Unbelievers: This is the gospel, which means “good news.” It is the message of Jesus Christ and all his apostles. According to the scriptures, faith in this gospel saves the soul. Without belief in this gospel one cannot be “saved” (in the biblical sense), nor can one call themself a Christian. If you desire to maximize your pleasure and experience what God created you for–the everlasting quench of the thirst of your soul–here is where it all starts. For the sake of your own soul, I hope you will put your faith in the gospel!
Believers: Your comments are also welcome. This presentation may be in need of refinement (I would be eager to receive constructive criticism). Just remember that this is a gospel tract–not an abbreviated systematic theology (I don’t explain everything or mention everything, but only that which I deem necessary to understanding the basic message of the gospel).
I. The Doctrine of God – God Created the World and is distinct from it, and He is King Over the World, and Does as He wishes, He is Sovereign (Genesis 1:1, Psalm 47:7-8, 82:8, 115:3, 134:6, Proverbs 16:4-5, 9, 33, 19:21, 20:24, 21:1, Isaiah 52:7, Daniel 4:34-35, 5:21, Acts 17:25, Romans 13:1).
II. The Doctrine of Sin – Sin is rebellion against God, Adam was the first one to do this. When Adam sinned, he plunged himself and all mankind into a state of condemnation; and we, being his offspring, are like him and have been born with a sinful nature, doing that which God forbids because we do not Love God enough to obey Him, and we enjoy sinning against God more than obeying Him. Adam’s sin we call “The Fall,” which is the reason for the current fallen state of humanity (Genesis 2 & 3, Romans 3:9-19, 5:12-21 cf. Romans Ch’s 1:18 – 3:20, See also John 3:19-20, Acts 17:26, I Corinthians 15:21-22).
III. The Doctrine of Man: Man’s Condition – The consequences of sin are death and suffering: the curse. This suffering takes many forms. The source of our suffering from which all sorrow flows is our relation to God after the fall of Adam. Rather than being children of God and having a loving relationship with Him (for which we were created and designed), we all have become Children of His Wrath and have therefore been cut off from any loving relationship to Him (Ephesians 2:1-3,11-12). In short, we are under condemnation, and we remain in this cursed state whether we realize it or not (John 3:36). If this condition does not change in an individual before death, he enters into a state of everlasting punishment at the just hands of an angry God (Heb 9:27, Revelation 20:11-15, John 5:28, 8:24).
IV. The Doctrine of Christ: God’s Intervention
A. God Remains A Just Judge
1) Punishment as Necessary For the Preservation of Justice – It would have been unrighteous and unjust for God to let rebels off the hook without any punishment for sin. God’s wrath for sin had to be satisfied, because God is Holy, Holy, Holy , unlike any judges of our day, he is perfectly righteous and therefore executes nothing less than perfect punishment for sin (Is 6:3). God, being just and sovereign over His Creation, could have reigned down wrath and consumed the earth altogether. That is, He could have solved the problem of sin by destroying all of creation and sending all of mankind to endure His wrath forever.
2) The Alternate Way of Satisfying Justice: Substitutionary Atonement – Rather than this, He has chosen to save the human race from utter destruction by sending someone else to bare the guilt and punishment for the sins of the earth (John 3:16). The necessary preservation of justice is the reason why Jesus had to become a substitute for the human race. It was necessary for God, being just and rightly angered by Sin, to punish all sins (Romans 3:21-26). The punishment was unavoidable, so God came to us in the form of man, which we know as Jesus Christ the Son of God, lived a perfect life in obedience to the Law of God, then took the punishment due for sins. In doing this, Jesus became our substitute in two ways: 1) he bore our sin (II Corinthians 5:21) and 2) became our righteousness (Romans 4:2-8, 5:17, Philippians 3:8-9). After He made it possible for humans to have their relationship to God restored, He rose from the dead, setting an example for the future resurrection, being raised in a glorified state He was taken up to heaven where He reigns at the right hand of the Father as King of the Earth (Ephesians 1:20-23, Philippians 2:5-11). Jesus has accomplished a state of reconciliation by a Substitutionary Righteousness and a Substitutionary Atonement. Together, these two works of Christ make it possible for God to remain just, yet also justify the pardon of sinful people.
