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What is the True Gospel?


Is there more than one “Gospel”?  What “Gospel” is for us today?  In order to answer this question, it’s necessary to explain and identify what the gospel is before we can challenge any preacher for not preaching it.


The gospel or good news has two key parts.  Acts 28:31 partially shows this two-fold aspect, which says that Paul was “preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Similarly, the two parts overlap in Paul’s message to the elders gathered in Miletus in what’s now modern Turkey (Acts 20:24-25):  “. . . the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.  And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more.”  Then notice Acts 8:12, which describes Philip’s preaching:  “But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning [1] the kingdom of God and [2] the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.” 


One key part of the gospel is a message of salvation from sin through Jesus.  For example, notice Ephesians 1:13-14:  “In Him [Christ] you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”  Similarly, a message of salvation, resulting in eternal life, appeared when the Gospel was preached to the Colossian church (Colossians 1:5):  “because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth.”  See also Colossians 1:22-23.  Belief in Jesus’ resurrection is crucial to this part of the gospel message, since Jesus can’t be our Savior unless He both died and was resurrected (I Cor. 15:1-4).


The other crucial part of the Gospel’s message is the promise of the coming kingdom of God, which is a literal government that will rule the earth after Christ returns.  The beginning of the coming kingdom’s activity, as a kind of forerunner, was manifested by the miraculous healings done by Jesus during His earthly ministry.  Notice Mark 1:14-15:  “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  Now this key descriptive text refers indirectly to the gospel having a message of salvation, since it mentions the need for faith and repentance.  It also refers to the coming government of God, which will rule over the earth (Revelation 11:15, 17):  “‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever. . . . ‘We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, because you have taken Your great power and reigned.’” Nebuchadnezzar, the ancient King of Babylon, foresaw this coming literal government of God in his dream described and interpreted by the prophet Daniel:  “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms [i.e., Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, including its revivals], and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44).  So this government isn’t the church or nice sentiments in people’s hearts; it’s a real government that will exercise power over people’s lives during Christ’s millennial reign over the earth (Rev. 20:4).


Jesus went around preaching the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 9:35), a message that will reach the whole world before His return (Matt. 24:14).  Jesus preached this message after His resurrection to His disciples (Acts 1:3):  “To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” The gospel demonstrates the power of God to believers (I Cor. 1:17-18):  “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.  For the message of the cross [which here is being equated with the gospel] is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” So Jesus and Paul preached this same gospel.


So then, if someone doesn’t preach this same gospel, he is accursed (Galatians 1:8-9):  “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”   (See also Col. 1:23).  So it’s an important matter to identify and to proclaim the same gospel message that Paul had.


The disciples didn’t have full knowledge of what the Gospel was or when the kingdom would come during their ministry.  This is a matter of progressive revelation.  Based on prevailing ideas among the Jews at the time, Jesus’ disciples really were looking for a Conquering Messiah who would deliver their nation from Roman rule.  We can tell that they did believe in the resurrection of mankind in general, as even the Pharisees did as well.  Jesus made a point of corrected the S  For example, after Jesus said, “Your brother shall rise again,” Martha responded, “I know that He will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”  Then Jesus proclaimed to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.  Do you believe this?  She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”  The problem was that it wasn’t clear to the disciples during Jesus’ lifetime that He would die and be resurrected instead of leading a victorious army against the pagan Romans, such as in the text in Luke 18:31-34 that you referred to.  It wasn’t until the night of the Passover during “the last supper” that it started to clearly dawn on them that that wasn’t going to occur.  They didn’t believe that Jesus Himself was going to die and be personally resurrected despite He repeatedly told them so (cf. Matthew 16:20-23).  (However, Thomas’ statement in John 11:16 constitutes an interesting partial exception to this generalization).  Even after His resurrection and just before His ascension to heaven, the disciples still asked Him, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).  So what they preached during Jesus’ lifetime wasn’t the full revelation of God and the gospel message, but it was part of it.  It would be like seeing a conflict between John the Baptist’s message and Jesus’ gospel.  John didn’t have the full revelation of God, but He still did a valuable work in preparing people to accept Jesus’ message (Acts 13:24-25; 18:25-26).  We shouldn’t see a conflict or contradiction between a more limited and a more complete version of the same basic message.


