Since our founding, the work of Lima Rescue Mission has been centered around the gospel message. According to our written history, the second night the Mission was open—November 2, 1906—two men came in and were told the gospel story. They were saved, and per their testimony, remained true to God to the end.

In a 1925 edition of our Mission Messenger newsletter, a member of our staff, Mr. Albert Hager, wrote: “I thank God for a place where the only recognized authority is the Bible and where the only declared basis for salvation is Christ.” He went on to say, “Most of them [the men] are so bound by the fetters of sin that telling them to change their ways by their own power would be like asking them to stop the flow of water in the rivers or to forbid the sun to shine in the sky.” He closed by quoting Jesus’ words in Luke 5:31-32: “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Our commitment to the authority of Scripture and the gospel of Jesus Christ continues today. With our emphasis on the gospel, it is important that we clearly articulate the message to those we serve; and to clearly articulate the gospel, we must truly understand it.

The original goal of this publication was to provide an aid to our staff and volunteers in proclaiming the gospel, but I believe it can be beneficial to everyone. Throughout this document much Scripture will be quoted and referenced, because that is where we find the truth—not in our experiences or circumstances or feelings. The gospel is not a man-made formula, it is God’s truth, so we turn to His word to understand it.

For many years, a sign has hung in our chapel that says, “We preach Christ crucified… risen… coming again!” We are passionate about the gospel and sharing the message of salvation in Christ alone, as I believe all Christians should be. I hope that in reading this document you will be emboldened to proclaim the gospel without compromise!

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. —1 Corinthians 2:2

The need for clarity

As a gospel-centered ministry, it is important that we define the one true gospel. In helping the poor and homeless, there is a danger that some may think that doing good works is the extent of the gospel. But the gospel is about salvation, and no amount of works can save us—or anyone else (Eph. 2:9). Doing good is a natural result of salvation (v. 10), but providing physical help without also caring about one’s soul is really no help at all.

The word “gospel” is used frequently among Christians. What does it really mean? Can those who use the word explain it? Unfortunately, there are some teachings and practices that have muddied the waters. Some of these include:

  • Watering down the truth and ignoring sin to avoid offending people
  • Creating different types of gospel that supposedly address specific needs
  • Claiming there are many paths to God
  • Trying to make the gospel compatible with worldly systems
  • Saying that you are “doing” gospel without preaching it
  • Denying its sufficiency: claiming to need the gospel “plus” other things

All of those are distortions of the gospel (Gal. 1:6-7). It is not the goal of this work to address these issues individually, but in presenting the one true gospel, we will see that it is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).

There could be eternal consequences if we get the gospel wrong—if we fail to share the whole truth, mislead someone, or soften the message to make them feel better about their sinful condition. When people are confronted with the truth, there should be sorrow—godly sorrow that produces repentance leading to salvation (2 Cor. 7:10). The gospel truth is something to be taken seriously.

What is the gospel?

The gospel is the good news of what Jesus Christ has done for us. There is salvation in no one else (Acts 4:12), Jesus is the only way (John 14:6). We are sinners deserving of God’s wrath, which was poured out on Christ in our place (Rom. 5:8, 9; Gal. 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24), and those who repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved (Mark 1:15; John 3:16, 20:31; Acts 16:31, 20:21).

Theologian Charles Hodge said, “The gospel is so simple that small children can understand it, and it is so profound that studies by the wisest theologians will never exhaust its riches.” Even angels are fascinated by God’s plan of salvation (1 Peter 1:12).

We can only begin to explore the gospel here. I want to provide more than just an outline, but it is impossible to fully explore the depths of this truth. I strongly encourage further study. The truths of Scripture never grow old, and faithful study will result not only in a clear understanding of the gospel, but in a well-formed biblical theology.

It is essential to clearly articulate the gospel, but this does not mean that there is a specific formula to follow. There are certainly different ways to present the truth of the gospel. Sometimes it might be during a brief conversation where you are only able to cover the basics. Other times it may be possible to go more in depth with someone. Regardless of our approach, it is essential that people understand the truth and that we call them to repent and believe in Jesus Christ.