B. God Justifies the Ungodly: The Double Exchange
1) He took the Hit for Us – Our sins were counted as His on the cross, and God’s wrath was then appeased for sin: this is Redemption, the paying of the price. The price was suffering of God’s wrath, which Christ underwent on our behalf. It is as if Christ has pushed us out of the way of an oncoming train (the train of God’s necessary justice) and took the hit of this train in our place.
2) He earned our Righteousness – At the very moment we put our faith in Christ, His righteousness is counted as ours so that we stand before God on the day of Judgment as though we had lived a perfect life, even as though we were clothed with His righteousness. This is called imputation: that God imputes to us His Own righteousness through Christ. This does not mean that God forgets that we have sinned against Him, rather, God accepts work of Christ as sufficient for our being accepted before Him.
V. The Doctrine of The Gospel: Redemption Applied
A. Salvation is Based on Grace – Because man is guilty of crimes against God, he does not deserve to be saved form God’s wrath, nor does he deserve any blessings from God. Thus salvation is by Grace (unmerited favor).
1) Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And that is not of yourselves, it is a gift from God; not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
2) Grace as Undeserved Favor – Grace is undeserved favor. It is undeserved because no one deserves it. For anyone to receive anything less than eternal punishment for their sin is grace. It is favor because it saves us from God’s just wrath and entitles us to a host of blessings (forgiveness, reconciliation with God, satisfaction of the soul, eternal joy, a resurrection body, etc.).
3) The Purpose of Grace: So That God Gets the Due Credit – Lest anyone should boast as though they had done anything to deserve the gift of salvation, God has ordained salvation only by means of grace. So that Christ gets all the due credit for salvation, it is through faith in Him and His work that one become saved. If it were not by grace, no one would have a chance at being saved (Romans 4:2,16).
B. The Word of God – God has chosen to apply his accomplished work of Redemption (the Cross) to human beings through the preaching of the gospel, that is, the good news about Christ as understood in the previous context I have laid out (Romans 1:16-17, James 1:18). He has therefore so blessed the preaching of the gospel (or reading of it) that the Holy Spirit grants faith and repentance through this divine message (Acts 11:18, 16:14, Ephesians 2:8-9, Philippians 1:29, II Timothy 2:24-25), and a radical change takes place in the human heart whereby love for sin is greatly weakened, and a love for God is born. Forgiveness is not for everyone, but only for those who experience this heart change, that is, those who repent of their sins and put their faith in Christ and believe the Gospel of Christ. Those who do experience this no longer remain in their fallen state as enemies of God, but are loved and adopted by God and are no longer bound to suffer the curse forever, though they continue to live in a cursed world (Romans 8:15-25).
C. True Faith and Its Fruits
1) Faith Is More Than Intellectual Assent – True faith is more than mere intellectual belief, but is the acceptance of both the work and person of Christ. It includes the desire to have a personal relationship with Christ, and to know God through Christ (John 13:20). It is not a mere intellectual activity, but it involves the heart, the will, and even the emotions. It is impossible to have an emotionless conversion experience because it is impossible to have an emotionless faith. Part of saving faith is believing that God is more rewarding than sin (Heb 11:6).
2) Repentance: A Crucial Aspect of Faith – This kind of faith includes repentance (II Cor 7:10). Repentance is a change of one’s heart toward sin. When a person repents, this means that he/she changes his/her mind about their sin, recognizing it to be an offense toward God. Rather than having a friendly and comfortable mindset toward their sin, they begin to hate sin in their heart and become uncomfortable with respect to sins they know of in their life. They develop a mentality which is opposed to sin, and they develop a desire to turn from their sins; to fight their sinful impulses. In short, repentance is a change of heart towards one’s sin.
3) The Gift and Fruits of the Holy Spirit – Through the preaching (or sharing, or reading) of the Gospel message, those who believe receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, who posses them in a glorious way, so that they seem to be always guided in righteousness as a result (Romans 8:14-16). The Scripture teaches that those who come to know God through Christ by faith in the Gospel begin to change the way they live, paying utmost respect to the commandments of God out of their love for Him and desire to please Him (I John 2:3-6). Those who believe and receive the Holy Spirit do not become perfect (I John 1:8), but all people who come to faith in Christ are changed by the Spirit of God within them (I Corinthians 5:17).
4) The Essence of Conversion – Conversion is a change from one thing to another. Any time a person is saved, they undergo a conversion experience. True Christian conversion experience involves a change from being indifferent to God and loving sin, to being in love with God and hating sin. The essence of the change of conversion could be described as a change of the human heart in which the believers main source of joy, peace, and fulfillment in life is now found in God rather than in sin (Galatians 5:16-25). It is a change of desires and affections. Those who are saved are saved from the domination of their sinful desires. They develop new desires for God which exceed the power of their sinful desires. They learn to delight in the things of God, they learn that true joy is found in glorifying God (I Cor 10:31). They develop deep affections for God and an intimate way of relating to Him. The Good News is good because God is more satisfying, more pleasurable, more rewarding than the satisfactions, pleasures, and rewards of sin.
VI. The Doctrines of Christianity: Overview of Our Beliefs
A. The Scriptures – The Bible (Old and New Testament Cannon) as Inspired by God, Thus Authoritative and without error.
B. The Trinity – God is One in Essence , but Three in Persons: Jesus is Deity, His Father is Deity, The Holy Spirit is Deity
C. The Sovereignty of God – God is the King of the Earth, All things belong to Him, and He does as He pleases with respect to His Creation, nothing happens without His ordination.
D. The Fall – All Human Beings are Born with a Sinful Nature because we are descendant from Adam, and this is why the world is cursed with suffering and death.
E. The Judgment – All souls will be Judged According to their Deeds on Earth
F. Hell – The eternal damnation of those who are never saved through the gospel, and thus remain in their Fallen State.
G. Exclusivity – Christ is the only way to escape God’s curse on sin and bring humans into a loving relationship with God. That is, faith in Christ is the only way to be saved.
H. The Resurrection – All Bodies will be Restored anew and Raised for the Judgment and either everlasting damnation or everlasting reward.
I. Heaven – Heaven is the eternal reward and blessedness for those who repent of sin and put their faith in Christ.
J. Love For God and Others – Love for God is the most important part of the Christian life and love for others is the second most important of all commands. Love for God is the foundation for loving people.
K. Love For Christ – Because Christ is God incarnate (the person of God untied to a human body) and therefore the clearest expression/revelation of the person of God, love for Christ is most central to loving God.
L. The Glory of God – The glory of God is the end for which the world was created. Man’s purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
very interesting blog… I find real inspirations in your convictions, your passion for Christ…
for me, God is love. there is nothing else greater than that… John 14 and 15 give this message the greatest emphasis, and while I love all the gospels, John for me is where I am with Christ… love…
it’s so fascinating how God works in each life, where we are physically and spiritually… where our walks take us. and at what points in our lives…
I looked back though your blog… the entry about suffering, etc, caught my eye… one thing I have learned in my walk is that as suffering comes, so also comes the possibility for more love. it all just depends on the person, because when tragedy strikes, we have a choice. we can choose to roll over and allow grief to swallow us up. or we can instead allow the tragedy to transform us, in the way Christ transformed humanity. I know this from personal experience, and maybe that’s the point. this is all off the top of my head, but maybe in our sorrows, if we choose to go on, no matter the pain or cost, we are choosing the way of God… we may not know if we even can manage, but maybe it is just our attempts, our feeble attempts to continue, that He is seeking…
how many people go through their lives not accepting God’s love, because they refuse to believe there is something so wonderful out there… they receive trouble, hardship, and see God as some kind of punisher, not realizing that life is hard for all, and to choose the love is sometimes the hardest way to go… but the most real, the most true, the most incredible…
sorry… this is rambling… I hope you have a really lovely day!
