© 2023 C. O. Bishop
Romans 1:16; 1st Corinthians 1:17, 18; Ephesians 1:13, 6:15; Matthew 4:23; Galatians 1:6-9
As we read Romans 1:16, it is pretty straightforward: It says “the Gospel of Christ is the power of God to save everyone who believes in it.” And, in 1st Corinthians 15:3, 4, Paul explains the content of that gospel (“Gospel” means “good news.”)
The Gospel is the “good news” of the:
- Death (by crucifixion,) the
- Burial (for three days and three nights) and the
- Resurrection (physical, visible, and eternal) of Christ, for our sins.
God gives these three points as being specifically for the forgiveness of our sins. We must receive them by faith alone. So, it is easy for us to see that the “bad news” of our sin is what makes the sacrificial, voluntary death of Jesus on that Cross, and His burial in the tomb, along with His subsequent resurrection, Good News!
But those three pieces of the Gospel all have to be there! If we omit the crucifixion-death of Jesus for my sins, then we do not have a Savior: The crucifixion was necessary to fulfill the prophecies!
If I leave out the fact that the people buried Him and that he remained buried for three days and three nights, then the hearers might conclude that He “wasn’t really dead,” but “just unconscious;” and the cold of the tomb somehow revived him. (Or perhaps they might conclude that he wasn’t buried at all, and that he just somehow “recovered from His wounds.” )
But, if I leave out the Resurrection, then they have to assume He is still dead, and (again) we have no Savior! (The fact is, “we serve a living Savior!”)
How Many Gospels?
So, the question we need to ask ourselves is, “What Gospel are we to preach?” There are seven true “gospels” mentioned in the New Testament, as related to human preachers. They are the Gospels of:
- The Kingdom (Mark 1:14; Matthew 4:23; 9:35, etc.)
- Your Salvation (Ephesians 1:13)
- Christ (Romans 1:16; Galatians 1:7, etc.)
- God (Romans 1:1; 15:16, etc.)
- His Son (Romans 1:9)
- The Grace of God (Acts 20:24)
- Peace (Romans 10:15; Ephesians 6:15)
The New Testament uses some of these phrases only once; and some twice, while it uses others many times. When we compare the seven true Gospels listed above, we also see that some are nearly identical:
The Gospel of Christ, the Gospel of Salvation, the Gospel of God, and the Gospel of His Son all seem to be identical, as the writer uses them interchangeably in some passages. Luke only uses the “Gospel of the Grace of God” once, but it also seems to be identical to these four. So, we can see that five of the seven on the list are essentially identical.
The New Testament defines the Gospel of God as the “good news that God sends, through Jesus Christ, His Son. It includes the promise of Salvation by God’s Grace, through Faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.” All of that fits and fulfills everything we just read, above, in Romans 1:16 (compared to 1st Corinthians 15:3, 4.) By necessity, this Gospel, the Gospel of Christ, always includes the “preaching of the Cross,” as mentioned in 1st Corinthians 1:18 and other places.
The two remaining “Gospels”, from the list above, which are not identical, are the “Gospel of the Kingdom,” and the “Gospel of Peace.”
The Gospel of the Kingdom
John the Baptist and Jesus both initially preached this “good news” in Israel, letting everyone in Israel know that the “Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” John and Jesus were not “preaching the Cross.” They were not “preaching salvation by faith:” Both of them were telling the “good news” that the promised Kingdom was available, then and there. And Jesus (as the King) in offering that kingdom, presented Himself to the people as the fulfillment of all the prophecies. John preached this message during his entire ministry, until Herod imprisoned and executed him. Jesus preached this Gospel of the Kingdom until the Jews firmly rejected the message.
As a nation, the Jews finally rejected the offer of the Kingdom; so God retracted the offer from that generation. After that point, Jesus no longer preached the Gospel of the Kingdom. He headed for the Cross! The Promised Kingdom is still coming, but it will come immediately after the tribulation period. And it will begin with the physical, triumphant return of the King.
The Kingdom still is “good news,” but we can’t really preach that good news today, because (a) we do not know when He will return, and (b) we do know that the Great Tribulation will precede His Kingdom: The Tribulation will be seven years of the worst news anyone has ever heard! So, God calls us to preach the Gospel of the Cross; the Gospel of Christ; the Gospel of Grace; the Gospel of Salvation. But, what about that last one? What about “the Gospel of Peace?”
The Gospel of Peace
Paul only uses the phrase, “the Gospel of Peace” twice: the first time, in Romans 10:15, he quotes Isaiah 52:7, and he summarizes what Isaiah said: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that sayeth unto Zion, Thy God Reigneth!” This was not “the preaching of the Cross:” it was the message to Israel, (to Zion,) that God was sending peace (with God and Man) to Israel, and that God was bringing salvation from their enemies to Israel.
The other time Paul uses that phrase is in Ephesians 6:15, where he tells us Church-age believers that our feet are “shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace.” These “shoes” are part of the sevenfold “armor of God.” We use that armor to arm ourselves for the spiritual battles we all experience. So…what is the “gospel of Peace,” in this context? Remember that Israel had been “at odds with God,” nationally, and as a result, they had experienced chastisement through enemy raids, invading armies, and terrible wars.
