What is the Gospel?

or “What Must I Do To Be Saved?”

Nothing is of greater importance than to know the true God and to know what is required for us to be on good terms with the true God. The only way to know God and to know what God has said concerning our condition and relationship with God, is to study from the Bible what God has revealed concerning our sin and His salvation.

As with every discussion of what we are to believe, the answer to what constitutes the message of the gospel of salvation must begin with what the Bible says about the gospel, so we will look first at those passages in which the Bible writers used the specific word “gospel”. We assume that the divine inspiration of the Scriptures necessarily means that the writers used the correct terminology to communicate God’s message, and that the content of the message is correct and adequate for the purpose for which God gave it: that any reader may know that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the living God (Jn 20:31); for our admonition that we may learn from what went before (1 Cor 10:11); as a warning concerning those who would seduce those who seek God (1 John 2:26); and that those who believe upon the name of the Son of God may know that we have eternal life, and that we may believe upon Him (1 John 5:13) and be enabled to live as God requires of us. (Rev 22:7)

 

Mt 4:23  And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

Mt 9:35  And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.

Mt 11:5  The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.

Mr 1:1  The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;

Mr 1:14  Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,

Mr 1:15  And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

Mr 8:35  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.

Mr 10:29  And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,

Mr 13:10  And the gospel must first be published among all nations.

Mr 16:15  And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

Lu 4:18  The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

Lu 7:22  Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.

Lu 9:6  And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where.

Lu 20:1  And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders,

Ac 8:25  And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.

Ac 14:7  And there they preached the gospel.

Ac 14:21  And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch,

Ac 15:7  And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.

Ac 16:10  And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

Ac 20:24  But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

Ro 1:1  Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

Ro 1:9  For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;

Ro 1:15  So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

Ro 1:16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Ro 10:15  And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

Ro 10:16  But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?

Ro 11:28  As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.

Ro 15:16  That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

Ro 15:19  Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.

Ro 15:20  Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation:

Ro 15:29  And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.

1Co 1:17  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.

1Co 4:15  For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

1Co 9:12  If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.

1Co 9:14  Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

1Co 9:16  For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!

1Co 9:17  For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.

1Co 9:18  What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

1Co 9:23  And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.

1Co 15:1  Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

2Co 8:18  And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches;

2Co 9:13  Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men;

2Co 10:14  For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ:

2Co 10:16  To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hand.

2Co 11:7  Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?

Ga 1:7  Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

Ga 1:11  But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.

Ga 2:5  To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

Ga 2:7  But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;

Ga 2:14  But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?

Ga 3:8  And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.

Ga 4:13  Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.

Eph 1:13  In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

Eph 3:6  That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:

Eph 6:15  And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

Eph 6:19  And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,

Php 1:5  For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;

Php 1:7  Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.

Php 1:12  But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;

Php 1:17  But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.

Php 1:27  Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

Php 2:22  But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel.

Php 4:3  And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.

Php 4:15  Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.

Col 1:5  For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;

Col 1:23  If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

1Th 2:2  But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.

1Th 2:4  But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.

1Th 2:8  So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.

1Th 2:9  For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.

1Th 3:2  And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:

2Th 1:8  In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

2Ti 1:8  Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;

2Ti 1:10  But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:

Phm 1:13  Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:

Heb 4:2  For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

1Pe 1:12  Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.

1Pe 1:25  But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

1Pe 4:6  For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

1Pe 4:17  For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

Mt 24:14  And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

Mt 26:13  Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.

Mr 14:9  Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.

Lu 1:19  And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.

Lu 2:10  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

Lu 8:1  And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,

Ac 11:22  Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.

Ac 13:32  And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers,

Ac 21:31  And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.

