What is the Gospel?
Well, if you as two people in different denominations you are likely to get two different answers. (Or as a rabbi once said, ask two Jews about anything and you get three different opinions).
I’m asking this in part because of the current discussion going on here. I want to explore what it is we ought to be witnessing to people as ambassadors of Christ.
Most evangelicals would refer to Romans Road as a tool in order to present the Gospel in a quick and understandable manner to the lost (mostly revolving around Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8, Romans 6:23, and the key verse of Romans 10:13). I’ve used this most recently myself. However, a good analysis of the context with which these verses lie reveal much more that what a cursory reading of the verses appear to mean, particularly in regards to Romans 10. We have to keep in mind that Paul, in Romans chapters 9-11, is address his concern for Israel to be saved, as Romans 10:1 states.
Of particular interest in this chapter is Paul’s usage of Old Testament scriptures to make his points. No less than 12 quotes are made, primarily from the book of Isaiah. So it would serve our inquiry to examine these quotes in their original OT context. For example, let’s take our key verse of Romans 10:13:
*“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” *
On the surface, it seems like this is a good verse to get the witnessed person to ‘call upon name of the Lord’ in prayer in order to ‘receive Christ’ as Savior, with theb general understanding that the Lord is Jesus. But the original quote is actually taken from Joel 2:32 and reveals quite a different kind of salvation:
“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.”
Obviously, and you’ll get a better understanding if you read the whole chapter in Joel, this is all about the nation of Israel’s physical deliverance at the Day of the Lord through the coming Messiah, and in no means refers to personal individual salvation.
Then Paul asks,
“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”
Again, in context, this quote is from Isaiah 52:7 is about the restoration of the nation of Israel. Then Paul goes on,
*“But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?” *
Here we have Isaiah 53:1, which gets into that famous Messianic chapter of the Suffering Servant. A description of the crucifixion in detail as God lays the iniquity of Israel on Him, making His Soul an offering for sin.
I absolutely agree that ‘faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’
But then Paul asks is Israel has heard? An the surprising answer is a resounding ‘Yes’! the answer found in quote of Psalm 19:4:
“Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.”
The actual psalm renders it this way:
*"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun," - Psalm 94:1-4*
So what is declaring the Gospel here? The creation of God! And this falls perfectly in line with what Paul said way back in Romans 1:19-21:
*"Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened."*
The reason Israel need a preacher is not that they need to know who the God of Israel is, but because they were not glorifying God. They were BACKSLIDDEN. They were trying to suppress God in their foolish thoughts. This isn’t about those who have never heard. The wonders of Creation already reveal the Truth of God.
Going back to Romans 10:
*"But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.
But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.
But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people."*
Because of Israel’s stubborness, God turned to the Gentiles and manifested Himself to them, as He provokes Israel jealousy. The good news is that God is found by those WHO SOUGHT ME NOT! That is the Gentiles. The gospel is now extended to all peoples, UNTIL the fulness Gentiles is come in (Romans 11:25) THEN ALL OF ISRAEL WILL BE SAVED (Romans 11:26)! Saved from what? Saved from ungodliness when the Deliverer shall come out of Zion. God will save His people, Israel from their sins (and Gentiles, too, of course, but to the Jews first…)
My point is that we need to be aware of the misconceptions in the common verses we use as part of our presentation of the gospel. Not everything is as it seems.