The Institute of Bible Doctrine
Presenting the Gospel: Principles and Teaching Methods
Teaching notes compiled by Tim McLachlan
A. Introduction: Presentation of the Gospel message (evangelism) should always focus on the concept of “Faith Alone in Christ Alone.”
1. Etymology and meaning of the word “Gospel: The word “Gospel” comes from Old English “god-spell” meaning “good news” or “good message” This is a direct translation of the Greek word “εὐαγγέλιον / euanggelion” as used in the LXX – Septuagint and the New Testament (e.g. Is. 61:6, cf. Luk. 4:18; Mar. 1:1, 1:15) and around 70 other instances.
2. “Euanggelizo” (εὐαγγελίζω) as a verb appears 90 times in the New Testament, usually translated in English Bibles as “proclaim the Gospel/Good News”, “Preach the Gospel/Good News etc.”
3. The Gospel message covers everything pertinent to the salvation message for the unbeliever – all the information necessary for the unbeliever to understand the person and work of Christ and how God has provided salvation simply by believing in Christ (see John 16:8-11; 1 Thess. 4:14).
4. The message of good news is that simply by believing in Christ for salvation you can have eternal life. Adding anything to that message (for example: “you have to stop sinning”; “you have to give up your religion” “you have to go to church every Sunday”) for many people is not good news, it is BAD news! A person’s behavior or religious background should never be an issue regarding salvation. The issue is “What do you think of Jesus Christ?” (Matt. 16:15; Matt. 22:42)
B. There is only one means of salvation for all mankind: Faith Alone in Christ Alone (i.e. faith in the person and salvation work of Jesus Christ).
1. Abraham, just like every other person since Adam, was saved only by believing in Christ/Jehovah (Gen. 15:6 cf. Rom. 4:3).
2. The Mosaic Law, religious works, rituals etc. do not save anyone (Gal. 2:16).
3. Scripture clearly tells us faith is the only means by which we acquire salvation(Isaiah 64:6; John 3:16; 3:36; Eph. 2:8-9; Acts 16:31).
4. Faith definition: Making a free-will decision to believe something is true.
5. Faith comes from hearing the facts regarding the Gospel message (Rom. 10:17)
6. Before you believed, you did not believe. A ‘change of mind’ (meta-noeo) was required (Mar. 1:15) to change from the status of ‘unbelief’ to ‘belief’.
7. Faith means you are trusting completely in the work of Christ on the Cross, completely free of any human (self-righteous/religious) works.
C. Any salvation message which includes or promotes works in any form is a blasphemous evil. This includes making promises to God; giving up certain sins or taboos; religious rituals, demonstrations or proclamations of faith etc.
1. Works-based salvation is promoted by Satan to distract people from the grace message of the Gospel (John 8:44; 2 Cor. 11:13-15).
2. Works-based salvation manifests and promotes self-righteous arrogance (Luke 18:9-14: Rom. 4:2).
3. Works-based salvation results from ignorance of doctrine. Misunderstanding of the context leads people to twist verses to suit their religious arrogance and directly contradict many other grace/faith Gospel verses in scripture. For example, in Gal 5:18-21 Paul is talking about the reversionist (‘back-sliding’/immature) believer missing out on eternal rewards in heaven (the ‘inheritance’), he is NOT talking about believers losing their salvation. In Rev. 3:20 John is talking to born-again believers about divine discipline (“I stand at the door and knock”) as a warning to get back in fellowship (“will dine with me”), NOT evangelizing the unbeliever and telling them to ‘invite Jesus into their hearts.’ (Inviting Jesus into your heart is classified as a ritual-work, not a faith-based decision to believe in Christ as savior.)
4. Other rituals which do not have any place in salvation: Water baptism (see: The Doctrine of the Seven Baptisms); Confessing faith in Christ (Rom. 10); Penance; Church-membership or attendance etc. None of these things have any bearing or effect on a believer’s salvation or his eternal security, nor can any of these things be substituted for the expression of faith alone, in Christ alone.
D. Exegesis of Ephesians 2:8-9
(Notes from this section are from the article ‘Eternal Security’ as found in the book Fellowship with God, Volume 2 by Max Klein)
Definitions of words used in this verse:
- Saved/Salvation (σώζω / sōzō) : attaining eternal life/saved from eternal judgment (eternity in the lake of fire.)
- Grace (χάρις / karis): “Freely Given and Undeserved.”
