September 1, 2009

What is, “The Content of the Gospel of Salvation?”

The Content of the Gospel of Salvation
Dr. Charlie Bing

When sharing the gospel clearly we should have two great concerns. First, we should be absolutely clear about the condition of salvation—believe. That belief must be free from any works, commitment, or idea of merit on our part so that grace remains grace.

The second concern is that we should be clear about the content of the gospel, or what has to be believed. The content of the gospel is the person and work of Jesus Christ, which are inseparable as the object of saving faith.

The Person of Jesus Christ
We are saved by Someone, the Lord Jesus Christ. Not just any Jesus, but the One sent from God who is the Son of God. There are many things implied by the designation Lord Jesus Christ such as deity, humanity, and messianic mission. While someone may not comprehend a full-blown Christology, there must be some understanding of Jesus’ uniqueness and divine authority. The Gospel of John, recognized for its evangelistic intent (John 20:30-31), emphasizes the deity of Jesus more than any other Bible book (e.g., 1:1-3, 14, 18; 5:17-21; 6:69; 7:38; 8:19, 58; 10:30; 20:28). In John the person of Jesus Christ is the object of faith in many evangelistic contexts (e.g., John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; 6:29, 47; 9:35-37; 11:25-26).

The Provision of Jesus Christ
As the Son of God, Jesus saves us by what He did for us; He provided for our greatest need. We are after all, saved from something and to something. As sinners separated from God, we needed someone to pay the penalty that we could not pay. Jesus paid that price by dying on the cross. Of course, a dead savior could save no one, so Jesus rose from the dead. His resurrection shows that the price has been paid, that God accepted the payment, and that He lives to give us eternal life. Jesus made it possible for us to pass from death into life if we accept His provision (John 5:24). 
The person of Jesus can not be separated from His work. Jesus is the "Lamb of God" who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). He gave His life for us (e.g., John 6:51; 10:11-18) as the supreme sacrifice for our sins (Heb. 10:5-10). Isaiah 53 speaks prophetically of Jesus’ substitutionary death (Isa. 53:3-12) and His resurrection (Isa. 53:10-12).

Again, there are many deep and profound intricacies surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection which an unsaved person may not grasp immediately. Yet it seems there must be at least the simplest understanding that we are sinners separated from God, that Jesus removed the barrier caused by that sin through His death and resurrection, and that He now lives to give us His life. That is why we see the preaching of the cross and the resurrection in the early church (e.g., Acts 2:23-24, 36; 3:18-20; 4:2, 10; 5:29-31; 10:39-40; 13:29-30; 17:3; 26:22-23) and why those great facts were reiterated in the epistles (e.g., Romans 3—8, 1 Cor. 1:18-24; 2:1-2; 15:1-4; Gal. 3:1; Eph. 1:20; Phil. 2:8-9; Col. 2:12- 14; Hebrews; 1 Pet. 1:3, 18-21; 3:18).

The Promise of Jesus Christ
It is certainly conceivable that a person can understand the facts about the person and work of Christ and yet not be saved because he does not apply them to his own spiritual condition. We believe Christ for something, and that is eternal life. God has promised us that whoever believes in Jesus Christ as the One who died and rose again will have eternal life (e.g., John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 7:38; 10:26-29; 11:25-26; 12:44-50; 20:31). A person must believe, or be persuaded, that the promise is true and true for himself.

Eternal life has many implications that a person may not fully comprehend. It encompasses eternal security, forgiveness of sin, justification, new birth, glorification, and other wonderful truths that will become clearer with instruction in God’s Word. Eternal life is also defined as knowing God through Christ (John 17:3). A person must believe God’s promise for some salvific aspect of this eternal life.

Some Unknowns
While the gospel’s content is essentially simple and we can share it clearly, questions may remain about certain situations: How does a very young child understand the gospel’s content? How can a mentally impaired person be saved? What happens to babies who die without any knowledge of the gospel? How does a Hindu understand the concepts of God, sin, Son of God, resurrection, eternal life? When we share the gospel, we must realize that the communication process has two components, the communicator and the one who receives it. Not always does the listener process the information exactly as the communicator means it. In other words, there are barriers in communicating the gospel such as language, cultural interpretation, attentiveness, clarity, processing, pre-understanding, and religious preconceptions.

