I find myself increasingly frustrated with the “normal” gospel presentation. It goes something like this: You are a sinner (and I’ll prove it to you), headed to hell. God loves you and Jesus died for you. If you believe in Him, you’ll go to heaven when you die.
Those points are true of course. But they are so incredibly inadequate. There is no basis for living the Christlike life, for example. The result is that people are soon dragged into some sort of duty based moralism: You must obey God’s law to please Him. Get to it! They are often reminded that their hearts are desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9) so the Christlike life is something they won’t like. It’s so sad.
The real Gospel that makes the difference. Here’s how we put it in Vintage Church:
The gospel pattern of Acts 2, as well as of other Scriptures, breaks down into three aspects: (1) Revelation, or what God did; (2) Response, or what we do; and (3) Results, or what God gives. [This outline is from Steve Walker, Redeemer’s, Roseburg]
Revelation: What God Did
Peter begins by affirming that Jesus fulfills the promises of a divine Messiah, God come among us as accredited him by miracles, signs, and wonders (v. 22). Next, Peter declares that Jesus died on the cross according to Godâ€™s prophetic purpose (v. 23). Peter proceeds to emphasize the reality that God raised Jesus from death in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (vv. 24â€“32). Peter concludes with the final acts of God exalting Jesus to the right hand of the Father and pouring out the Spirit in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (vv. 33â€“35).
Response: What We Do
The first thing we are to do in response to Godâ€™s revelation is repent (vv. 36â€“37). Repentance is the Spirit-empowered acknowledgement of sin that results in a change of mind about who/what is God in my life, what is important, and what is good and bad. This is followed by a change of behavior flowing out of an internal change of values. The second response is to accept the revealed message about Jesus by Spirit-empowered faith (v. 41). Faith means taking God at his word and trusting my life and eternity to the truth of his revelation. All of this is seen in the act of baptism which is the visible expression of our connection with the death and resurrection of Jesus through repentance and faith (vv. 38, 41).
Results: What God Gives
Peter immediately announces the gift of forgiveness of our sins, which is the result of the propitiatory death of Jesus (v. 38). This gift flows into justification, or the imputed righteousness of Jesus. Peter goes on to the second gift, the Holy Spirit and the new heart and new life of Christ (v. 38). This is regeneration, or the imparted righteousness of Jesus, is for living a new life as a Christian with, like, for, to, and by the living Jesus. The third gift is membership in the body of Christ, the new community of the Spirit called the church. This community is a supernatural community where Godâ€™s power is seen from miracles and supernatural signs to the sharing of possessions among the community members and giving to all in need (vv. 41â€“47).
One happy outcome is that it includes resurrection and regeneration means a new heart and the indwelling Holy Spirit. So our deepest desire is to do the Jesus things. And following that desire leads to great happiness and joy.
I teach this version of the Gospel all the time. I was pleased when Tim, a good friend and pastor who just presented this lesson in China. He found great interest in the people there and one man responded by giving his life to Christ. What a happy result!