Continuing the work of Jesus : Peacefully ~ Simply ~ Together


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Written by Ronald J. Gordon ~ Published January, 1996 ~ Last Updated, December, 2023 ©
This document may be reproduced for educational purposes, with your courtesty that the entire document remain intact
and full acknowledgement be given to the author. This article is not an official voice on Church of the Brethren theology, beliefs, and
practices, but rather intended for a wider audience seeking deeper biblical understanding of how God has interacted with humankind through Jesus Christ.

Many gifted biblical authors have penned a multiplicity of words to describe how God has interacted with men and women, and especially through the person and ministry of Jesus Christ. This work endeavors to outline and interpret a few of the more significant passages of holy scripture dealing with His ministry and the subject of redemption or salvation. It is by no means exhaustive but rather intended to give the novice to intermediate biblical student an opportunity to more clearly understand the scriptural basis of God’s plan for us. This work is not to be understood as the official position of the Church of the Brethren, nor does it reflect any special group or interest within the denomination. Although the concept of salvation and redemption is multi-faceted, especially in a pluralistic society, it is entirely appropriate that a voice be given to this plan because words relating to redeem occur 162 times in the Bible and words relating to save or salvation occur 561. Additionally, one of the underlying purposes of Church of the Brethren Network is to also share the gospel of Christ to the world, as commanded by Him in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  

Scriptures taken either from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, published and distributed by Harper Collins. Or from the Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association, published and distributed by Charisma House.

Pocket Gospel    ~    Divinity of Jesus    ~    Free Will vs Free Choice    ~    Am I Saved    ~    Redemption For All    ~    Characteristics of God    ~    Characteristics of Christians

The Pocket Gospel

he word “gospel” occurs frequently in the New Testament: 111 times in the Jubilee Bible, 106 Evangelical Heritage Version, 104 King James Version, 102 New Matthew Bible, 101 Modern English Version, 97 New American Standard Version, and 92 New International Version. The manuscript word ευαγγελιον (euaggelion, Strong, G2098) translated as gospel means “good news” and Christ expects us to announce the good news of redeemtion through His blood atonement. When the Greek letter gamma appears twice in succession, the first one is phonetically inflected as our letter N. The English word evangelize stems from this word and the word gospel itself comes from the Middle English words “goode spel” or good story. This phrase Good News appears 108 times in the New Testament of the World English Bible. The gospel was the core activity of Jesus’ ministry and He instructed His disciples to deliver this message to the entire world. “And the gospel must first be published among all nations,” Mark 13:10. Other examples might be, “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom,” Matthew 4:23; or “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel Luke 4:18. Apostle Paul certified that he preached this same true gospel, “I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ,” Galatians 1:11-12. Evangelism is a continuing process of telling people about this same Good News concerning Jesus that the Apostles were announcing in their day.

Paraphrase Bibles of the New Testament rarely include the word gospel: 28 Living Bible, 18 Disciples’ New Testament, 7 Darby Translation, 5 New Living Translation, 2 New Century Version, 1 The Message, 1 International Children’s Bible, 1 New International Reader’s Version, and 0 times in the Contemporary English Version, Tree of Life Version, New Life Version, and World Wide English.

ut what is this gospel or good news? If evangelism is the process, then what is the content? We could spend a lot of worthwhile time researching the teachings of Jesus as found in the first four books of the New Testament, or we could focus on what some have called “The Pocket Gospel.” In a nutshell, we find the principal elements of the gospel message. Paul articulates, explains, and compresses much of the gospel in such a way as to provide us with a brief, yet easy way of understanding how God regards the human condition. His reasoning is simple and his interpretations are not at variance with any part of the narrative of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Paul gives us a welcome opportunity to enjoy the complexities of the message in a simple and brief offering.

