The church has a problem in today’s culture—many unbelievers will not listen to the message of the gospel! Why is that? There is something critical that the church is missing, and to find out what it is, we must ask the question, “What is the gospel?” Please read this article, taken from the book Why Won’t They Listen? by Ken Ham, and also watch the video clip below, taken from Ken Ham’s Foundations DVD series.

Surely the answer to this question is obvious to the average Christian. The word ‘gospel’ means ‘good news.’ When Christians talk about the gospel, they are presenting the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection. As Paul states in 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; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

Paul doesn’t end his explanation of the gospel here. Note very carefully how Paul explains the gospel message later in this same passage:

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 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.
For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. … And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit (1 Cor. 15:12–45).

Notice that in explaining why Jesus died, Paul went to the Book of Genesis and its account of Adam and the Fall. In other words, one cannot really understand the good news in the New Testament of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and thus payment for sin, until one understands the bad news in Genesis of the fall of man, and thus the origin of sin and its penalty of death.

I’ll never forget the phone call I received from a pastor’s wife. It went something like this: ‘Our church can’t come to your seminar,’ she said to me.

‘Why not?’ I replied.

Foundation illustration

‘Well, you insist on taking Genesis as literal history. But Genesis is not that important—it’s not that essential what one believes about Genesis. Why can’t we just agree on the essentials of Christianity?’

‘So what do you mean by the essentials?’ I asked.

She answered, ‘The fact that we’re all sinners and that Jesus Christ died for our sin. This is what is essential to Christianity. Believing in a literal Genesis is certainly not essential.’ She then went on and asked me, ‘If someone is born again as the Bible defines, but doesn’t believe in a literal Genesis as you do, is he saved and going to heaven?’

‘Well,’ I replied, ‘if he is truly born again, even if he doesn’t believe in a literal Genesis, of course he is saved and going to heaven.’

‘See,’ she blurted out, ‘Genesis is not essential—what Jesus Christ did on the cross is what is essential to Christianity.’

I then asked: ‘Do you mind if I ask you a question?’

‘Go ahead,’ she responded.

‘Why did Jesus die on the Cross?’

She immediately answered, ‘For our sin.’

‘And, what do you mean by sin?’ I inquired.

‘Rebellion,’ came the answer.

I then asked, ‘Could you please tell me how you came to define sin as rebellion? Is that your idea or someone else’s idea? I’ve even heard some people define sin as “a lack of self-esteem.” On what basis have you determined sin means rebellion? Where did you get that definition?’

And her response? ‘I know what you’re trying to do!’ she declared. She realized that I had her boxed in. She didn’t want to admit that without Genesis, she could not answer the question. Because the meaning of anything (like sin) is dependent on its origin, you could not define sin without referring to the literal event of the Fall in Genesis. The literal rebellion of Adam, as recorded in Genesis, is the foundation necessary to understanding the meaning of sin.

What was I trying to do? Simply this: to demonstrate that the only way we can define sin as rebellion is if there was a literal rebellion. The reason we are all sinners is because, as Paul clearly states, we are all descendants of the first man, Adam. Because there was a literal first Adam, who was in a literal garden, with a literal tree, and took a literal fruit when tempted by a literal serpent, thus there was a literal Fall, which was a literal rebellion.

As Christians, we need to answer this question: Is it essential to believe in a literal Fall? Absolutely! If there was no literal Fall, then what is sin? Who defines it? What then is Paul talking about in 1 Corinthians 15, or even Romans 5:12 where he states, ‘Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned’?

So, in explaining the gospel, Paul discusses the foundations of the gospel in Genesis and the bad news: the origin of sin and its penalty of death. He then tells us the good news of salvation in Christ. In Colossians, in explaining the gospel, Paul also points out clearly that our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the Creator:

Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist (Col. 1:13–17).

And so, in Revelation we are told concerning Jesus Christ:

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created (Rev. 4:11).
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation (Rev. 5:9).

Our Creator became our Redeemer! The reason this was necessary is because all humans are sinners. Therefore, a sinful person could not die for sin. We needed a perfect man to die for sin. The only solution was for the perfect, sinless Creator to become a man so He could be our Savior! Thus, the doctrine of creation is vital to an understanding of the gospel.

But Paul also goes on to write about the consummation of all things—the final victory that will overcome the effects of the Fall:

Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:46–57).

We are given more details of the consummation in 2 Peter 3 and Revelation chapters 21 and 22. We’re told there will be a new heaven and earth. There will be no more crying, no more death, and the curse (that was imposed because of sin as we read in scripture>Genesis 3) will be no more:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Rev. 21:4).
And there shall be no more curse (Rev. 22:3).
Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Pet. 3:13).

Please download the flash player to view this video.

Learn about our need to present the gospel starting from creation. This clip is from Revealing the Unknown God, part of Ken Ham’s Foundations DVD series.

