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masterplanheader1 • Becoming a Disciple-Maker

The Essential Gospel

The Gospel defines what is popularly called evangelical theology. Its fundamentals, according to J. I. Packer, are “the supremacy of Holy Scripture, the majesty of Jesus Christ, the lordship of the Holy Spirit, the necessity of conversion, the priority of evangelism, and the importance of fellowship.”

John Stott reduces Packer’s six essentials to three (the last three he believes are but elaborations of the first three). Thus, using the three persons of the Holy Trinity as a rubric, evangelical priorities are summed up in “the revealing initiative of God the Father, the redeeming work of God the Son and the transforming ministry of God the Holy Spirit.”

Some scholars see in the larger revelation of God’s Good News a central core of salvation truth particularly in the preaching of the apostles. Prominent in the viewpoint is C. H. Dodd. He makes a distinction between preaching, the Greek term kerygma, meaning public proclamation to the non-Christian world, and teaching, the Greek word didaskein, addressed to the church. In this view, much in revelation would not be strictly evangelistic, the audience determining what was appropriate. Michael Green, on the other hand, sees a much wider variety of ways the Gospel was presented.

However one wants to define the essential message, evangelical theology gets its name from the Gospel. As John Stott says, “Both our theology (evangelism) and our activity (evangelizing) derive their meaning and their importance from the good news (the evangel).”

For a concise formulation of the Gospel, based on the total revelation of God, one needs to go back to the great affirmations of Christendom hammered out in the first centuries of the church, particularly the Apostles’, the Nicene, the Chalcedonian, and the Athanasian Creeds. To these early ecumenical statements could be added the confessions of faith developed through the history of the church, like the Thirty-nine Articles, the Westminster Confession, the New Hampshire Baptist Confession, and the Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church. More recent ecumenical proclamations of general acceptance among evangelical theologians would be the Lausanne Covenant and the Amsterdam Declaration: A Charter for Evangelism in the Twenty-First Century. Suffice it to say that evangelical theology and orthodox Christianity are cut from the same cloth.

It is in this full sense of divine revelation that I approach a theology of evangelism. Some parts of doctrine may have more immediate relevance to personal salvation, but everything that God has said has some bearing on his purpose to make a people to display his glory. Cut through evangelical theology anywhere, I believe, and it will bleed the Gospel.

― Robert E. Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism


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  1. Methodism is slowly evolving, but chsnges in federal government are destabilising our morals. I hope to learn sermons from early evangism writing, sermons and poetry in song. Here I can add to our voices across our country and spark a return to higher morals and virtues. I feel a deep heart,and a need to change many things in my country.Raymond

    1. amen, thank you Raymond.

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