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Sermon #2425[i]Miscellaneous Sermons


Title:                           WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?


Text:                            1 Corinthians 15:1-4

Subject:                     Identifying the Gospel



Š      Are you a believer; or are you an unbeliever?

Š      Are you saved; or are you lost?

Š      Do you worship Christ or the beast of antichrist?

Š      Do you worship God; or are you one of those deluded multitudes Paul describes as will-worship idolaters?

Š      Do you believe the gospel; or do you believe “another gospel, which is not another?

Š      Is the Lord Jesus Christ your Refuge; or have you taken refuge in the refuge of lies of which God’s prophet Isaiah spoke?


I cannot answer those questions for you. I have neither the desire nor the ability to do so. But, if you will listen to the message God has given me for you this hour, you will see the answer in this Book. If you have made a covenant with death by making lies your refuge, if God the Holy Ghost will speak by his Word to your heart, he will destroy your refuge of lies.


If you are taking notes the title of my message. — WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?


I want to answer that question from the Word of God, with simplicity and clarity. It is a question each of us needs to be able to answer with clarity and confidence. Yet, it is a question about which I fear some of you may yet be in utter confusion. Not many people know the answer because there are very few preachers who know the answer. — WHAT IS THE GOSPEL? Whether you believe it or not, I promise you, if you will listen to this preacher for the next few minutes, you will know what this Book declares to gospel to be.


Please understand, I am not asking, “What do you think the gospel is?” or “What is the Baptist, Protestant, or Calvinistic gospel?” It is utterly irrelevant what you or I think the gospel is. And it is utterly irrelevant what Baptists, Protestants, Calvinists, Arminians, or Papists think the gospel is. My only concern, and I hope your only concern, is this: How does the Word of God define the gospel? What does God say in his Word? How does God the Holy Ghost describe the gospel? How are we to identify the gospel? My text is found in 1st Corinthians 15. But the gospel is clearly stated and unmistakably defined in several other passages of Holy Scripture.

Š      Romans 1

Š      Romans 3

Š      Galatians 1

Š      2 Timothy 1


We will begin in 1st Corinthians 15:1-4. Every word in the text is important. Don’t miss a syllable.


(1 Corinthians 15:1-4) “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; (2) By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. (3) For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; (4) And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”


Proposition: Here God the Holy Ghost tells us that there is but one gospel, that all truly God ordained, God called, God sent preachers preach this gospel, that all true believers have received and stand in this gospel, and that this gospel is the means by which we are saved.


I trust that God the Holy Spirit will be pleased to speak by me to your hearts for the glory of Christ. I want to show you seven things by which the Word of God defines the gospel.


Exclusive Message


1st — It should be clearly understood that THE GOSPEL IS AN EXCLUSIVE MESSAGE. Paul did not say to the Corinthians, I declare unto you “a” gospel, as if there were many gospels or even many interpretations of the gospel. Paul said, “I declare unto you THE GOSPEL! In fact, if you read the New Testament carefully, you will find that the only time the word “gospel is used without a definite article, noun, or personal pronoun identifying it specifically as the gospel of Christ, as the exclusive message of Christ crucified, is when it is used to refer to “another gospel!


This is what the Word of God teaches — THERE IS ONLY ONE GOSPEL. The world says “There are many gospels.” Compromising preachers say, “There is only one gospel, but it is interpreted by different men in different ways.” — The Word of God declares that there is but one gospel.

Š      Christ is the Way. Every other way is a way to destruction.

Š      Christ is the Truth. Everything contrary to him and his gospel is a lie.

Š      Christ is the Life. All other ways are death.

Š      Christ is the Door to Life. All other doors are doors to hell.


If, indeed, there is only one Way, one Savior, and one gospel, you would be wise to get in that Way, find that Savior, and learn that gospel!

Š      The preaching of the new birth is not the preaching of the gospel, though we should and do declare to all men, “Ye must be born again.” The focus of the gospel is not the experience of grace, but God’s mighty, saving operations of grace.

Š      The preaching of the love of God is not the preaching of the gospel, though we rejoice to declare that “God is love.” The gospel is the declaration of the righteousness of God (Romans 3:24-26). The love of God is the cause of the gospel; but it is not the gospel. The gospel is not found in John 3:16. The gospel is found in John 3:14.

Š      The preaching of Christ’s second coming is not the preaching of the gospel, though we are daily looking for the promise of his coming with anxious hearts. The gospel declares what Christ has done, not what he is going to do.

Š      The preaching of revivalism is not the preaching of the gospel. — Revivalism preaching focuses on man and his experience. Gospel preaching focuses on God and his grace in Christ.

Š      The preaching of holy living is not the preaching of the gospel. Most preaching of that kind is nothing but the preaching of works and self-righteousness. Gospel preaching inspires and promotes holiness of life, but it talks about God’s holiness revealed, manifest, and satisfied in Christ; and that inspires holiness in men and women who would blush to hear anyone speak of them as “holy” people.