Verse 23 - All Have Sinned

”For ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” All means every human being. Every man and woman has sinned and consequently is guilty. We’re all in the same boat. There are no exceptions. The present middle indicative of the manuscript text suggests a continued action, that is, we are “still falling short.” The International Standard Version captures this essence: “... and continue to fall short of God’s glory.” Thus, we are helpless to rectify our sinful condition. We initially fail to meet God’s supreme expectations and we continue to come up short no matter how we might try. Everyone is guilty. Although people differ greatly in the extent and seriousness of their sins, God sees no difference between the best and the worst of us as far as our own righteousness is concerned. No one is righteous. We are not only guilty of transgression against God but we continually fail to achieve the necessary requirements that would permit us to escape this condition. It is a hopeless situation if left to the ingenuity and imagination of mankind.

Verse 24 - Redemption Is Available

“Being justified freely by his grace through the REDEMPTION that is in Christ Jesus.” There is a remedy for our hopeless condition. God knew that we would forever be helpless and hopeless, so He established a plan whereby we could be justified, or found not guilty. Freely is a very expressive word and suggests that God wanted to expiate us from this situation without any remaining grudges. This was possible only because of grace. God loves us so much that He made the first move, even though we did not deserve it. Apostle John explains this love. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” John 3:16. Through grace we have been declared guiltless. We have been redeemed from the bondage of sin. Redeem means to buy back or to reclaim something that was previously owned. Originally we belonged to God but lost that position when sin entered the world and separated us. Because we were helpless and because God loved us so much, a special way of escape was provided. Without merit on our part, God furnished a way for us to escape our sinful condition through His matchless and indescribable love. Grace is a word that attempts to describe this unfathomable love. God loves us even though we do not deserve it. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast,” Ephesians 2:8-9. This way of escape is a gift of mercy. A gift of love.

Verse 25 - Through God’s Substitute

“Whom God hath set forth to be a PROPITIATION through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” Ok then, a way has been provided but what is that way? In this verse the word “Whom” is that way and refers to Jesus of the previous verse. Christ is the one who is our propitiation. This infrequently used word means to conciliate or appease. Christ became a substitute for us in order to appease the righteous standards of God. The righteousness that God expects is acquired by us through our “faith in his blood” (Christ). Forbearance is generally defined as “a refraining from the enforcement of something that is due.” Thus, during former periods of human iniquity, God was forgiving earnest pleas of repentance by patiently looking forward to Christ’s future redemptive work. Refraining from enforcement further exemplifies God’s true love and grace during Old Testament times, a period not usually identified with grace. This might suggest that there is more evidence of grace in the Old Testament than one might initially consider. Jesus died for everyone so that they may experience the fullness of God’s unmerited love. “But we see him who has been made a little lower than the angels, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he should taste of death for everyone,” Hebrews 2:9. Now, instead of being guilty, we are free. We have been redeemed or purchased back by God. “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s,” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. Our appropriate response to this grace is to exemplify our gratitude by telling others about the gospel or Good News.

t least three observations may reasonably be concluded from this passage of Scripture. (1) God has made a negative observation of the human condition, (2) God has therefore accomplished a means of redemption from that condition, and (3) we are informed that Jesus is the means whereby we are redeemed from that condition. He was and still is our propitiation for the appeasement of God, because of our faith in God’s redemptive work through Christ. This message of freedom from sin through faith is the “good news” that Jesus proclaimed during His earthly ministry, and further commanded believers to likewise announce to the rest of the world (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus did not spend three years telling people that they were sinful (bad news which they knew), but rather telling them that God was preparing a means of escape from their sinful condition through faith (good news which they wanted to hear). Should not we also be likewise demonstrating our gratitude to God by spreading this Good News? “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven,” Matthew 5:16.

Divinity of Jesus

Crown Widely accepted within evangelical Christianity is the belief that Jesus is equal with God the Father in every way. This emanates from various sources. Personal study of the Bible. Garnering biblical resources from the Internet. Observing teachings from Sunday School. Listening to sermons of a pastor. Analyzing the content of mission statements. Reading curriculum from Seminary or Bible College. In this section we address this concern with the following biblical and historical citations. Items in Red are the very words of Jesus as found in the Gospel of John Chapter 5, following the healing by Jesus of a man lying near the pool of Bethesda, on the Sabbath. Items in Blue represent the beliefs of New Testament writers, early church bishops, and historic Church Council decisions. Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version.

