Not Understanding The Gospel (Part 1)

Not Understanding The Gospel (Part 1)

In this compelling blog post by Mike Barko, he shares his recent experiences in spreading the gospel in various locations, including downtown court square, James Madison University, and Route 33 in Harrisonburg. He also reflects on his participation in a church retreat in Ocracoke, North Carolina, where he had unexpected opportunities to share the gospel. Mike emphasizes the critical issue of many people, both inside and outside the church, not fully understanding the gospel message. He highlights the importance of grounding individuals in soteriology, the doctrine of salvation, to ensure a proper understanding of salvation. He notes that simply praying to receive Christ and getting baptized may not guarantee a deep comprehension of the gospel. Mike shares a specific encounter with a young student named Kate, illustrating how people often rely on their own works and efforts rather than fully trusting in the work of Christ for salvation. He discusses the importance of understanding the concept of grace and the role of faith in salvation. The blog post serves as a reminder of the foundational truths of the gospel and the need for clear, grace-centered teaching within the church. Mike's encounters with individuals like Kate underscore the vital role of sharing the gospel and ensuring that believers have a solid understanding of salvation. It's a call to continue spreading the message of Christ's redemptive work and grace.


Mike Barko

5/4/20198 min read




The last month has been a tremendous blessing as we continue to share the gospel at specific locations and also on the highways and byways of life. We continue to share weekly at three specific venues: (1) downtown court square (2) James Madison University and (3) holding the cross on Route 33 here in Harrisonburg.

This particular month, I joined a large group of men from our local fellowship and spent three days at Ocracoke, North Carolina for our 25th annual church retreat. Although my focus was not to share the gospel, I did have several interesting encounters. First, I got to share with a couple on the ferry to Ocracoke. They were not ready to trust in Christ, but were very thankful that I got to share with them. Then, the Lord really opened an amazing door with a local waitress. She was ready to place her trust in Jesus. Finally, I got to share with the hotel receptionist and she wanted to place her faith in Jesus.

While I was away on the retreat, Karen faithfully shared in front of the courthouse. She was able to lead seven to Christ that day. The following two weeks, two new workers came out to watch and learn as I shared Christ both at J.M.U. and downtown. Thank you Nicole and thank you Rob! Thank you Johan for faithfully praying and sharing as well!

There are so many pictures and stories to share, but I don't want to take too much of your time. So, I will just focus on one from this past Wednesday, downtown court square.

There are so many people today that do not understand the gospel. This includes people outside and inside of the church. And yes, this includes church members who are saved and baptized. This past Wednesday's encounters with people downtown really brought this truth to light.

People within local churches really need to be grounded in soteriology: the doctrine of salvation. I believe many pastors think that because a person 'prayed to receive Christ' and got baptized, they thus understand salvation.

Unfortunately, in the literally thousands of people that I have shared with over the years, I have not found this to be the case. When you really start asking people some of these questions, you find that a lot of these people simply do not understand.

Remember, Christ is seen outside of the Laodicean Church, knocking, asking to come in. (Revelation 3:14-22) Jesus also reminds us, "...nevertheless when the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8(b))

What is the solution? We all need to begin sharing the gospel. D. James Kennedy said that one of the benefits of churches instituting his Evangelism Explosion training seminar is that people in the church get grounded in soteriology. He documents many accounts of church members coming to these classes to learn how to share the gospel who actually get saved in these classes.

If local churches had evangelism training available for members, these members would be grounded in soteriology and would be genuinely converted. Then, these church members could go into the world and begin to lead the lost to Christ. The church must understand before the world does.

I want everyone to see and understand what I get to see and understand. I am so thankful that the Lord uses me in this capacity, and would humbly pray that He might see fit to send more laborers into his vineyard in accordance with his prayer in Luke 10:2.

To keep this newsletter from being too long, I will break it up in parts. This is will be part 1. As you read these, please keep in mind that all of this happened in one day, with one lesson in view:

People in the church and outside of the church desperately need to understand the gospel.

Kate was a delightful young J.M.U. student. She initially was excited when I asked the diagnostic questions and told me she was 100% sure of Heaven because:

"I got saved and was just baptized."

Because of experience, I have learned to dig a little deeper. So I asked,

"What does 'saved' mean?"

She responded...

'I follow the Word and I spread the Word.'

Guys, that is the fruit of salvation, not the root. We must trust alone in the root, not the fruit. Why is this important? Read on...

So I asked..
"Have you always spread the Word?'

Kate told me 'yes'. I then told her she was better than me, because I haven't always 'spread the Word'.

I then asked her...

"Have you ever been afraid to spread the Word?"

She responded...


You see, when I trust in the fruit, then I set myself up for pride, deception, and bondage. I have to convince myself that I have always spread the Word and have never been afraid.

I did not ask her, but had she 'always followed the Word'? Have you 'always followed the Word?' Even as a Christian?

Some people say, "Well that is what forgiveness is for."

Here is the problem with that. Does He forgive you because you 'try to follow the Word and ask forgiveness when you mess up?'

No, that amounts to 'trusting in your works', and asking forgiveness for your sins.

What you must do is transfer your trust from all of your works (even the very subtle form of works known as 'following') and only trust in the work of Christ. It is there you will find complete forgiveness. And there, you won't have to keep asking. Instead, you will continually thank Him for the forgiveness you already possess in Jesus Christ. Praise His wonderful name!

