Too often, many have attempted to trivialize the gospel into something less than what it is. For some, the gospel is universal—Christ died to save all and there is nothing more to it. For others, the gospel is that Jesus came to exemplify a “good life” we must live to reach Heaven. And yet, for others, the gospel is a means of charity.
And while there are bits and pieces of truth in all of this—things that often accompany the life of one who has been transformed by the gospel—these things alone are not the gospel. But too often, many of us try to complicate the gospel into something much more than what it is.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 what the gospel is: “…Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” It’s really that simple, that is the good news. It’s really both that simple and that complex at the same time.
Okay, so that’s the gospel. Now how does it apply to us? How are we saved by it? Well, that too is really simple and really complex at the same time. Paul, again, says in Romans 10:13 quoting the prophet Joel, “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'”
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So it’s that simple. It really is. But it’s also complex in that we must call upon the right Lord to be saved. We cannon just call upon any god, a false god, or a false Jesus. As Paul stated, the gospel isn’t just that Christ died for our sins, it’s that he did so in accordance with the Scriptures.
But the Pharisees were familiar with the Scriptures—why were they rejected by Christ? Why didn’t they call upon his name? Jesus often referred to them as the blind leading the blind. And blind they were. Healing the blind, as demonstrated in the physical sense and applied to our hearts and minds in a spiritual sense, was a solitary act of Christ. No blind person ever made themselves see. Likewise, no blind person can ever make themselves see Christ. Jesus said in Matthew 16:17 that it is God who reveals Christ to us, and only then can we truly call upon His name. Salvation is a complete act of grace on God’s part.
Yet, paradoxically, it seems that God has chosen the labors of men to reveal Himself. Romans 10, again, says that it is by the feet of those who travel and preach the Good News that men can hear the gospel and be saved. Right after saying that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved, Paul explains:
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
So what do we make of this? We cannot fully understand. But what we do know is that those who have heard the gospel and respond by calling upon the Lord will be saved. It’s that simple and we cannot exaggerate the simplicity of the gospel. But we must also understand that a false gospel and a false Jesus preached by false prophets have no power to save (Galatians 1:6-8, Matthew 24:11, Matthew 24:24, etc.)—instead, they lead people astray. We cannot trivialize the gospel either. It is rooted in substantial truth. It is God that is responsible for turning our hearts and minds toward believing the truth.
So then, if you’ve heard the gospel and you’re convicted. Call upon the name of the Lord. He will save you, He has promised to do so. Rest in the comfort that if you have truly called upon His name, He will grant you faith and repentance and you should not be weary, but rest. So put aside your shame, your guilt, your worries and anxiety, cast them at the foot of the cross, and call upon His name.