In Romans 1:16, the Apostle Paul clearly states that the gospel “is the power of God for salvation.” Hence, the “gospel” is the normal means that God uses to save His people bringing them securely to Christ. Yet, in verse 15, Paul says, “I am eager to preach the gospel [euaggelizō] to you also who are in Rome.” Note that Paul stated this to the Christians in Rome and not to unbelievers. So why would Paul be eager to preach the gospel (i.e., evangelize) to those who were already saved? The answer is expressed in several passages in the NT, which deal with the importance of soundness and accuracy in the proclamation of the gospel (or for that matter, any other biblical doctrine; see Eph. 4:14; 1 Tim. 4:16; 2 Tim. 2:15; Titus 2:13; 1 John 4:1-3; etc.). Thus, Paul was eager to teach and preach to the Christians in Rome a more accurate and deeper understanding of the gospel.
Having a set or firm foundation as to one’s Christian faith is simply having a solid biblical understanding of the essentials of Christian doctrine especially pertaining to the gospel. Without a set-foundation, biblical error is inevitable. Today, far too many Christians although having a significant (yet cursory) knowledge of Christ and the gospel, they either preach, embrace, and/or hold to a wide range of erroneous and distorted doctrines. The fact is, all pastors/teachers should be “eager,” as Paul was, to engage in higher biblical education and training based on the exegesis of Scripture (both textual and historical).
In Christian schools and seminaries, higher Christian education will affect a student’s life long after he or she leaves school. Unlike many secular colleges and universities, the Christian student places more worth on Christian higher education because it involves a higher learning and deeper understanding of the Redeemer, the Author of the Christian religion—Jesus Christ, “The only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 4).
Growing beyond a cursory level in biblical truth and knowledge of God produces a closer intimacy with the Lord and a more effectual presentation of the Christian faith (esp. the gospel).
Essential & Secondary Theology
Essential theology has to do with doctrines that are crucial to one’s faith as a Christian. They are doctrines that have to do with Jesus’ nature and finished work. For example, since the mission and work of Jesus Christ was to save sinners, essential doctrine would naturally include a literal account of Adam and Eve and thus, sin entering into the world.
If the Genesis account were not a literal historic event, then, the entire effects of Adam’s sin being imputed to all men would be false, a mythological invention, or a mere figurative analogy. This, to be sure, would make the testimony of the apostles and Christ Himself erroneous since they taught that these events in Genesis and the persons involved (including the serpent) were literal events that actually happened.
The Gospel of the Son
Biblically speaking, the gospel (good news) is the substitutionary and sacrificial work of Christ—not the work of man in his response, faith, repentance, good behavior, etc. Besides that of 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, which we will deal with shortly, Paul makes this point clear in Romans 1:1, 3: “The gospel of God . . . concerning His Son.” That means that the gospel has nothing to do with man, but everything to do with the atoning work of Jesus Christ, God the Son. We must not confuse the work of Christ, which is the gospel, with the response of man to the gospel.
Therefore, the gospel pertains solely to the Son’s nature and finished work, which would include:
1. His full deity being equal with the Father—second person of the Trinity
2. His perpetual (permanent) incarnation, His dual nature as God-man
3. Born of a virgin
4. His sinless and perfect life
5. His substitutionary atonement
6. His physical resurrection from the dead
These doctrines above are essential to the Christian faith—consequently, all must be affirmed and none can be denied. They constitute the key ultimate test in which distinguishes genuine Christianity from false non-Christian cults and world religions. Again, all must be affirmed and none can be denied. One cannot affirm some of these, but not the others. For example, Roman Catholicism officially embraces the Trinity, deity of Christ, the incarnation, Virgin birth, and Jesus’ physical resurrection. However, because Rome flat-out denies that the alone cross-work of Jesus Christ is absolutely sufficient in and of itself for salvation, Rome falls outside of Christian orthodoxy (cf. Gal. 1:6, 8)—hence, non-Christian. Thus, it is not the Jesus of biblical revelation that Rome embraces, rather a different Jesus and a different gospel.
So, all things pertaining to the gospel are “essential” theology. Whereas secondary theology is any doctrine that is not essential to one’s salvation—namely, any doctrine that does not fundamentally deny or distort the nature and/or finished work of Christ (e.g., the OT Law, spiritual, gifts, formulation of water baptism, eschatology [i.e., end-time teachings], etc.).
Paul’s Definition of the Gospel
WHAT IS THE GOSPEL? 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (note, the incarnation is a part of the gospel—2 Tim. 2:8). These four points provide the biblical definition of the gospel.
