There can be no rediscovery, unless something that was discovered has been lost. 500 years ago, the Protestant reformation discovered the gospel after it was lost and forgotten during the medieval period. The gospel under discussion in this article is the good news surpassing all others, proclaiming that God has visited his people with salvation through his Son Jesus Christ (Harrison, 1971:138). How can this gospel be rediscovered in view of the Protestant reformation? Firstly, I will look at the discovery of the gospel by the reformers and then how we can rediscover the gospel in our time.

The rediscovery of the gospel by the reformers

 The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ brought hope and salvation to the hopeless (Brickle, 1992:1; Hanschen, 2013:9). The superstitions and heathenism had proved helpless to the people (Brickle, 1992:1). Later, the disciples’ character and conduct recommended Christianity and had a great influence in the world (Pine, 1829:552-553). “Such was the effect of the blessed hope of the gospel at the period of its introduction and through the following successive centuries, till it came to be generally professed throughout the Roman Empire” (Pine, 1829:553).

Sadly, the rot began from the city of Rome; the Church lost its faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel (Brickle, 1992:2). The unity that was attained spiritually and internally became external (unity through the bishops, archbishops, and ceremonies and so forth). The Word of God was no longer a source of salvation, but the Church (Brickle, 1992:2). In the beginning whoever had received the Spirit of Jesus Christ was an esteemed a member of the church, but the order had changed and no one, unless a member of the church, was counted to have received the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Merle, 1869:3). Forgiveness of sin had turned into money making venture through selling of indulgences pardons, which had nothing to do with sincere repentance or renewed devotion to God (Jacobs, 2008:12). The church taught that a parishioner had to do something to ensure their favour from the heavenly intercessors (Bainton, 1984:11).

This is not different to the prosperity gospel today. Luther was made to believe that the surest way of salvation was to perform good works (Bainton, 1984:19, 26). Sadly, the church was doing little or nothing to fulfil the purpose Jesus had proclaimed as His mission in Luke 4:18-19 (Jacobs, 2008:12). And reformers like Martin Luther were greatly troubled by the sin and corruption that was running rampant, as it was not only destroying the people’s lives, but also their hope for eternal salvation (Jacobs, 2008:12).

Martin Luther repudiated the sin and corruption in his 95 Theses, which were not an attack on the church, but a reintroduction of what true repentance really meant and a call to return to it (Jacobs, 2008:13). The reformers responded to this onslaught on the gospel by teaching the reformed theology, distribution of pamphlets and preaching the gospel (Brickle (1992:79). John Calvin did not separate the preaching of God’s Word and the gospel (Wilson, 2010:87). Luther believed in the priesthood of all believers That believers were to come to God directly without going through any mediator apart from Christ.

The reformers believed that one cannot be saved by following the law or performing good works (Thomas, 2012:146). Salvation through Jesus Christ was at the heart of Christian thought and living (Hazlih, 2005: vii). Calvin taught that it is the loving, merciful God, who actively sought out sinners to draw them to himself (Calvin, 2008: xvi).

We have seen how the reformers responded to the sin, corruption and the distortion of the gospel in their time. How can we respond in our time? In other words, how can we rediscover the lost and forgotten gospel?

 How we can rediscover the gospel

 Let us watch out the content of the Gospel

It suffices to say that it was the content of the gospel that brought a revolution in the time of the Protestant reformation. We will rediscover the gospel if we seriously examine the content of the gospel that we are bringing to our people. What kind of gospel is coming from the pulpit in Churches? The gospel must point out the total depravity of mankind.

Humanity ought to recognise their sinful condition, unworthiness and inability to save themselves (MacArthur, 2003:68-69, 93). It should be made clear that human beings in their sinful condition, cannot attain God’s salvation, instead they are under condemnation (Rom 2:5-8, 5:16-18) (Brondos, 2011:21). Human beings are dead in spirit and only the Holy Spirit can quicken them. Sin is not an accident, but it originates from our corrupt hearts (Spurgeon, 1954:338). This should be pointed out in the gospel.

Paul in Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” It must be pointed out that mankind has no capacity to save itself, but is saved by God’s grace. Today the gospel of the sinner being justified by grace through faith alone for Christ’s sake has changed (Brondos, 2011:1). It must be stated that man is not put right by any achievement, whether present or foreseen. The only thing required from mankind is faith.

This faith is not an achievement, but a gift from God (Bainton, 1984: 47). People need to be discouraged to trust in their human abilities for their salvation, but should be exhausted to look to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation (Spurgeon, 1954:339). Let us desist from the temptation of thinking that there are many ways to be saved as some claim Mariana, 2011:433-434). Salvation is not up to a human being as some insist (see Brondos, 2011:19). The gospel is unmerited acceptance by God through Christ (Greear, 2011: xiv). It is not a path of duty and obligation (Barrie, 2006:2). Salvation is solely an act of God, through his Son Jesus Christ (Brondos, 2011:29). None of us can live rightly before God until he declares us to be right in Christ (Palmer, 2011:102)). These truths must be preached and taught at the pulpit for us to rediscover the gospel.

It is also noteworthy that the gospel is about Christ and him being crucified (Spurgeon, 1954:337). It is the announcement that God has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ and that those that repent and believe will have eternal life (Greear, 2011:5). Jesus Christ should be the main subject of the gospel and not good works of either the Church or the Church leadership are the main subject of the gospel.

