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The Gospel - What is it?

What is it?

What does the question mean?

The Gospel is the gospel of Jesus Christ – where ‘gospel’ means ‘good news’. In the Bible this relates to the good news of Jesus Christ. The Question seeks to understand what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is and means, and therefore relates to the gospel that is found in the New Testament of the Bible.

The answer therefore can only be found in the Bible, the Holy Scriptures. It is alluded to in the Old Testament, such as in Genesis 3:15 and Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12 along with the Psalms etc., but the fullness of the outworking of the gospel is found in the establishment of the Church[1], which can only be found in the New Testament; no amount of careful reading of the Old Testament will reveal the origins of the church or its concept prior to the birth of Jesus Christ – it was a mystery prior to Acts chapter two.

Short Answer

Purpose of the gospel

The sole purpose of the gospel is to glorify the name of Jesus[2], or put more simply to glorify Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for as Scripture says; the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).[3]

What is the Gospel?

The gospel is the good news of salvation (from eternal punishment in hell) through redemption[4], and it states the Lord Jesus Christ (Yeshua[5]), the Son of God[6], (1) died[7]  (on a cross at Calvary outside the walls of Jerusalem)[8] for our sins[9], (2) and he was buried[10] (in a new grave[11] owned by a rich man called Joseph of Arimathea[12]), and (3) he rose to life three[13] days after he died,[14] proving that he had defeated Satan, because he had defeated death[15], thus fulfilling the requirements to make propitiation [atonement] for our sins[16], by His blood, through faith.[17]

These three points, and no other, make up the gospel of Jesus Christ being;

  1. Death
  2. Burial
  3. Resurrection

Before 50 days had elapsed[18], Jesus Christ rose in bodily form to heaven[19], where he is now seated on the right hand of God the Father[20], glorified.[21]

The Purpose of the Gospel

A mystery that escapes most Christians is the fact the gospel is not foremost about them, although the outcome of the gospel is beneficial for individuals – our salvation from the wrath of God,[22] but rather the gospel concerns the glory of the Son of God. God demonstrates His love by offering His Son[23] as a propitiation for the sin of the world[24] and in so doing glorifies the Son[25], and the Son glorifies the Father[26].

Furthermore, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ – that is the gospel – concerns foremost the glorification of the Son. Paul points out to the Christians at Thessalonica that the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is glorified in each individual; in that the individual reflects the glory of Christ, the head of the Church. Each believer are exhorted to remain worthy of the call of Christ[27], so that the Lord might be glorified in each individual – this is the purpose of the gospel. The power of faith is manifest in the persecution of the early saints (vis-à-vis the early Church etc.) and these saints will be glorified in Him.

The importance of the gospel to all people

  1. The resurrection proves that Jesus Chris was the Son of God (Romans 1:4).
  2. The resurrection proves Christ met the requirements of the Law of Moses, for if he had not, God would not have highly exalted Him, nor given him a name above every name.[28]
  3. The resurrection of Christ proves that all men could be resurrected, both believers (to glory) and non-believers (to judgement)[29]. The former, to where Christ now is, in heaven, with the Father, the latter, as Christ is the judge all people (all those who are not redeemed will be lost). Without the resurrection he would be unable to fulfil this task.[30]
  4. The resurrection is in accordance to the prophecies of the Old Testament; and thus establishes (confirms) the salvation of Old Testament saints – that is those that believed in the coming salvation of God.[31]

The importance of the gospel to Christians

  1. Foremost, the resurrection of Christ proves the forgiveness of sins to those that believe.[32]
  2. Death, that is separation from God, is under the control of Christ, and Christ alone – Satan has no authority to put someone to death.[33] Physical death still occurs, but resurrection of all will occur; the believer to the abode of Christ, the unbeliever to hell.[34]
  3. The Apostle Paul states that the gospel proves our justification whose basis is on the death of Jesus Christ. His resurrection proves we have been justified by our faith in Christ (Romans 4:24-25).
  4. The resurrection of Christ means he is the head of the Church – God put all things under him, meaning all are to come into his submission, and have him to be head over the church.[35]
  5. The resurrection of Christ is our hope of resurrection; the resurrection of Christ, the first among the dead[36], guarantees a believer’s resurrection.[37]

What is not the gospel – false gospels

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.  (Galatians 1:6-7)

This section only very briefly touches this topic. We were given amble warning, beginning in the book of Acts that false doctrines would arise within the Church and corrupt believers and those seeking Christ.

The Prosperity Gospel

The prosperity gospel attempts to shift the purpose of the gospel in glorifying Christ, to assimilating the benefits of Christ’s glorification to one’s self. This means one should succeed in physical wellness, wealth, success and total happiness. It usually commences with the church leader suggesting that one can attain prosperity by reciting the so called ‘sinners prayer’ without any regard to the condition of the heart by neglecting the need to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are subsequently told they will immediately receive material blessings.

