Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

The Gospel of Unbelievers 


Our Lord used over forty persons to write the sixty six books of the Bible. We also know that in telling the gospel story He used Matthew the former tax-collector, Mark the missionary, Luke the physician and John the beloved disciple. Each telling the story of Jesus in their own way and in their own style. God has not, however, limited Himself to using faithful servants such as these. At times He has used even unbelievers to bear testimony to His truth. The record of these composes a remarkable account of God’s ability to sovereignty overrule the desires of mankind and bring glory to Himself. These “gospel preachers” spoke the truth in unbelief, and as we consider our response we must insure that we as believers do not act in unbelief. Listen as the most unlikely of Gospel preachers tell the gospel.

The Gospel According to Caiaphas
John 11:49-51; John 18:14.

When the news that Jesus raised Lazurus from the dead had reached Jerusalem, the Jewish leaders assembled to determine how to “handle” the problem of Jesus of Nazareth. Their unbelief is openly displayed. Rather that recognizing that Jesus was the Messiah and that He possessed the power of God, they merely wanted to keep Him, the people and the Romans from interfering in a system that was profitable to them. In fact the first Jewish opposition began with Jesus’ first cleansing of the temple (John 2:15). That was a direct attack upon the profitable concessions in the temple. In the midst of the discussion Caiaphas the high priest that year spoke to the assembled group and declared: “that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” (John 11:50). These words were spoken strictly in a political sense but John adds the commentary that: “this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;” John 11:51). What he spoke in unbelief was actually God’s plan. God too believed it better that one should die, and that One being Jesus, than all should die.

Caiaphas’ gospel teaches that Jesus’ death was not for Himself. It was not an accident; it was for us. John adds this closing statement to his account of the Gospel according to Caiaphas. Jesus not only died for the nation, “but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.” John 11:51).

What could compel our God to choose the welfare of a race of rebels over the welfare of a beloved Son? Only this, “God is love,” (I John 4:8). He now expects us who have been the recipients of His love to obey His voice, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12). We are tempted to make our love conditional, to dispense only to those worthy of our love. In light of the example of our God, we should seek out those least likely to deserve our love and love them unconditionally. Look around and find someone to whom you can express the love of God.

The Gospel According to Judas
Mt. 27:3-6


Of all people, the one least likely to be considered a preacher of the Gospel would be Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus Christ. After realizing that Jesus was condemned to die, he went back to his co-conspirators and attempted to return the thirty pieces of silver that was payment for his treason. His remorse was expressed with the words, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.” (Matt. 27:4). With these words he preached the gospel. The blood of Jesus, about to be shed on the cross, was the blood of a sinless man. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God,” (I Pet. 3:18). Jesus, dying in our place became our substitute for sin. The wages of sin which is death (Rom. 6:23) were paid in full by Christ.


Unfortunately Judas, even though he was aware of the Person of Jesus did not accept by faith the provision of Jesus. We are told that in his remorse he went and hanged himself.

We must also consider if we have, like Judas, only heard but not responded in belief. Jesus, Who knew no sin became sin for us (II Cor. 5:21) in that through His death He bore all of the punishment for our sins. The way to salvation is through placing our faith solely in His sacrificial death on the cross. Have you?

The Gospel According to Mr. & Mrs.. Pilate
John 18:38, 19:4, 19:6, Matt. 27:19; John 19:19


After Jesus was tried by the Jewish authorities He was taken to the Roman governor, Pilate, because the Jews did not have the authority to execute the condemned. During the Roman trial, Pilate on three occasions pronounced that in Jesus he found no fault. In essence he declared Jesus to be acquitted of the charges against Him. Jesus is perhaps the only person in legal history to be acquitted three times and still be executed for crimes He did not commit. In addition to the judicial aspect of Pilate’s words, they also speak spiritual truth. Jesus was sinless. Only a sinless man could die for the sins of someone else. This was an essential element of the plan of redemption. Pilate’s wife also spoke of Jesus’ perfection. She sent word to her husband that due to a troubling dream, he should have nothing to do with Jesus for He was a “just man.” (Matt.27:19).


Since Jesus who was sinless died for us who are sinful so that we could be forgiven of sin and seek to live a life free from it. Our sights should be set on being holy as He is holy (I Pet. 1:15-16). This process of becoming holy is known as sanctification. We should be committed to furthering the process by decisions made about our lifestyle.

