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    WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?(Question 19)

    Now that we have learned more about Jesus and why He came to die for us, we move on to the questions of the catechism that prepare us to not only understand these things with our heads, but also our hearts. This comes to us by true faith and as Question 19 teaches us, this faith comes by hearing the Gospel message.

    19. From where do we learn this?
    The Holy Gospel.

    The word gospel is one of those religious words that you have probably heard many times. Do you know what it means? You've probably heard about gospel music, gospel television, gospel this and gospel that-but do you even know what the word means?

    One of the most common places we find the word "gospel" is in the Bible. The first four books of the New Testament are called "The Gospel According to...". What do each of these books contain? They are written records of the birth, life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. So in the most basic sense, the word "gospel" means the good news or the message about Jesus Christ.

    Now that we understand what the gospel is, let's look at a short passage from the Book of Luke to see why the Gospels were written.

    Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

    (Luke 1:1-4, NKJV)

    From these verses we can learn four reasons why the Gospels were written:

    1. Others had written accounts of Jesus' life.
    In this first point we see proof that Jesus was indeed a flesh and blood person. Many people today want to say that Jesus was just a myth or a figment of people's imagination. But these accounts that were written about Jesus were objective narratives about His life. In other words, these weren't stories about how people felt about Jesus, but actual facts and events that happened in His life.

    2. These accounts were written by eyewitnesses(spectators, family, friends), and ministers of the Word(the Apostles).
    Another criticism of the life of Jesus is that the Bible was written by men, so therefore it must be tainted and untrue. This argument just doesn't make sense. For instance, have you ever been to Russia? Then how do you know it exists? Because you have read about it? Because you have seen pictures of it on TV? But don't men write newspapers and books? Don't men make television programs? Then Russia must not exist because men have revealed it to us.

    You can see how foolish this is. We know that Russia does exist because people have actually been there. They are eyewitnesses to the land and people they have seen, talked to and touched. In the same way the Apostles and "ministers of the Word" were eyewitnesses of the life of Christ. They saw Him heal. They saw Him raise the dead. They saw Him die on the cross-and they also saw Him ascend into heaven. Look what the Apostle John wrote about his eyewitness experiences with Jesus:

    That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life-the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us-that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.

    (1 John 1:1-4, NKJV)

    3. Luke, having a good understanding of these things, decided to write his own account of the life of Christ.
    Even though Luke probably never saw Jesus face to face, he spent all of his time around people who did. He made it his life's work to know the life and ministry of Jesus. You could say he was a "Jesus expert"! And based upon what people told him and his many years of research, he wrote his gospel to share the story of Christ with others.

    4. Luke wrote his Gospel so others may trust and believe in what they had been taught about Christ.

    This is the most important of the four points. The main reason Luke wrote his gospel is so that those new Christians who had heard and believed in Christ could know for sure that who they believed in was truly Man and truly God. During the early years of the church there was much persecution aimed at the new Christian community. People were being fed to the lions. People were being burned like candles. So it was very important that they had proof that Jesus was who He said He was and that one day He would return for them.

    For those of us who call ourselves Christians in 1998 we too need proof. We do not have actual people who have seen Jesus face to face, but we do have their written accounts that are compiled in the Bible. And even though we never saw or touched Jesus the way the Apostle John did, we have the completed Bible which the Apostles never had. We have the Book of Revelation and other prophecies explained to us in ways that the early believers couldn't understand.

    We close today's lesson with Jesus' words to Thomas after He had risen from the grave:

    And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!" Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving , but believing." And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

    (John 20:26-29, NKJV)

    1. What does the word "gospel" mean?
    2. Give four reasons why Luke wrote his gospel?
    3. In what special way did the Apostles witness Jesus' ministry and life?

    1998 Pomona Youth Chapel/Pastor Tim Shultz