Believing in God is not something we do without some preparation. We must search out what has been revealed about Him in the Bible, weeding out from our minds those things that are traditionally known. A New Testament writer wrote the following to a young man named Timothy:
“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7–8
The same writer, in a second letter to him, compares one’s path through life with that of an athlete:
“If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.” 2 Timothy 2:5
Now this message is quite out of keeping with that given out in most churches today, for it indicates three aspects of salvation:
- It is not universal.
- It is not automatic, but follows as a reward for some previous measured performance.
- It is dependent on keeping to a set of rules.
The Word of God
It is important that we appreciate the importance of knowing about God and his plan for salvation as it is expressed in the Holy Bible. Too many people fail to recognise that the salvation promised by God is not open to every person that has ever lived on this planet. Too many people fail to recognise that there is a set of rules that need to be followed. The rules are, of course, supplied to us in the Bible, and are there for everyone to follow. And yet very few do. Why? Perhaps it is because they lose sight of the fact that both Old and New Testaments are the Word of God. Today it is very commonly accepted that the New Testament is all that is needed in order to know God, and to know His plan of salvation. This view is both unwise and illogical. It is like reading a mystery book beginning two-thirds of the way through, and expecting to fully and correctly understand the plot. How can one possibly understand the main characters, their background, their intentions, their motives…? The total Bible is the Word of God, and the total Bible is necessary for understanding the Bible message and the Gospel.
What is the Gospel? If asked this question, most Christians would say that the Gospel is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But this answer shows how unfamiliar they are with the Bible facts regarding the Gospel. Let me illustrate this point. Jesus had a group of followers, and to these people he gave an instruction to go out to “preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:2). The record goes on to state:
“So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.” Luke 9:6
But these men were at that time ignorant of the fact that Jesus had to die! Later in the same chapter it is recorded:
“While everyone was marvelling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, ‘Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.’ But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.” Luke 9:43b-45
When he died they were dismayed and distressed.
The Gospel, we are told by a New Testament writer, was preached to Abraham, and he lived about two thousand years before the time of Jesus. But this verse will be referred to again when we assess exactly what the Gospel is. But first, the Bible story needs to be presented as simply as possible, in order to see what the Gospel really is.