Understanding the gospel is fundamental to the Christian faith. It is the message of salvation that Jesus Christ brought to the world through His death and resurrection. However, despite its importance, many Christians struggle to fully comprehend what the gospel means and how it applies to their lives.
In this post, we will explore some reasons why the gospel may be difficult to understand, the lack of emphasis on preaching the gospel in some churches and places, and the challenge of navigating the Bible’s diverse genres and perspectives. We will also provide some biblical verses to shed light on the topic and offer insights on how to approach the gospel to gain a deeper understanding of its significance.
This occurs often, and here are four explanations for why:
1. The Gospel is both easily understood and profound
The gospel, or the good news of Jesus Christ, is at the heart of Christianity and is the foundation of the Christian faith. It is a message that can be easily understood and yet has profound implications for those who embrace it. It is also profound, dense, and incomprehensible. I have shared the gospel with children, and they all caught on quickly. But there are many who haven’t even scratched the surface of its meaning and relevance.
That’s how vast the gospel is—like the ocean or the cosmos. Building sandcastles on the beach to the soothing sound of the surf is something every child looks forward to, yet even the most seasoned marine scientists would never claim to have mastered the ocean. The splendour of a starry night sky with a full moon is something that most people have experienced, but would an astronomer ever claim to have a complete understanding of the universe?
I like sitting at the beach, watching the waves of the ocean hurry to the shore. What does “ocean” mean to you? How can you briefly describe it while yet doing justice to its complexity? Any thoughts about the cosmos? How can the sheer scale of it be captured in a few words? Both the ocean and the cosmos are accessible, yet their sheer size makes them hard to pin down. That the gospel is both simple and profound makes it all the more challenging to keep straight in our minds.
One of the most well-known verses that sum up the gospel message is John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
The Gospel is also complex and difficult to fully grasp.
1 Corinthians 2:14 says,
“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
The gospel is not something that can be understood through human intellect alone but requires the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s heart and mind.
The complexity of the gospel message lies in its spiritual nature. It is not merely a collection of moral teachings or philosophical musings, but a profound revelation of God’s nature, His redemptive plan for humanity, and our relationship with Him. This understanding cannot be gained by mere human reasoning or intellectual inquiry.
1 Corinthians 1:18 states,
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.”
The gospel message goes against the wisdom of the world, which values power, success, and material possessions. It emphasizes humility, sacrifice, and the love of God, which can be difficult for many to accept.
The Gospel is a message of paradoxes.
It speaks of life through death, strength through weakness, and victory through surrender. These paradoxes can be challenging to understand and accept, as they often go against our natural inclinations and ways of thinking.
Despite its complexity, the gospel remains accessible to all who seek it with a humble heart and a willingness to receive the truth.
As Jesus says in Matthew 11:25,
“I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.”
The gospel is a message that can be received by anyone, regardless of their social status, education, or background. It is a message of hope, redemption, and eternal life for all who believe.
The Gospel message is also multifaceted and touches on various aspects of human life, including sin, repentance, forgiveness, and eternal life.
Romans 3:23 states,
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
This verse emphasizes the fact that all humans are sinners and fall short of God’s perfect standard.
However, Romans 6:23 offers hope by stating,
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
This verse highlights the fact that salvation is a gift from God that is received through faith in Jesus Christ.
The multifaceted nature of the gospel message is also reflected in the concept of repentance. In Luke 13:3, Jesus says,
“…unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Repentance is the act of turning away from sin and turning towards God, and it is a necessary step towards receiving salvation. In Acts 3:19, it is written,
“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”
This verse emphasizes the transformative power of repentance and the promise of a renewed life in Christ.
Forgiveness is another essential aspect of the Gospel message.
In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus says,
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
This verse emphasizes the importance of forgiveness in our relationship with God and with others. Through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we have been offered complete forgiveness for our sins, and we are called to extend that same forgiveness to those who have wronged us.
The Gospel message offers the promise of eternal life.
John 11:25-26 says,
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?'”