The gospel of Christ is an exclusive message. Before we proceed any further, I want you to understand what I am saying. Those who do not believe the gospel, believe a false gospel. Those who do not preach the gospel, preach a perversion gospel. Those who do not walk in this way, walk in the wrong way. They may be sweet, sincere, morally good people, but those who do not know the gospel are lost.


Illustration: My Conversation in North Wilkesboro —— “Where were we before we came to know this gospel?”


Historic Message


2ndTHE GOSPEL IS AN EXCLUSIVE MESSAGE ABOUT A PAST, HISTORIC EVENT. The gospel preached by the Apostles always refers to something in the past, a finished work, an accomplished deed, a completed task. This is very important. The pastness of the gospel is an essential aspect of the gospel. The preaching of the gospel is the declaration of something done in the past. It is presently preached. It is presently received. And it presently saves. But it is a past, finished work which we declare in the gospel. — In preaching the gospel, we declare specific, undeniable facts.


We preach “How that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” Not just the fact that he died, but “H-O-W” he died!

Š      Sovereignty — “It the LORD to bruise him!” — “Delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God!

Š      Substitution — Aaron’s Breastplate — “For the transgression of my people was he stricken!” — “The Good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep!

Š      Satisfaction — “Propitiation!” — “Atonement!

Š      Success — “He shall not fail!” — “He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied!” — “The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ shall never be discouraged a miscarriage!”


We preach “That he was buried according to the Scriptures.” The Son of God really did die as a man at Calvary. He did not pass out, faint, or go into a trance. He died. They buried his body in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea. “According to the Scriptures,” he made his grave with the wicked (Isaiah 53; Psalm 16). — But he did not stay dead!


In preaching the gospel, we declare that Christ “rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” — “Thy dead men shall live. Together with my dead body shall they arise” (Isaiah 26:19).


(Psalms 16:9-11) “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. (10) For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. (11) Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”


Yet, there is more. — When we preach the gospel, we declare a fact which cannot be denied upon any reasonable grounds, but such a phenomenal fact that it cannot be understood or explained apart from the gospel. — THE RISEN CHRIST WAS SEEN OF MANY, ON NUMEROUS OCCASIONS!


(1 Corinthians 15:5-17)And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: (6) After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. (7) After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. (8) And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. (9) For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (10) But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (11) Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed. (12) Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? (13) But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: (14) And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. (15) Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. (16) For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: (17) And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.


However, preaching the gospel is more, much, much more than just declaring undeniable facts. Forcing a sinner to believe facts he cannot refute will do him no spiritual good. The preaching of the gospel is more than just an exclusive message about a past, historic event.


A Singular Person


3rdTHE GOSPEL IS AN EXCLUSIVE MESSAGE ABOUT A SINGULAR PERSON, A PERSON WHO ACCOMPLISHED A PERFECT, COMPLETE, FINISHED WORK FOR A SPECIFIC PEOPLE. To preach the gospel is to preach the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to declare that he, by his perfect, complete, finished obedience to God as a man, brought in everlasting righteousness, made an end of sin, and obtained eternal redemption for God’s elect. Now, let’s see if I can make good on that statement. Is that, or is it not the specific teaching of Holy Scripture?


(Matthew 1:21) “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” — Sovereign, Eternal ELECTION!


(Isaiah 53:10-11) “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. (11) He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” — Limited AtonementParticular, Effectual REDEMPTION!


(Daniel 9:24) “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, — 1to finish the transgression, and — 2to make an end of sins, and — 3to make reconciliation for iniquity, and — 4to bring in everlasting righteousness, and — 5to seal up the vision and prophecy, and — 6to anoint the most Holy.” — Free, Complete, Finished JUSTIFICATION!


(Romans 1:1-6) “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (2) (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) (3) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; (4) And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: (5) By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: (6) Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ.” — Effectual CALLING!


(Galatians 3:13) “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”


The preaching of the gospel is not the preaching of possibilities, but the preaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and his perfect, complete, finished work of redemption and righteousness as our Substitute.


(Hebrews 9:12) “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”


(Hebrews 10:11-14) “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: (12) But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; (13) From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. (14) For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.”


You can’t be saved if you don’t know who Christ is and what he did at Calvary.Falwell’s Statement


The Message


4th — I want you to see clearly that the gospel of Christ is more than an exclusive message. — THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST IS THE EXCLUSIVE MESSAGE OF HOLY SCRIPTURE. I sometimes actually hear preachers excuse themselves from preaching the gospel under the pretense of preaching all the counsel of God. Their excuse will not hold water. That man who said to the Ephesians, “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God,” the Apostle Paul, is the very same man who said, “I am determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified.” He is the same man who exclaimed, “Necessity is upon me, yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!”


The gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ, the message of redemption and grace through the sin-atoning blood of Christ is the singular, exclusive message of Holy Scripture.This is what I am telling you: — Though a man may preach the facts of Scripture and may even be true to the letter of Scripture, no man preaches the Word of God who does not preach the gospel. That is not Bible preaching which is not gospel preaching. That is exactly what Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:23-25.


(1 Peter 1:23-25) “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (24) For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: (25) But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And THIS IS THE WORD WHICH BY THE GOSPEL IS PREACHED UNTO YOU.”