With all this as background, I now want to explain that an understanding of the following three elements of the gospel is a prerequisite to an understanding of how to present the gospel to different people within a culture, or to different cultures. Consider this:

  1. If one preaches the gospel without the message of the Creator, and the origin of sin and death, then one preaches it without the foundational knowledge that is necessary to understand the rest of the gospel. Without this information, who then is Jesus Christ? Why did He need to die? Why could He, and not someone else, die for sin? What is special about Christ? Where did sin come from? Why can we say that all have sinned? Why do we die?

  2. If one preaches a gospel without the message of Christ crucified and raised from the dead, then one preaches a gospel without power. After all, as Paul said, ‘And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins’ (1 Cor. 15:17). The only reason our personal sins can be forgiven and our relationship with our Creator be restored is because of what Christ did on the cross. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is central to the gospel. That’s why the message of the ‘Jesus Seminar’ movement is so destructive. A leading scholar in this group, Marcus Borg, denies the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, and many other non-negotiables of the Christian faith. He identifies himself as a Christian, and is received in many churches, yet according to Scripture, his faith is in vain. Interestingly, Borg often begins his lectures by trying to assign Genesis to the realm of myth.

  3. A gospel that is preached without the message of the new heaven and earth is a message preached without hope. What point is there to a gospel with no future sinless state? Because of sin and the judgment of the curse, the creation is ‘groaning’ (Rom. 8:22). There is death, sickness, and suffering all around us. However, we need to understand that death is an intrusion in our world.

We need to understand that death is an intrusion in our world.

In 1 Corinthians 15:26, Paul states it this way: ‘The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

Death, then, is an enemy that is to be destroyed some time in the future. Peter informs us that we are to look forward to this future time: ‘Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness’ (2 Pet. 3:13).

And we are given a glimpse of what this future state will be like in the Book of Revelation:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea (Rev. 21:1).
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Rev. 21:4).
And there shall be no more curse (Rev. 22:3).

What a time to look forward to, when we will be free from death, pain, sickness, and suffering! As my colleague and friend Dr. Gary Parker says, ‘The only time we actually receive complete healing is when we die.’

In essence, the three elements in the illustration [below] are necessary to fully comprehend the gospel and thus the ultimate meaning of Christianity.

Now, recall our discussion in the first chapter. The students weren’t interested in the power of the gospel, or the new heaven and earth, because they had in reality been taught that the foundation of the gospel (that God created all things and there was a first man Adam, who rebelled, and thus we are all sinners condemned to death) was false.

The Gospel Can't Stand Without Its Foundation

I was already a Christian, albeit a young one, and creation had played a part in my conversion, but I realize now that I had only scratched the surface. The way you connected it to the rest of the Bible and to society was brilliant—you made me realize how little I had really understood about sin and death.

I was like the lady you quote in your talks who said, ‘Being a Christian was like starting to watch a film (or movie) from halfway through. You showed me the beginning; now I understand the plot.’

I want to thank you for kick-starting my Christian life, and for helping me to understand the rest of the Bible in a way only an understanding of, and a belief in, a literal Genesis, can achieve, particularly for those of us who did not have a godly upbringing.

– G.D.
United Kingdom

Now, these students were in the school system in the 1970s. As we begin our new millennium, the textbooks are even more blatantly anti-Christian. Evolution is presented as fact. By and large, students are told they are just animals, there is no purpose and meaning in life, science has proved that God is not necessary to explain the universe and life, and so on. For them, the pain, death, and suffering that we are reminded of daily are necessary parts of life, and thus are essential to furthering life on this planet (as evolutionary belief teaches). Therefore, how can there be a loving God? Young people are hurting, but they don’t understand the real reason why this is so.

Young people today have little or no understanding of what is meant by sin or of its consequences (remember: death and suffering are intrusions—results of sin). They are growing up in a culture that teaches them they are just evolved animals and that there is no Creator God to whom they are accountable. Logically, then, there is no basis for absolutes (which of course is their absolute!). Everyone has a right to their own opinions. There must be a tolerance of all views (although Christianity is considered intolerant, because it is exclusive—Jesus Christ is the only way). For them ‘truth’ is relative. Television programs and movies portray accepted ‘norms’ as sex outside marriage, gratuitous violence, materialism, and sensual pleasure. Human life is not really considered special.

If students back in the 1970s were losing the foundational knowledge to listen or even understand the gospel of Jesus Christ, how much more today has this problem been compounded in Western nations by an increasingly secular education system, media, and society in general?

And in countries like Japan, where there is no Christian basis, how could they ever understand the gospel without the foundational knowledge of the Creator, sin, and thus the need for salvation?

Understanding the foundational aspects of the gospel in Genesis is a vital key to unlock a powerful method of evangelism to reach the world for Christ.

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