Billy Graham and the Legacy of the Gospel

People around the world are mourning the death of Billy Graham, who passed away yesterday at the age of 99. He was, without a doubt, one of the most influential church figures of the 20th century. 


I swim in the stream of his legacy. I attended a seminary which he helped to found, and I'm thankful to have his signature on my seminary diploma. This is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg of his influence.

But I don't want to talk today about his accomplishments or the way he's shaped the Christian church as we know it. If you would care to read more about his life, ministry, and legacy, Christianity Today (of which he was a founder) has a lovely special issue in Billy Graham's honor

Today, I'm thinking about what was even more dear to Billy Graham's heart - the Gospel. As I've been thinking of his legacy, I'm reminded how simple that Gospel message is. It is simple enough that we can summarize its basic truths in one sentence: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) 

The message of the Gospel is profound. There is a reason why we devote time to understanding the theology behind it, why we want to study it and dissect it and diagram it. There is a reason why we treat it with awe, not wanting to oversimplify it, not wanting to twist it into something it is not. There is a reason why we look at the historical sweep, the context of Jesus Christ's coming, the prophecies He fulfilled and will fulfill. It is right and good to dedicate this thought and study.  

But in the midst of this complexity, the Gospel message is still simple. It is hard. It is beyond our full comprehension. We could spend a lifetime diving the depths of its riches. But it is simple: God loves you. He entered time and space to make a way for relationship with you. In Him you find complete forgiveness, redemption, and restoration. 

This simple-yet-profound Gospel message changes lives. It changes families and cultures. It touches our minds, our hands, our feet. It transforms. 

Billy Graham never forgot this simple Gospel message, and he never forgot its power. This is, perhaps, his most precious legacy.

“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

- Billy Graham (1918-2018)