Ro 10:15  And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

1Th 3:6  But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you …

Gospel:

2098 εὐαγγέλιον   euaggelion               from the same as 2097; n n;           AV-gospel 46, gospel of Christ 11, gospel of God 7, gospel of the Kingdom 3, misc 10; 77

1) a reward for good tidings

2) good tidings

2a) the glad tidings of the kingdom of God soon to be set up, and subsequently also of Jesus the Messiah, the founder of this kingdom. After the death of Christ, the term comprises also the preaching of (concerning) Jesus Christ as having suffered death on the cross to procure eternal salvation for the men in the kingdom of God, but as restored to life and exalted to the right hand of God in heaven, thence to return in majesty to consummate the kingdom of God

2b) the glad tidings of salvation through Christ

2c) the proclamation of the grace of God revealed and pledged in Christ

2d) the gospel

2e) as the messianic rank of Jesus was proved by his words, his deeds, and his death, the narrative of the sayings, deeds, and death of Jesus Christ came to be called the gospel or glad tidings

2097 εὐαγγελίζω   euaggelizo       from 2095 and 32; v;           AV-preach 23, preach the Gospel 22, bring good tidings 2, show glad tidings 2, bring glad tidings 1, declare 1, declare glad tidings 1, misc 3; 55

1) to bring good news, to announce glad tidings

1a) used in the OT of any kind of good news

1a1) of the joyful tidings of God’s kindness, in particular, of the Messianic blessings

1b) in the NT used especially of the glad tidings of the coming kingdom of God, and of the salvation to be obtained in it through Christ, and of what relates to this salvation

1c) glad tidings are brought to one, one has glad tidings proclaimed to him

1d) to proclaim glad tidings

1d1) instruct (men) concerning the things that pertain to Christian salvation

32 ἄγγελος   aggelos     from aggello [probably derived from 71, cf 34] (to bring tidings); n m;                   AV-angel 179, messenger 7; 186

1) a messenger, envoy, one who is sent {#Mt 11:10 Lu 7:27 9:52 Mr 1:2 Jas 2:25}

2) an angel

2a) sent from God

2a1) to execute his purposes {#Mt 4:6,11 28:2 Mr 1:13 Lu 16:22 22:43 Ac 7:35 12:23 Ga 3:19 Heb 1:14}

2a1) to make his purposes known to men {#Lu 1:11,26 2:9-14 Ac 10:3 27:23 Mt 1:20 2:13 28:5 Joh 20:12-13}

2b) they are subject not only to God the Father but also to Christ {#Heb 1:4-7 1Pe 3:22 Eph 1:21 Ga 4:14} who is described to have returned to judgment surrounded by a multitude of them as servants and attendants {#Mt 13:41,49 16:27 24:31 25:31 2Th 1:7 Jude 14}

2c) single angels have charge of separate elements: as fire {#Re 14:18} waters {#Re 16:5 7:1-3}

2d) some angels are mentioned as guardian angels of individuals {#Mt 18:10 Ac 12:15}

2e) some angels are over churches {#Re 1:20 2:1,8,12,18 3:1,7,14}

2f) some angels have proven faithless to the trust committed to them by God, and have given themselves over to sin {#Jude 6 2Pe 2:4} and now obey the devil {#Mt 25:41 Re 12:7 1Co 6:3 2Co 12:7}

2095 εὖ   eu         neuter of a primary eus (good); adv         AV-well 3, well done 2, good 1; 6

1) to be well off, fare well, prosper

2) acting well

 

As a growing number of professing Christians maintain that a person has only to believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins and rose from the dead on the third day, and among that number, those who label as heretics and disassociate from any professing Christians who believe that there is more to the gospel than these two facts and that salvation is dependant upon more than agreement with these facts, it has become necessary to carefully test this teaching against Scripture, to determine what constitutes the “full” gospel message, and what is necessary for salvation.

Members of this group, often referred to as “free-grace” believers, believe that the entire gospel message was expressed in Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, and anyone who believes these things is saved. There are no other ‘facts’ that are necessary to believe or other conditions to be met, ostensibly because Paul had written in these two verses to the Corinthians, the entire gospel that he had previously proclaimed to them, and by which they were saved, and therefore what Paul wrote in those two verses is the sum of what is required to believe for salvation.