A word about salvation

Because we are talking about the gospel, it is important to clarify a few things regarding the topic of salvation. Salvation is not simply an intellectual exercise. We do need to believe and understand the truth, but some may believe the truth yet not trust Christ. We must place our trust in Christ alone for salvation. True saving faith results in a changed life as we are rescued from the power of sin. Here are some important points:

  • Salvation is made available through Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice (Isa. 53; Matt. 20:28; Rom. 3:25; Heb. 10:12; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18; 1 John 4:10)
  • Salvation requires being born of God (John 3:3-8)
  • Salvation is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8; Titus 3:5)
  • Salvation is a work of God (John 1:13; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:3, 23)
  • Salvation results in transformation (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 2:20)
  • Salvation culminates in glorification (Rom. 8:29-30; 1 Cor. 15:49; Phil. 3:21; 1 John 3:2)

Our need for the gospel

Before going any further, we must cover some bad news. Romans 3:23 makes it clear that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, and that “the wages of sin is death” (6:23). Further, we were dead in our transgressions and sins (Eph. 2:1, 5), and we were by nature children of wrath (v. 3). If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves (1 John 1:8). To make matters worse, we are told that there is none righteous, not even one; there is none who seeks for God, none who does good (Rom. 3:10-12; see also Pss. 14; 53). God is holy and demands perfection; sin separates us from God and must be dealt with.

If after all of that you picture mankind on a downward spiral, then you have a correct view of our fallenness. But we know there is hope, and the purpose of this document is to share the good news. However, if we don’t acknowledge that we are sinners deserving of God’s wrath, unable to save ourselves, then the gospel loses its significance. People will not truly be saved if they do not understand what they are being saved from.

So, what are we saved from? Briefly, Christians are saved from the eternal wrath of God. And more than that, we are brought into a lasting relationship with Him—adopted as His children (Rom. 8:15; Eph. 1:5).

Although people will likely be offended and may have their pride bruised, we have a responsibility to share the truth about their condition. This includes the potentially uncomfortable task of confronting a professing believer whose actions may indicate that they are not truly in the faith. In this, James encourages us: “My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (5:20).

The good news

We know that we have a sinful nature which puts us in opposition to God; we are rebels who want to do things our own way. Even in that state, as enemies of God (Rom. 5:10), we were provided a way of salvation. God did not wait for us to improve our life, to make better decisions, to do enough good, rather “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). His rich mercy and great love for us (Eph. 2:4) are evident in that even as we were dead in our transgressions, we were made alive together with Christ (v. 5). In his letter to Titus, Paul provides an excellent summary of our former nature, God’s mercy in rescuing us, and the blessings of that salvation.

Titus 3:3-7

For we ourselves also once were foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the kindness and affection of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not by works which we did in righteousness, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by His grace, we would become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

How is any of this possible? Only through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who came into the world to save us (Matt. 1:21; Luke 19:10). Jesus is fully God (John 1:1; 8:58; 10:30) and fully man (John 1:14). He lived a perfect life (2 Cor. 5:21) which satisfied God’s demand for holiness, and He died to pay the penalty for our sin, satisfying God’s demand for justice. Our redemption was accomplished through the shedding of Jesus’ blood. (1 Peter 1:19; 2:24; 3:18).

After His death and burial, Jesus was raised from the dead, affirming His deity and guaranteeing our future resurrection (Acts 2:24; Romans 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:4, 20; 1 Thess. 4:14; 1 Peter 1:21). Believers who die will enter into the presence of the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8), and Jesus will one day return for those who are alive and remain, and we will all receive glorified bodies and be in His presence forever (John 14:3; 1 Cor. 15; 1 Thess. 1:10; 4:16-17; Titus 2:13).

For further thought

The work of Christ on the cross

I believe it would be beneficial to take a moment to consider the cross and Christ’s suffering on our behalf. The punishment for sin is not simply death and then going out of existence; sin and unbelief will be punished eternally. Those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus “will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might” (2 Thess. 1:9).

This means that on the cross, Jesus absorbed the wrath of God—the eternal punishment for all sins ever committed by everyone who would ever believe in Him. Isaiah 53:10 says, “But Yahweh was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief”, and “As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities” (v. 11).

It is impossible for us to fully comprehend the heavy burden that Jesus bore on the cross. But we know that His sacrifice was acceptable to God, and was sufficient and complete: “But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12).

After suffering on the cross, Jesus proclaimed, “It is finished!” (John 19:30); the penalty for sin was paid, redemption was accomplished. It is only through the cross that we can be reconciled to God, and we who believe in Him are assured of our salvation because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross. The more we ponder all that Christ has done for us, the more we will be in awe of God and driven to worship Him.

What must we do to be saved?

As noted earlier (“A word about salvation”), salvation is a gift and work of God. There is a history of presenting methods or formulas that one would struggle to find basis for in Scripture. While those who share these may mean well, they may also be misleading people if they don’t truly understand the gospel. In keeping with the goal of this document, the information presented here is based in Scripture alone.

