Pastor Pope is currently in the middle of a series of sermons intended to help the people of the church and other believers in their efforts to share the Gospel. Sharing the Gospel and bringing people to Jesus is one of if not the most important duties of all believers. Jesus gave that very instruction to his disciples while he was alive.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – Matthew 28:19
And later spoke on his expectations for the new and future believers following his death and resurrection.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. – Acts 1:8
In its simplest form, sharing the Gospel can be boiled down to simply telling others that Jesus was God in human form. He died for our sins and was resurrected three days later. He came to save us.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23
That sounds simple enough, but in reality, sharing the Gospel can be tricky. While that little tidbit of information from the Bible may be the heart of the messaging coming from believers, it is rarely ever sufficient to answer all the questions nonbelievers have. That’s why it is important for anyone who seeks to share the Gospel to have a good foundation in the Word. As we all know, God’s Word is captured in the Bible.
Everyone has heard of the Bible, but how many people truly understand exactly what the Bible is? First and foremost, it’s not a single book. It’s an anthology. That’s why we refer to the various sections of the Bible as “books.” All the books were inspired by God, but each was written independently and while all the books give us a piece of the story God wanted to tell, they all have their own distinct purposes.
Some books cover the same events, but provide different perspectives. For example, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the four books that chronicle Jesus’ life and are referred to as the Gospels. One might expect that all four books tell the same story, and at high level, they do. However, when you delve deeper into each book, you’ll find that each tries to drive home a different point. Mark, arguably the oldest of the Gospels, is the simplest retelling and gives the most basic and “straight to the point” retelling. While Matthew focuses more on Hebrew culture and what Jesus’ teaching meant for God’s people at the time. Luke was the first part of a 2-part story that was continued in Acts and gives the most complete picture for not just Jesus’ life but also the immediate aftermath of his death and resurrection. Finally, John, the youngest of the books, was written with the stated purpose of driving home the fact that Jesus was the Son of God.
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. – John 20:30-31
Understanding the subtle differences between the Gospels and all the books of the Bible can help us figure out where to look when we receive the questions that will inevitably arise when sharing with nonbelievers.
The Bible isn’t just divided into books. It’s also divided into Testaments: Old and New. This division is particularly important and also perplexing for many that are new to or just exploring the faith. The tones, styles, and purposes differ substantially between the two Testaments, so much so that some have questioned whether or not they are truly meant to be part of the same text. Some have gone as far to question whether or not the the God introduced in the two Testaments is the same.
At United, we definitely believe both Testaments have their own purpose and were both delivered to us by God with a specific reason. It’s fair to say that the New Testament is currently the more relevant of the two for us in the West, especially as it relates to the task of sharing the Gospel. That’s why there are versions of the Bible that are printed with only the New Testament. Still, the Old Testament is very important in its own right.
For example, it provides the prophecies that foretold Jesus’ coming. Jesus didn’t just pop up randomly in the New Testament. His coming was foretold throughout the Old Testament, perhaps most prominently in Isaiah.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. – Isaiah 7:14
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6
Jesus was part of a grand design orchestrated by God. Without the Old Testament, it would be impossible for believers to truly understand that fact.
Additionally, the Old Testament shows us why Jesus’ coming was necessary. As Pastor Pope pointed out in a recent sermon, salvation isn’t something we could achieve ourselves. It’s something God had to do for us. The Old Testament tells us why salvation was necessary. It gives us the story of the original sin. It introduces us to people like Abraham, Moses, and David, and charts the lineage that led to Jesus. It lets us see just how troubled God’s people were and makes us privy to their many failures. The New Testament tells us how we can be saved, but the Old Testament tells us why we need a savior. The New Testament gives us our charge, but the Old Testament gives us the reason why such a charge is necessary. Understanding both sides of the equation is paramount to being able to competently share the Gospel.
For believers, the Bible is the most important book ever written, and there’s no question it has had a major impact on the world. After all, more copies of it have been produced than any other book. As widespread and well known as it might be, it’s often misunderstood. Trying to share the Bible with a poor understanding of what it actually is can be detrimental to the goal of bringing people to the faith. So, as important a duty as sharing the Gospel is, it’s at least equally important to read the Bible, meditate on it, and pray for guidance and insight into it. Only by doing that can we really ever be effective in our mission.