In light of these unknowns, we must humbly acknowledge that a person’s understanding may not always be what we think it is. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit knows what we do not. While it is our responsibility to share the gospel as clearly as possible, it is His work to convince (convict; John 16:8) the hearer of its truthfulness. As we share the gospel, we must depend on the Holy Spirit to work in the hearer to give enough understanding to bring about faith (Rom. 10:14-17). Exactly how the Spirit works in a person’s understanding will always remain somewhat a mystery (John 3:8; 6:44-45, 65). None of this, however, takes away from the fact that if we are wrong in our message, the listener will be wrong in his faith.

We are called to share the gospel of salvation, which means that we share the person, provision, and promise of Jesus Christ. Why would we share anything less? Whether we explain it in the most basic terms or in great depth, it is always the Holy Spirit who brings the understanding, which prompts faith. We preach the gospel of grace through faith alone in Christ alone and allow God to do the rest. Certainly that requires us to communicate it clearly, but also to pray fervently.

This GraceNotes may be copied and distributed freely. For a full set of GraceNotes or for more resources about growing in grace contact GraceLife at or write to P.O. Box 302, Burleson, TX 76097.


  1. Great piece, Lou. The simplicity yet fullness of the gospel needs to be emphasized repeatedly.


  2. Thanks Bert. I posted this because of its faithfulness to the "simplicity that is in Christ," (2 Cor. 11:3).


  3. I like that - the majority of verses come from John and the Pauline Epistles with support from outside of those WHERE they agree with Paul :)

    One thing that always irks me about the Lordship Crowd is their complete disregard for dispensational teachings, but not only at a theological level, but also at a simple contextual level.

    One does not need to be a dispensationalist to see that Ezekiel 33:24-38 is aimed at Jews, and their Kingdom of Heaven and the promises of material wealth

    But so often, probably due to disregarding the command to rightly divide, or the hatred of dispensational theology, they run to Eze 36:26 to support their law keeping lordship salvation teachings, and ignore the context of the verse, which is Israel in the Millennium.

    I mean, if this applied even remotely to the Christian, why don't they apply the rest of the passage? Why aren't Christians living in the middle east? Why aren't we all financially comfortable? Why are there still millions of Christians living amongst the heathens.

  4. I meant Eze 36:24-28, not chapter 33 in my post above :)

  5. Hi Luke,

    I think the biggest threat of LS is that it is forwarded by an army of highly skilled and motivated Proof-Texters.

    This seems to be a symptom of being surrounded by LS teachers and sympathizers. We talked in Lou's previous thread about how influence, fears, dedication and even hero worship seem to be primary in building the LS advocate.

    The LS advocate will argue Ezk 36:36 to infinity and never consider the next few verses. The next verses are not the issue in the LS advocate's mind. The primary issue is to support LS theology.

    I think people in general are like that, US INCLUDED, so we need to be careful.



  6. I probably couldn't be more easily misunderstood than with my following remarks.

    Charlie is a good friend and a faithful example of laboring unto the Lord. I will always treasure our working together to start the Free Grace Alliance (; but there is something that sets Charlie apart in this discussion.

    Dr. Charlie Bing marries academic rigor with practice. You can call it what you will, but theorists have done more to stagger theology than any other group...hands down.

    The simplicity and clarity you see in this article comes from his being a pastor, traveling to India, Africa, and across the USA. Charlie both studies and lives it...which gives a useful defense to the gospel.

    We would all do well to form our theology on the pottery's wheel of careful study AND in the kiln of living it out!

    Kudos to my friend Dr. Bing,

    Fred Lybrand

  7. Fred:

    Thanks for the kind note about Charlie and his article.

    I was at the 5th Annual Leadership (Grace) Conference for the Friday morning sessions only. One of the workshops was conducted by Charlie Bing. He and I met for a few minutes before that session.

    For the life of me I can’t remember the workshop title, but I told Charlie I was going to sit in on it. He said it may be a little basic for me and covering ground that I am already very familiar with. I did not let that dissuade me from attending and glad I sat in.

