The Gospel ~ More and Less Than You Thought

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The Gospel ~ More and Less Than You Thought

Post by Jarhead on Thu May 09 2013, 06:11

Don Samdahl has a website that is in the deeper end of the study pool ~ I highly recommend it and this article would actually be better read/studied at his site: http://doctrine.org/?page_id=114





The Gospel




Introduction

Our English word gospel comes from the Old English godspell
meaning “good news.” It is a transliteration of the Greek word
εὐαγγέλιον which is a combination of “good” (Greek εὐ) and “message” or
“news” (Greek αγγελία). In the broad view, the “gospel” is what God has
revealed to the human race regarding how we can have a relationship with
Him. God has proclaimed the gospel throughout history and mankind’s
response to this good news has always been the same: faith. We read in Hebrews 11:6,
“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to
God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek
Him.” In this same chapter are many examples of men and women who
apprehended God by faith. Faith has always been the means of salvation.
Thus the writer to the Hebrews wrote,

<blockquote>
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval” (Hebrews 11.1-2).

</blockquote>
While the means of apprehension has remained the same throughout history, the content of the gospel has not. It has changed according to what God has revealed.

The Gospel Through the Ages

The clearest definition of the gospel for our day is found in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Paul wrote,

<blockquote>
“Now I make known to you, brethren, the
gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also
you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I
preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as
of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins
according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was
raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He
appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve” (1 Corinthians 15.1-5).

</blockquote>
Therefore, the way we have a
relationship with God is by believing that Christ died for one’s sins
and was raised from the dead. The resurrection of Christ was the proof
that He was victorious over sin and death as our substitutionary
sacrifice. It’s as simple as that. When one believes the gospel he is,
in the words of the Scriptures, “saved.”

The above verses may be diagrammed as below:

1) First propositionChrist died for our sins



1a) Scriptural proofaccording to the Scriptures


1b) Physical proofand was buried
2) Second propositionHe arose from the dead



2a) Scriptural proofaccording to the Scriptures


2b) Physical proofand was seen
Paul’s gospel is a gospel of grace (Acts 20.24)
and consists of the message that Christ died for our sins and rose from
the dead. The question for every individual is, “Will you believe it?”
Salvation is a choice and requires an act of will. Tragically,
preachers, “gospel” tracts, and other well-intentioned witnesses often
confuse the simple gospel. The gospel is that Christ died for our sins
and rose from the dead, period. Adding to the simple message of the
gospel such statements as “invite Christ into your heart,” “accept Jesus
as your personal Savior,” etc., creates confusion. The gospel message
should be as simple as the Bible presents it.

John the Baptizer, Jesus, and the Twelve preached the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 3.2; 4.17). This
gospel was a gospel of repentance and the message was that Jesus was
the Messiah-King who had come to establish His rule on the earth and
fulfill the Jewish covenants (Matthew 6.9-10; Romans 15.8). It required both individual and national repentance (Acts 2.36, 38-38, 3.17-23 cf. Romans 11.25-27). Thus,
this good news was that the King was present and the nation of Israel
was to accept Him as the Messiah and King of Israel. That was the focus
of faith.

Paul’s gospel was distinct from the gospel of the kingdom (Galatians 1.6-12; 2.1-9).
Paul’s gospel was not a gospel of repentance, that Jesus was the King
about to establish His kingdom on earth and fulfill Israel’s covenants.
Paul’s gospel was that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead.
He received his gospel, not from Peter or the Twelve, but by direct
revelation from the risen Christ. The language Paul used to refer to his
gospel revealed that he regarded it as his own. Thus, we read of “the
gospel which I preached to you” (1 Corinthians 15.1-5), “my gospel” (Romans 2.16, 16.25, 2 Timothy 2.8), ”our gospel” (2 Corinthians 4.3; 2 Thessalonians 2.14), “that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles” (Galatians 2.2), “the gospel of the uncircumcision” (Galatians 2.7), “the gospel of Christ”(Romans 15.19; 1 Corinthians 9.12; 2 Corinthians 2.12, 9.13, 10.14; Galatians 1.7; Philippians 1.27; 1 Thessalonians 3.2), “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), “the gospel of your salvation” (Ephesians 1.13), “the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6.15), “the gospel of his Son (Romans 1.9), “the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4.4), “the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1.8), “the glorious gospel” (2 Timothy 1.8), and “the gospel of God” (Romans 1.1, 15.16; 2 Corinthians 11.7; 1 Thessalonians 2:2, 8, 9).