Free Will vs Free Choice

If God is sovereign and already knows who is going to heaven and to hell, do we really have a choice? You most probably have heard the term “Free Will.” What does this theological term actually mean? These two questions have caused a lot of heated arguments and unfortunate divisions among Christians. A thoughtful examination of these biblical concepts should hopefully answer these questions and mitigate opposing points of view. Let’s first address the subject of Free Will. Sovereignty is a word that means supreme authority with unlimited power to generate anything into existence. Only God has the freedom to will anything into existence and maintain it as He desires.

This means that God has the right to do whatever He chooses. God does not ask for permission to accomplish His intentions. Thus, only God has the “freedom” to “will” any desired outcome. We do not have unlimited “free will.” We do not have the free will to exist in ten different locations at the same time. We do not have the free will to lift a ton of bricks above our heads with only our two bare hands. We lack the means to do whatever we want, whenever we want, and however we want. Only God possesses this exclusionary freedom.

This is where “Free Choice” joins the discussion. We possess the freedom of choice to visit ten different locations at ten different times. We possess the freedom to lift a ton of bricks above our heads with our bare hands if we employ the mechanical advantage of more than one pulley. We have free choice but not free will. It is the good pleasure of God to not interfere with our free choice of faith, or the objectives of the Church would soon become ineffective. Happily it is God’s free-will pleasure to grant us the freedom of choice because He loves us. We are redeemed by the atonement of Jesus’ death and resurrection to be justified through faith to receive eternal life. Therefore, God’s free will and our free choice work together in complete harmony. Understanding the difference between these two freedoms is hopefully reassuring. We are justified then adopted then sanctified and finally glorified with the return of Jesus for His Church.




Too often, well intending Christians enter into discussions which unfortunately confuse these two concepts of the will. God has the freedom to will. Christians have the freedom to choose. John 3:16-17 is probably the most memorized of all Bible verses because God extends His invitation of grace to a world of people because He loves them. It has that personal appeal.


William Edwy Vine defines these New Testament words in his monumetal 1940, “Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words” in the verb form as PISTEUO (πιστευω, G4100), “to believe” and “to be persuaded of” and “to place confidence in” and also “to trust” which signifies, in this sense of the word, reliance upon, not mere credence. It is most frequent in the writings of the apostle John, especially the Gospel. He does not use the noun form. For the Lord’s first use of the verb, see Matthew 8:13. Of the writers of the Gospels, Matthew uses the verb ten times, Mark ten, Luke nine, John ninety-nine. In Acts 5:14 the present participle of the verb is translated “believers.”.

In the noun form: PISTIS (πιστισ, G4102, “faith”), is translated “belief” in Rom. 10:17; 2 Thess. 2:13. Believing is the main component of a conviction respecting God and His Word and the believer’s own relationship to God.

Am I Saved

How may anyone know for certain that personal salvation through the rich grace of God has been granted and received? The ubiquitous word Election is delightful to some and frightful to others and simply confusing to many. Compare the text of Matthew 13:13 “Therefore I speak to them in parables: Because they look, but do not see. And they listen, but they do not hear, neither do they understand,” with the seemingly opposite interpretation from Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:4 “God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Why does Jesus say that some are not to understand God’s grace, but Paul would have us believe that grace is for all? Why does Jesus speak in parables and Paul does not? Where do I fit in with this apparent conundrum?

