The apostle Paul reveals much about himself and his ministry in his letters. Repeatedly he reminds the believers what makes him tick. If you ever want to get inside Paul’s head and heart, just start reading one of his 13 epistles and you’ll soon gain insight into both the man and his mission.
For example, let’s consider this statement: “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). In other words, Paul was obsessed with the proclamation of the gospel, which we know from 1 Corinthians 15:3 was “of first importance” to him. Preaching the gospel was his Number One Priority and his all-consuming passion. He lived to preach and he preached to live.
But for Paul, guarding the content of the gospel was just as important as preaching the gospel. And so the writings of Paul are filled with descriptions of the gospel itself. If you are looking for an answer to the question, “What is the gospel?”, look no further than Paul’s epistles.
And please let me remind you that all Christians had better be constantly answering the question, “What is the gospel?” Why is that so important? Because if you do not preach the Biblical gospel as presented in the New Testament, you fall under the curse of God, according to Galatians 1:8 – “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.” Whoa. What a warning!
So I want to answer, at least in part, that all-important question, “What is the gospel?” Paul tells us that it must include “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). If you are not telling people about the death of Jesus Christ, you are not preaching the gospel; you are not doing evangelism.
But let’s go a little further in this discussion, because Paul also says that the gospel must include an explanation of not only the fact of Christ’s death, but also the meaning of His death. “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3). Focus now on those three critical words in the middle of that verse: for our sins.
Yes, Christ died. We must proclaim that truth from the rooftops. But we must also explain the reason He died – the purpose of His death. He died for our sins.
Do you do that when you evangelize? When you explain the gospel, do you explain in great detail what the Bible says about sin: its nature, its pervasiveness, and its devastating consequences (the well-deserved justice, punishment and wrath of God). Yes, a Biblical gospel presentation must include a discussion of what theologians call the total depravity of man.
If you don’t tell people why Christ died, you aren’t explaining the Gospel. The good news of Christ’s death must include the bad news of our sin and its ultimate and inevitable eternal consequences.
I challenge you today to evaluate “your” gospel in light of Paul’s Biblical gospel. Does it pass the test regarding the death of Christ and its meaning for guilty sinners?