They argue that abiding faith is not a necessary element of the gospel, because it is something we have to work to maintain, and there are no works for salvation. Members of this group also maintain that there are no external changes that necessarily take place in the life of a person upon receiving salvation. A person may become a Christian yet continue in sin, including on-going, wilful sin, and no one may insist that there should be evidence in their lives of the new birth they claim to have experienced. If they believe Jesus died for their sins, and rose from the dead, they are saved, regardless of doubts toward God, or a sinful lifestyle.

Why does it matter what the details of the gospel are? Paul wrote that there is “… one Lord, one faith, one baptism…”; just as there is “no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” there is only one means by which that name will save us, making eternal salvation dependant upon the right faith in the right Lord and the right belief of the right facts.

But secondarily, we must judge the accusation against what constitutes the majority of those professing Christ, that they are apostate and separate from the gospel, not knowing the true gospel, and are therefore themselves lost, and misleading those who hear them. This is a serious charge that effectively charges against millions, and must be either confirmed or refuted.

If this belief and accusation are what is false, in addition to slandering members of Christ’s body, those who believe it have cheapened the gospel in such a manner as to provide encouragement to those who think they can receive Christ yet continue in open, wilful sin as a member of His body, and that their living according to the flesh is not death, as Paul wrote, but an unfortunate consequence of their not conforming their behaviour to match their new-found condition of forgiveness. This gospel, if it is the gospel, permits those who follow it to believe they can play on both teams: the team of rebellion and evil and the team of Jesus Christ and His saints. Either their gospel is true and those who preach otherwise are preaching a false gospel, or their own gospel is false and they are leading people away from Christ into licentiousness, while causing division among brethren who have received Christ and live by His Spirit but are not sound enough in His word to test this argument for its truthfulness.

Two questions that must be examined in order to thoroughly and Biblically conclude the correct doctrine are:

What does the Bible specifically record as being communicated in “the gospel”?

What does the Bible say one must “do” or “believe” in order to be saved?

A thorough study requires that we also examine what the Bible says about who will be included in or excluded from the kingdom of God. Some of the other claims of those who say that the gospel is simply to ‘believe’ Jesus Christ died and rose the third day for one’s sins, include that repentance from sin is a work of the law, and part of a false gospel; that “faith” is something we maintain, whereas simple ‘belief” is what is required for salvation; that there is no necessary evidence of salvation, so the life of a saved person is not necessarily visibly different than before their salvation; that God removed all sins of all men for all time when Christ died on the cross, and the only thing men will be judged for at the final judgment is whether they believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, His death for their sins, and His resurrection from the dead. These assertions will be addressed as we move through the discussion of what constitutes the gospel or good news, and what does God require in order for any person to be saved.

As with every discussion of what we are to believe, the answer to what constitutes the message of the gospel must begin with what the Bible says about the gospel, so we will look first at those passages in which the writers used the term “gospel”. We assume that the divine inspiration of the Scriptures necessarily means that the writers used the correct terminology to communicate God’s message, and that the content of the message is correct and adequate for the purpose for which God gave it: that any reader may know that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the living God (Jn 20:31); for our admonition that we may learn from what went before (1 Cor 10:11); as a warning concerning those who would seduce those who seek God (1 John 2:26); and that those who believe upon the name of the Son of God may know that we have eternal life, and that we may believe upon Him (1 John 5:13) and be enabled to live as God requires of us. (Rev 22:7)

The word “gospel” is English, translated from the Greek euaggelion, which literally means “good announcement”, or more popularly, “good news”. The Greek word is a generic word that can be used in a wide range of contexts; it is not limited to a religious or Christian context. For the purpose of clarity, I will try to capitalize each time the phrase “The Gospel” is being used in reference to that package of information which is given in order for men to be saved.