    Charlie spoke on the Gospel of grace, defining terms as he went and contrasting the biblical plan of salvation to the errors addition and reductionism.

    I sat there encouraged and edified to hear the clarity and simplicity with which he taught and expounded from the Scriptures the love of God for man in His saving message.

    What a blessing to have heard Charlie speak on the riches in Christ and His saving message.

    This article typifies much of what I heard in Charlie’s workshop and that is why I am sharing it with my guests.

    Thanks again,


  8. I probably couldn't be more easily misunderstood than with my following remarks.

    Dr. Lybrand-

    I appreciate what you said about Dr. Bing. Why do you think you would be misunderstood?


  9. Luke started a pattern... I'm just following it...

    I MEANT Ezk 36:26



  10. Oh definitely. I think we have all been guilty of going along with things that our hearts aren't full convinced of, but our friends are, so we think "well, if my friend is convinced, and he is pretty solid, he must be right".

    I mean, when I first heard about dispensational salvation (which I know most people didn't agree with - ie, God saves people differently in different dispensations) from a friend who I really trusted, I just kind of took it for granted. Then I thought, wait a sec, why do I believe this? I know nothing about it... I read a bit more about it and became convinced of it, although there were some things I disagree with and some things I still don't understand.

    I don't tend to talk about it much except when people bring up OT passages to prove law keeping for the Christian today.

    There is definitely a lot of peer pressure involved in any acceptance of a certain theology.

    There is definitely hero worship too. I remember in my old baptist church, my Pastor was so dedicated to soul winning - He would come out on the streets every saturday and sunday, plus any visitation he did during the week, and he would streetpreach occasionally, and hand out tracts. I went down enthusiastically but didn't get the same success and rapport he had with people. So I figured everyone was a false convert and I started listening to Ray Comfort and so did my friend Robert, and instead of taking time to actually talk with unsaved, we would just give a very basic gospel presentation, not push them to accept Christ and then talk behind the Pastor's back about prompting people to believe on Christ.

    Like I said, I am ashamed of that. I am also ashamed of my behaviour now, because I don't actively share the gospel, mainly because I have escaped a few years of confusion and doubting salvation because of my error, and I am only coming back to closeness and reliance on God rather than self.

  11. Jan,

    I am, in effect, suggesting that pure academics is something less than practiced academics. Of course, someone can be wrong whether they practice what they preach or not! Basically, however, on balance I find that many theological debates drift into a cul-de-sac because the present theory (idea about a doctrine or belief) has not been experienced in life. It is far easier to talk about a doctrinal idea than to think it through with real lives in view.

    The Gospel of Grace often falls to disorientation. Sometimes the gospel is made to hard, and sometimes it's made far too easy. Neither really results in the hope and assurance the gospel claims. Sticking to the truth is the key, but God has also provided real experience as a fair communication device.

    Frankly, the truth works...and should be lived by all of us who preach it.

    Hope this helps,


  12. I am, in effect, suggesting that pure academics is something less than practiced academics.

    That's right. It is. It's like that in just about any area. Book learning, while necessary, only takes you so far. I certainly don't want a brain surgeon doing an operation on me that he read about in a book somewhere! There is nothing like the knowledge of experience.


  13. Hi Luke,

    I don't know if this is actually the best spot to discuss this subject or not but I'll breach it anyway and allow Lou to shut me down if he chooses.

    Dispensational Theology is often attacked because by the Covenant theologians because they say that Dispensationalists believe in different plans/processes/methods... of Salvation.

    I've heard of such views before but I've found that Scripture prohibits such a view. People's sins before the Cross were forgiven through the blood of Christ. Romans 3 shows us that God forgave the sins because He knew it would be spilt.

    We're told that Abram was accounted as righteous because of his faith in God.

    There are people who say that the Jew was saved through Law keeping, but the Jew was not. The Jew was saved just like we are, through faith.

    The difference is that they believed God's promise, and we believe His demonstration.

    I'm just checking in but I think this is a very important topic to explore with you.


  14. Kev:

    Feel free to discuss that subject.


