Gathered in the fellowship hall of Provident Christian Church, in an area of Metro Manila called Marikina, our weekly Bible study was about to begin. After singing a psalm together and opening with prayer, we read Scripture, each person taking a verse. We are studying the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24, and that night we were up to verse 14. I started our discussion with the remark that the principal sign of the coming of Christ is the preaching of the gospel in all the world for a witness to all nations. When that is finished, says Jesus, the end will come. I asked them, “What is this gospel that must be preached in all nations?”
How fitting, I thought to myself, for a missionary from America to discuss the sign of the preaching of the gospel in all nations with saints in the Philippines!
As one who grew up in the West and moved to the East, from one end of the earth to the other, it was a thrill to talk with them about the preaching of the gospel in all the world!
“All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee” (Ps. 22:27).
In my last article, I pointed out that opportunities to witness come to us constantly, and when they do, we ought to focus on the gospel. When I asked the saints in our Bible study, “What is the gospel?” they gave many beautiful answers.
The gospel: Christ has come!
The gospel, said one of them, is the good news that Christ has come and established His kingdom. Another added, the gospel is the good news that God fulfilled the ancient promises He made to the fathers. Indeed, God is faithful! He kept His promise to send Christ; He will keep the rest of His promises too! What good tidings of great joy! As the angel said to the shepherds, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).
Now suppose you have an opportunity to witness to a Jew or anyone who does not believe that Jesus is the Christ. How will you witness to him? The apostle Paul “reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ” (Acts 17:2-3). One who would focus on the gospel should tell him that God, the faithful God who “keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations” (Deut. 7:9), has kept the ancient promises made to Israel. Christ has come! Jesus is the Christ! Show the man how Jesus fulfilled the promises. Show him how Jesus was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, exactly as Jehovah said through Isaiah. Tell him how Jesus was oppressed and afflicted, yet opened not his mouth, and was brought as a lamb to the slaughter. Tell him that Jesus, though He died on a cross, was proven to be the Christ, “declared to be the Son of God with power…by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4).
The gospel: Christ justified us by His blood!
What is the gospel? Another Filipino brother directed us to Matthew 1:21, “Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Jesus was born to save His people from the greatest evil, their sins! That is good news. Someone else mentioned the verse, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God loved the world so deeply, He loved men and women in all nations of the earth so much, that He gave His Son for them so that they might have everlasting life. That is an astounding message!
Soon, in our Bible study, we came to the cross. The gospel is the good news of Christ crucified. For “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of
God” (I Cor. 1:18). Christ came to seek and to save His lost sheep, to bear all our iniquities, and to die for us on the cross. And having justified us on the cross, He arose from the dead! “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures,” wrote Paul, and He “rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (I Cor. 15:4). Now Christ lives and is able to give us eternal life! That is a message of tremendous comfort!
What is the gospel? The gospel, at its core, is the glad tidings of the full and free justification of sinners, chosen before the foundation of the world, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. The gospel is the message of great joy that God saves us freely, without our works. We do not add anything to the work of Christ. We do not have to perform our way into heaven. We do not have to earn the favor and love of God by what we do. God has done everything for us in Christ, and He justifies us freely by faith in Jesus. That is truly good news!
Now suppose you meet a Roman Catholic or anyone who trusts in the sinking sand of his own works for salvation. How will you witness to him?
Last January, I heard about the procession of the “Black Nazarene,” a black image of Christ carrying a cross, in downtown Manila. The procession is an annual commemoration of the year 1787 when the image was transferred from one shrine to another. I found some video footage of the procession online. Maybe you have seen it too. Millions of Roman Catholics can be seen desperately trying to see, touch, and kiss the Black Nazarene in the hope that they will be healed from a sickness or improve their financial situation, and so on. Others can be seen riding in the carriage with the image, pushing ecstatic zealots away, and even kicking them, in order to protect their idol. Others pray to the image and cross themselves repeatedly. The whole scene stirs your spirit, like Paul in Athens, as you see the city wholly given to idolatry (Acts 17:16). And, of course, they trust that their religious devotion will help them merit eternal life.