- Faith (πίστις / pistis) : A free-will decision to believe in something or somebody based on the information you have.
- Gift (δῶρον / doron) : Something given in grace, without conditions or ‘strings attached’.
- Works (ἔργον / ergon) : Human effort to do good deeds, or to try to stop sinning, in order to gain the approbation of God. Usually involves religion (Isa. 64:6).
“τη γαρ χαριτι εστε σεσωσμενοι δια πιστεως και τουτο ουκ εξ υμων θεου το δωρον ουκ εξ εργων ινα μη τις καυχησηται”
“For by grace you have surely been saved [periphrastic verb construction] through faith, and this [touto – a reference to salvation] is not out from yourselves; it is a gift from God, not by works, in order that no-one can boast.”
2. The verbal phrase “surely have been saved”, is actually two verbal forms side by side in the Greek. This construction is called the periphrastic and is the strongest verbal construction in the Greek language. The periphrastic construction here includes an intensive perfect tense which emphasizes the results of the verbal action, namely, a salvation that includes eternal security. Paul uses the strongest verbal construction in the Greek language to emphasize the certainty of eternal security.
3. The demonstrative pronoun “this” (τουτο) is in the neuter gender. Therefore, its antecedent cannot be either the words “grace” or “faith”, since both of these words are feminine in gender. In other words the neuter demonstrative pronoun does not have an antecedent in this passage. When this occurs in the Greek language, the entire preceding idea is used for the antecedent. The preceding idea in this passage is salvation. Therefore, the word this is a reference to salvation.
4. Understanding the grammar in this passage is very important to avoid developing false theology, for example Calvinism (thinking that faith is given by God to some, and not others). Correct interpretation cannot consistently be understood from a translation. Furthermore, if the interpretation is incorrect, the teaching will be incorrect. Incorrect teaching leads to false theology, from which the believer will make false application to his spiritual life.
5. From the correct interpretation we now see that the “gift from God” is referring to salvation. Whenever God gives a gift, there are no conditions attached to it. Because salvation is given by God as a gift, He would never consider taking it back from us.
6. We have been saved by grace, so also our salvation is preserved by grace. We were sinners before salvation, and we are sinners after salvation. Because God saved us while we were unrighteous sinners, we can be confident that he will not remove our salvation even while we remain as unrighteous sinners.
E. Explanation of three kinds of teaching devices used to present the Gospel and explain eternal security:
1. The Three Main Phases of the Christian Life
2. Top and Bottom Circles
3. The 40 Things.
E1. The Three Main Phases of the Christian Life:
1. Presented in diagramatic form below. The 0.7 second for salvation is derived from Pastor R.B.Thieme's background as a USAC pilot trainer during WWII. During aircraft recognition training the cadets were taught that they had about 0.7 of a second to decide whether an approacing aircraft was friend or foe. If the craft was indeed the enemy then your life depended on making that decision and firing an accurate shot quicker than he could. While it takes time to gather the pertinent information about the Gospel (which could be anywhere from a few minutes to many years, depending on the circumstances and attitude of the individual), the actual decision to believe, and thus receive salvation, does indeed take less than a second.
2. Salvation occurs before the spiritual life can begin, not after.
3. The Spiritual life results from Salvation. This is a direct result of being given 40 spiritual assets (“The 40 Absolutes”) at salvation.
4. Salvation does not and cannot result from the Spiritual Life. An unregenerate (unsaved) person cannot even begin to live the Spiritual Life, only the believer in Jesus Christ has the assets necessary (for example: A human spirit; filling of the Holy Spirit; the priesthood of all Church Age believers) to have a relationship with God and therefore learn about and live the spiritual life.
5. It is the will of God first for all unbelievers to be saved, and then for all believers to grow spiritually and glorify Him (1 Tim. 2:3-4).
E2. The Top and Bottom Circles
(As presented in the book 'Rebound, and Keep Moving' and other books by R. B. Thieme, Jr.). In the diagram below the Cross represents the moment a person makes a decision to believe in Jesus Christ as his or her Savior, which is the moment a person receives eternal salvation. That individual is 'entered into' the Top Circle, representing his eternal security in God's plan. At that same moment the believer also receives the filling of the Holy Spirit, represented by being in the Bottom Circle. Whenever a believer sins he 'breaks fellowship' i.e. loses the filling of the Holy Spirit, and enters into the status of carnality, until the time he names his sin to God the Father, whereby he is 'returned' to the bottom circle, i.e. regains the filling of the Holy Spirit by which he may continue to live the spiritual life in fellowship with God.
