be reached, in the clearest and most forceful way, the basic facts of the gospel of Jesus and to urge all who hear to make the definite, personal response to these facts which God requires. To this, the supreme task, every other duty and activity of the church must be secondary and subsidiary.
Let me now state once again these basic facts of the gospel and the response which each person is required to make.
Jesus was delivered by God the Father to the punishment of death on account of our sins.
Jesus was buried.
God raised Him from the dead on the third day.
Righteousness is received from God through believing these facts.
In order to receive salvation, each individual soul must make a direct, personal response to Jesus. This response can be described in any of the following ways: calling upon the name of Jesus as Lord; coming to Jesus; receiving Jesus; drinking of the water of life which Jesus alone can give.
To every person who has read this far I would ask this question: Have you believed these facts? Have you made this definite, personal response?
If not, I urge you to do it now. Pray with me, Say these words:
Lord Jesus, I believe that You died for my sins; that You were buried; that You rose again the third day.
I now repent of my sins and come to You for mercy and forgiveness.
By faith in Your promise, I receive You personally as my Savior and confess You as my Lord.
Come into my heart, give me eternal life and make me a child of God.