If you live in the West, you are more likely to meet the post-modern type who trusts that he might go to heaven (if there is a heaven) because he tries to be a good person, tries to do what is right, tries to be loving and respectful to others. So, he thinks, he might make it to heaven in the end.
How do we witness to those who “trust in themselves that they are righteous” (Luke 18:9)? Praying for the Holy Spirit to guide our hearts and tongues, we ought to tell them about Jesus who saved us fully and freely by His one sacrifice on the cross. We ought to tell them what God has done for us in Christ by His amazing grace and mercy. We ought to speak of the tremendous comfort and freedom of belonging to Christ with body and soul, in life and death. We do not have to merit eternal life by our works. We do not have to chase a black image of the Nazarene, or confess our sins to the priest, or try to make satisfaction by our works. We must not trust in ourselves that we are righteous, because we can never do enough to convince God to let us into heaven. But we are righteous in Christ by faith! Trust in Christ!
Christ is the solid Rock on which to stand! All other ground is sinking sand!
We have hope for eternal life! For God has done it all!
The gospel: The Holy Spirit sanctifies us daily!
I reminded the members of our Bible study that the gospel includes the wonderful news that God has not only justified us, but that He also sanctifies us daily! “For by grace are ye being saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). That is what Paul literally wrote there. God has not only chosen us, redeemed us, regenerated us, and justified us, but He is also sanctifying us day by day. And He promises to perform that good work which He has begun in us until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6). The gospel includes this incredibly hopeful and encouraging message! We are crucified with Christ, nevertheless we live, because we are new creatures in Him. God is setting us free from the sins that used to enslave us. He will set us free more and more by the power of the Holy Spirit, for He works in us both to choose and to follow the everlasting way, to seek the things which are above and to repent of our sins, to pluck out the right eye that offends us, to enter in at the straight gate and to walk on the narrow way that leads to life, to mortify the flesh, and to love God, to love our wife or husband, and to love our enemy. What a joyful gospel! God works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13)!
Now suppose you cross paths with a man who desperately wants to break free from some spiritual slavery, an addiction to drugs, alcohol, or sexual sin. How will you witness to him? Besides the other kinds of help he probably needs, such as rehab, counseling, and accountability, he needs to hear the gospel of God again and again. You ought to tell him about the full and free forgiveness of sins in Christ! There is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). And.for us who are in Christ Jesus, there is power from the Holy Spirit to overcome sin! There is power to live a new and godly life! There is power to be holy and blameless before God (Eph. 1:4). There is power to win the battles of temptation against the devil. And we are already more than conquerors through Him who loves us (Rom.
8:37). You ought to tell him that when you know Christ, when you know the love of God in Christ, when you know that He is your God and you are His child through Christ, when you know that He will always be with you, will always forgive you, will always bless you, then you will also experience victory over sin. For apart from Christ, there is no victory over sin.
The gospel: Christ will come again!
Finally, we noted in our Bible study that the gospel includes the good news that Christ will come again! Right now, He is preparing a place for all His brethren in Father’s house. Right now, He is sitting at the right hand of God, working all things together for our good and directing all things to the glory of God. But soon He will come on the clouds with power and great glory. He will call the dead out of the graves, both the wicked and the righteous, and He will judge them. He will then take all of His chosen ones, for whom He died on the cross, the new Jerusalem, into the new creation where the tabernacle of God will be with men, and He will dwell with us, and we shall be His people, and He shall be with us and be our God (Rev. 21:1-3). That is a message of blessed hope!
If we have opportunity to witness to someone in deep distress, to someone indifferent about spiritual things, or to someone steeped in idolatry, let us direct his attention away from this brief life to eternity! Let us speak to him about heaven and hell. Let us speak of the final judgment. That too is part of our Christian witness (Acts 17:31).
“This gospel of the kingdom,” said Jesus, “shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24:14).
May God be pleased to use you, as you sound out the word of the Lord in the area in which you live, to gain the elect to Christ for the glory of His grace.