Paul wrote the Galatians,

<blockquote>
“Even so Abraham believed God and it was
reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those
who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing
that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel
beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations shall be blessed in
you’” (Galatians 3.6-8).

</blockquote>
While faith has always been the means of
salvation, the content of faith has changed through the ages. It should
be obvious that since Christ had not gone to the cross and been raised
from the dead, men and women prior to this event believed something
different for salvation than what Paul declared as the gospel–the death
and resurrection of Christ for our sins. The Gospels indicate clearly
that the Twelve had no clue about the good news of Jesus’ death and
resurrection. In Luke we read,

<blockquote>
“And He took the twelve aside and said
to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are
written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished.
‘For He will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and
mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will
kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.’ And they understood
none of these things, and this saying was hidden from them, and they did
not comprehend the things that were said” (Luke 18:31-34).

</blockquote>
Men and women are justified by faith in what God has revealed in their own time frame. Thus, we read regarding Abel,

<blockquote>
“By faith Abel offered to God a better
sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was
righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he
is dead, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11.4).

</blockquote>
Implicit from the Old Testament account
is that God had revealed that righteousness was to be obtained through
the offering of a blood sacrifice. According to Genesis,

<blockquote>
“So it came about in the course of time
that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground.
And Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of
their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his
offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard” (Genesis 4.3-5).

</blockquote>
Why did God not accept Cain’s offering? Because God had revealed that to come to him one had to offer a blood offering (Genesis 3.21).
Cain chose to disobey and disbelieve God. He wanted to come to God and
be accepted by God his own way. He refused God’s revelation. Abel, on
the other hand, believed what God had said. Because he believed, he
obtained righteousness.

Abraham is another example of one who
was accepted by God and who obtained righteousness. Abraham apprehended
God by faith. God justified Abraham because Abraham believed him. What
was the content of the ”gospel” which Abraham believed? According to Genesis 15, Abraham asked God,

<blockquote>
“O Lord God, what wilt Thou give me,
since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?
And Abram said, ’Since Thou hast given no offspring to me, one born in
my house is my heir.’ Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him,
saying, ‘This man will not be your heir, but one who shall come forth
from your own body, he shall be your heir.’ And He took him outside and
said, ‘Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able
to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’
Then he believed in the LORD and He reckoned it to him as righteousness”
(Genesis 15.2-6).

</blockquote>
The gospel for Abraham was that God
would give him an heir from his own body and that his descendants would
be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Abraham responded to God by
believing him (Galatians 3.6-8). This is what faith is, believing what God says.

What about those who lived under the Law
of Moses? What was the gospel for them? The Law’s purpose was never to
make a person righteous. Rather, its purpose was to reveal a person’s
condition before God. In effect, its purpose was to condemn. Paul wrote,

<blockquote>
“Now we know that whatever the Law says,
it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be
closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the
works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through
the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3.19-20).

</blockquote>
The Law’s purpose was to show a person
his sin and his need for God. A large part of the Mosaic Law concerned
the Levitical service and sacrifices. A Jew under the Law was to believe
and obey God with regard to these sacrifices. Thus, a believer in those
days believed in and obeyed God by going to a priest, offering a
sacrifice, and believing that God had dealt with his sin by means of the
animal sacrifice. That was the “gospel” and the revelation which God
had given to that point.

What was the gospel in Jesus’ day? John the Baptizer and Jesus preached the “gospel of the kingdom”. According to Mark,

<blockquote>
“And after John had been taken into
custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and
saying, ‘The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent
and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1.14-15).

