What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

IMG_0735CROSS Project Meeting in Chikumbi – Fall Term 2013

As you think about that question, what thoughts or Bible verses come to mind? How would you answer it? Maybe some of the verses below come to mind?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”  (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 ESV)

Or maybe it’s a simple summary articulation of the gospel, like this one found at 9Marks.

“God is the creator of all things. He is perfectly holy, worthy of all worship, and will punish sin. All people, though created good, have become sinful by nature. From birth, all people are alienated from God, hostile to God, and subject to the wrath of God. Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man, lived a sinless life, died on the cross to bear God’s wrath in the place of all who would believe in him, and rose from the grave in order to give his people eternal life. God calls everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and trust in Christ in order to be saved.”

Or as John Piper summarizes it:

“What makes the gospel Gospel is that it brings a person into the everlasting and ever-increasing joy of Jesus Christ.”

When we come to Lesson 7 in the CROSS Project, “Encouraging Believers and the Stigmatized,” we ask this same question, “What is the gospel of Jesus Christ?” Because, the most real and profound way a person can be encouraged is in the hope of the gospel.  And we cannot encourage anyone in the gospel if we do not even know what the gospel is.

Over the past couple years that we have been ministering with the CROSS Project, the majority of the groups that we train struggle to answer this basic question of Christianity. Usually, there is a lot of silence. But most of the time when people answer, they say things like, “Obey the Ten Commandments,” “Do what God commands in the Bible,” “Go to church and be baptized,” “Don’t sin,” “Learn the Bible,” “Change your bad behavior,” “Get deliverance,” or “Pray to God more and fast more.”

As Pastor John Chitambo, one of our National Workers in the CROSS Project, said about this issue, “People believe that in the process of going to church and doing ‘Christian works’ they will become a Christian somewhere along the way.”

But this is not what the gospel is! While it is good to do the above, and many of those things are fruits that flow out of being a true Christian, the gospel is not about our works or earning salvation through works, but about Christ’s righteousness, atoning work on the cross, and resurrection. It’s about what He did for us!

This underscores that, while technically Zambia is “reached” for Christ, there is still an ongoing need for national Christians and foreign missionaries to be clearly sharing and articulating the gospel. And there is also a need for discipleship and Christian leadership training, especially among the poor and urban poor, as so many of the pastors and elders have very little Biblical and pastoral training. We covet your prayers toward this end!

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