E3. The Forty Things
Also known as ‘The 40 Absolutes: Thirty Nine Irrevocable Absolutes and One Revocable Absolute’ (Originally compiled by Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, revised by R.B.Thieme, Jr.)
1. These are the spiritual assets God gives to every Church-Age believer at the moment of Faith Alone in Christ Alone. Some assets relate wholly to salvation; some to eternal security; some to the believer’s spiritual life; some to Christian service.
-Salvation Assets: Perfect righteousness imputed to the believer (+R); The believer is reconciled to God; The believer is redeemed from the slave market of sin; Eternal judgment is removed.
-Eternal Security: The believer is baptized (identified) into Jesus Christ forever by the Holy Spirit; His name is sealed in the Book of Life by the Holy Spirit; He is given eternal life in Christ.
-Spiritual Life: We are given a human spirit, by which means we can have a relationship with God; Filled with the Holy Spirit; Made a priest – can name sins and pray directly to God the Father; Guaranteed Logistical Grace including all the doctrine you need to reach spiritual maturity within your lifetime.
-Christian Service: The believer becomes an ambassador to the Lord Jesus Christ; is given a spiritual gift by the Holy Spirit.
3. For the complete list of the 40 Absolutes (complete with Bible references) please see the appendix section of the book “The Plan of God” or “God the Holy Spirit versus the Sin Nature” by R.B.Thieme, Jr. Both of these books can be downloaded in pdf. format from the Publications/Basic Books page on the www.rbthieme.org website.
F. What John 16:8-11 teaches us about correct evangelism
1. “God consciousness” must take place before “Christ consciousness.” God consciousness takes place at a young age. God reveals himself to all people, at which time the individual makes a decision to accept or reject the existence of God (Ps. 19:1; Rom. 1:18-21; Ps. 14:1
2. Rejection of The Creator at the moment of God consciousness means the unbeliever/atheist will be darkened by the false teachings of paganism or pantheism, or more recently, be deceived by pseudo-science such Big Bang theory and Darwinism as they grasp for a reason to the origin of life.
3. If a person rejects the existence of God they will reject the Bible and the Gospel message as the inspired Word of God. However, accepting/ believing in the existence of God does not guarantee salvation - many false religions present the concept of God or gods as a Creator (e.g. Islam, Mormonism, Hinduism) but with a totally false message of salvation, denying the person and/or work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
4. The Word of God and the Holy Spirit work together to provide the means (divine power) by which we can know and understand the Gospel message:
This is the same principle as to how a believer learns and applies doctrine (John 14:26). The Word of God is power (Heb. 4:12); The Holy Spirit is power (1 Cor. 2:9-14, 1 Thess. 1:5, 6; see ‘Operation Z’; the book ‘The Holy Spirit vs the Sin Nature’ by R.B.Thieme, Jr.)
For the unbeliever, spiritual truth is ‘foolishness’ to them (1 Cor. 2:14) therefore the Holy Spirit must reveal these things to him. This is found in the word ‘eklego’ in John 16:8-11, which in this context takes meaning of ‘to convince’ and ‘to convict’.
When an unbeliever is being evangelized, (or a believer is hearing doctrine) in a way that can be academically understood by him, the Holy Spirit convicts/convinces the hearer that what they are hearing is undeniable truth. Whether the hearer actually believes it or not (i.e. accepts or rejects the information) is entirely a matter of their own volition: “He who has ears [+V / 'positive volition'] let him hear.” (Mar. 4:23).
The Holy Spirit does not operate in a vacuum, in other words, the Gospel (for unbelievers), and doctrinal teaching (for believers), must be presented in a clear fashion - "faith comes from hearing, and hearing the spoken message of Jesus Christ" (Roman 10:17).
John 16:8-11 :
“And when He [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world [unbelievers] concerning sin, and concerning righteousness, and concerning judgment. Concerning sin because they believe not in Me; concerning righteousness because I go to My Father and you will see me no more; concerning judgment because the ruler of this world is already judged [Satan: John 12:31; Matt. 25:41]”
1. A complete Gospel presentation must include information that convicts the unbeliever of his fallen and hopeless status before God, i.e. that the unbeliever is a sinner (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). The unbeliever is also convinced through hearing the Gospel and the common grace ministry of the Holy Spirit that Christ took the punishment for all our sins, except the one unpardonable sin: “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 12:31).
2. The unbeliever is convicted regarding righteousness: That he lacks the perfect righteousness required to have an eternal relationship with God (Is. 64:6). A clear Gospel message conveys the fact that because of Christ’s work on the Cross (of taking the punishment for the sins of all mankind), God’s righteousness was therefore propitiated and He is now free to give His perfect righteousness to all who believe.
(Rom. 4:1-5; Matt. 5:20; 6:33)
3. The unbeliever is convicted by the Holy Spirit regarding judgment - that unless he accepts God's saving grace by believing in Christ as his Savior he will face eternal judgment (John 3:36; Rev. 20:11-15). The Holy Spirit also convinces the believer that Jesus Christ was judged for our sins in our place on the Cross (Rom. 5:8; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:18).
G. Explaining Election and Predestination (with excerpts from “Fellowship with God, Volume Two” by Max Klein)
Romans 8:29-30: “[We know] that whom He foreknew He also predestined conformed ones to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren [Church age believers]. And whom He predestined, these same ones He also called [kaleo – in context this relates to election of the believer], and whom He called, these same ones He also justified, and whom He justified, these same ones He also glorified.”
All of the main verbs used in this verse (foreknew, predestined, called, justified and glorified) are all in the aorist tense, which means they occurred simultaneously in the mind of God in eternity past. God does not think like we do. Man thinks chronologically (from past, to present, to future) however God’s omniscience means he knows (and is always thinking about) all things knowable (past, present, future, actual and probable) simultaneously.
Foreknowledge is just one part of God’s knowledge. In the context of this passage foreknowledge is God looking into the future (in terms of human history) and seeing how every individual in human history will respond to the Gospel message or not. For those he knows will respond He ‘elects’ them to be a part of His eternal plan. In other words, God elects all those who, by means of their free-will, make a decision to believe the Gospel message.
Predestination coordinates with omniscience so that the free will of man is never violated. God never turns your yes into no and your no into yes.
To use a computer analogy, we could say that God’s omniscience "typed into the computer of the Divine Decree" the thoughts, motivations, decisions and acts of every Christian. Based on this information God was able to design a predestined plan for each believer, including the method and timing of God’s calling of His elect. This plan is designed perfectly to provide every believer the greatest opportunity to succeed in achieving his ultimate purpose for existence – Glorifying God to the Maximum.
If an unbeliever ‘fails’ to gain salvation, or a believer ‘fails’ to be victorious in the Spiritual Life he has no-one to blame but himself. God did everything He could to provide the means for victory, the only barrier is man’s own negative volition to God and His plan.
Principle: The Sovereignty of God and the free-will of man co-exist. While God is our Creator and exerts great influence over every aspect of our lives, and can control the circumstances we must face (even the exact time of our birth and death), our volition always has, and always will remain truly free.
God does not arbitrarily decide who gets to believe (i.e. who is saved) and who does not believe. (Please review the explanation of Ephesians 2:8 above, regarding the antecedent of the Greek word ‘touto’)
The concept of ‘hyper-Calvinism’ (implying ‘limited atonement’, that God desired to save some, but not others) must be rejected. (John Calvin himself did not develop or promote this false doctrine of limited atonement. Comparative studies of the writings of Calvin and those of his student Theodore Beza show that ‘Calvinism’ was proposed and promoted by Beza who we can assume used his professor’s name to give the doctrine wider appeal.)
If God chose some to believe (and be saved) this would also mean He chose the rest of humanity not to believe (and therefore perish). This is a blasphemous idea, as God desires for all to be saved (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:3-4; 2 Pet. 3:9). The concept of hyper-Calvinism also negates the entire concept of free-will.
For those who believe that God personally elected them to believe this means they are now forced into ‘proving’ to themselves and to others (usually the church hierarchy) that they really were elected - sometimes referred to as ‘perseverance of the saints’. This means relying on good works, behavioral change, Christian Service etc. to ensure their salvation, which is antithetical to the grace Gospel message of ‘Faith Alone in Christ Alone.’ It also negates the need to give the Gospel to the unbeliever, as God has already saved those who will be saved – evangelism would therefore be unnecessary.
Email (Pastor Tim): firstname.lastname@example.org