This verse emphasizes the fact that through faith in Jesus, we can have eternal life and will never truly die. This promise of eternal life is a central aspect of the gospel message and gives us hope beyond this life.
In summary, the gospel message is multifaceted, touching on various aspects of human life, including sin, repentance, forgiveness, and eternal life. Through verses like Romans 3:23, 6:23, Luke 13:3, Acts 3:19, Matthew 6:14-15, and John 11:25-26, we can begin to understand the depth and complexity of the gospel message and the hope and promise that it offers to all who believe.
The Gospel also speaks to the character of God and His plan for humanity.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
This verse emphasizes the fact that salvation is not something that can be earned through good works or human effort but is a gift that is freely given by God’s grace.
God’s grace is a key theme throughout the Bible and is often described as His unmerited favour towards humanity. This grace is not based on anything that we have done or can do, but is solely based on God’s love and mercy towards us. In fact, the very essence of the gospel message is rooted in God’s grace towards humanity. The Bible says that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins (John 3:16).
This grace is what makes the gospel message so unique and powerful. It is a message that is not based on human works but on the finished work of Christ on the cross. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus has made it possible for us to be reconciled to God and to receive eternal life. However, while salvation is a gift that is freely given, it does require a response on our part.
Romans 10:9 says,
“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
This verse emphasizes the importance of confessing and believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is through faith in Jesus that we receive the gift of salvation.
The gospel message also speaks to the nature of humanity and our need for a Savior.
In Romans 3:23, we are told that
“…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
This verse emphasizes the fact that sin has separated us from God and that we are unable to save ourselves. However, through faith in Jesus Christ, we can be made new and restored to a right relationship with God.
The gospel message also emphasizes the importance of repentance and turning away from sin.
In Acts 3:19, we are told to:
“repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”
This verse highlights the fact that repentance is a key part of the salvation process. We must acknowledge our sinfulness and turn away from our old way of life in order to receive the gift of salvation.
The gospel message also speaks to the importance of living a holy and righteous life.
In 1 Peter 1:15-16, we are told to:
“be holy, for I am holy.”
This verse emphasizes the fact that as Christians, we are called to live a life that is pleasing to God and that reflects His character. This involves living a life that is characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Galatians 5:22-23 — But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
The gospel message is both simple and profound. It is a message of God’s grace towards humanity and His plan for our salvation. It speaks to the character of God and His love for us, as well as our need for a Savior and the importance of repentance and holy living. The gospel message is a message of hope and redemption that has the power to transform lives and bring people into the right relationship with God.
The gospel is a message that can be understood by anyone, regardless of their background or education. At the same time, its implications are profound and can transform a person’s life in ways that are difficult to fully comprehend. The gospel message is best summed up in the words of Jesus Himself, who said in John 14:6,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
2. Some Churches seldom put an emphasis on preaching the Gospel
The Bible is not regarded as authoritative by certain churches. They see it as the words of men concerning God rather than God’s last Word to mankind. As a consequence of their worldview, they have no desire to spread the gospel message found in the Bible. They have no incentive to learn it or accept it, therefore they don’t stress it. They don’t see it as any more significant than their own ideas about what God would consider to be good news. Their followers don’t really understand the message, therefore that makes sense.
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Many Christians recognise and agree with this, but many feel it is meant mainly for those outside the faith. When they know there will be a large number of unbelievers present, like during outreach activities or at worship services, that is the only time they proclaim the gospel. Because they aren’t sure it’s meant for Christians, they don’t frequently preach it. Instead, they stress the importance of doing what they preach. As a result, members of their congregations may lack clarity on the message of the gospel. Maybe you’ve been to one of these two types of churches before. That could be another contributing factor to the ambiguity.
The importance of preaching the gospel cannot be overstated, as it is the very heart of the Christian faith. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus commands his disciples to,
“…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything he commanded.”
This is known as the Great Commission, and it is the mission of every Christian to share the gospel with others.