Dr. Cochran in da’ house!!! Well written and well thought out. I can see that you have meditated much on this subject. Very thorough and true to Scripture!!!
Thanks for your comments.
ipodmama (interesting name) – I am glad you find inspiration in my convictions. When you complement me on my “convictions” you are actually complementing the basic teachings of the Bible. They are what have inspired me, and convictions as expressed in this blog are just an attempt at simplifying the teachings found in the scriptures.
I’m really glad you read the article on suffering (The World is Cursed). It is so long that is seems no one will take the time to read it. The blog world is shallow like that (in general it seems). They want quick, easy, pictorial, informal, slangy type of blog entries. I guess that’s why my longer blogs (which seek to tackle deeper issues) receive little to no comments.
I also appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts.
JosA – yeah…I’ve thought about this a lot–this article has developed over a period of four years. I have revised is several times. I’m not fond of typical gospel tracts. I don’t think the world needs another buisness-card-sized gospel tract. If unbelievers are not going to take the time to read a basic statement of the gospel (the whole gospel), then they aren’t interested in the first place, so my goal is to take the whole gospel to the unbeliever who is WILLING to look at it and at least understand what it is. It’s not easy, and I may have written a little more than the basic message, but I would rather overdue it than underdue it.
Anyway. I appreciate your appreciation brother.
Good post, Bradley – I think it hits on every pertinent point of the Gospel and it brings it together clearly.
I love using the analogy of the train when talking about Jesus taking our punishment for our sin.
I also liked how you summed up the doctrines of Christianity at the end of your post – very Scriptural and rich with truth.
Since you asked for any advise, this would be my only suggestion: If you want more people to take the time to read your longer posts, you may want to consider breaking them up into smaller bite-sized pieces. You have a lot of good to say – if you want to keep more short attention-spanned bloggers engaged, consider doing a mini series. Post the first section on Monday, the second on Wednesday, etc. Give them time to digest it…
Great job, Bradley — you are becoming a well-seasoned blogger yet!
Your right…but I’ve already posted this whole thing and I don’t feel like changing it now (but maybe I will anyway when I get time). It can be a reference for others (like an e-tract). Thanks for the encouragement.
Awesome Job! It is so encouraging to know the God is in control of every situation. I find myself often meditating on Proverbs 16:9 as well as Proverbs 19:21. Under that same section you may want to change Psalm 134:6 to 135:6. Everything else looks great.
oops…thanks Tracy! (I’ll have to correct that)
Thanks for taking the time to read it. I used this presentation when with one of the kids in the group home where I used to work (I also handed copies of this out to all the other kids in that home just in case they were interested). I will soon use this presentation with a new believer at our church in downtown Louisville who recently converted to Christ from a lifestyle of addiction to hard drugs. I figure that if he get’s this in his heart, he will have a solid foundation on which to grow. I’m very eager to get started.
I second the bite-sized pieces comment. I usually skim through at least part of any post that’s more than 60 or 70 words. In fact, most of my owns posts or comments on others’ blogs are probably longer than I would feel like reading… guess I’m a short-attention-spanned-rambler or a hypocrite. 🙂
But what I did read more carefully (especially The Essence of Conversion part) was easy to read and seemed well thought out. There is a lot to read here, but perhaps that’s a good thing for those who would skim through a much shorter tract or gospel presentation and find nothing there they hadn’t heard already from a TV preacher or one of the “Christian kids” in high school. Someone who’s really thirsting for more in life will eagerly take the time to read it. 🙂
That is the raging Reformer Brad Cochran I remember from undergrad. Brad knows his stuff, and he he is faithful to the Word! I remember talking a good hour with him about the Gospel once.
Preach it Bradley–
Ryan Setliff, Liberty class of ’03, fellow 5-2 dorm dweller with Brad. I’m a law school dropout turned gumshoe Bible preacher.