The above verses represent all instances of the use of the English word “gospel” in the New Testament, as well as those few instances of “good news” or “good tidings”. There are 77 instances of the Greek word euaggelion, all of which are translated into English “gospel”. While the answer to the questions is not limited to those verses that contain the exact word, we can begin to investigate the matter by examining in what contexts the writers used the word itself and what they did write concerning “The Gospel”. We also must examine the different places in which the text identifies either the requirements for salvation, or those things which may prevent salvation or participation in the kingdom or household of God, whether or not the specific word “gospel” is used in those passages.

According to Isaiah, the “good tidings” being brought by Him upon Whom would be the Spirit of the Lord, was news of peace, of good, and of salvation (41:27); the binding up of the broken-hearted, release of the captives, and the opening of the prison of those bound (61:1). According to Gabriel, who spoke to Zacharias, the son Elizabeth would bear to Zacharias would fulfill the prophecy of him who would go before YHWH in the Spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers (forefathers) to the children, the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, and to prepare a people for the Lord.

The angel who announced the new birth to the shepherds outside Jerusalem declared his message to be “good news of great joy to all people”. His message: “… to you is born today in the City of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord.”

Jesus is repeatedly said to have gone throughout Israel proclaiming the “good news” of the kingdom of God. What do all four gospels say was Jesus’ message: repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand. Mark’s gospel begins with the words, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God…” and proceeds immediately to refer to the prophecy of Malachi concerning the promised messenger to precede “the face” of YHWH, and to Isaiah’s prophecy of one “crying in the wilderness” to prepare a way for YHWH.

Was it Paul’s intention that his readers understand “The Gospel” or “good news” or “glad tidings” to be expressed in its fullness in 1 Cor 15:3-4, about which Paul wrote that he “made known to you the gospel which I preached to you …. that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures…” or are there other essential elements of the full Gospel message that Paul knew his readers already knew and would recognize as inherent in the three points mentioned in those verses? Are these three points alone the fullness of what Paul had originally proclaimed to the Corinthians about The Gospel? Should we not consider that his sentence had not finished with verse four, but continued, “… and that He was seen by Cephas, then the twelve, and after that, He was seen of over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, He was seen of James, then of all the apostles; and last of all He was seen of me also, as one born out of due time…”? If we are to consider Paul’s words in this passage to be the complete Gospel, why would we cut out the contents of verses three and four only; should not this continuation, which is part of the same paragraph, and even the same sentence, not also be considered part of the “good news” that Paul referred to: that Jesus’ resurrection was witnessed, not by one or two emotional followers, but by hundreds of people over the course of 40 days, making the truth of His resurrection beyond any reasonable doubt, particularly considering that most of those mentioned were still alive when Paul wrote the words? Was Paul’s intention in this passage to express the fullness of “The Gospel”, meaning everything one must hear and believe concerning salvation from sin and reconciliation toward God, or was Paul making a reference to what they already knew, the highlighting Christ’s death for men’s sin as the beginning point to answer the matter that was clearly under contest among some among them: that the dead do not rise?

1 Corinthians 15 is a diligent argument by Paul confirming that Jesus Christ did indeed rise from the dead: that He was witnessed by so many witnesses, of whom the majority were still alive to confirm or refute the claims (v 5 – 8); that His resurrection from the dead was necessary for humanity to have any hope, because apart from His resurrection, we would still be dead in our sins (v14, 17); and that The Gospel which Paul had originally preached, which they had believed, and by which they were saved, was that Christ both died for their sins just as the Scriptures had foretold, and that He rose again from the dead, just as Scripture foretold. (v 1, 2, 3, 4) Paul’s original proclamation to them included Christ’s resurrection, the Biblical prophecy included the resurrection, and they had originally believed and were saved by Christ’s death and resurrection – if indeed they had believed and not pretended faith. (v 2 “… unless you feignedly believed.”) Paul was not here proclaiming The Gospel to the Corinthians at all, but was challenging them on their willingness to consider the possibility that the dead do not rise, in view of what had been declared to them from the beginning about Christ and His salvation. (v. 12) He was summarizing what he had told them from the beginning – that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. His words were clearly not intended as the expression of “the whole Gospel”, but were focussed on putting to rest the contention against what was necessary to believe: that the same Christ Who died for their sins had also risen from the dead to become the “first-fruits of those who sleep”, making everlasting life possible for mankind.

