Part 4: The Early church. Lesson 3 of 7.
Lesson 21: The Christian Message
Through today’s lesson, we hope you will become clear on what the evangelistic message is and will understand the dynamics of each part, and will see that it is normal for the common person to be involved in evangelizing.
1.Prodding needed. Christianity spread rapidly throughout the Roman Empire. Jesus had commanded his followers to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Though the Old Testament had promised that the Messiah would be for all nations, the early believers did not take the initiative to go everywhere with the gospel. God needed to intervene and prod the believers to obey his command. Two problems were the laws about separation and the refusal to leave the comforts of home. The sections below record the ways that God dealt with these problems.
2.Separation. One problem was that Jews had been accustomed to keeping separate from Gentiles. One way they kept separate was by obeying the Old Testament laws about food. In the Old Testament, God told the Jews not to eat certain animals: these animals were called “unclean.” For example, God had commanded the Jews not to eat any animal with a split hoof. This was one way God used to keep his people separate from others, so they would not worship the idols of other tribes. But now the time had come to stop being separate. The Messiah had come, and this news needed to be spread to the entire world. Peter needed a vision from God before he was prepared to share the gospel with Gentiles, and the vision used the food laws as an example. God told Peter not to call any food “unclean” any longer, since God has now called it “clean.” 1 The vision prepared Peter to give up his views about separation and to accept the invitation to go to the home of a Gentile. Peter told them about Jesus, and agave up his beliefs about separation, and, following God’s new revelation, he went with the Gentiles. As a result, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they became believers. 2
3.Persecution. Jesus had told his followers to share not only in Jerusalem, but in other countries as well, but they were not doing it. When the Jewish religious leaders began to persecute the Christians, they ran away to many different countries. They used this opportunity to explain the message about Jesus wherever they went, and a great many people believed. 3
4.The message. The next section introduces the message they spoke when they shared the gospel. The Bible is a thick book, and it seems overwhelming if we think we must explain the entire book to someone before they could become a Christian. But fortunately most of the Bible is meant to share with people after they already are Christians. For those who are not yet Christians, the message is simple and easy to remember. We can learn this message of salvation from the apostles. Fortunately, there are many places in the Book of Acts where we can see what the apostles said when they witnessed. The content of all these speeches is remarkably similar. We will look at one example. In Acts 13:27-30. Paul first told the people about the evil they had done by having Jesus executed (The “wood” mentioned in verse 29 is what we usually call the cross). The surprising part of the message is in verse 30: God Raised Jesus from death.
5.Benefits. The meaning of all these events was explained many years before by God’s prophets., so in the next several verses Paul uses Old Testament quotations to urge the listeners to accept the resurrection. Paul continues his speech by noting some of the benefits that are received through Christ’s death — Forgiveness, and being called righteous. Paul states that the only way to receive these benefits is to believe in Jesus. 4 To summarize, Paul’s message included (1) people’s evil actions, (2) Jesus’ sacrifice, (3) how to receive it, and (4) benefits.
6.Another example. Paul wrote these same points in his letters. For example, all four points are made in Colossians 1:21-23. (1) Mankind’s problem is described by these words: “Enemies of God, and separated from God, because of evil actions.” (2) The physical death of Jesus is mentioned. (3) the listeners are urged to maintain Faith. (4) The benefits are listed are “Made good with God, considered holy, without blemish, brought into God’s presence.” In verse 23, Paul uses the word “gospel” as the term for this entire message.
7.The four parts. Notice that when the apostles explained the message, they included these four parts:
(1) People’s problem: separation from God
(2) God’s answer: Jesus
(3) Invitation to believe, repent, be baptized
(4) Benefits for those who trust Jesus
These same four parts in Romans 3:23-25.
(1) PROBLEM. all have sinned (v. 23 and 25)
(2) ANSWER. Jesus’ saving redemption (v. 24) Jesus being atoning sacrifice through his blood (v.25)
(3) RESPONSE. by people’s faith (v. 25)
(4) BENEFITS. called righteous as a free gift (v. 24)
8.Explaining the parts. Part (1), PROBLEM, includes God’s law. The law cannot give new life to people, but the law has an important function: to show our sins. 5 The concept of sin includes not only the acts of disobedience, but the sinful nature that produces them. Sin has symptom,s such as guilt and shame, and sin also has results: Those who sin deserve to die. 6 Death is separation. Eternal death means separation from God forever.
Part (2) ANSWER, is called the gospel. Paul defines the gospel as the good news that Jesus died for our sins but rose from the dead. 7 What is included here as the content of the gospel? Jesus died, was buried, and rose. Paul emphasizes that Jesus was both God and man. 8 Because Jesus is a descendant of David, Jesus is truly human. If he were not human, He could not die for my sins. Because Jesus rose from the dead, Jesus is shown to be truly God. If Jesus were not God, His death could not have paid for my sins. John explains that the death of Jesus is a Sacrifice of atonement. 9
Part (3), RESPONSE, shows us what the Holy Spirit does through the words of the gospel. If I respond in faith, it is by the work of the Holy Spirit. 10 and is the gift of God. This gift also shows in the willingness to repent. And these same promises come to us in baptism.
Part （4 BENEFITS）are the results of faith. Many benefits are found in the verses about Jesus’ death and resurrection, such as: Forgiveness of sins, being called righteous, considered holy and without blemish, brought into God’s presence, Christ being in you, and you being “in Christ;” you automatically being part of Christ’s body, the church; and you having new life and eternal life.
9.Application. When you tell the gospel to someone, then, you will look for an opportunity to talk about the four points:
(1) People’s problem: separation from God due to sin, shown by God’s law
(2) God’s answer: Jesus – who Jesus is and what Jesus did for us, called the “gospel”
(3) Invitation to believe, repent, be baptized
(4) Benefits for those who trust Jesus: forgiveness, good relationship with God, Spirit’s power to lead the new life, and many more.
- Results. This message continues to result in people becoming Christians. After people became Christians, they continued to receive teaching. They continued to learn more about the salvation message, so they could share it with others, and they learned how to live as a Christian. In this way the Christians carry out Christ’s “Great Commission:” 12 After people were baptized, Jesus told us to teach them all things that Jesus had commanded.
Many of Paul’s letters are arranged this way. In the first part, Paul clarifies how to become a Christian, and then in the second part Paul teaches about Christian growth:
|Book||How to become Christian||How to live as a Christian|
|Romans||Chapters 1-5||Chapters 6-8 and 11-15|
|Galatians||Chapters 2-4||Chapters 5-6|
|Ephesians||Chapters 2-3||Chapters 4-6|
|Colossians||Chapter 1||Chapters 2-4|
1 Acts 11:1-10
2 Acts 11:11-18
3 Acts 11:19-21
4 Acts 13:38-39
5 Romans 3:20
6 Romans 6:23
7 1 Corinthians 15:1-4
8 Romans 1:2-4
9 1 John 2:1-2
10 1 Corinthians 12:3.
11 Ephesians 2:8-9
12 Matthew 28:19-20