What Is the Gospel?
At our church, you will hear the word “gospel” repeatedly because it is the most important truth that we can know and experience. The gospel is not merely a message that needs to be shared with non-Christians, but also with Christians. It is not something that mature Christians move on from, but rather something that they move deeper into. The gospel is the lens through which we should view theology, ministry, and all aspects of life.
The Apostle Paul defined the word “gospel” concisely in 1st Corinthians 15:3-5 when he wrote, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” Simply put, the gospel is all about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and the implications it has for us.
The word “gospel” literally means “good news.” It is the good news of God taking on flesh through the person Jesus Christ and rescuing mankind by His perfect life that we could never live, His substitutionary death that we deserved, and the resurrection that now gives us true life through His Spirit. While the gospel can be stated in a sentence, it is also the grand narrative that is told throughout the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation. The gospel is the glorious story of how God is reconciling the whole world back to Himself through the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. It is personal, yet cosmic. It is simple, yet infinite.
God's gospel originates in, and expresses, the wondrous perfections of the eternal, triune God.
We believe in one God, eternally existing in three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who know, love, and glorify one another. Perfectly equal in their divinity, however subordinate in responsibility; the Son submits to the will of the Father & the Holy Spirit is submitted to the will of the Father & the Son. This one true and living God is infinitely perfect both in His love and in His holiness. He is the Creator of all things, visible and invisible, and is therefore worthy to receive all glory and adoration. Immortal and eternal, He perfectly and completely knows the end from the beginning, sustains and rules, in sovereignty, over all things, and providentially brings about His eternal good purposes to redeem a people for Himself and restore His fallen creation, to the praise of His glorious grace. (Genesis 1:2, 26; Deuteronomy 6:4; Matthew 3:16-17; John 1:1-5; 2 Corinthians 13:14; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:16-21)
God's gospel is authoritatively revealed in the Scriptures.
All Scripture is self-attesting and, being Truth, requires our unreserved submission in all areas of life. The infallible Word of God, the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, bring us a complete and unified witness to God's redemptive acts, culminating in the incarnation of the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible, uniquely and fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the supreme and final authority on all matters on which it speaks. (Matthew 5:17-20; John 16:12-13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21)
The Human Condition
God's gospel alone addresses our deepest need.
Being estranged from God and condemned by our sinfulness, our salvation is wholly dependent upon the work of God's free grace. God credits His righteousness to those who put their faith in Christ alone for their salvation, thereby justifying them in His sight. Only those who are born of the Holy Spirit and receive Jesus Christ become children of God and heirs of eternal life. (Gen. 3; Ps. 143:2; Is. 53:6; Rom. 3:23; I Jn. 1:8-10)
God's gospel is made known supremely in the Person of Jesus Christ.
We believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures. Jesus, Israel’s promised Messiah, was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and advocate. ( Lk. 1:35; Jn. 1:1, 14:6; Acts 1:1-10)
The Work of Christ
God's gospel is accomplished through the work of Christ.
We believe that Jesus Christ, as our representative and substitute, shed His blood on the cross as the perfect, all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins. His atoning death and victorious resurrection constitute the only ground for salvation and being made right with God. (Rom. 3:21-26; Eph. 1:27; Heb. 7:22-28)
The Holy Spirit
God's gospel is applied by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We believe that salvation, attested to in all Scripture and secured by Jesus Christ, is applied to His people by the Holy Spirit. Sent by the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ and is present with and in believers through the proclamation of the Gospel. He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. By His powerful and mysterious work, He regenerates spiritually dead sinners, awakening and persuading them to repentance and faith, baptizing them into union with the Lord Jesus, so they are justified before God. By the Spirit’s working, believers are renewed, sanctified, and adopted into God’s family; they participate in the divine nature and receive His sovereignly distributed gifts. The Holy Spirit is Himself the down payment of the promised inheritance, and in this age indwells, guides, instructs, equips, revives, and empowers believers for Christ-like living and service. (Jn. 14:15-27, 16:7-15; Acts 16:14; Rom. 8:1-30; 1 Cor. 12:3; 12-14; 2 Cor. 3:4-18; Eph. 1:13-14, 2:4-5, 5:18; 1 Thes. 1:4-5)
God's gospel is now embodied in the new community called the Church.
We believe that we are not simply saved as individuals, but that we are saved “into” something called the Church. This is given many different names in Scripture but the primary one is that of a family or the “household of God” (Eph. 2-3). We are to relate to God as our Father and each other as brothers and sisters “in Christ.” This leads to a deep loving community that displays the power of the gospel to a watching world (John 13:35).
We believe that the local church is an autonomous group of believers who join their lives together by the Gospel. Jesus mandated two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the church in genuine faith, these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer.
