What you believe the Gospel to be is potentially the most important aspect of your relationship with God. You win or lose in life by the Gospel you choose.
In Christian society, the Gospel can mean anything from a type of music to the Bible in general to promises of Heaven or threats of Hell. So what is the Gospel? The first century church believed the Gospel to such an extent that they were willing to give up their possessions, yes, even at times their own lives for what they believed about the Gospel.
A few years back I was in the deep South of the United States in an area known as the Bible Belt. Religion and church life were built into the culture and could be seen on nearly every corner. You would think, given such a rich heritage which made “Jesus” and “Gospel” into household words around those places, that understanding the Gospel would be second nature. However, oftentimes the opposite is true. It was 4 AM and I had a 5 AM flight home from a conference where I had been speaking. The taxi driver picked me up at my hotel. She was a single mom working the night shift trying to make enough money to put food on the table. I could tell that life had not been easy for this woman, who was likely in her mid to late 30s. As we made the 20-minute trip to the airport we made small talk, and then I asked her straight out, “have you ever heard the Gospel?” She told me that, as a child, her grandmother used to tell her how she was a sinner and God was angry at her and how He was going to send her to Hell.
In her mind, that was the Gospel. It is a sad fact that the world, as well as many Christians, considers the Gospel to be little more than an ultimatum to “turn or burn,” or perhaps slightly better, “get saved so you can go to Heaven someday”. This woman had lived her whole life in the Bible Belt of America and had never heard the true Gospel. I told her that I would reveal it to her in 60 seconds as we were getting near the airport. I told her of a creator God who loved her and I explained the reality of sin and its consequences. I then proceeded to unravel the heart of the message which is Jesus Christ crucified for us and risen from the dead. As we drew near to the airport I asked her if she wanted to surrender her life to this God who loved her unconditionally as she was, not as she thought she should work to become. With tears in her eyes, I then had the opportunity to lead this precious woman to Jesus.
Recently, I went back to the book of Acts to take a fresh glance into the message that the early church preached. As I combed through the content of their messages, I was stirred again by the fact that the message that they preached was so radically different than what most Christians today preach as the Gospel. Among other things, I discovered that the topics of Heaven and Hell were literally nonexistent in their messages. Why is it that Hell and Heaven are such hot topics for evangelists?
Why is it that many feel that if they don’t mention them, they have not preached the Gospel? Please don’t get me wrong, I do believe in a literal Heaven and Hell, where those who reject or receive the Gospel will one day go, depending upon their decision. I’m not saying that you should not talk about them, as I have preached about both. However, as I studied the book of Acts I learned that, though very different, each sermon centers around the GOOD NEWS ABOUT JESUS!
Jesus took your hell so you don’t have to ever fear going there. He became your sin so God need never punish for it!! Good News!!
The apostles and evangelists from the book of Acts, from a crusty fisherman named Peter, to a janitor turned evangelist name Philip, down to a religious terrorist named Paul, all had one thing in common: they had each met the risen Savior and they wanted to tell everyone they met about Him.
First and foremost, the message of the Gospel is Good News. It comes from the Greek word ‘evangelion,’which was specifically used to announce news that was nearly too good to be true. It was reserved for the rare occasion when a new king came to the throne, or when a great military battle had been won. In the mind of the New Testament evangelists, they were announcing the reign of King Jesus and that the tyranny of sin and death had ended.
It’s no surprise then that with such an announcement, powerful signs and wonders seemed to always follow the early believers. Of course, they would! The Kingdom of God had arrived. The rule and reign of the Savior was breaking into and upon a world dominated by sin and death. Jesus the victor was destroying the works of the devil. The New Testament preachers has a simple message: Christ died, Christ rose, Christ reigns. They did not preach Jesus as a historical figure but as a living Savior and coming King. This was at the heart of the message preached by the early church.