Now, if 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 was never intended to express the fullness of The Gospel, as argued in the two preceding paragraphs, what exactly is the full Gospel message? What does the record of Scripture tell us is necessary for someone to believe in order to receive forgiveness of sins and everlasting life as a child of God?

Because certain words become imbued with a theological significance so that the average reader is often unaware of the ordinary use of a particular word, the possibility is often obscured that a passage containing one such word may mean other than what is understood by the “special” understanding. To better understand the discussion concerning The Gospel, we should at least once read the Bible passages in which the original Greek euaggelion appears, with the phrase “good news” or “glad tidings”, in order to ensure that we are not imposing upon the text an understanding that was not contained in that passage, or that we not lose sight of what the writer or speaker was saying at that time.

The majority of specific references to “The Gospel” do not include any details of what that Gospel contained. We are obligated to search through the Scriptures to see what things were told by Jesus, His apostles, and the prophecies of the Old Testament, in order to ascertain what God presented as His “good news”. What we must understand is, according to God, as recorded in Scripture, what must we know and believe in order to be saved? This is crucial to know because our eternity depends upon right faith. There are millions of people who believe that Jesus died on the cross to save them from their sins, and millions who believe that He rose again. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Roman Catholics all believe that Jesus is the “son of God”, that He died for men’s sins, that He rose from the dead so that men may live forever in paradise with God. But Mormons believe that Jesus was a man born from sexual relations between Mary and “heavenly Father” “Elohyim”, who himself was originally born as a man and became a God of his own world. They believe that Jesus’ death covers men’s sins, with a few exceptions, and that “we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). The ultimate goal of Mormonism’s extensive religious and life rituals, is for the men to become “Gods” of their own worlds, and women to become celestial mothers of spirit babies to populate their heavenly husband’s new world.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God is a single person named Jehovah, that Jesus Christ was a good man on earth, transformed by God’s power from his original state as arch-angel Michael, and that people are only saved through their obedience to “God’s organization”, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. They believe that 144,000 will rule forever from heaven with Jesus over the multitudes who will live in paradise on earth. Eternity is a material existence in a world without sin or its effects.

Roman Catholics believe in the triune God, that Jesus died for men’s sins, and that one must believe in the true God and Christ’s death for their sins. But they also believe that many works are required to gain entrance into God’s kingdom; the sacraments must be practiced, good works and alms must be made, suffering is essential to salvation, and each person must faithfully receive the “eucharist” in order to receive into themselves the “body, blood, soul, and divinity” of Jesus Christ. They believe that the bread wafer is miraculously transformed into the ‘real presence’ of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to not receive the eucharist is considered a wilful separation of one’s self from Christ, and results in the loss of salvation.

Members of all of these groups will ardently affirm that Christ died for their sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures – the three points contained in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. But their understanding of who Christ is, who God is, their requirement for works to accompany faith, and what that salvation entails, are each vastly different one from another, and completely contradictory to the teaching of Scripture on these matters. If, as is claimed by those whose beliefs we are testing, believing that those three points of Paul’s letter apply to one’s self, is sufficient to be saved, members of these three cults, and many others, must be saved, and will be found in Christ’s kingdom at the end of time.

 

 

SECTION TWO – WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE GOSPEL OF SALVATION?

