H. Leo Boles
No book written by man has so many simple words as the New Testament. There is an air of simplicity about the biographies of Jesus which, like the breezes from the Galilean hills, blows upon our sophisticated minds. The gospel has not been recorded in philosophical phraseology, scientific terms, complicated sentences, or the dialects of angels; but it has been expressed in the simplest terms so that children can understand.
Man has muddied the stream of divine thought by theological and ecclesiastical terms and phrases until it is much more difficult to understand the doctrines of men than the simple teachings of the New Testament. The gospel of Jesus contains the truths of God’s will so plain and clear that the untrained minds of innocent children can catch and follow them.
Teachers often confuse by their explanation, when, if they would just let the New Testament speak, the simplicity of thought would be gained. While on earth, Jesus replaced the traditions of men with respect to the law by his simple teachings. The instructions given to Christians as to how to live the Christian life can be understood. No one has a just complaint to make against the requirements of the New Testament toward a simple life.
The Gospel Was Understood When It Was First Heard
The proof of the simplicity of the gospel is seen in the record of the conversions. When the multitude came together on the day of Pentecost and heard the miraculous manifestations of the apostles speaking in tongues, they were astonished and accused the apostles of being drunken. Peter stood up with the eleven and gave a simple explanation of what had occurred.
He calmly pointed to the prophecy of Joel and recited that prophecy to the people. He then called attention to what they had observed. In a simple way, he pointed out the facts and showed that what they were observing was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel. With that out of the way, he then proceeded to unfold to them the claims of Jesus of Nazareth, and by the quotation from David showed that should have expected just what had transpired. Since the prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus, he must be what he claimed to be—the Son of God, the promised Messiah. Step by step, argument and conclusion closely following each other, Peter convinced many that Jesus was the Saviour of the world.
These astonished and confused Jews soon became believers in the Christ. About 3,000 heard this profound, yet simple, sermon that Peter preached, and were convinced. This was the first time that a gospel sermon had been preached in its fullness. Of course, Peter spoke as the Spirit gave him utterance; hence, he spoke in such simple terms as the people could hear and understand the first gospel sermon that they had ever heard. Surely Peter must have spoken simply for so many of the common people to understand and accept what he presented.
Those who did not accept the gospel on Pentecost refused it not because they did not understand it, but because they refused to believe it. Their unconverted state was a result, not of a misunderstanding, neither of their inability to understand, but a failure on their part to believe what they did understand. Prejudice and other things may have had a bearing upon them, but the chief thing was that they refused to believe what they heard.
The Ethiopian eunuch had been to Jerusalem to worship (Acts 8). He was returning and riding in his chariot. He had presumably worshiped according to the law of Moses at Jerusalem. He had never heard of the Christ or, if he had heard of him, it was an unfavorable report. Philip joined the chariot and, as he rode along, preached to him Jesus. (Acts 8:35).
This was the first gospel sermon the eunuch ever heard, and probably the first time he had ever heard of the Christ. But Philip preached the simple gospel in simple terms so that the eunuch understood him. He believed the gospel and was baptized and went on his way rejoicing in the new-found salvation. Many others like the eunuch heard and understood the terms of salvation, and obeyed the gospel the same hour of the night. In fact, the people in the long list of conversions recorded in the Acts of the Apostles obeyed the gospel the first time they heard it. There was no delay, but prompt obedience to all the commands of the gospel marked their belief in the simple gospel.
Its Simplicity Brings Heavier Condemnation
Since the gospel is simple enough for all to understand the terms of salvation and the requirements of Christian living, all are condemned who do not accept the terms of salvation and live as the simple gospel of Christ requires them to live. The condemnation of the ignorant and illiterate would not be just if the gospel was not presented in such a simple way that they could understand it.
Every Spirit guided speaker and writer in New Testament times expected the hearer to understand, and passed condemnation on him if he did not believe. In giving the commission, Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” but he also added, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:15-16). The condemnation of the disbeliever is just, because he can understand the simple requirements of the gospel.
The gospel was given to be understood. It was preached in simple language and the Holy Spirit has recorded it in simple terms. Hence, our condemnation is just if we do not believe it.
The Christian life is a simple life and all of its requirements are simple. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; For I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30).