In Mark 16:15, Jesus says,
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”
This shows that sharing the gospel message is not just a suggestion, but a command from Jesus himself. In 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul emphasizes the importance of preaching the gospel, stating,
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
It is important to note that the gospel message is not just for unbelievers, but also for believers. The gospel is not just the message of salvation from sin, but also the message of transformation and sanctification in Christ. In Romans 1:16, Paul states,
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
Furthermore, the gospel message is not just a one-time event, but a continuous message that needs to be preached and heard over and over again. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Paul reminds the Corinthian church of the gospel message he preached to them and how they received it and then goes on to explain the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 — Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures,
In addition, preaching the gospel message is not just limited to words, but also includes living out the gospel through our actions and deeds. In James 2:14-17, James stresses the importance of not just hearing the gospel, but also putting it into action through good works and deeds.
James 2:14-17 — What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can this kind of faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it? So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself.
In conclusion, preaching the gospel message is not just important, but essential to the Christian faith. It is a command from Jesus himself to go and make disciples of all nations, and it is a message that needs to be heard and preached continuously, both to unbelievers and believers alike. As Christians, we should not be ashamed of the gospel, but instead should boldly proclaim it in both our words and actions.
3. The Gospel Loses Its Appeal to the Human Heart
Your Adamic nature does not aid you in your effort to attain certainty about the good news, even if you attend a church that does emphasise it. There is a constant current inside us that works against rational thought. We’ve skewed away from a firm understanding of it.
It’s similar to how our corrupt human nature (Adamic nature) works. On the contrary, we tend to drift away from God. Keeping the gospel of Jesus Christ unadulterated is therefore an ongoing struggle. In other words, you’ll feel like you’re swimming against the tide. You have to fight that fight constantly. It’s possible that this is making it hard for you to keep the gospel in focus.
The idea of the human heart being resistant to the gospel message is not a new one.
In fact, the Bible speaks to this very issue.
In Matthew 13:15, Jesus says,
“For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise, they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.”
The calloused heart that Jesus speaks of is one that is hardened to the message of the gospel. It is a heart that is resistant to the truth and does not want to hear it. This is why the gospel can lose its appeal to the human heart. It is not because the message is faulty, but because our hearts are sinful and rebellious.
This rebellion against God is not a new phenomenon.
In Romans 3:10-12, the apostle Paul writes,
“As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.'”
This passage highlights the fact that our natural inclination is to turn away from God and reject His truth. This is why the gospel message can be hard to accept. Our sinful nature is at odds with the message of salvation and forgiveness that the gospel offers in Christ.
However, there is hope.
In Ezekiel 36:26, God promises to give His people a new heart and a new spirit. He says,
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
This promise of a new heart and a new spirit is fulfilled in Christ. Through faith in Him, we are given a new nature that is no longer at odds and rebellious with God. As 2 Corinthians 5:17 says,
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
So, while it is true that our human hearts can be resistant to the gospel message, we can have hope that through faith in Christ, we can be transformed and given a new nature that is open to the truth of the gospel. As we continue to fight against our sinful nature and seek to understand and embrace the message of the gospel, we can experience the transformative power of Christ in our lives.
4. The Bible is not merely a reference book
The term “Gospel” in the table of contents can be a bit misleading because the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are often referred to as gospels, despite the fact that they are not titled “gospel” in the original language and their subject matter is not limited to the gospel. These books are not dictionaries of good news but historical biographies of Jesus of Nazareth.
The Bible is a complex and diverse book, and finding a clear and consistent explanation of the gospel can be a challenge. However, by delving into the various books and verses of the Bible, we can begin to understand the timeless message of the gospel.
One important aspect to note is that the gospel is not limited to the four books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, despite their common reference to the Gospels. Rather, the gospel message is present throughout the entirety of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. For example, in Genesis 3:15, God promises a saviour who will defeat sin and death, while in Isaiah 53, we see a prophetic description of Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice for our sins.
