What is it?
Doing Good Works or Avoiding Bad Behaviors?
If we ask, "what is the salvation gospel?" many of our mission residents and Grants Pass citizens cannot answer clearly. Some think that if we do good works we will go to heaven. Others believe that staying away from sinful behaviors will earn us a place in the kingdom of God. But, think about it. Can you clearly answer this question, either?
What is the Good News?
The Greek words for gospel mean "to bring good news." But, what is the good news? Thankfully, the apostle Paul gave us the Gospel message in a succinct, clear early Christian creed:
"By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 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 at the same time"… (1 Corinthians 15:2-6, NIV).
Earliest Creedal Statement
As early as 35 A.D., soon after Christ's resurrection, new believers professed this short creedal statement that later became a part of the longer written account in 1 Corinthians 15. It was the earliest salvation message.
Belief in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ "according to the scriptures" is what saves us. Shortly after the resurrection believers only had the Old Testament as their scriptures. So they knew that Paul was speaking of passages such as Isaiah 53:8-10 and Psalm 16:10 that related to Jesus Christ's death for their sins and his resurrection from the dead. And then don't forget that we have spectacular historical evidence such as the empty tomb and the early eye witnesses to Jesus' resurrection. That is partly why Paul continued to speak of resurrection appearances to more than five hundred witnesses in the above bible passage.
This is the gospel, the salvation message we cling to as believers in Christ. Belief in this core gospel message means that we will go to heaven, be given bodies that won't die, and we will have eternal life. Thankfully, it doesn't depend upon what we do - it's what He did that counts:
"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:20, NASB).
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8, ESV).
Habermas, Gary R. 2006. Experiences of the risen Jesus: The foundational historical issue in the early proclamation of the resurrection. Originally published in Dialog: A Journal of Theology, Vol, 45; No. 3 (Fall, 2006). pp. 288-297; Blackwell Publishing, UK. garyhabermas.com.
Turner, Ryan. An analysis creed in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. Christian Apologetics&Research Ministry (CARM). carm.org.