Let’s turn to a related issue, which is the "health and wealth" gospel.  This basically teaches that God wants and enables Christians to have good health and financial prosperity.  A pastor may make the mistake of over-emphasizing that God often wants to bless us physically.  But since life also has trials in it, and God wants to see how much we're willing to sacrifice financially to help the poor or the church evangelize, we should never expect God has to give us good health and physical prosperity after conversion (James 1:2-4).  It’s a red flag if a pastor disproportionately spends too much time preaching about the joyful side of the Christian walk compared to its painful side.


We have to dismiss from our minds the so-called "health and wealth gospel" that some Christians teach.  Just because we serve God doesn't mean He'll take away all our trials and tests, whether in health or financially.  Paul was a very faithful man of God after being struck down on the road to Damascus.  But God let Paul have a thorn in his flesh, perhaps a health trial related to poor eyesight, despite his faithful obedience (see II Cor. 12:7-9).  Paul also suffered from appalling trails while preaching the Gospel, which he mentioned in detail (II Cor. 11:23-27).  Many of the most faithful prophets of God, such as John the Baptist, met awful ends.  Think of the listing in Hebrews 11 of the men and women of faith, and the trials so many of them had (see especially verses 35-39).  They shouldn't have doubted that they were serving God truly in the path of life they were in, even if they would have sinned from time to time, like Abraham, Moses, and David did.  And, of course, Jesus had both perfect faith and perfect obedience, but still suffered many tests and trials before dying on the cross to redeem us from sin.  (That leads to the observation that God died to free us from the evils that resulted from His giving us the free will to choose or not choose). 


Now, the Bible does tell us as Christians to expect that we will have trials (I Peter 4:12):  "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you."  Peter even then goes on to so boldly say:  "But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's suffereings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."  Now, it's very hard to have that perspective on our trials while experiencing them.  Consider this verse in James 1:2:  "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [i.e., trials]."  Because we feel pain during the trial itself, we can't have joy then, such as (say) over the death of a family member.  But it's the product of the trial in improving and strengthening our characters that we should rejoice over, which James does note here some in the next two verses:  "Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."  Similarly, Paul wrote (Romans 5:3-5):  "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also:  knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience, and experience, hope:  And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love is God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."  It's a distinctly unpleasant truth.  But consider the old simplistic maxim of body builders in this context:  "No pain, no gain."  Or then, more colorfully, the atheistic German philosopher Nietzsche once said something like, "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger."  I admit fully, when we have harsh trials, such counsel sounds superficial emotionally, even calloused.  But we have to look at the fundamental purpose of life as being an experience that is supposed to build holy righteous character within us (or others) so long as we react correctly and spiritually to whatever trials are sent our way.  And holy righteous character is the one thing that we can take from this life; we weren't put here on earth to always be happy.



Using the Biblical descriptions above, we can know if someone is preaching the same gospel as what Jesus and Paul did.  That preaching should promote the message that God’s kingdom is literally coming to this earth and that salvation is through Jesus alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).  Anything else may be nice information to know, and it could even be Biblical, such as helping the poor, but it isn’t the “gospel” as the Bible defines it.  That’s why, for example, the “social gospel” of the liberal Protestant churches isn’t the “gospel.”  The “health and wealth” gospel is also false teaching, as explained above.  So let us strive to believe in and to preach the full, true gospel, not a false, incomplete, or misleading one.


Eric Snow



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Why does God Allow Evil? Click here: /Apologeticshtml/Why Does God Allow Evil 0908.htm

May Christians work on Saturdays? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Protestant Rhetoric vs Sabbath Refuted.htm

Should Christians obey the Old Testament law? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Does the New Covenant Abolish the OT Law.htm

Do you have an immortal soul? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Here and Hereafter.htm

Does the ministry have authority? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Is There an Ordained Ministry vs Edwards.html

Is the United States the Beast? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Are We the Beast vs Collins.htm

Should you give 10% of your income to your church? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Does the Argument from Silence Abolish the Old Testament Law of Tithing 0205 Mokarow rebuttal.htm

Is Jesus God? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Is Jesus God.htm

Will there be a third resurrection? Click here: /doctrinalhtml/Will There Be a Third Resurrection.htm



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