Back to Kate. After sharing the law with her (liar, thief, adulterer, murderer, and blasphemer), Kate had a humble heart and had no problem seeing that she was indeed guilty.

Now, here is where it gets even more interesting...

I asked her,

"So, why would God forgive you?"

Kate responded,

'I don't know.'

The simple truth of God's forgiveness is predicated upon what?

This precious young lady had no idea. Does He forgive her because she 'followed the Word and spread the Word'.

That, my friend is the problem with trusting in the fruit. Forgiveness becomes predicated upon my obedience, instead of Christ's atonement.

The great depression illustration really helps to illustrate this truth. There are three people in the courtroom: (1) the judge (2) the grandmother (3) the store owner.

The grandmother has been found guilty of stealing a loaf of bread to feed her grandchildren. The judge understands and wants to forgive her but the store owner reminds him that He has an obligation to uphold the law. A good judge must punish.

What is the solution? How can the judge forgive the woman and, at the same time, completely uphold the law?

Most people have no idea. Most Christians have no idea.

Some people say...

'Give her a lesser sentence.'

That is half-forgiveness and half-upholding the law. God wants complete forgiveness and complete upholding of the law!

Kate said...

'Make her pay.'

Does she have the $10 to pay? No. If God made you and I pay, where would we go?


You see, we don't owe God $10. We owe God 'spiritual death'. That is the penalty demanded as full payment for our sins...

"For the wages of sin is death..."

Most Christians think they 'pay God for their sins' with their life. In other words, 'Give God your life, and that is the payment He demands.'

No, it is His death, and His death alone that pays our 'spiritual death'.

Once we trust that, then yes, as a result, we yield our lives to Him. But again, remember, that is the fruit, not the root.

Kate spoke up...

'I believe God will forgive me.'

Of course, I asked her, "Why?"

Kate responded,

'I believe He died...and I change and I show I have changed and I'm sincere.'

She should have stopped with the first statement. Making forgiveness predicated upon all those other things nullifies grace. When people tell me, 'He died for me', I like to follow that up with, 'Is that enough?' More on that in part 2.

I responded,

"If the grandmother said to the judge...'I have changed, and I show I have changed and I am sincere'...What would the judge say?"

Kate understood and responded,


I continued with Kate,

"The one reason, and the one reason alone that the judge can forgive the grandmother is that her debt has been paid, not by her, but by the judge. The law has been upheld, completely upheld, not by her, for she had no power to uphold it, but by the compassionate, kind, and yet fully just, judge."

What do we owe God? 'Spiritual death'. Do we have any means to pay? Well, we can die spiritually in hell and pay, but why?

The judge has already paid!

Why can the 'great depression judge' forgive the woman? Because He paid!

Why can our judge forgive us? Because He paid!

Remember what part of Romans 3:26 says, "...that he might bejust, and thejustifierof him which believeth in Jesus."

The very one who is completely just and requires the penalty is the very one who pays that penalty!

He is bothjust, and thejustifier!

Thank you Jesus!

What must we do? Completely trust in His payment. Abandon all efforts to pay. We are not the Savior, He is.

In a court of law, does 'changing', 'showing I have changed' or 'being sincere about it', hold any merit with the judge?

If I get a speeding ticket and told the judge,

"Since the date of my ticket which was one month ago, I have not sped one time. I am sincerely sorry and will sincerely not try to speed again."

What would the judge say? Give me $100!

We can't 'work' our way out of our debt to the judge, and we can't work our way out of debt with God.

"Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt."

In other words, if you want to 'work for your salvation', then God will give you what you owe Him. What do you owe Him? Spiritual death.

God will give you spiritual death if you try to work for your salvation.

"But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."

God promises to justify the ungodly simply by believing. Wow. Praise His wonderful name!

Kate understood. Was His payment a complete payment? Use something like the following:

"Kate, if you got that speeding ticket for $100, and I paid the judge your fine, the judge could let you go. As long as the penalty was paid and justice was satisfied. What little white piece of paper could the judge give you as proof that I had paid your fine?"

Kate responded,

'A receipt.'

I continued,

"Yes, that would let you know that your fine was completely paid. After Jesus died, what happened three days later?"

Kate knew,

'He rose.'

I continued,

"That my friend is your receipt, Paid-in-full! God wanted to give you a sure foundation to trust in: the death and resurrection of Christ."

Did Kate know who Jesus was?


Yes, she knew that Jesus was the Son of God, but when I asked if He was God, she said, 'No.'

The person of Christ is a simple foundational truth that all saved people must know. This is an essential component to a person's salvation. You would be surprised how many people in the church do not understand that Jesus Christ is God.

After discussing the Trinity and 1 John 1:1,14, Kate understood that yes, Jesus Christ is God himself, manifest in the flesh, the second person of the Holy Trinity.

The foundation of our salvation is thepersonandworkof Jesus Christ alone. So many in the church, saved and baptized, do not understand these elementary truths. Praise God that our ministry can help people to understand these essential doctrines.

I am happy to report that precious Kate wanted to put all of her trust in Christ alone, for she finally understood what saved meant. She understood that her forgiveness was not based upon anything she did, but it was found in the person and work of Christ alone.

We prayed and she told me:

"He saved me. (My heart feels) good."

Before she left, I asked her if there was anything she wanted to share with me:

'Yes, thank you for this. Keep doing what you're doing.'