(One of many Bible articles on the "Wielding the Sword of the Spirit" web site at www.matthewmcgee.org)
Home Page * Copyright Policy * Feedback

Elements of the Gospel and Our Ascended Lord

Matthew McGee

Elements of the Gospel

"What is the Gospel?" These four little words are almost sure to silence the typical Sunday school class, teacher included. It is sad to see that people who have been in regular attendance to their local church for decades, blankly look at you like deer staring into headlights when this question is asked. Many of them are the same people who exhort the preaching of the gospel into all nations. Some have even been foreign missionaries themselves. Yet they fall speechless when asked what the gospel of grace is.

When I asked a couple of pastors this question, they gave me similar answers, and included the following statements about Jesus Christ:

1. He was born of a virgin.
2. He is the Son of God.
3. He lived a sinless life.
4. He died (for our sins).
5. He was buried.
6. He was resurrected from the dead.
7. He ascended to the Father.

I believe the gospel is contained in these seven statements. But are they all really essential parts of the gospel message? For instance, I was surprised that they listed His being born of a virgin. Now please do not misunderstand me. I believe that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin. In fact, I could not disagree with those who say that no true believer would deny this fact upon reading one of the scriptures stating that He was born of a virgin. However, does one have to be told this in order to become a Christian in the first place? Let's see what the scriptures say.

I read Romans through Hebrews, specifically looking for mentions of the seven elements listed above and writing them down. Some believe Hebrews was written by someone other than our Apostle Paul while still others would like to see how Paul's statements to the Hebrew audience compared to those of his other epistles. Therefore, I kept one tally for Romans-Philemon and one for Hebrews, and then combined them for a total.

Of course I could not have counted all of the various categories perfectly. Most of the references are completely clear at first glance, but since others are more subjective, your count may vary. None-the-less, the basic statistics are certainly accurate enough to see the trend that Paul establishes.

I found that Paul mentions the death of Jesus Christ 64 times, usually with the implication or direct statement that His death was for our sins. Paul mentions Christ's resurrection 40 times, and he states that Jesus Christ was the Son of God 26 times. Furthermore, Paul acknowledges that Jesus is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament 416 times, simply by referring to Him as "Christ" which means "Messiah" in Hebrew and "anointed" in English. These are by far the most prominent points made about Jesus Christ by Paul in his epistles.

By contrast Paul mentions Jesus Christ's ascension to the Father 5 times, His burial 4 times, His sinless life 3 times, and the virgin birth only once. The full breakdown is listed in the table below:

Statement about our Lord Jesus Christ




Scripture References

He was born of a virgin.




Gal 4:4

He is the Son of God.




Rom 1:3, 4, 8:3, 29, 1 Cor 1:9, 2 Cor 1:19, 11:31, Gal 1:1, 16, 2:20, 4:4, Eph 1:3, 17, 3:14, 4:13, Col 1:3, 13, 1 Thes 1:10, Heb 1:2, 5, 6, 8, 4:14, 5:5, 7:28, 10:29

He lived a sinless life.




Rom 5:18, 19, Heb 4:15

He died
(for our sins).




Rom 3:24-25, 4:25, 5:6, 8, 9, 10, 6:4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 8:34, 14:9, 15, 1 Cor 1:23, 2:2, 8, 5:7, 6:20, 7:23, 8:11, 11:24, 15:3, 2 Cor 4:10, 5:14, 15, 15, 13:4, Gal 1:4, 2:20, 21, 3:1, 13, 6:12, 14, Eph 1:7, 2:13, 16, 4:10, 5:25, Phil 2:8, 3:18, Col 1:14, 20, 22, 1 Thes 2:15, 4:14, 5:10, 1 Tim 2:6, 2 Tim 1:10, 2:11, Tit 2:14, Heb 1:3, 2:9, 14, 7:27, 9:12, 14, 28, 10:10, 12, 19, 12:2, 13:12

He was buried.




Rom 6:4, 5, 1 Cor 15:4, Col 2:12

He was resurrected from the dead.