The Bible consists of 66 books produced by 40 different writers over a period of 1500 years and spanning 15 or more different genres. It takes more than a glance at the table of contents or a fast search to figure out what a word means in this massive and varied time. It’s important to look at every use of that term, as well as its synonyms and idioms, across all of that content.
If you do so, you will discover that the Bible does not provide a single, consistent, and clear explanation of what the gospel is. The New Testament contains the bulk of the gospel’s teachings, yet finding what you’re looking for might be a challenge even there. The Apostles gave a variety of explanations, none of which were mutually exclusive. It’s not easy at all to find a middle ground between both perspectives and arrive at a clear definition of the gospel that is consistent with all the Bible says about it.
When you dig deep enough, you’ll find that the gospel is a timeless message that’s been gradually exposed throughout history and the Bible. It’s possible that this dynamic poses the most difficulty. Taking the last “definition” we come across in Scripture is not the best option. To ensure that the last revelation builds on the prior ones and that we are distinguishing between the high points and the nitty-gritty of the good news, we must exercise extreme caution.
The New Testament contains a wealth of information on the gospel, with each book and author offering unique perspectives and insights. In Romans, Paul emphasizes the need for faith in Jesus as the key to salvation, while in James, we see that faith must be accompanied by works. In 1 Corinthians, Paul describes the gospel as the power of God for salvation, while in 1 John, we see the importance of love as a fruit of true faith.
Despite these variations, the gospel message remains consistent throughout the Bible. As Jesus himself said in John 14:6,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
This message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is the heart of the gospel and is echoed throughout the Scriptures. The message is consistent throughout the Bible because it is the same message. However, some of those occurrences are more developed than others, and each one is contextualised to the situation and the specific time period in salvation history. That’s why it’s so tough to pin down. This may be the cause of your problems.
While the diverse nature of the Bible can make it challenging to understand the gospel, careful study and consideration of the various passages and teachings can help us gain a clearer understanding of this timeless message.
As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states,
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
By studying the Scriptures, we can gain a deeper understanding of the gospel and how it applies to our lives.
Understanding the gospel message is a vital aspect of our faith, yet it can be challenging to comprehend and communicate effectively. The reasons for this difficulty are varied, including our inherent sinful nature, the diverse interpretations and emphasis placed on the gospel by different churches and people, and the vast scope and complexity of the Bible itself.
Despite these challenges, we must strive to continue to deepen our understanding of the gospel and share it with others, as it is the message of hope and salvation for all mankind. The gospel reminds us of God’s love for us and His redemptive plan for humanity, and it is through faith in Jesus Christ that we can receive the gift of salvation and the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, it is crucial for us to make every effort to understand the gospel message in its entirety, including its historical and theological contexts, as well as its practical application to our lives today. We must also strive to communicate the gospel message in a clear and concise manner to those around us, whether they are believers or non-believers.
As Christians, we have a responsibility to uphold and proclaim the gospel message in a world that is constantly in need of hope and redemption. By seeking to understand the gospel and share it with others, we can make a significant impact in our communities and in the world, bringing the light of Christ to those who are lost in darkness.
Let Us Pray
We come before you today in prayer, seeking understanding and clarity on the message of the gospel. We acknowledge that there are various factors that contribute to the ambiguity surrounding the gospel, including our own human nature and the challenges of interpreting a vast and varied scripture.
We pray for discernment and wisdom as we seek to understand the good news of salvation through your Son Jesus Christ. May we not be swayed by the opinions of others or the distractions of this world, but rather may we seek the truth with open hearts and minds.
We ask for guidance as we navigate the complexities of scripture and its various interpretations. Help us to study your word diligently and with humility, seeking to understand the fullness of your message and the role that it plays in our lives.
Finally, we pray for a renewed passion for sharing the gospel with those around us. May we not be timid or hesitant in proclaiming the good news, but rather may we boldly share it with those who need to hear it most. Use us as vessels of your grace and mercy, and may your message of salvation be proclaimed to all corners of the earth. We offer these prayers in the name of your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.