The gospel, clearly defined:
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;2 By which also ye are saved…For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures….” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4
A strong warning to those who pervert the gospel of Jesus Christ:
6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed…unto another gospel:7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.…So say I …again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:6-9
The gospel of Jesus Christ, which we as believers are called to preach and teach, is a specific doctrine, and that doctrine is the very foundation of our Christian lives since it alone is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). Therefore, we MUST get it right. The gospel is not a general Christian platitude, such as “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” and it is not a message created by man. In Galatians 2:11-12, Paul states:
11 “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The true gospel of Jesus, given to us by Christ through Paul, teaches us that God, through His Son, died in our stead in order to pay the price God requires for our sins to be forgiven. The gospel also instructs us that Jesus was buried, and, in accordance with Old Testament scriptures (Ps. 16:10; Ps.22:1-18), rose again three days later. This is the gospel that we must teach, and this is the truth in which we must stand. The gospel, as Paul lays it out for us, is the divine message, which sets those who believe on the only path to salvation. There is no other gospel.
I have heard people say that this popular mega-church or that well-known pastor preaches the gospel, but from what I’ve seen and heard, it is highly unlikely that many (if any) of these money-centered churches today, actually call people to repent, and believe that Jesus died, was buried and rose again, in order to pay a debt in blood, that we could never, ever pay ourselves. Instead, what they usually seem to preach is what Paul calls “another gospel,” or “another Jesus,” meaning a fake, non-biblical Jesus – one which tickles our itching ears by failing to teach the hard but beautiful truth of the grace of God that leads to salvation (See, Titus 2:11-15). Instead, they tend to teach a type of worldly, man-centered philosophy, packaged in Christian terminology, which sadly, is what most people want to hear (2 Corinthians 11:4; 2 Tim. 4:3).
Because of what seems to be the omnipresence of these false teachers (in bookstores and on TV), many of those who consider themselves Christians today have been conditioned to love the false, man-centered Jesus, and will only accept a weak, temporal gospel, which fuels our fleshly desires for happiness and worldly success, but in truth, is no gospel at all. Any call to turn to Jesus from the sin that so easily entangles, and believe, in the deep places of our hearts, that Jesus suffered on that cross to redeem us from the eternal flames of hell we so richly deserve, is either considered passé, legalistic, or just isn’t the kind of “negativity” that people want to hear in church.
We should not attend church: to hear a message about Jesus blessing us financially, in order to find a spouse, or in an attempt to have some type of emotional worship experience. The purpose of church is to hear the soul-saving message of the cross, and to learn, with the guidance of the scriptures, how to walk before God and men in love, truth and holiness. Jesus is a God of love, mercy and grace…but he is also a God who administers justice…and at the appointed time, his vengeance will come against those who reject the true gospel, with a fury never seen before on the face of this earth…and never to be seen again. Revelation 19 is an important chapter for understanding the final judgment of God against the wickedness of man. (See, also The Wrath of Almighty God).
I recently attended a Bible study where the leader informed us that he had a new perspective on the gospel, one which he had only recently learned. He called it the “gospel of the kingdom,” per Matthew 4:17. Jesus referred to it several times as he preached to the Jewish people PRIOR to his death on the cross to redeem us from the consequences of our sin. This “gospel,” as taught in this Bible study, is allegedly for today, and lines up with the outrageously false “word of faith” doctrine, and turns present-day believers into super-apostles, with the same powers and abilities that Jesus had, including the ability to heal, raise the dead and forgive sins. According to this teaching, the reason why we are all struggling along in our miserable little Christian lives is because we haven’t yet unlocked our God-power.
This doctrine sounds very much like new age teaching shrouded in Christian language, and reminds me of the most destructive lie ever told- the one Satan whispered to Eve in the garden: “Eat this …and you shall be as gods.” We all know how that ended. As the former long-time occultist, turned brilliant apologist, Warren B. Smith said in response to this type of teaching, “Be still and know that you are NOT God.”
While Paul and the other apostles clearly had the authority to heal, and even raise the dead early in their ministries, that power seemed to wane as Christianity became established. In 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul doesn’t heal his beloved Timothy, but instead tells him to drink a little wine for his “frequent illnesses.” He also left his Christian brother, Trophemus, sick at Miletus (2 Timothy 4:20), while Epaphroditus, a dear friend and the pastor of the Philippian church, was so sick that he nearly died. Ultimately, GOD (not man) intervened, and healed him, to the great joy and relief of Paul (Philippians 2:25-27). As for forgiving the sins of others, Paul teaches that there is only ONE mediator between God and man…and that mediator isn’t Paul, and most certainly isn’t you or me (1 Timothy 2:5).
James, the brother of Jesus, teaches that not many of us should seek to be pastors or overseers, because those who do will face a higher standard of judgment (James 3:1). I believe that this clear warning is something all of us should consider carefully as we seek to influence those around us with what we consider to be the truth of God. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the very power of God unto salvation, and Paul tells us exactly what that gospel is in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (quoted at the top of the page). In case there are any doubts that this is the one true gospel for the post-resurrection world, Paul affirms that it is the gospel which he received by direct revelation from Jesus Christ, and it is the gospel in which he stands. There is none other, and anyone (including an angel) who preaches a different, more socially relevant “gospel,” does so at their own great peril (Galatians 1:6-10).
My answer to this teacher as to how we become equipped to grow in Christ, gaining hope, wisdom, joy and confidence in this life also comes from Paul in his first letter to his dear son in the faith, Timothy:
14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
It may not sound particularly exciting or insightful, but the sharp two-edged sword of the word is all we need to grow in knowledge, wisdom and strength in Christ. I don’t want super-powers. I don’t want secret insight. I want Jesus Christ, crucified for my sin, risen from the dead, and seated at the right hand of God the Father, to rule and reign in my life…and I simply want to be His obedient servant. Lord Jesus, please help that goal to be realized in me more and more each day!
We are all tempted to preach ourselves (our insight and wisdom), instead of the biblical Jesus Christ. We must fight that urge, and instead teach and preach the blood of the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, for He alone is our peace. Jesus redeemed us from the consequences of the sin we used to love, and as I often note, He did it in humiliation, and in indescribable agony…cold and naked on a wooden cross.
There is only one gospel, and if it is not being preached by those who claim to be Christian leaders, then, as Paul challenged Peter publicly in Galatians 2 when he was in grave error, so should we gently but firmly challenge those who are leading our Christian brothers and sisters astray. The stakes are high and Satan is moving to build his kingdom here on earth through a false one-world religion (See, Revelation 17:1-18). Please…do not be a part of that church, either out of willful ignorance or a desire for some type of false unity under a different, more socially acceptable Jesus (and gospel)….and do not be afraid to contend vigorously for the truth, no matter the cost. The fate of countless souls, precious to our great God…are at stake.
2 Timothy 4:2-4
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
1 Corinthians 1:17-18, 22-24
“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”