Throughout the Gospels, we see recorded that Jesus travelled through Israel proclaiming “The Gospel (good news) of the kingdom of God.” What was the “good news” concerning the kingdom of God? According to Jesus, the good news of the kingdom of God was that it was now “at hand”. (Mark 1:15) The Jews had waited hundreds of years for the promised Saviour from God to restore His kingdom; the good news to them was that God’s kingdom was upon them; the time had come. This good news was to be proclaimed among all nations and to every person (Mr 13:10; 16:15) – it was not just good news to the Jews. The gospel – good news – was something to be proclaimed to “the poor” (Mt 11:5; Lk 4:18, 7:22) Mark wrote “the good news of Jesus Christ, Son of God…” – was Jesus Christ Himself “the good news”; that He was and is the Son of God? Certainly this was the declaration of Peter when Jesus asked him whom Peter believed Jesus to be (John 6:68-9).

Luke records Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue, reading from the book of Isaiah a passage the Jews knew was prophetic of their expected Messiah. In verse 18 of chapter 4, Jesus is recorded as claiming reference to Himself in Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of my Lord YHWH is on Me because YHWH anoints Me to bear tidings to the meek (humble); He sends me to bind up those broken of heart, to herald “Liberty” to captives; to those bound: freedom; to proclaim the year of acceptance for YHWH.” The “gospel” or “good news” contained in Isaiah’s prophecy included many more wonderful assurances from God, but Jesus quoted these few, which His hearers would recognize and know were from God’s promise of salvation; the “good news” was release and freedom to the captives who were bound, and healing of the broken-hearted, and most importantly, the year of acceptance of God. These promises were not included in Paul’s short reference to The Gospel in 1 Cor. 15, yet they are part of what Jesus declared to His hearers in the Nazareth synagogue as the “good news” being fulfilled in Him having come. Jesus considered this to be part of the gospel message.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul referred to “the gospel (good news) of peace”. In fact, peace is a recurring theme in the presentation of the good news throughout Scripture, and Jesus is referred to as the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6) But what peace are they writing about? We understand that “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1; cf Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 7:2) Because Jesus satisfied justice through His death on the cross, God is able to justly forgive our sins, which means that the enmity between God and us may be removed. While we may argue that peace with God is implicit in Paul’s words, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…”, Paul makes no mention in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 of forgiveness of sin, of God’s justice or wrath, or of the peace Christ gives to all who receive Him. Despite the fact that peace with God through the saving work of His Anointed is a recurrent aspect of the good news declared throughout Scripture, it is not mentioned in Paul’s brief reference to the gospel in the Corinthian letter. As a point of fact, Paul also made no mention of the necessity of believing what was stated, nor did he make mention of faith itself.

In his letter to the Colossian saints, Paul confesses to thanking God for the hope “reserved for [them] in heaven” about which they previously heard “in the word of the truth of the gospel.” Apparently, the fact of their heavenly anticipation was part of the “word of truth of the gospel” that had been previously told to this group of people. Unless the reader chooses to degrade the meaning of the word “gospel” in this passage to the generic “good news” as opposed to “The Gospel” of salvation which is certainly indicated by Paul’s own phrasing, we must necessarily conclude that the declaration of the gospel includes the expression of the heavenly hope possessed by the saints of Christ – an element about which Paul made no reference in 1 Cor 15:3-4.

For that matter, while Paul’s particular reason for writing chapter 15 was to confirm the reality of the resurrection of the dead, and while he emphatically stated that, if Christ is not raised because the dead are not raised, and in this life only do the saints have hope in Christ, “we are of all men most miserable” (v 19) thereby indicating the nature of the hope we have in Christ which includes the resurrection from the dead, Paul made no mention at all of the resurrection of the saints or of eternal life, in verses three and four of that same chapter. Does that mean that the resurrection of the saints not part of The Gospel? Is it unnecessary to believe that we will rise from the dead, or that we receive eternal life through faith in Christ? Or is this good news, but not part of “The Good News” that is necessary to believe in order to be saved? Jesus told Martha that He Himself is the resurrection and the life, and that whoever believes upon Him will never die. Is this not part of The Gospel, or is it merely “good news” of the general sort? The apostles were imprisoned and beaten for proclaiming by Jesus the resurrection of the dead; according to Scripture, the resurrection was certainly part of The Gospel they announced. (ie: Acts 4:2)

