We continue looking at the marks of a healthy church that are seldom emphasized today. Using 9 Marks of a Healthy Church as our guide, we’ve looked at expository preaching and biblical theology. Today, we’ll see that a healthy church must be made up of members who have a proper understanding of the gospel.
What is the Gospel?
Simply put, the Gospel is good news. It is a message. This message is one that must be communicated verbally (Romans 10:14-17). “Living the life” in front of people is great, but that alone is not sharing the gospel. Inviting people to church is a good thing to do, but it is not sharing the gospel.
In order to communicate this message, we must know its content, and we must be very clear in what we share as the good news. Telling people “Jesus loves you” is good and can minister to them, but that alone is not sharing the gospel. Sharing biblical morals is good, but giving the law doesn’t save people it simply condemns them further.
What do we share then? Here are a few basic points:
We were created by God
We must remember that everything begins and ends with God. Speaking of Jesus, Colossians teaches, “For by him all things were created…all things were created through him and for him” (v. 16). Christ is not only the means of creation, but all of it was for him. It can be easy to focus our evangelism solely what God can do for man (make him happy, give him peace, etc.). While those things are certainly true, the story of redemption is one that points back all the praise, glory and honor to God alone. He created it all, and it all goes back to him!
We were separated from him by our rebellion and sin
Before we get to the good news, we must be clear about the bad news. We have rebelled against God and tried to overthrow him to our own king. The consequence for our treason is eternal separation from him.
We cannot exclude talk of sin, death, and punishment/wrath and still communicate the gospel. If we don’t understand our absolute depravity, then we’ll never see our need for a Savior. Dever reminds us that the gospel is not a message that we “are okay”: “Some people seem to think that Christianity is fundamentally a religious therapy session, where we sit around trying to help each other feel better about ourselves” (80).
While certain people may present themselves as more moral than others, the truth is we are all sinners born in rebellion against God. The book of James reminds us that if we break one law, we are guilty of breaking it all (James 2:10-11). You may not have as many visible, external sins as others, but inside we are all just as wretched (Romans 3:9-20). Dever states:
One of the early stages of becoming a Christian involves beginning to realize that your problems fundamentally are not that you have messed up your own life or that you have failed to realize your own potential, but that you have sinned, not primarily against yourself or even against someone else, but against God. And now, because of that, it begins to dawn on you that you are yourself rightly the object of God’s wrath, of his judgment… (83).
Christ has come and bore the punishment we deserve and rose again in defeat of sin and death!
So far, we’ve just covered the bad news of our rebellion, but now we get to the good news! The best news of all! While you and I were in bondage to our sin and unable to break free from its power, while the law stood against us and condemned us, even then Christ came and lived the righteous requirement of the law and died our death. He overcame the grave in the ultimate defeat of sin and death three days later by rising from the dead! Romans 3 tells us that believers are justified (declared ‘not guilty’) and redeemed (purchased back). Christ is our propitiation; he absorbed the wrath of God for our sin (see Isaiah 53:10-11).
Repent and believe the gospel!
What should be our response to this good news? As Mark 1:15 says, “Repent and believe the gospel!” When the Holy Spirit convicts us and gives us eyes to see, we cry out for his mercy and grace! Repent means we turn from our sin; we are dying to our old lifestyle and way of thinking. We believe the message of the gospel. However, as Dever warns, this “is not a mere mental assent; it is believing in and fully relying on the Good News of salvation” (91). Instead, when this happens, we are born again (John 3) and become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17); therefore, if this has happened our lives will look fundamentally different.
Are you familiar enough with the content of the gospel that you can share it with others? If not, then we’ll never fulfill our role in spreading the good news. Also, if we don’t know the content of this message we simply cannot be saved. It’s true that knowing God is more than just knowing facts, but it’s certainly not less. May God’s church faithfully and clearly declare the good news of Christ to her neighbors and the nations!
9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever