The word gospel literally means “good news” and occurs 93 times in the New Testament of the Bible.
The Old Testament Law was given to us by God during the time of Moses. The Law can be thought of as a measuring stick, and sin is anything that falls short of that standard. The Law is so stringent that no human being could possibly follow it perfectly. We all have sinned, and the result of that sin is our separation from God. In order for us to go to heaven and dwell with God, our sin must be removed or paid for. The Law established that cleansing from sin can only happen through a suitable sacrifice.
The gospel says that Jesus’ death on the cross was that perfect sacrifice to fulfill the Law, because he was divine and perfect. When Christ offered himself as our sacrifice, all who would believe it and claim it for themselves would have their sins removed by substitution. The gospel also involves Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25). The fact that Jesus conquered sin and death (sin’s penalty) is good news, indeed. And the fact that He offers to share his righteousness with us is the greatest news of all. The work of atonement is finished now, and that’s the Gospel.
The elements of the gospel are clearly stated in 1 Corinthians 15:3–6, a key passage concerning the good news of God: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time …”
Notice, first, that Paul “received” the gospel and then “passed it on”; this is a divine message, not a man-made invention. Second, the gospel is “of first importance.” Everywhere the apostles went, they preached the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Third, the message of the gospel is accompanied by proofs: Christ died for our sins (proved by His burial), and He rose again the third day (proved by the eyewitnesses). Fourth, all this was done “according to the Scriptures”; the theme of the whole Bible is the salvation of mankind through Christ.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). The gospel is a bold message, and we are not ashamed of proclaiming it. It is a powerful message, because it is God’s good news. It is a saving message, the only thing that can truly reform the human heart. It is a universal message, for everyone. And the gospel is received by faith; salvation is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8–9).
There are two outstanding truths about the church. First, “the church of the living God [is] the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Second, Christ alone is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; Colossians 1:18).
The local church is a place where the Bible has complete authority. The Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Therefore, when seeking a church to attend, we should find one where the gospel is preached, sin is condemned, worship is from the heart, the teaching is biblical, and opportunities to minister to others exist
In regard to the second truth about the church, Christians should attend a local fellowship that declares Christ’s headship in all matters of doctrine and practice. Christ is the church’s one supreme authority, and all church leadership, gifts, order, discipline, and worship are appointed through His sovereignty, as found in the Scriptures.
Once these two fundamental truths are set, the rest of the factors (buildings, worship styles, activities, programs, location, etc.) are a matter of personal preference. Before attending a church, some research is necessary. Statements that will give insight into what a church believes should be carefully examined. Many churches have websites where one can determine what they believe regarding the Bible, God, the Trinity, Jesus Christ, sin, and salvation.
Next should be visits to the churches that seem to have the fundamentals in place. Attendance at two or three services at each church will be helpful.
Finally, remember that no church is perfect. At best, it is still filled with saved sinners. Also, do not forget the importance of prayer. Praying about the church God would have you attend is crucial throughout the decision-making process.
Yes. Using the same criteria by which we judge other historical works, not only is the Bible reliable, it is more reliable than any other comparable writing. Reliability is a question of truthfulness and accurate copying. Writings that are historically and factually correct and that have been faithfully preserved over time would be considered reliable. Higher levels of historical verification and better confidence in transmission make it easier to determine whether an ancient work is worthy of trust. By those measures, we can consider the Bible reliable.
As is true with any historical work, not every single detail in the Bible can be directly confirmed. The Bible cannot be called unreliable simply because it contains parts which cannot be confirmed or have not yet been confirmed. What’s reasonable is to expect it to be accurate where it can be checked. This is the primary test of reliability, and here the Bible has a stellar track record. Not only have many of its historical details been confirmed, but certain portions that were once in doubt have been verified by later archaeology.
Accurate copying is also an important factor in the Bible’s reliability. New Testament writings were composed within a few decades of the events they describe, far too early for legend or myth to overtake actual history. In fact, the basic framework of the gospel can be dated to a formal creed just a few years after the crucifixion of Jesus, according to Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians 15:3–8. Historians have access to a tremendous number of manuscripts, proving the New Testament was reliably and quickly copied and distributed. This gives ample confidence that what we read today correctly represents the original writing.
The Old Testament, as well, shows all evidence of being reliably transmitted. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the 1940s, they were 800 years older than any other available manuscripts. Comparing earlier and later manuscripts showed a meticulous approach to transmission, once again adding to our confidence that what we have today represents the original texts.
The Bible has more empirical support, a shorter time between original writing and surviving copies, and a greater number of source manuscripts than any other ancient work, by far.
For example, there are ten copies of the works of Julius Caesar, the earliest from 1,000 years after he wrote, with no way to know how well those copies represent the originals. There are eight copies of the works of the historian Herodotus, the earliest from 1,400 years after he wrote. Archaeologists have found 643 manuscript copies of the works of Homer, allowing us a 95 percent confidence in the original text.
For the New Testament, there are currently more than 5,000 manuscripts, with most early copies anywhere from 200 to 300 years later, and some less than 100 years later. This gives a better than 99 percent confidence in the contents of the original text.
In short, we not only have objective reasons to claim the Bible is reliable, but we cannot call it unreliable without throwing out almost everything else we know of ancient history. If the Scriptures don’t pass a test for trustworthiness, no records from that era can. The Bible’s reliability is proven in both its historical accuracy and its accurate transmission.
No. It is our contention that water baptism is an important step of obedience for a Christian, but we reject baptism as being required for salvation. We strongly believe that each and every Christian should be water baptized. Baptism illustrates a believer’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Romans 6:3-4 declares, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” The action of being immersed in the water illustrates dying and being buried with Christ. The action of coming out of the water pictures Christ’s resurrection.
Requiring anything in addition to faith in Jesus Christ for salvation is a works-based salvation. To add anything to the gospel is to say that Jesus’ death on the cross was not sufficient to purchase our salvation. To say that baptism is necessary for salvation is to say we must add our own good works and obedience to Christ’s death in order to make it sufficient for salvation. Jesus’ death alone paid for our sins (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus’ payment for our sins is appropriated to us by faith alone (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9). Therefore, baptism is an important step of obedience after salvation but cannot be a requirement for salvation.
Baptism is a means of making your decision public. It is a symbol of what has already occurred in the heart and life of one who has trusted Christ as Savior (Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12). Baptism is an important step of obedience that every Christian should take. However baptism cannot be a requirement for salvation. To make it such is an attack on the sufficiency of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.