The Power of God


5thTHE GOSPEL, THIS EXCLUSIVE MESSAGE OF REDEMPTION AND GRACE IN CHRIST, IS THE POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION. The preaching of the gospel is God’s chosen, ordained means of grace, the means, the exclusive means, by which chosen, redeemed sinners are born again, called to and given faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I want you to see that this is the exact teaching of Holy Scripture. I do not care if it throws a monkey wrench in your theological system. This is exactly what God says in his Word.

Š      God does not save sinners by a false gospel. If he did, Paul would not have said, Let that Arminian, free will, works monger be damned who preaches a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-9).

Š      God does not save sinners apart from the preaching of the gospel.

Š      Those who have a form of godliness while denying the power thereof are religious men and women who deny the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ.


(Romans 1:15-16) “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. (16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”


(1 Corinthians 4:15) “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.”


(1 Corinthians 15:2) “By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.”


(James 1:18) “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”


Listen carefully to what the Scriptures declare (1 Peter 1:23). — Those whom God intends to save he will save by the preaching of the gospel.

Š      If that means Philip must meet a chosen Ethiopian on a desert road, that is no problem to God.

Š      If that means the ship carrying his messenger must be lost at sea to land that messenger on an island inhabited by chosen barbarians, that is no problem. God has his way in the whirlwind.

Š      If that means God’s messenger must be falsely accused, arrested, and sent through an earthquake so that a crusty old jailer at Philippi may be born again, God can arrange that with great ease.


The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation. The gospel is that by which we have been saved, are being saved, and shall yet be saved. There is no point in the believer’s life in which he is not being saved by the gospel. Are you hearing me? God’s elect are…

Š      Regenerated by the gospel (1 Peter 1:23).

Š      Sanctified by the gospel (John 17:17).

Š      Edified by the gospel (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Š      Inspired in life by the gospel (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 8:9).

Š      Ruled by the gospel (Galatians 6:14-16).

Š      Reproved and rebuked by the gospel (Zechariah 12:10).

Š      Comforted and encouraged by the gospel (John 10:27-30; 1 John 2:1-2).


Every Preacher


6thTHE GOSPEL OF CHRIST IS THE EXCLUSIVE MESSAGE WHICH EVERY PREACHER CALLED AND SENT OF GOD IS SENT TO PREACH. Roland Hill was exactly right when he said, “Any message which does not contain the three R’s (Ruin by the Fall, Redemption by the Blood, and Regeneration by the Holy Spirit) ought never to have been preached.”


Illustration: “That was a very poor sermon.


Every man called of God to preach is called of God to preach the gospel!


(1 Corinthians 1:17) “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”


(1 Corinthians 9:16-17) “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! (17) For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.”


(Ephesians 3:8) “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”


Only Hope




(Colossians 1:23) “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister.”


My hope is not in my goodness but in God’s grace, not in my righteousness but Christ’s redemption, not in my faithfulness but in his faithfulness. I am a man who is at war with himself, because of my sin and corruption. Yet, in Christ I have hope and peace with God. I cannot express myself better on this point than by using the words of William Romaine.


“It is true that I have sin in me, but it is pardoned. God has forgiven me all trespasses. I stand before him in my Redeemer, who undertook for me, and I am perfect in him. The Father chose me in his Son. He looks upon the face of his Beloved and sees me in him. In Christ he is well pleased, so he is with me! As he loves Christ — He loves me! This is the glorious privilege which by faith I now enjoy. I deny sight and sense, and I believe the Word of God! I adhere strictly to the Word of God concerning me, believing myself to be dead indeed unto sin in Christ, and in him absolutely freed from guilt and condemnation. The Father is at peace with me, and he loves me in his Son, with the same love with which he loves Christ — His Father and my Father. With this persuasion I go to war with my corruptions. They are fighting against everything that is dear and precious to my soul. But having the promised grace of the almighty Savior for my help, I desire to set upon them in his name. I am at war with sin but at peace in Christ!”


“My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”




“Could my tears forever flow,

Could my zeal no languor know,

All for sin could not atone.

Christ must save, and Christ alone.




Now, let me appeal to you who are yet under the wrath of God. I speak to you, in the very words of my Master. The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel(Mark 1:15). It is my heart’s prayer and desire to God for you that he will be pleased to grant you life and faith in Christ by the irresistible power and grace of his Spirit, for the glory of his own great name.


(John 6:44) “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”


(John 6:37-40) “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. (38) For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. (39) And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. (40) And this is the will of him that sent me, that everyone which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.


(Matthew 11:28-30) “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.


Trust the Christ of God and all that is included in the word “salvation,” as it is used in this Book is yours, because God chose you to salvation, Christ obtained eternal redemption for you with his precious blood, and you are born again by the omnipotent power and grace of God the Holy Ghost.


Illustration: “He who gets the son gets all.


(Acts 16:31) “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”


(John 3:36) “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”








Don Fortner








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[i]    Todds Road Grace Church Conference, Lexington, KY — (12/09/17)

Rescue Baptist Church, Rescue, CA — (08/08/18)