Rom 1:4, 4:24, 25, 5:10, 17, 6:4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 7:4, 8:11, 11, 34, 10:9, 14:9, 1 Cor 6:14, 15:4, 12, 20, 22, 2 Cor 4:10, 14, 5:15, 13:4, Gal 1:1, 2:20, Eph 1:20, 2:5, 6, Col 1:18, 2:12, 13, 3:1, 1 Thes 1:10, 4:14, 2 Tim 1:10, 2:8, 11, Heb 13:20

He ascended to the Father.




Rom 8:34, Eph 4:10, 1 Tim 3:16, Heb 9:24, Heb 12:2

* He is the Messiah.




Too many to list, see note below.

* Simply by referring to Him as Christ, Paul acknowledges that Jesus is the promised Messiah. The table above only shows the number of times the word "Christ" appears.

By far, the most repeated points Paul makes about our Lord Jesus Christ is that:

1. He is the Messiah, the Son of God.
2. He died for our sins.
3. He rose from the dead.

There are some who may say that "Christ dying for our sins" is the whole gospel, but you can't leave out His resurrection. According to Romans 4:24-25, the righteousness of Jesus Christ shall be imputed unto us, "... if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification." In 1 Corinthians 15:17-18 Paul writes, "... 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." Also in 1 Thessalonians 4:14, Paul tells us that the qualifications for being in the rapture include: "... if we believe that Jesus died and rose again ...." In 2 Timothy 2:8, Paul wrote, "Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel ...." So "Christ dying for our sins" is only half of the gospel. We must also believe that He rose from the dead.

This is the gospel of grace that we must believe for our salvation. "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." (Romans 1:16). "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel ... 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 ..." (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Our Ascended Lord

I once heard a very good Bible teacher say "Have you ever noticed how Paul hardly ever mentions Christ's earthly ministry? He focuses on the ascended Lord." So, while I was reading Romans through Hebrews, I also made a list of verses that made reference to Jesus Christ prior to the cross.

Only three specific events that occur between the birth and crucifixion of Jesus Christ are mentioned. Note that all three of these relate directly to His death, and all occur within 24 hours of it:

1. His betrayal. (1 Corinthians 11:23)
2. The Lord's supper. (1 Corinthians 11:24-25)
3. His appearance before Pilate. (1 Timothy 6:13)

Two other general characteristics of His earthly ministry were also mentioned.

1. He pleased not Himself. (Romans 15:3)
2. He was tempted. (Hebrews 4:15)

Jesus Christ being tempted could also be considered a specific event referring to Satan's visit after the 40 days in the wilderness.

I also found some verses dealing with the lineage of Jesus Christ or with Old Testament types. While these are not events of Jesus Christ's earthly ministry, I have listed them here because they occurred prior to the cross:

1. He was of the seed of David according to the flesh. (Romans 1:3)
2. He came as a Jew. (Romans 9:5)
3. The Deliverer would come out of Zion. (Romans 11:26)
4. He was the Rock. (1 Corinthians 10:4)
5. He was of the seed of David. (2 Timothy 2:8)
6. He was of the tribe of Judah. (Hebrews 7:14)

Where are all the healings, miracles, parables, and sermons of Christ's earthly ministry? Why does Paul not write more about them? He says in 2 Corinthians 5:15-16 that Christ "... died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more." Therefore, Paul's epistles center around our ascended Lord Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately most pastors and teachers spend almost all of their time teaching Christ's earthly ministry from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, with only infrequent study of Paul's epistles. We must realize that Paul is "... the Apostle to the Gentiles ..." (Romans 11:13) and "... the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles ..." (Romans 15:16), and that his message was given to him by revelation from our risen Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11-12). All scripture is given for our learning, and there is much to be learned from all of God's Word. However, Paul is our apostle, whether we are Jew or Gentile, and to neglect the epistles of Paul is to neglect God's teaching for us in this present dispensation of grace.

For further study on these and related topics, see the articles below:
The Basics of Understanding the Bible
Israel's Kingdom Gospel and Our Grace Gospel
The Seven Churches of Revelation

Home Page * Copyright Policy * Feedback

Copyright © 1997 Matthew McGee. All rights reserved.