Parables will not be found in the Gospel of Matthew until chapter 13. Not found in the Sermon on the Mount or immediately following. Jesus gave the pure truths of God to everyone without limitation. That changed profoundly in Chapter 12 when He was accused of working in partnership with the devil. Jesus then began sharing genuine truths of God to everyone, but only to be understood through faith, which His detractors did not possess. In this case of The Sower, a discreet lesson is illustrated by placing an easily understood story in parallel to the intended understanding. Parable comes from Parallel. By the application of faith, a spiritually inclined individual will understand these biblical truths. Jesus may also have been mercifully dismissing further judgement on the Pharisees because of their continuing lack of understanding through faith. “Jesus said to them, If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see’ Therefore your sin remains,” John 9:41.

So, am I saved? Elected or damned? Any individual damned before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) would not think of asking those questions. It’s not even on their radar. They desire living for the sinful pleasures of the world. They are “children of disobedience” as Paul writes in Ephesians 2:2. The mere fact that these questions are being sought after is genuine evidence of salvation, because only a saved individual would be concerned about his or her eternal state with God. The TNT of the Bible is Romans TEN NINE TEN, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved, 10 for with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Relax. If you’re asking these very questions and reading this document, it is because the Holy Spirit has prompted your desire to be reassured of your eternal state.

God truly wants all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4, Romans 5:18, 1 John 2:2, 2 Peter 3:9). However, only through faith will that happen. A good test of salvation will also be found in 1 John 5:1 “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” One might venture to say that all of 1 John was written to saved individuals, especially 1 John 5:13 “ I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” Grace is a gift from God to be received in faith by each of us. If your curiosity has sufficed to this point, it may be confidently assumed that you have been saved.

Redemption For All

God extends His grace and mercy to everyone through the atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ. He wishes for everyone to be saved and inherit eternal life. John 1:29 “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” and 1 John 2:2 “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” World in this verse applies to people, for the atoning work of Jesus could not apply to the material substance of the earth itself.

Remember this very simple axiom: Manuscripts Rule & Grammar Explains. Follow the grammar of Apostle Paul recorded in Romans 9:22-23 as he describes WHO is active and WHO is passive, and which verb is PLURAL (to vessels) and which is SINGULAR (to God). Individuals have the choice to believe or not to believe. Everyone (Greek πας, pas, Strong G3956) is not curtailed by the following:

Foundation of Redemption

The biblical author who best addresses the initiation and scope of God’s Plan of Redemption or Salvation is Apostle Paul. He states in Galatians 1:11-12: “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Paul did not receive his understanding of God and the earthly ministry of Christ from a seminary, a college, literary works, or another gifted individual. What he knows about Jesus has been an ongoing revelation communicated to him directly by Jesus over a span of many years. This relation started on the road to Damascus where he was first introduced to Jesus, “And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest,” Acts 9:5-6. Over the years Jesus continued to reveal many things to Paul as well as frequent bodily appearances such as at Corinth, Acts 18:9-10: “Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city,”. See also Acts 16:16, 20:35, 22:18-21, 23:11, Acts 27:24, and Romans 14:11.

In the first chapter of his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul carefully explains many details of this redemptive plan of God for humanity through the atonement and resurrection of Jesus. He outlines the broad scope of God’s intervention into the human race. Many details exhibit a higher understanding of God’s plan not previously revealed in the four Gospel accounts. For example, God chose people to be recipients of grace before there were nations, cultures, or races. God intended his love to be available, unbounded by lines of nationality or colors of the skin. It was a decision of personal grace untarnished by environment, heritage, privilege, social class, breeding, intellect, appearance, clan tartan, wealth, or talent. God made a decision before the foundation of the world. Before there was humankind.

EPHESIANS 1:4: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”

Scholars have interpreted the words “foundation of the world” in various ways. Does this mean before the Genesis record and before the earth actually took shape? After Genesis at some foundational moment of history? Sometime during the Genesis account? This moment in time may not be as important to our current study as the more obvious fact that God was revealing a redemptive plan for humanity and that this decision took place at some point in time. Chosen indicates a decisive action. God decided to do something. It was proactive, not reactive. God does not operate through trial and error, caprice, or afterthought. The Divine does not play quarterback on Monday morning for all the details of Sunday’s game were known the previous Friday. God’s actions are the result of omniscient wisdom and prudence. Biblical commentator Albert Barnes emphasizes that “us” means God had individuals in mind, not a specific community or nation: “It includes Paul himself as one of the chosen or elected and those whom he addressed, i.e., the mingled Gentile and Jewish converts in Ephesus.” Love and providential grace was the motivation. God wanted people to live in holiness, without blame or reproach. This plan began a very long time before the prophet Isaiah wrote the first Messianic prediction.

