Monday, July 16, 2012

The Core of the Gospel:Christ, the Scriptures & Faith

1 Corinthians 15:1-5 1Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

What constitutes the core of the Gospel?
In the above text we see presented the fundamental truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Three areas are presented that provide starting points for knowing the God of the Bible: Salvation by grace through Faith Alone; Jesus Christ and The Scriptures. 

1. Salvation is received by Grace through Faith Alone. 15:1-2
The Gospel is received only one way - by faith alone. (John 1:12)  It is God's grace which delivers the divine gifting of faith, whereby the sinner is positioned to make a decision of trust in Jesus Christ.  All belief systems claiming to provide salvation must affirm not only the necessity of faith, but the sufficiency of it.  Faith by itself is enough to receive the gift of eternal life.  Faith alone is the exclusive means ordained by God whereby a sinner is reconciled and credited by God with Christ's righteousness. Once declared righteous, God also declares me to be a son by adoption, and reconciled unto Himself. (Romans 8:14-16) From the starting point of saving faith, I walk in progressive obedience and desire for God, or what we call sanctification. (Romans 6:12-13)  We are saved by grace through faith alone, and true conversion results in a working faith that is never alone. (James 2:14-26)

2. Salvation is in Christ alone. 15:3-5
The Gospel centers around one Person as both the source and object of saving faith - Jesus Christ.  Christ's death, burial, resurrection and appearances are the focus of this text.  More could be brought in from other scriptures: namely His human life before His crucifixion, His Eternal Deity prior to His taking on humanity, and then His ascension into Heaven.  Christ is returning again in a literally, bodily return, a truth spoken of in over 200 places in scripture. 

Jesus Christ is not only fully man is but also fully God.  Along with the the belief of there being One God, Christians assert the full Deity of Jesus Christ.  He perfectly and visibly reveals the Father, with whom He shares the same, undivided nature.  Furthermore, along with God the Son, Christians assert the full Deity and Personality of the Holy Spirit.  He functions as the third Person of the Trinity who enjoys equal fellowship in sharing the One, undivided nature with the Father and the Son. (Matthew 28:18-20; John 14:9-23; Acts 5:4-5; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 2:18; Revelation 4)  Jesus Christ is our gateway to the Divine Reality of the Trinity. (Ephesians 2:18)

3. Salvation is understood from the scripture alone. 15:3-5
This description of the Gospel is saturated with references to the Bible.  We see the Bible referenced as "the Gospel that was preached", "the word" and twice we see the Bible called "the scriptures".  Salvation cannot take place without the presence, preaching or explanation of the scriptures to the hearer. (Romans 10:8-16)  In fact faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. (Romans 10:17)  The Word of God, centering on Christ, and commanding men to repent, believe and then walk out their faith in subsequent obedience to the Lord who first called them, is the Christian's lamp and light. (Psalm 119:105)

Only when we are right on all three can we say we are being faithful to the Gospel
In order to get the Gospel right, you have to be certain about the roles of faith, Christ and the scriptures.  Any deviation, addition or deletion from any one of these areas will fail the test of what doctrinally defines the core of the Gospel.

When a person is brought to saving faith, they may not fully comprehend these truths in all their detail - yet there will be a fundamental understanding as provided by the Holy Spirit.  True saving faith acknowledges that God is addressing them through the Bible, that Christ alone can save and that by faith alone can they receive the  gift of salvation. 

Once converted, the Christian builds the remainder of their Christian life from those three starting points, which comprise the core of the Christian faith.  The circumference of the Christian life, though ever growing and expanding in understanding and obedience, operates from this core.  May you and I today make it our business to know these three areas as much as we can: namely the roles of saving faith, Christ and the scriptures.