The local church is governed by the scriptures and operates under the Lordship of Christ. (Acts 2:42-47; Eph. 1:22-23; 1 Pet. 2:9-10)
God's gospel compels us to Christ-like living and mission in the world.
We believe that God’s justifying grace must not be separated from His sanctifying power and purpose. God commands us to love Him supremely and others sacrificially, and to live out our faith with care for one another, compassion toward the poor and justice for the oppressed. With the gospel, the Spirit’s power, and fervent prayer in Christ’s name, we are to combat the spiritual forces of evil. In obedience to Christ’s commission, we are to make disciples among all people, always bearing witness to the gospel in word and deed. We believe that all Christians are called to a life of godly character, devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ and service to Him.
We believe that the gospel is not only the entry point into the Christian life, but is also the dynamic by which we relate to God. Growing in godliness happens by continually reflecting on the gospel, or “good news” of Jesus’ death and resurrection on our behalf. As we reflect on this, and God’s Word, we become aware of just how big the separation is between our sinfulness and God’s standard. This often happens simultaneously with growth in holiness. As we become more and more aware of just how big the separation is, the gospel becomes more and more important, the cross becomes more and more central, and, as a result, we are driven to worship, rather than pride or despair. (Eph. 5:18; 2 Cor. 6:14, 7:1, Rom. 12:1-2, Eph. 4:32, Col. 1:22-24)
God's gospel will be brought to fulfillment by the Lord Himself at the end of this age.
We believe in the personal, glorious, and bodily return of our Lord Jesus Christ with His holy angels, when He will exercise His role as final Judge, and His kingdom will be consummated. We believe in the bodily resurrection of both the just and the unjust—the unjust to judgment and eternal conscious punishment in Hell, as our Lord Himself taught, and the just to eternal blessedness in the presence of Him who sits on the throne and of the Lamb, in the new heaven and the new earth, the home of righteousness. On that day the church will be presented faultless before God by the obedience, suffering and triumph of Christ; all sin purged and its wretched effects forever banished. God will be all in all, His people will be enthralled by His holiness, and everything will be to the praise of His glorious grace. (Matt. 24:29-31, 36-51, 25:31-46; Lk. 12:35-48,16:19-31; 2 Pet. 3:1-13; Rev. 20:11-15, 21:1-8, 22:6-21)
Response and Eternal Destiny
God's gospel requires a response that has eternal consequences.
We believe that God commands everyone, everywhere, to believe the gospel by turning to Him in repentance and receiving the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that God will raise the dead bodily and judge the world, assigning the unbeliever to condemnation and eternal conscious punishment and the believer to eternal blessedness and joy with the Lord in the new heaven and the new earth, to the praise of His glorious grace. (Jn. 5:24, 3:16; Mk. 9:43-50; 2 Thess. 1:9)
What does it mean that we are Methodists/Wesleyan?
Methodism finds itself linked with our spiritual forefather John Wesley an 18th century English reformer who was frustrated with the apathetic Christianity found in England during his early life. Wesley's dream was for Christians to be filled with the Spirit, and to be disciples in a dark and broken world. Methodism espouses practicing a highly practical faith. To say it plainly, we have a "method of discipleship". When you come to Good Shepherd you will hear a lot about our steps, and challenges to become more like Jesus, and being in community with other believers. We see that Methodism can be broken down into three distinct rules.
1.) Do no harm. Christians are never supposed to be destructive even in times of disagreement. As a church we welcome all people to come and hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2.) Do all the good you can whenever you can. Christians are bridge builders into the community, and we are not only meant to believe in Jesus, but to live lives of service like Jesus. Good Shepherd strives to be a church out in the world making a difference.
3.) Stay in love with God. Finally, we are to exercise spiritual disciplines in our lives to help us grow closer and closer to God. There are personal disciplines such as praying, reading the Bible, and tithing. Then, there are communal disciplines such as corporate worship, discipleship groups, and community service.
Finally, being a Methodist means growing in grace. Grace is accepting God's love even though we do not deserve it. Methodists believe all people are created with free will to choose God's love or reject it. Therefore, all people are able to receive God's loving grace.
We believe God is calling all people to fall in love with Him, we call this prevenient grace.
Whenever someone makes the statement that they accept Jesus' death and resurrection (God's redeeming grace) they have been forgiven of all their sins, this is called justifying grace.
From this point forward, the Holy Spirit will convict and call the justified person into a deeper love of God and fellow humanity, this is called sanctification.
The hope is that for brief glimpses on earth, Christians can be made perfect in love for God and people. This state is then brought to completion in the next life, we call this entire sanctification. Our goal is to continue to grow in Christ, until one day, in HIs presence, we are made whole and perfect in love! Amen!
"I desire a practical faith, for a practical man." -John Wesley