The basis is twofold and both make the same mistake – 1) usurping material blessings for which they are not due, usually through suggesting the church is Israel (called replacement theology), without including the cursing (which are occurring to Israel due to their unbelieve) and; 2) usurping health blessings when no such blessing is provided in Scripture to believers. This occurs because of the failure to read Scriptures with any care – taking out of context verses such as Matthew 7:7, Romans 8:28, Ephesians 3:20, and failure to take note of those passages that point to the fact Christians will suffer for Christ.

The Bible promises God will bless believers immensely, but the main blessing of the true gospel is a restored relationship with God through Jesus Christ for God’s glory, not our earthly comforts.

The “God Is Love Only” Gospel

Another false gospel often found throughout churches today is the “God is Love Only” gospel. In this false gospel the church emphasises the “unconditional love” of God, the “endless grace” of God, and the “always forgiving” Father. This arises through taking out of context Bible verses such as 1 John 4:8, Romans 5:20 and Psalm 103:10-14. This leads to “acceptance” without conversion, “come as you are” without regard to holiness, and “diversity” meaning any unacceptable wickedness, that God despises, must be “tolerated”.

God does not love everyone in the same way. He loves His people who are those that are “in Christ”[38] unconditionally. He loves sinners to the extent he laid down his life for all people[39]  – people need to accept this to be saved; if not they are rejected by God.

It is certainly true that God is love, but when taken out of context it leads to heresy. There is a failure to teach that God’s is also holy, righteous, just, and exercises wrath. There is unacceptable behaviour, many of which Paul lists in Romans and Corinthians, which these Christians, ‘once where’.

God does not overlook our sin; it is either punished in the person (hell), or in Christ’s body who shed blood as the atonement – the latter is the good news.

Others

The gospel of social justice: where rather than faith in Jesus Christ, churches preach “doing good to fellow humans.” Works cannot save a man (Romans 4): the Old Testament proves this. On the other hand, the Bible shows faith does save. For instance it was Abraham’s faith that saved him, not what he did. Doing good to our neighbour is what Christians should be doing – for this is the command of Christ.[40] But doing good to be saved is not a gospel, but a message of failure.[41]

References

[1] The Church has Christ Jesus as its head and comprises those that have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. It is nothing more and nothing less. The word ‘church’ really only means a group or assembly of people who have been called out; people called out of the world to be in Christ. It has never meant; 1) a building, 2) a group with some special or separate interpretation of Scripture – usually referred to as a denomination – there is one God and Scripture has only one interpretation, 3) the church cannot be a national religion, 4) church is not the Kingdom of God; in its present state it is earthly with Christ its head (as high priest) – the King is not in purview and 5) the Church is not Israel (Romans 9-11).

[2] Philippians 2:9, 10

[3] John 1:14; John 13:31, 32; Hebrews 2:9

[4] Galatians 3:13, 4:4, 5; 1 Timothy 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18, 19

[5] His Hebrew name

[6] John 20:31  these [words of John] “are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

[7] Matthew 27:15; Mark 15:37, 39; Luke 23:44-46; John 19:28-30

[8] Luke 23:33, also called the Place of the Skull (Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:22; John 19:27)

[9] 1 Corinthians 15:3

[10] Matthew 27:59. 60; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42

[11] John 19:41

[12] John 19:38; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:50

[13] Three days does not mean 72 hours, but rather three part, or full, days: he died at 3 pm on Friday – the 9th hour of the day (day 1) and was buried prior to Sabbath (Saturday) which commenced at sundown. He spent all of the Sabbath (day 2) in the tomb, and early morning of the 3rd day (Sunday) after which he rose from the dead

[14] 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4

[15] 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54-57

[16] Hebrews 2:17

[17] Daniel 9: 24; Romans 3:35; Hebrews 2:17;1 John 2:2

[18] Pentecost (50 days after Passover) occurred after the ascension of Jesus, therefore, his ascension occurred sometime between – the exact day is unknown.

[19] The ascension of Jesus Christ was at Bethany, (Luke 24:50a); Acts 1:6-11

[20] Mark 16:19

[21] Acts 3:13; (John 17:5; 10)

[22] John 3:36

[23] Romans 5:8

[24] 1 John 2:2

[25] John 12:38b (note the ‘again’); John 17:1, 5; and of believers, who also will be glorified with the Son Romans 8:18, 21, 39

[26] John 17:4

[27] Ephesians 4:1; Philippians 1:27

[28] Philippians 2:9

[29] 1 Corinthians 15:20

[30] Acts 10:40-42; 17:30-31 (noting that the sin of the believer has been judged, the debt – death – has been paid by Christ, and thus what was corruptible is now incorruptible; a believer is therefore not judged but passes into heaven; noting however a believer must give an account of him or herself to Christ.

[31] As explained by Paul at Antioch, Acts 13:16-47, noting v. 32 – v.39

[32] Ephesians 1:17-20

[33] Hebrews 2:9-18

[34] Revelation 1:18 – the keys means the power of death and Hades.

[35] Ephesians 1:22;

[36] Acts 26:23; 1 Corinthians 15:20

[37] Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 2; Corinthians 4:14.

[38] Romans 12:5

[39] 1 Timothy 2:6

[40] Luke 10:27, 28; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8

[41] Ephesians 2:9.

David L Simon (October 2020)
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