Above: A counselor prays with an inquirer during the Curitiba, Brazil, Celebration with Will Graham.
The heart of the Biblical message is the Good News of God’s salvation, which comes by grace alone through faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning death on the cross for our sins.
Salvation is always “Good News.” It is news of God’s love and forgiveness, adoption into His family, fellowship with His people, freedom from the penalty of sin, liberation from the power of sin. It brings God’s plan and direction into our lives.
We have the privilege of serving Him, which gives meaning to even the most menial tasks. We also have the exciting anticipation of Christ’s return—the answer to His prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
Nothing can compare with all that is ours in Christ when we are “born again” (John 3). The crowning glory of salvation is promised when we enter into the presence of the King (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). We have a home in Heaven reserved for us and awards that await us (John 14:1-3; 1 Peter 1:3-5). No wonder the Gospel is “Good News.”
Unfortunately, many people have distorted the meaning of Biblical salvation, saying that it means only political, social and economic liberation in this life. Biblical salvation is far deeper, because it gets at the root of man’s problem—the problem of sin.
Only Christ can change the human heart and replace greed and hate with compassion and love. What is this “heart of the Biblical message”? What must we proclaim if people are to comprehend God’s plan of salvation?
First, we need to emphasize that all are sinners and stand under the judgment of God. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). A person may believe that he is good enough to win God’s favor. But the Bible states that we are all condemned, for “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). Furthermore, sin has consequences, both in this life and in eternity. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3). As John Wesley said, “I must preach law before I can preach grace.” People must be aware that they have broken God’s law before they can realize their need.
Second, we need to emphasize what Christ has done to make our salvation possible. God loves us, and Christ came to make forgiveness and salvation possible. What did He do? He died on the cross as a complete sacrifice for our sins. He took upon Himself the judgment that we deserve (1 Corinthians 1:21-25; 2:1-5; 15:1-4, 1 Peter 2:24). The message of the cross must be central in our preaching.
Third, we need to emphasize what a person must do in response to God’s work in Christ. God in His grace offers us the gift of eternal life—but like any gift, it becomes ours only when we reach out and take it. We must repent of our sins. Repentance (metanoia in Greek) means a change of mind and carries with it the idea of confession, sorrow, turning and changing. The New Bible Dictionary defines it as “a radical transformation of thought, attitude, outlook and direction.”
Fourth, we must emphasize the cost of coming to Christ and following Christ. Jesus constantly called upon those who would follow Him to count the cost. There is a cost involved in repentance. A person must determine to leave his personal sins behind and turn from them, and some persons may be unwilling to do so. But there may be other costs as well when a person decides to follow Christ.
The ultimate cost to true discipleship is the cost of renouncing self: self-will, self-plans, self-motivations.
Repeatedly in the New Testament, people are called to turn to Jesus, not only as Savior but as Lord (Romans 10:9-10; 14:9). We are not saved by our good works—yet by the same token we are called to follow Christ in trust and obedience (Romans 1:1-5; 6:17).
The salvation we proclaim, in Christ’s Name, is intimately linked to the cross. The Man who hung there between two thieves was without sin. Christ’s virgin birth, by the miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20), meant that He did not inherit a sinful human nature. Neither did He commit any sin during His lifetime (1 Peter 2:21-22; 2 Corinthians 5:20-21; Hebrews 4:15). Mary gave birth to the only perfect Child. He was the only perfect Man. As such, He was uniquely qualified to put into action God’s plan of salvation for mankind.
Why was Calvary’s cross so special, so different from hundreds of other crosses used for Roman executions? It was because on that cross Jesus suffered the punishment for sin which we all deserve. He was our substitute. He suffered the judgment and condemnation of death that our sinful nature and deeds deserve. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
This is the Good News we preach. ©1984 BGEA
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, King James Version.
This article is adapted from A Biblical Standard for Evangelists, by Billy Graham, published by Worldwide Publications as a commentary on the “Amsterdam Affirmations,” adopted at the 1983 International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists in Amsterdam.
Photo: Logan Ryan / ©2023 BGEA