A Letter To My Congregation by Pastor Joshua Hall
Published on September 22, 2019.
Someone recently asked me how to present the gospel to a neighbor or friend. Many methods have been prescribed for presenting the gospel. Most of them focus on a handful of Bible verses which personalize the gospel message to an individual. I prefer to begin by sharing the themes of scripture as God’s work of redemption is revealed to us throughout history. The gospel message begins in Genesis 1, and proceeds through the end of Revelation. It is not about saving individuals, but about saving the nations. God is building His church throughout history, and the gospel invitation is to surrender to Christ and join God’s good and gracious Kingdom. So what are the basic gospel themes to which I refer? They are Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation. If you can remember these four words, you can share the gospel with anyone.
Creation: Many Passages of scripture deal with God’s creation of all things. Genesis 1-2, John 1, Psalm 8, and many others shine light on God our Triune Creator. God begins his 66 books of the Bible unfolding his salvation plan for us with the theme of Creation. In Genesis 1 we see that God is the Creator. John 1 tells us that all three persons of the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were involved in God’s creation of all things. We begin to understand that God is holy, that is, God is not like us. He is the Creator, all else is created. We exists because God created us, and we exist for His glory and pleasure. Everything he made was very good, and we were created to glorify and enjoy God forever. But something went very wrong…
Fall: In Genesis 3, God tells us about how we became rebellious sinners, enemies of Almighty God, deserving of his wrath and judgment. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, broke God’s commandment not to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Wanting to be God, and giving in to their lusts for knowledge and pleasure, they ate the forbidden fruit and became sinners. We call this the fall because mankind fell from their position of righteousness and favor into sin, judgment, and death. All those who descend from Adam and Eve inherit this sinful nature. We cannot act other than is in our nature. We are sinful and rebellious from conception. Thus Romans 3:23 confidently asserts that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And Romans 6:23 follows up with the declaration that “the wages of sin is death.” Indeed, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes that we “were by nature children of wrath” in Ephesians 2:3. If this were the end of the story, there would be no hope. But God had a plan.
Redemption: Nearly the entire Bible speaks of God’s work of redemption. Ephesians 1:4 tells us that God was already planning our redemption even before He created the world. All the way back in Genesis 3:15, God promised to send a Savior, one who the scriptures later reveal would be our redeemer. He would purchase of us from the death we deserve by dying in our place. The second person of the Trinity, the Son, would become a man, be born of a virgin, live a sinless and holy life, found the church, and die a sinners death that we might be saved. He had to be fully God for his death to pay the penalty for the sins of all who would believe, but he had to be fully man to die. Thus Jesus predicted his death and resurrection in Luke 9:22. In dying he paid for our sins, and in rising, he conquered sin and death. In him we have redemption, for according to John 3:17, he came not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him.
Consummation: God promises that all who “confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead will be saved” in Romans 10:9. But how are we saved? John 3 tells us that to be saved we must be born again of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. Ephesians 1:13 tells us that we who are saved are sealed with the same Holy Spirit. What are we sealed for? We are sealed for the promised day when Christ will return. In Acts 1 we learn that after Jesus was raised from the dead and spent 40 days with the disciples, he rose into heaven right before their eyes. Angels appeared to the disciples and told them that Jesus would return someday in this same way. We are still waiting for that day. But what if we die before he returns? In I Thessalonians 4, God reveals to us that those who die before Christ returns will be raised to spend eternity with Him on that day. We call the day of Christ’ return the day of consummation, for on that day, God’s work of redemption will be fully complete.
This is the gospel story. You don’t have to share it with this detail, just remember the four big picture themes, and learn a few important Bible verses to show someone who wants to know what God’s Word says. May God grant us many opportunities to share with others the good news and how God has saved us!