What Is The Gospel? What Must One Believe In Order To Be Saved?

Here’s the verse that usually comes to mind when I think of defining the gospel:

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 AV

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.

This passage, which precedes a defense of why the Resurrection is so crucial to Christian faith, includes most of the elements of the Gospel [with the exception of how one gets saved!]. Many scholars believe that in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 Paul is quoting an early Church creed. This is important since it establishes an early tradition of Jesus’ death for our sins, burial, resurrection, fulfillment of prophecy [i.e. “according to the scriptures”] and post-resurrection appearances. 1 Corinthians was written sometime between 54 to 57 A.D, within 20 to 25 years of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

1. Christ.

By this we mean Jesus. Elsewhere in the Bible, Paul affirmed, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” [1 Timothy 1:15]. The word Christ itself [Greek Christos] means “Anointed One” and is the Hebrew equivalent of “Messiah.” The Messiah is of course the Promised One of prophecy, so an affirmation of Jesus as the Christ or Messiah is also an affirmation of fulfilled prophecy and, thus, of the supernatural revelation of God’s Word.

By affirming Jesus as the Christ, we are also denying the claim that Jesus’ disciples made up His miracles and sayings after He died, or that he was just a man whose followers attributed deity and Messiah status to Him after his death. This is a ridiculous claim, of course, for it ignores the fact that there were many living witnesses of living person of Jesus Christ at the time these claims were being made, both hostile and faithful.

By affirming fulfilled prophecy, we are also affirming authentic faith in God in accordance with Hebrews 11:6, which states: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” In other words, we affirm both the existence of a God of prophecy, but a God who is active in His creation to fulfill His Word.

2. Died

That Christ died is well supported by the Scriptures and other historical records. The swoon theory does not stand up to the evidence. Nor does any other theory you might propose. For specific details on the certainty of the death of Christ, see Resurrection Apologetics (Part II) .

But why did He die? Christ died once for all sinners, as the Bible stresses over and again. [Hebrews 7:24-27; 9:11-12, 24-26,28;10:10] When Adam disobeyed his Creator, sin entered into the world, and death by sin. Adam was given dominion over all creation; when a king makes a mistake, his kingdom suffers. In this case, we all inherited a sin nature that makes us sinners [Romans 5:12]. It was for sin that Christ died. As the Bible says, The wages [deserved earnings] of sin is death [Romans 6:23]. Of course, the Bible also notes that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23].

But where did sin come from?

Romans 5:12-19 says that we have all sinned in Adam and that both sin and death entered the world by Adam’s sin. This is a direct reference to the historical Fall in Genesis 3.

12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.

17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

For more on the everlasting Gospel and how it relates to Christ the Creator [yes, Jesus Christ is also our Creator God] and to the veracity of Genesis, see The Everlasting Gospel: Christ the Creator.

3. Buried.

The Scriptures state that Jesus was buried in a rich man’s tomb [another fulfilled prophecy], but that He rose again three days later. The implication is that He was really and truly dead, as Scripture and other historical records attest.

4. Rose again the third day

The Bible wonderfully states that He died for our sin, but rose again that we may have eternal life! Paul goes on to explain in 1 Corinthians 15 that our future resurrection [our blessed hope] is tied into Christ’s resurrection. For more on the truth of Christ’s resurrection see Resurrection Apologetics. It should be noted that a belief in the literal, physical resurrection of Christ is non-negotiable for authentic saving faith [see below, concluding remarks on How To Be Saved].

5. According to the Scriptures.

One of the beautiful truths of this passage is that Christ died and rose again according to the Scriptures. Paul affirms, as he often does, that we may fully rely upon the Scriptures. We must forget that the entire reason Christ came to die was to fulfill Scripture, the earliest and most fundamental of which was spoken to the Serpent in Genesis 3:15:

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

This was the very first promise of the Remedy, the Messiah. One cannot divorce the literal Gospel from a literal Genesis, for the very reason the Christ had to die for our sin is found in Adam. So the Scriptures tell us and so we believe.