In the content of the gospel let us not fall prey of trivialising “sin”. MacArthur (2003:113, 115), argues that the gospel has been made so easy that it is not the gospel at all. Repentance and belief (faith) were a hallmark of the gospel in the Acts of apostles (see Acts 2:38; 20:21). Spurgeon (1954:337-338) says, “Point out the evil of sin that created the need of a Saviour (Spurgeon, 1954:337-338). Our proclamation of the gospel is not complete if we leave out the dangers of sin. This is one area where many preachers compromise.

Furthermore, we are to set before the hearers the justice of God and the certainty that every transgression will be punished. We rob the gospel of its power if we leave out the threatening of punishment (Spurgeon, 1954:339). But Spurgeon is also quick to remind us to preach earnestly the love of God in Christ Jesus and magnify the abounding mercy of the Lord (Spurgeon, 1954:340). It is the content of the gospel that opened the apostle Paul’s eyes to the tremendous reality of the wrath of God (Ridderbos, 1975: iii). That is what the people need to hear -the true gospel preached to them just as the reformers did.

Priority of preaching

It is also important to understand that the dissemination of this gospel in the pulpit is crucial. It is through the gospel that the people are reconciled to God (Spurgeon, 1954:336). The gospel that is received by faith and this faith comes by hearing and study of the word (Bainton, 1984: 47). Spurgeon goes on to say, “a great deal must be done by way of instruction, for souls to be saved. People must be taught concerning themselves, their sin and their fall, their Saviour, redemption, regeneration and so on” (Spurgeon, 1954:341). Spurgeon (1954:341) insists that many awakened souls would gladly accept God’s way of salvation if they knew it (Acts 17:30-31).

People cannot be made to believe, what has never been set before them (Spurgeon, 1954:341). Let us desist from telling stories at the pulpit and apportioning more time to other activities that have nothing to do with Jesus Christ and him crucified. A quick look on the internet at the large churches in America will show quite a different story. Weight loss, stress management and debt reduction seem to be the buzz words on the screen. One can pray that the gospel message is shared clearly and convincingly within each of these programs (Fackre, 2006:22-23).

It is not so different here in Zambia, where social programs such as HIV/AIDS sensitisation, aerobics, and fundraisings have taken over the pulpit. Once people are swept into God kingdom we need to disciple them on how to live transformed lives (Jacobs, 2008:17). As Jacobs, further rightly observes, the reformation is infused into every part of the nation through praying and teaching and working ‘army’ of the Lord (Jacobs, 2008:17).

 The gospel that transforms

The efficacy of the gospel throughout history is so clear from what has been highlighted above. Even today, when we are faithful to the gospel as the reformers were, the gospel in turn transforms lives. Greear (2011: xiv) observes that the gospel can change a community, and the world, when it is rediscovered and applied (Greear, 2011: xiv). The gospel changes us and becomes the source of our identity and security (Greear, 2011: xv). The purpose of preaching is to teach, turn, change or even convert (Barrie, 2006:2). God’s truth certainly has a way of changing things (Jacobs, 2008:13). According to Jacobs:

Reformation is to institutionalize God’s will in how we do our daily business, deal with the poor, administer justice, make our laws, teach our children and generally live our lives (2008:18).

Believers should be taught how to live as Christians with a biblical worldview (Jacobs, 2008:17). The gospel has serious implications for life.

Beware of another gospel

The prosperity gospel that is rampant today is not any different from the trickery of the Roman Catholic indulgences of the seventeenth century (Oluoch, 2012: xvii). The gospel being peddled today in the name of God may not necessarily all be true. One of such gospels is commonly referred to as prosperity gospel (Oluoch, 2012: xix). This gospel insists that a person’s giving can unlock God’s abundant storehouse for them, it is trickery and lies (Oluoch, 2012: xviii). This gospel peddles a notion that what humans need are God’s abundant handouts.

It sets the believers affections on the earthly things rather than on things above (Oluoch, 2012: xx). People become miracle seekers. Mbewe (2006:44) warns that we must not give heed to those people who say that as a Christian one needs something more than the salvation we have received, otherwise if we are not grounded in faith we will become miracle chasers (Mbewe, 2006:44).

Let us watch out for the distortion of the gospel via the media and the literature. “In this age of radio, television and computer, especially the internet there is so much that is coming into us without us making much of an effort to get it in and, unfortunately, most of it is rubbish. It is godless and immoral” (Mbewe: 2006:17). Like the reformers did, let us engage into writing gospel centred literature and let us grab every opportunity to disseminate the gospel via social media, radio and television broadcasting.


 Having discussed the way the Protestant reformers discovered the gospel; in an era that was morally and spiritually decaying, this should challenge us in our time to rediscover the gospel that is equally suffering a similar fate. Our times are not so different to that of the reformers: the gospel is being distorted from the pulpits, in the media and in literature. Our celebration of the 500 years of protestant reformation is meaningless, if we do not stand up against sin. The corruption and distortion of the gospel that is rampant in our generation is what the reformers sought to object at whatever cost.

The moral and spiritual degradation began right within the parameters of the Church during the medieval period and that triggered reformation. This should be a great warning to our Church today; let us go back to the drawing board and re-examine our gospel content; let us also prioritise what is being preached. Let us greatly get troubled by the sin that has encroached the door steps of our Churches, bringing the name of the Lord to public ridicule. The gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes… (Rom 1:16). The gospel transforms lives, families and communities. Let us also be aware of another gospel spreading like fire in our time. In Galatians 1:8 Paul warns the readers, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.” The apostle Paul resolved to know nothing while he was with the Galatians except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:2). May this be our resolution to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified!


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