EPHESIANS 1:5: “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself...”

We were elected by God to be adopted as His children through Jesus. The Greek manuscript word for predestinated literally means to “set bounds before” or “pre-determine.” Calvinism understands election as an irresistible choice to grace while Arminianism perceives election as a willful decision to receive grace. Regardless of which theology is ultimately correct the significance for this study remains that a Plan had been initiated and God is describing through Paul how it is being deployed. We are to be adopted by God through Jesus, thus Jesus Christ is at the heart of this Plan. Adopted means that we are being accepted into a new family, that our heavenly Father wants to give us a better home than the father of our sinful earthly condition.

EPHESIANS 1:6: “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

The Plan is being instituted because of grace, or God’s unmerited love. To further understand this Plan we must better understand the quality of God’s love, for it is the centrality of the Plan. God’s special love is the reason that the Plan was initiated in the first place. Without grace there would be no Plan. “The Beloved” refers to Jesus. The ancient Syriac and Ethiopic versions read, “his own beloved Son.” Some translations capitalize the word Beloved. Paul meant Jesus and translators clearly understand this point. The Contemporary English Version (CEV) actually reads, “because of the Son”. We are therefore acceptable to God because of Jesus. The Plan is a result of God’s undeserved grace through the special ministry of Jesus and is worthy of our praise or gratitude.

EPHESIANS 1:7 “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”

“In whom” (Jesus) we have redemption. We are purchased of God because of the death of Jesus, “Through His Blood.” Commentator Adam Clark states: “Christ’s blood was the redemption price paid down for our salvation: and this was according to the riches of his grace; as his grace is rich or abundant in benevolence“. Thus far we know that God initiated a Plan with Jesus as its principle agent and that it all takes place because of the special grace or unmerited love of God.

EPHESIANS 1:8 “Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.”

Paul exuberantly declares that God’s love is unconfined, beyond measure. This Plan is the result of God’s unlimited wisdom and excellent judgment. There is intelligent design behind it. We do not behold the final result as that of a scheme or accident, but rather a skillfully crafted and marvelously instituted process. We see here not a reticent God of desperation but a loving Divine richness that is boldly and precisely defined.

EPHESIANS 1:10 “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ.”

When God decided that the time was right, all things would be finally reconciled to God because of the special redemptive ministry of Jesus Christ.

EPHESIANS 1:20 “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.”

That special time came to pass when God raised Jesus from the dead and placed Him in heaven at “his own right hand,” in other words, the most favored place of honor. In ancient times, the right hand of the kings’s throne was the most privileged and enviable of any place in the kingdom.

EPHESIANS 1:21 “Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.”

The short explanation is that God has placed Jesus in a more favored and powerful place of honor than anything else in existence. Jesus is above (more important) than anyone or anything else, now and at any time in the future. This might simply be expressed in the street language of our day as: “Jesus is it!”

Characteristics of God from Scripture

God is love God is sovereign Sin separates people from God The penalty for sin is separation in hell Jesus is the Redeemer and Author of Salvation Jesus suffered the penalty for everyone Jesus was resurrected from the grave Jesus promised the righteous a place in heaven

Characteristics of a Christian from Scripture

Confess that sin in your life is separating you from God Be baptized with water as Christ Change from your sinful behavior and attitudes Observe the commandments of Jesus Christ Pray to God frequently Care for the helpless and the needful Watch for the second coming of Jesus Christ Save lost souls until Jesus Christ returns for believers
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