6. Seen by witnesses.

I have commented on the importance of these witnesses, especially of how Paul notes in 1 Cor 15:6 that some of the 500 witnesses are yet alive, which practically begs his hearers, “Check my story!” As he said to Festus and Agrippa, “This thing was not done in a corner!” [Acts 26:26]

Of course, we like Paul are also witnesses to Christ’s resurrection, being born of the Spirit to new life, but there is also another point I’d like you to take note of. The inclusion of witnesses and their testimony means that the Resurrection is grounded in a verifiable historical event. A verifiable historical event that was made necessary by the historical event of the Fall.

How To Be Saved

The most amazing thing about salvation is that God makes it easy. The Bible says:

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” [Romans 10:9]

The word rendered “Lord” here is the Greek word kurios which means “Lord, master, God.” Once again, we see the need to affirm Jesus as God, which of course means that He is also your Creator. This means that we need to repent [“change our minds”] of our sinful Adamic nature and submit to our Creator’s Will, as Adam should have. It is not necessary to affirm that the Earth is only a few thousand years old nor that there was a world-covering Flood in the days of Noah in order to be saved [though these things are likewise true]; all that is required is an open confession of fealty to Christ the Creator, who died and rose again for our sins according to the Scriptures, and a heartfelt belief that He literally, physically rose from the dead.

If you can affirm the deity of Christ, accept His payment of your sin debt on the cross and authentically affirm the reality of His bodily resurrection from the dead, you will be saved.

If you make this awesome decision as a result of reading this article, please post a comment or send me an email at creationletter@yahoo.com, so we can celebrate your new life in Christ and give you some materials to help you begin your journey.

Regards and God bless you,
Rev Tony Breeden


4 Comments Add yours

  1. therivernilejordan says:

    You say, “The most amazing thing about salvation is that God makes it easy” (I know, this is a tangential issue, but it’s kept me awake at night).
    When I hear Christians say this, I feel a shiver run up and down my spine because on the one hand, I understand that the bible teaches that the work of Christ is sufficient for our salvation (whatever that means, I’m not very clear). On the other hand, the biblical narrative is peppered with imperatives like, “Strive”, “work our your salvation with fear and trembling”, “if your arm/eye causes you to stumble, cut it off/pluck it out, get rid of the darn thing”.
    I will admit, the deeper my appreciation of God gets, the more I understand my absolute obligation to live for Him and yet, at the same time, my sense of inadequacy also grows. So I’m not just torn, I’m ripped and on some days I don’t see why I should bother wrestling with the issues of what it means to be a creation of a holy God. It doesn’t seem that anyone else is interested.
    Why would God make it so easy? Why would he make going to heaven – which is a bit like winning the lottery an infinite number of times – something this easy?
    I just find the whole thing too weird. I believe in and trust in and love Jesus Christ, but I don’t understand how salvation works – are there works involved?

    1. Let me put it to you this way [and this is an excellent question, by the way]:

      The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9 that ‘by grace we are saved through faith, not of works, lest any man should boast. It is the gift of God.’ So works do not save you. James notes that faith without works is dead, but why? Well, the very next verse in Ephesians [2:10] following the declaration that we are saved by grace through faith not works reminds us that ‘we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has foreordained that we should walk in them.” The idea is that works are the fruit – not the means – of salvation. You see this again in Philippians 2:12-13. Right after the declaration to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, we read: “For it is God who works in you both to will [to want to] and to do of His good pleasure.” We cannot bear fruit unless we are first a part of the true Vine. So works is the evidence of salvation and the inevitable result of salvation, but not the means. I hate to say it, but Jesus did warn us that we would know folks by their fruit.

      On another note, the reason we cannot gain heaven by works is that we can never achieve God’s perfect standard of holiness. The Law was a schoolteacher to show us our need for a Redeemer. Spurgeon used the analogy of a mirror which can show us our imperfections but never correct them. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day thought they were doing OK by the Law, until Jesus reminded them that it was more than the letter they were accountable. In the Sermon on the Mount, he equated adultery with lust and murder with hate, reminding us that God’s standard was much higher than we could ever hope to achieve. Only the once-for-all substitutionary sacrifice of the God-man Jesus Christ could pay the sin-debt of humanity [to whoever confesses Christ as Lord and believes in his heart that God has raised Him from the dead – death being the result of Adam’s original sin, death being the last enemy which shall be destroyed, which Jesus spoiled when He rose from the tomb]. If works were a viable means of salvation, God would not have sent His Son… He would have said, Try harder.

      God bless,

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