3) “For our sins” and
4) “Raised on the third day”
“Christ”: “Which Christ”? The Christ of Paul’s gospel was fully God (cf. John 1:1; 8:58; 20:28; Phil. 2:6; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:3, 8); born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:18, 23); God incarnate (cf. John 1:14; 1 Cor. 2:8; Gal. 4:4; 1 Tim. 2:5; 2 Tim. 2:8; 1 John 4:1-3); Second person of the Trinity (cf. Dan. 7:9-14; Matt. 28:19; John 17:5; 2 Cor. 13:14; Heb. 1:10-12; Rev. 5:13-14).
“Died” (“for our sins”): Christ died a real death that produced a real sacrifice (cf. Rom. 5:8; 1 Cor. 15:3).
“For our sins”: This phrase includes and represents His propitiation/atoning sacrifice (cf. John 1:29; 1 John 2:2—again, on our behalf); justification (i.e., being declared righteous/just in the sight of the Lord through faith alone, apart from works (cf. Rom. 4:4-8; 5:1, 8-10; Eph. 2:8; Col. 1:20, 22).
“Raised on the third day”: It was a physical resurrection (John 2:19-21; Acts 17:31; 1 Cor. 15:4).
The gospel has to do with the Son, not the man (Rom. 1:1-3)—Jesus’ work both in His perfect life (Rom. 5:10) and His death. We need a Set-Foundation, that is, we need to be “set” in our theology on the foundational/essential truths of the Christian faith—i.e., the gospel of the Son.
1st Century Gospel – the Same Power Today
As we saw in Romans 1:16, believers are saved by God alone through the preaching of the gospel. The feet of those who proclaim the gospel are “beautiful” according to the Lord (cf. Rom. 10:15). Unfortunately, well-meaning Christians misdefine the gospel. Either it is reduced to some kind of end-time assertion or, even worse, it is equated to (or resulting in) financial prosperity and/or some kind of “sign gift” of the Holy Spirit. Some even see the gospel as man’s own work in his repentance and obedience. But as seen, none of these definitions are consistent with the biblical definition. Again, the gospel is simply the work of Christ in His life, sacrificial death, and bodily resurrection alone. Having a set-foundation as to one’s Christian faith is simply having a solid biblical understanding of the essentials of Christian doctrine especially pertaining to the gospel. As stated, without a set-foundation, biblical error is inevitable.
THE DEITY OF CHRIST
Aside from the biblical passages where Jesus claimed that He was God (cf. John 5:17-18; 8:24, 58; 10:30; 13:19; 18:5-6, 8) and the passages where He is presented as God by His apostles, the Son possesses the very attributes of God:
- He has the power to forgive sins (cf. Matt. 9:6)
- He is greater than the temple (cf. Matt. 12:6)
- He is Lord of the Sabbath (cf. Matt. 12:8)
- He is the King of a kingdom and the angels are His and they will gather His elect (cf. Matt. 13:41; Mark 13:27)
- He is the Messiah, the Son of the living God (cf. Matt. 16:13-17)
- He died and was raised from the dead (cf. Matt. 17:9, 22-23; 19;26:2; Mark 8:31; 9:31; Luke 9:22; 18:31-33; John 2:19ff.)
- He is omnipresent (cf. Matt. 28:20; John 14:23)
- He is omniscient (cf. John 2:24-25; 6:64; 16:30; 21:17)
- His is omnipotent (cf. Matt. 8:27; 9:6; 28:18; Heb. 7:25)
- He gave His life as a ransom for many (cf. Mark. 10:45)
- He gives eternal life (cf. Luke 10:21-22; 10:27-28)
- He is the monogenēs theos, “unique/one and only God” that came from heaven (cf. John 1:18; 3:13)
- He preexisted with and shared glory with the Father (cf. Micah 5:2; John 1:1; 17:5)
- He is immutable (cf. Heb. 1:10-12; 13:8)
- He is the Creator of all things (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:10)
- He was worshiped as God (cf. Dan. 7:14; Matt. 14:33; John 9:35-38; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:13-14)
Virtually every NT book teaches the full deity of the Son, Jesus Christ, explicitly or implicitly. Jesus Christ is the second person of the Holy Trinity. The Son is fully God coexisting with the Father (cf. John 1:1, 18; 17:5; Heb. 1:3, 8-12). He was sent by the Father (cf. John 6:37ff.) to redeem the elect of God by His sacrificial death on the cross (cf. Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:9-11; 8:32). The Son is the only mediator between the Father and man (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5).
Thus, the Christ of biblical revelation is the divine Son, a personal self-aware subject, distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit. This is the Christ that saves; this is the Christ that Paul and the other NT authors preached—thus, this is the Christ we must proclaim!