  15. Luke, Kev-

    The notable Pauline Dispensationalist Miles Stanford was accused by John MacArthur of teaching two ways of salvation in Mac's book Faith Works. Stanford wrote a response correcting that error, saying his view was not two different ways of salvation but two different kinds. It can be read here:


  16. Yeah, I have read that. Sorry, I have been away in Auckland for the weekend with some students at a Robotics competition. They came third Nationally. I will respond to Kev and Jan soon.

  17. I'm not really concerned about Covenant Theologians attacking me or claiming I believe something. It doesn't bother me. I am not interested in dialogue between groups to achieve some kind of mutual understanding and harmony. My understanding is this - the Bible is right, they are wrong. If I don't match up with the Bible, I am wrong.

    If anyone wants to accuse me of believing different ways, kinds or whatever about salvation, then they can if they want.

    However, let me clarify what I mean, and I will disregard Abraham for this explanation, as it is basically Law vs Grace

    In order for an OT saint to go to heaven, he must keep the law. In order to keep the law, he must have faith in God. If he breaks the law, his fellowship with God is broken, and he is in danger of hell. If he provides the sacrifice given in the law, then his sin is forgiven and it is covered (the word covered is important).

    When he dies, if he dies having faith in God, and with his sins covered, he still doesn't go to heaven. He goes to Paradise, Abraham's Bosom. It is there he awaits his proper salvation - via the blood of Jesus Christ.

    However, while the sacrifices picture the blood of Christ, the OT saint knew little if anything about the blood sacrifice of the Messiah. This is evident by the disciples shock when Jesus explains it to them, as well as His rejection by Israel who were supposedly (according to many theologians), "looking forward to the cross".

    So, OT saint dies, goes to paradise with sins covered, Jesus dies - WASHES SINS AWAY - goes to heaven

    NT saint - believes on Christ, not under law, sins already washed away by blood, goes to heaven

    When we start mixing up the words "way" and "kind" it gets a bit arbitrary. I just see a different way that God works in the OT compared to the NT.

    Now, in regards to Abraham, his salvation was before the law. He only had the promise of God to believe.

    However, he believes the promise in Gen 15. In Hebrews, it says that the scriptures preached the gospel to Abraham. But this event didn't happen until Gen 18. And then James says Abraham was justified, but this didn't happen until Gen 22.

    So while Abraham's salvation (according to Paul) was like ours, in that it was by believing what God had said, it is not the same as ours - Abraham did not hear the "gospel" until after he was imputed righteousness.

    I tend to agree with 99% of what Stanford says however.

  18. Hi Jan,

    Just a quick note. Stanford is gone to be with the Lord now but there are people who look after the website.

    I agree with some of MJS's stuff but not with all of it.

    He did preach that there were several more dispensations than the 7 that Classic Dispensationalism describes.

    I THINK he preached how the Gospel was different in these dispensations - but I may well be mistaken.


  19. He did preach that there were several more dispensations than the 7 that Classic Dispensationalism describes.


    He did? Are you sure? I can't find a reference to that anywhere.


  20. I think it was him that referred to three dispensations - Times Past, But Now, Ages to Come - but that might be someone else.

    Stanford is one that does state that the good news or the gospel changes from one dispensation to the next and God's requirements for salvation also change.

    Whoever is in charge of the website does not believe this however, as some of the newer articles online are contrary to statements that stanford has made.

    Stanford is closer (dispensationally) in doctrine to C.R. Stam and Pete Ruckman than dispensationalists like Ryrie.

  21. Hey Jan,

    The website is a tad hard to find info on...

    There is more info here too


  22. Luke,

    I don't have any time to respond right now however I do want to acknowledge that I've read what you posted.

    Salvation has always been by Grace through Faith. The world received the Gospel in Gen 3, the very moment that Salvation was needed. We know that sin requires death, and that the seed of the Woman would be injured but that Satan would be destroyed and that the "sin problem" of death would be fixed through this.

    We've had the Gospel since the beginning.

    sorry this is blunt and short. :)


  23. Kev-

    I lost internet for a couple of days before I got to look at these in depth (I got to look at one briefly.) Thanks for the links.