Peace With God
Each of us, (all believers, but specifically, we Gentile believers) began life “at odds with” God. We were lost sinners, and Romans 5:10 says we were enemies of God, whether we knew it or not, and whether we admitted it or not. But Romans 5:1 states the good news that, as born-again children of God, “being justified (declared righteous) by faith, we have peace with God!” Yes! That is good news! We are no longer on “God’s list of Enemies:” We are now his “born” children!
And that particular good news, the news that God is on our side, is incredibly good news. That truth should give us “firm, secure footing” in the battles of life. This is the “Gospel of Peace.” We have peace with God. This is our position in Christ. It is a positional promise. (Not the same as the “Peace of God.” That peace is a conditional promise which we are invited to experience; and it is available to us, if we walk with God in faith. It is a conditional promise!)
But there is another “gospel” mentioned, too: A false gospel.
There is one more “gospel” mentioned, in Galatians 1:6-9. It is a false Gospel: a message that turns people away from faith in Jesus. It supplants the Holy sacrifice of the Blood of Jesus with some other means by which to approach God. Usually, it supplants “faith in Jesus’s shed blood” with “Human works and religiosity:” human piety, or rituals. But it is a human-centered gospel, as opposed to a Christ-centered Gospel.
The message could include nearly anything, but it always includes “some other way to approach God.” It also always denies the full deity of Christ, saying that He is not the Almighty God: not God in the Flesh, not the Creator, and the Ruler and the Judge of all the Universe, who chose to be born in Bethlehem of a virgin mother, and who died on the Cross in our place, as the eternal sacrifice for our sins. Such false gospels also will always deny that Jesus’ blood was fully sufficient for our Eternal Salvation.
So, how does God feel about this “Other Gospel?” He condemns it in the strongest terms! And He specifically condemns those who preach it. Galatians 1:6-9 concludes, “…if anyone preaches to you a different gospel, let him be accursed!” (That is pretty strong language!)
What Gospel Should We Preach?
On occasion, I have heard a preacher say that he was going to “really give ‘em the Gospel!” But then, I listened very carefully to their message, and I was dismayed to find that they not only failed to “really give ‘em the Gospel:” they also did not even mention any portion of it!
- There was no mention of the Holiness of God,
- Nor was there any mention of personal guilt for sin.
- They made no mention of coming judgment,
- Nor did they mention the need for a personal Savior.
- There was no mention of the Cross,
- No mention of the Grave, and
- No mention of the Resurrection!
They left out every bit of both the “Bad News” and the “Good News!”
So, what Gospel DID they preach?
It certainly was not the Gospel of Christ! God could not have saved anyone through hearing that message. The preachers did not address the message of Salvation in any way, nor did they even hint at it. Their message usually was some sort of exhortation to “live a better life,” or to “avoid a particular type of sin,” or possibly expounding the “value of church attendance.” But those messages cannot save. Only the Gospel of Christ, being believed in, can save sinners.
I’m sorry to have to condemn anything people say, and I really don’t like to condemn a preacher for his message, but that is exactly what is commanded in Galatians 1:6-9. And none of those things they were preaching were part of the Gospel of Christ. When those sorts of things are allowed to replace the true Gospel, then the message falls into the category of “another Gospel:” A false Gospel!
The people who persist in bringing such messages are teaching people to approach God by some other means than by the shed blood of Jesus. And Jesus said, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” We need to listen carefully to the messages we hear, and especially, we must consider carefully what message we preach.
What do WE Preach?
Whenever I share with someone, I try to remember to explain all three points of the good news, as well as at least the “core issue” of the bad news: (We need a Savior because we are Lost!)
But, quite honestly, sometimes I have looked back and realized that I accidentally left out one or more points of the Good News, and maybe all of the “Bad News.” That is not acceptable: God is not going to “condemn me” because I forgot to include some part of the Gospel, but the result in the life of the hearer may be that they cannot “place their faith in Christ,” because I did not “give them the message.” I only gave part of the message of Salvation.
1st Corinthians 1:23 says, in part, “but we preach Christ Crucified…” We know ahead of time that it will not be a “popular” message. Why? Because the majority of the people believe either that they are “too good for God,” so that they “don’t need a Savior,” or they are “too smart for God,” so that they think the message is foolish…laughable…stupid! And, in either case, they find the message either repugnant or pointless.
Jesus said that the majority would reject the message: but He also commanded us to share it with all people. Mark 16:15 says “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” (I’m pretty sure that means “all the people.”) There are those who believe that Jesus “only died for the elect:” But 1st John 2:1, 2 clearly says He is the propitiation not only for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world.
I have to conclude that, if Jesus accomplished that much at the Cross, not only on our behalf, but also for the whole world, then we truly are debtors to all people, to offer them that eternal life that He died to provide for them. That’s our job, and it is a Sacred Trust:
(Perhaps you don’t know this, but Angels are not permitted to preach the Gospel of Christ. Only we Humans have that privilege. The “everlasting Gospel,” in Revelation 14:6, is “preached by an Angel,” but it has no salvation content.) We need to take this privilege, this Gospel, and run with it!
Lord Jesus, fill us with the urgency of the message You have told us to proclaim. Help us to see the unspeakable privilege we have. Raise us up as Your witnesses and Your Ambassadors.