</blockquote>
How did a person become a believer and obtain righteousness in Jesus’ day? First, it is clear that a person had to repent (cf. Matthew 3.2, 4.17; Mark 1.15; 6.12; Luke 13.3, 5).
Believing the gospel meant that one had to believe the good news that
the Messiah of Israel, Jesus of Nazareth, had come. This gospel included
the fact that Jesus was the promised Messiah and that he was about to
establish the long prophesied kingdom upon earth. We also note from the
ministry of John the Baptizer that one needed to be baptized in water as
baptism was a sign of repentance (Matthew 3.5-6, 3.11; Mark 1.4-5; Luke 3.3, 3.12 cf. 7.29-30; John 1.33, 3.23). According to Matthew,

<blockquote>
“Then Jerusalem was going out to him,
and all Judea, and all the district around the Jordan; and they were
being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins”
(Matthew 3.5-6).

</blockquote>
This requirement of water baptism
continued throughout Jesus’ ministry and into the ministry of the Twelve
following Jesus’ resurrection (see Acts 2.38). In John, we read,

<blockquote>
“When therefore the Lord knew that the
Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples
than John (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples
were)” (John 4.1-2).

</blockquote>
Salvation under the gospel of the kingdom required that one believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah (Matthew 16.13-17; John 11.27; Acts 8.35-38, 9.18-20).
This was a completely different gospel than Paul’s. Paul gospel
requires that to be saved we must trust in the death and resurrection of
Christ. We simply do not see this in the gospels or afterwards with
Peter or the Twelve.

Great confusion has resulted in
Christianity from the teaching that the Church, i.e., the Body of
Christ, began at Pentecost. The Scriptures teach clearly that the Church
did not begin at Pentecost. The early chapters of Acts reveal
nothing about Jew and Gentiles being equal in Christ. One will search
the Scriptures in vain to find any mention of the Body of Christ by any
writer other than Paul.

Only with Paul’s calling and commission did God reveal the “stewardship or dispensation of the grace of God” (Ephesians 3.2) or of the “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20.24). Prior to Paul, no one offered salvation through faith in the shed blood of Christ
nor preached that the gospel of salvation had been sent to Gentiles.
The early chapters of Acts record that the prophetic program of the King
and the kingdom that had been proclaimed in the Gospels was still in
effect and the audience remained wholly Jewish. On the day of Pentecost
Peter addressed no Gentiles. He addressed Jews, i.e., “men of Judea” (Acts 2.14), “men of Israel” (Acts 2.22), and the “house of Israel” (Acts 2.36).
Peter’s message was that Jesus was the Messiah, that they had
crucified Him, and that He had risen from the dead. In response to his
message his audience asked, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2.37). Peter did not tell them to believe that Christ died for their sins and was raised from the dead. What did he tell them?

<blockquote>
“Repent, and let each of you be baptized
in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you
shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you
and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our
God shall call to Himself” (Acts 2.38-39).

</blockquote>
Whom does this sound like? John the
Baptizer! Jesus the Messiah! Baptism was a requirement under the gospel
of the kingdom. Again, whom is Peter addressing? Gentiles? No. Jews.
Peter quoted from the Scriptures. The Scriptures little to nothing to
Gentiles but everything to Jews. He specifically said that the Holy
Spirit was the promise for you and your children, etc. This was
prophesied by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31.31-34), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37.14, and Joel (Joel 2.28-32). Indeed, in his sermon Peter quoted Joel’s prophecy (Acts 2.17-21) for what was then happening in Israel.

Summary

The content of the gospel has changed
throughout the ages according to the progressive revelation of God. But
salvation, however, has remained the same–by faith.

Today, because of the revelation of the
message of grace to the apostle Paul, salvation is as simple as putting
your trust in Christ’s work on your behalf–that he died for your sins
and rose from the dead for your justification. Salvation is obtained by
faith in Christ plus nothing. Faith in Christ is not inviting Christ
into your heart. Such “invitations” are false gospels with no Scriptural
basis. Faith is believing what God has said, not inviting Christ into
one’s heart. No one in this day is required by God to repent, to be
baptized, to offer a blood sacrifice, or to do anything else that may
have been necessary in an earlier age. The gospel for us today is that
Christ died and rose from the dead for you (1 Corinthians 15.1-4).
Christ’s work is wholly sufficient and has paid for your sins. At the
moment you put believe the gospel and trust Christ, you can be assured
that you are a child of God and that God has given you eternal life.

©1998 Don Samdahl. Anyone is free to reproduce this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold.
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