Matt. 27:37, Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38, John 19:19

All four gospel writers record that Pilate had a sign placed above Christ head on the cross. This “placard of the crime which was carried before the victim or hung around his neck as he walked to execution was now placed above the head of Jesus on the projecting piece This inscription gave the name and home, {Jesus of Nazareth}, and the charge on which he was convicted, {the King of the Jews} and the identification, {This is}. The four reports all give the charge and vary in the others. The inscription in full was: This is Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews. The three languages are mentioned only by John. Latin for law, Hebrew (Aramaic) for the Jews, Greek for everybody. The accusation correctly told the facts of the condemnation.” (Robertson). This statement, to which the Jews objected (John 19:21-23), was written to show contempt for the Jewish authorities and were not words he believed but they were absolutely true! Jesus was and is the rightful heir to the throne of Israel (cf. Luke 1:32-33) but is also King of Kings (I Tim. 6:15). These truths and Pilate’s words attest to His sovereignty and His divinity.


The proper response is clear. If He is our King and we are subject in His kingdom, our response should be obedience — complete, unquestioning obedience. God desires and deserves our worship but worship means more than offering our words to Him; He desires compliance with His will, in this is He pleased (I Sam. 15:22).

The Gospel According to Priests, scribes & elders
Mt. 27:41-44


While Jesus was on the cross the Jewish authorities mocked Him with the words, “He saved others; himself he cannot save.” (Matt. 27:42). They were in essence saying that Jesus who claimed to save others did not have the ability to save Himself. In reality He had the ability (cf. Matt. 26:52-53) but in order so save others He could not save Himself; He had to die. He died in our place. He Who was without sin gave His life so we who were sinners deserving death, could have eternal life.


We are instructed in Phil. 2:5-8 to have the same mind as Christ. Therefore like as He gave Himself for us, we should be willing to give ourselves for others. This giving could take many forms, it may be ministering to the elderly or forgotten or teaching a group of children or seeking to be a witness to the neighbors. For some there may be a clear call to a special service to God. We should seek His leading as to where we can give of ourselves as Christ gave Himself for us.

The Gospel According to the Robber
Luke 23:39-43


Crucified along side of Jesus were two condemned criminals. One joined in the taunting of those at the foot of the cross. He, in disbelief, said that if He were the Christ, to save Himself and them. The other robber, even as an unbeliever speaks the truth concerning Christ. He rebukes the other thief with the words, “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. (Luke 23:40b-41). With these words he accepted the fact of His sinfulness. This is a necessary part of the gospel. Without the recognition of our sin, we will never turn to a Savior. In addition to preaching a message of the sinfulness of man, He joined Pilate in testifying of Jesus innocence, by saying Jesus had done nothing amiss.


Even though he spoke these words as a condemned criminal and likely an unbeliever, he certainly with His next words turned to belief in Christ. In spite of Jesus appearance, as being a helpless victim and looking nothing like a king. He, through eyes of faith, asks Jesus to remember him when He comes into His kingdom. That is faith! This is the only proper response to our sin. We must turn in faith to Christ and trust Him for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus responded by promising that day the thief would be with Him in paradise. That is the result of faith! These two robbers stand as representatives for all mankind. Both were sinners. One rejected Christ and was lost. One accepted Christ and was saved. Between heaven and hell stands the cross of Jesus. On which side do you stand?

The Gospel According to the Centurion
Mt. 27:54


Accompanying the crucifixion and death of Christ were five supernatural events. The three hours of darkness, the torn veil, the earthquake, the split rocks and saints rising from the graves. These were divine messages that the death of Christ was a singular, supreme event in all of history. They were to convince all that Jesus was in reality the Christ. A centurion stood by the cross, and witnessed these events. This professional, Roman soldier, who had doubtless witness many crucifixions, was moved with fear and said along with the other soldiers, “Truly this was the Son of God.” (Matt. 27:54). In so doing he joins the company of those who preached the gospel. There may be some question as to whether these words were spoken by an unbeliever? These could be word of mental recognition without genuine saving faith, or they could be words of one who has just come to faith in Christ. In either case he was likely an unbeliever when he was assigned to supervise the crucifixion that day. Regardless of his spiritual condition he spoke the truth; Jesus was the Son of God.


It is possible for those of who know Christ personally to allow the reality of the gospel to grow stale. We need to reserve time for personal worship on a regular basis and be shaken as this centurion was with the reality of Christ. This One, Who we read of in the Bible, is the One whom we will see face to face. We must come to live in the reality of Jesus Christ. Just as these were eye-witnesses to the reality of Jesus Christ. The day will come when we will be eye-witness to His reality. John states the reality of this confrontation with Jesus should have a purifying effect on us. when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.” (I John 3:2b-3).

Jesse Waggoner   @JesseWaggoner

Originally published in 1997