The Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life released its second report based on the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey this past June. This enormous undertaking surveyed 35,000 Americans and concluded that most Americans have a nondogmatic approach to faith. Seven in 10 say that many religions can lead to eternal life and that there is more than one way to interpret the Scriptures. Although 9 in 10 believe in God, only 6 in 10 believe He is personal--and 3 in 10 see "god" as an impersonal force in the universe.
America is still mostly classified as Christian. Evangelicals make up 26.3 percent of churches, mainline Protestants are 18.1 percent, and Catholics 23.9 percent (for a total of 68.3 percent of the population). However, of all the religious groups surveyed, only Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses contained a majority who think that their beliefs represent the "only" way to heaven.
Here's the startling fact: over half (57 percent) of evangelical Protestant church members believe that other religions can lead to eternal life. How can the church impact the world for Christ if so few professing Christians understand, much less witness to, the truth of their faith?
Preach the Gospel
There is no more all-encompassing command in the New Testament than to "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). Before we shrug off the duty as already being done, may I suggest that many of our churches have lost sight of the breadth and depth of the "good news," relegating it in some cases to a cliché to be embraced, with little awareness of the majesty and enormity of who the Savior is.
Permit me to share the "full gospel" as it is presented in the Scriptures.
The Cross of Christ
Various forms of the Greek word for gospel (euaggelion, "good news") appear 101 times in the New Testament. The middle reference (50 before and 50 after) is in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. This is the definition passage for the gospel. The central focus, of course, is the death, physical burial, and bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This gospel is to be "received" and "believed" (vv. 1-2) by faith, once for all. It is the means by which we are saved continually and forever, and it is the fact upon which we firmly stand. This great message of the atoning work of Christ is emphatically to be defined, understood, and preached "according to the Scriptures" (v. 4).
The Consummation in Christ
The first occurrence of the word "gospel" is in Matthew 4:23, where we are told that Jesus came "preaching the gospel of the kingdom." It is vital to stress the final consummation of Christ's atoning work, when He will finally be acknowledged by every creature as King of kings, and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). Certainly a major part of the "good news" is the great promise that we who have been saved by the work of Christ on the cross will one day "ever be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
The Creation by Christ
The last occurrence of "gospel" is in Revelation 14:6, where the mighty angel is sent from the throne of God to fly through the earth and preach "the everlasting gospel… to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people." Here, it is abundantly clear that the emphasis is on Christ as Creator, for we are told to "worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters" (Revelation 14:7). Surely all serious students of the Scriptures are aware that the same Jesus who substituted Himself for our sin on the cross of Calvary is the great Creator who spoke the worlds into existence (Hebrews 1:2).
The Full Gospel
Evangelical churches have generally done well in presenting the central message of the gospel and have, at least in some measure, given credence to the consummation message of the gospel through prophecy conferences and various sermons about the return of Christ and our hope of heaven. But the gospel entails the full scope of the work of Jesus Christ, involving the whole sweep of His redemptive purpose in history.
In this respect, the creation message has been neglected among many churches. Perhaps it would be well for us to remember how important that foundational doctrine really is to the "good news."
Many of us give away small printed copies of the Gospel of John as a witnessing tool, since of all the New Testament books it was specifically "written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name" (John 20:31). What may be overlooked by some is that the gospel begins by emphatically laying the foundation squarely on the omnipotent and omniscient authority of the Creator-Messiah who "was made flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14).
Three great passages in Scripture clearly set the perspective for the gospel.
- By Him were all things created.
- By Him all things consist (or are saved from destruction).
- By Him all things are reconciled.
- He made the worlds.
- He is upholding all things.
- He becomes heir of all things.
- For of Him…
- And through Him …
- And to Him…are all things:
- To whom be glory for ever. Amen.
The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ encompasses the complete three-fold work of Christ: the creation of all things, the conservation of this present world, and the consummation of the universe to His perfection, past-present-future.
Neglect the Creation--and there is no Foundation or Standard or Ability.
Neglect the Cross--and there is no Power or Authority or Justice.
Neglect the Consummation--and there is no Hope or Joy or Victory.
We can only impact our world by preaching the gospel--the full gospel. It and it alone is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). We have done a fairly good job on conveying the central part of the gospel concerning Christ's work on the cross. Let us now reaffirm our commitment to preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), and teach the foundation and the consummation as well.
*Dr. Morris is CEO of the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Morris III, H. 2008. Creation, Conservation, and Consummation: Communicating the Full Gospel of Christ. Acts & Facts. 37 (8): 4.