For 2,000 years, the Christian Church has debated and divided over finer points of theology. We cover all the controversial bases, from whether or not one can lose their salvation to how one obtains it in the first place. And don’t even bring up worship styles.
I don’t mind having those conversations in the context of a solid friendship — when disagreeing doesn’t turn nasty and we part ways still friends. But rather than add to that discussion, I wanted to drop in a few thoughts on the stuff we can all unite around. Mainly, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I had the chance this past weekend to preach at my church. I get 8-10 turns each year, and my assignment this time was to give our congregation the basis of the Christian faith. Having quite a bit of doctrinal material to draw from, I chose to hit on the most important stuff — so called by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. There’s a link to the video below if you want to hear it all, but here are the basics.
What makes a Christian a Christian is belief in and dependence upon that which is most important — the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel is called “that of first importance” by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. The Gospel is something that fundamentally defines a Christian. Belief in it and dependence upon it makes you a Christian. The Gospel also tells us how to surrender our lives to Jesus, by following his example of death, burial, and resurrection.
I believe the 1 Corinthians passage gives us at least three clear reasons the Gospel is so important.
First, it’s important because it’s the truth.
Paul calles on the authority of the Scripture twice in these four verses, indicating that the Old Testament predicted and early Christian writings (that we now know as the New Testament) affirmed the claims of Jesus as God and his suffering and resurrection.
Our authority, if we claim to be a Christian, lies in the Bible alone. Not in our study notes, not in our podcasts, not in other books, and not in our great Uncle Sal’s outspoken opinion. No human being has the same authority as the Scripture. If a religion celebrates another book as equally authoritative to the Bible, steer clear. The Bible is God’s complete revelation to us, and in the Scriptures alone we have all we need to know for faith and practice.
Secondly, it’s important because it is Good News.
Never mind that the word Gospel means “good news.” Re-read 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 and underline all the good stuff in there. We can be saved. We can stand strong. We can rise again. That’s good stuff! In a world where bad news is so common, where we grow numb to the endless reports of tragedy and trial, eternal life sounds pretty incredible to me!
That God became a man and made His dwelling among us is good news. That God stood in our place of judgment and took a beating on our behalf is good news. That God was sealed up tight, breathless, in a tomb and then rose from death victorious is good news. That we can look forward to that same resurrection at the end of all things is good news.
Dead stuff doesn’t stay dead in Christianity. That makes our faith unique, and it also makes it really, really good news.
Third, it’s important because of it’s power.
There are a lot of things we can believe in, but none of them have the power of the Gospel. Government aid can rebuild communities, but if lives aren’t rebuilt the infrastructure will just crumble again. Politicians convince us to place our hope in their promises, but few deliver on their promises. Athletes, actresses, and celebrities can inspire and motivate, but in the end there’s no real power in their influence.
A God that rose again, that’s a Hero to place our trust in. There is power in the name of Jesus, the blood of Jesus, and the resurrection of Jesus from death. Satan has been defeated and nothing can stand between us and the Lord that loves us. That’s powerful, and I’m banking on it being true. My whole life is pushed the center of the table. No chips left. I’m risking it all.
My Bottom Line
The bottom line is this. We’re all jacked up, but our God saw fit to save us, rescuing us from self-condemnation. If we get everything else right, but we get this Gospel wrong, we’re still wrong. Not only do you have to believe this stuff in your head to be a Christian, you have to believe it in your heart — entrusting your life to Jesus — to have hope beyond this life.
To some that all sounds crazy, and maybe it is. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — if following Jesus is crazy, I don’t want to be sane.