Jesus told the crowd that was following Him not to work for food that perishes, but for food which endures to eternal life (John 6:27). When they asked what they should do to “work the works of God”, Jesus replied: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (v. 29).

When the Philippian jailer asked what he must to do be saved, Paul and Silas replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30). Romans 10 makes clear that “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (v. 9), and “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (v. 13; see also Joel 2:32). When we acknowledge our sin and our need for a savior, and understand that Christ has provided the only acceptable sacrifice for sin, we will repent and place our faith in Him completely and be saved.

For further thought

Obedience to the gospel

The gospel is a command, not a suggestion. Jesus issues this command recorded in Mark 1:15: “Repent and believe in the gospel.” Acts 6:7 and Romans 16:26 discuss the proclamation of the gospel and becoming obedient to the faith. John 3:36 says, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” This verse makes it clear that not believing in Jesus is disobedience. In 2 Thessalonians 1:9, we find a stern warning that those who do not obey the gospel will “pay the penalty of eternal destruction”.

I’m saved—now what?

The gospel is not a one-time message that we set aside once we believe. Dwelling on the profound truths of the gospel will help keep us grounded in our Christian walk. Charles Spurgeon said, “The most important daily habit we can possess is to remind ourselves of the gospel.”

The Christian walk is one of obedience to Christ. As part of the Great Commission recorded in Matthew, Jesus says, “teaching them to keep all that I commanded you” (28:20). John tells us, “And by this we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3), “whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God has been perfected” (v. 5), and “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (v. 6). Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). As Christians, we surrender fully to Him.

So much can be said about Christian living and spiritual growth, although going into more detail is beyond the scope of this work. I suggest reading First John, which is a short epistle but filled with helpful exhortations for all believers. In Hebrews 12:1-2, we find encouragement to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith”.

Our call to proclaim the gospel

One of Jesus’ most well-known commands is what we call the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to keep all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20).

In a summary of both the gospel and the call to proclaim it, Jesus said: “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).

As part of God’s plan, He uses believers to proclaim the truth of the gospel. Paul outlines this in Romans 10, which includes this important truth: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (v. 17). It is vital that we share the message of Christ. As the disciples obediently went out and proclaimed the gospel, they became known as those who “upset the world” (Acts 17:6). If only that were our reputation today!

We are told that we should always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks us to give an account for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). Any time someone asks us anything about our faith is an opportunity to proclaim the gospel that should not be missed. The good news of the gospel is not something we should keep to ourselves—and why would we want to?

Even before His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus called for people to repent and believe in the gospel. After His resurrection and before His ascension, He commanded His disciples to go into all the world, and today we continue sharing the message of salvation. What a legacy to follow!

Let us never grow weary of proclaiming repentance for forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name (Luke 24:47). May we have the same attitude of Paul, who, although imprisoned because of the gospel, remained focused on that message, and desired that “in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph. 6:20).

Father, You are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Even in our sin and rebellion, You provided a way of salvation. Thank You for this indescribable gift. Help us as we proclaim this good news to others. Amen.

A gospel summary

While some topics have been covered in detail, the list below provides a summary of the gospel and what it means to be a Christian. This will provide a starting point which you can expand on while sharing the gospel.

God is creator and sustainer
It was through Jesus that all things were created; everything exists for Him and is upheld by Him.
Key Scripture: John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:2-3, Revelation 4:11

God is holy
God is perfectly holy, and He requires us to be holy.
Key Scripture: Isaiah 6:3; 1 Peter 1:15-16; Revelation 4:8

Mankind is sinful
Everyone is guilty of sin. Though we may do good, that does not offset our sin. Key Scripture: Romans 3:10-12, 23; 1 John 1:8, 10

Sin demands a penalty
God’s holiness and justice demand that all sin be punished.
Key Scripture: Psalm 37:28; Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:9

Jesus is Lord and Savior
Because of God’s mercy, He has provided a Savior—His Son Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty for our sin. When we place our faith in Christ, we surrender completely to Him.
Key Scripture: Romans 10:9; Ephesians 2:4-5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:3; 3:18; 1 John 2:3-4

Saving faith is evident
When we are regenerated there is a complete change—we repent from sins, confess them to God, pursue Christ, and seek His will. Salvation results in visible fruit. The process of sanctification—being set apart and becoming more like Christ—begins at salvation.
Key Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 3:3

© 2022 Lima Rescue Mission
Written by Aaron Ferguson

Scripture quotations taken from the (LSB®) Legacy Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2021 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Managed in partnership with Three Sixteen Publishing Inc. and