If we want to know the key elements communicated by Christ’s apostles as The Gospel to those who were unsaved, we have only to read the book of Acts, and pay attention to the details of their message in each instance in which the gospel is shared or in which Luke discusses what was required or explained. When we do, we see that virtually every encounter, regardless of the ethnic or religious background of the hearers, included a discussion of sin, a call to repentance, forgiveness of sin, faith in Christ, with explanation of the identity of Christ, with a focus on His anointing and authority, His fulfilment of prophecy and The Mosaic Law, and His death and resurrection; the concept of salvation, the resurrection of the dead, and judgment of those who reject God and Christ. In those instances in which any of these elements were not expressly told, they were inherent in the content or prior understanding of the audience. If these points were deemed necessary by the apostles whose exceptional ministry and anointing was as men who walked with Christ in the flesh and learned directly from Him, and subsequently through the indwelling Holy Spirit, and whose lives demonstrated the power of the change worked by the Spirit in them such that we can know without question that what they said and did was led by God and true, then we as their students, and dependant upon their witness to confirm what we think we know concerning God, Christ, and salvation, then we do well to follow their lead, as men specially appointed by God, and condition our understanding of what they wrote by His Spirit on what they lived by the same Spirit. In other words, if this is the apostles’ gospel, it should be ours.

 

The good news in its simplest form is that Christ has come to save men from condemnation of sin. But what we include in the message of the gospel we share is conditioned on what the person(s) we’re talking to need to hear, which itself is conditioned by what they already know and think about God, about life, and about eternity. When we read what the apostles shared, we see what they considered ‘necessary’ for their hearers to know and believe.

A person cannot be ‘saved’ while believing in a false “God”, believing that they are ‘not a bad person’, believing that their actions save them, or any number of other false facts. Millions of people world-wide believe the ‘basic facts’ written in 1 Cor 15:3-4; but there is a great deal encompassed in those two verses. Those truths are inherent to the summary Paul wrote in vv 3 and 4 to people who had already heard the fullness, but they are not expressed in vv three and four, and they must be expressed when sharing the gospel with someone to ensure that they know: who God is, why Christ came, how Christ’s death covers our sin-debt, the nature of the salvation offered (forgiveness of sin, indwelling Holy Spirit, everlasting life, adoption as children of God) All of these things comprise “The Gospel”, and all of them must be communicated in order for the hearers to believe what is necessary to be born again. Luke identified in the book of Acts those who believed, but had not received the Holy Spirit – who had not “so much as heard that there was a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:1-6; cf Acts 10:40-49; 11:16-17) Being “born of the Spirit” is necessary for salvation; without the new birth, we cannot be saved. (John 3:5-6)

What must be believed:

Must believe that God is and who God is (Hebrews 10)

Jesus Christ is God: John – unless you believe I am, you shall die in your sins (John 8:24)

Must believe that Jesus “is the Christ, the Son of the living God”. (Jn 6:69) This statement is so full; it is not important to know the words, but the facts those words convey. “the Christ” of God is the Saviour, the King, the LORD, the Creator, the only One Who would come to free men from sin, restore men to God, and defeat death on our behalf. It expresses both Jesus’ identity as God and His ‘role’ as Saviour.

Must believe the resurrection: ref 1 Cor 15 – which you believed, by which you were saved unless you faked your faith; Rom 10:9-15; John 11:25 Paul’s message everywhere he went included the resurrection of the dead.

Must trust God as God is (Hebrews 10 – and that He rewards who diligently seek Him)

Must believe God – which is the product of faith toward God. This does not mean that anyone must either know everything about God, know everything God has said, or understand everything they know about God or His word, but that they trust God as God whether or not they know or understand everything.

Must have faith in Christ’s name – meaning to believe who Christ is

Must have faith in Christ’s blood – meaning His death to cover our sins – not for Himself, and nothing else to redeem us.

Hebrews 6 is a helpful passage, as it refers to the “foundation” of the beginning of the word of Christ which was laid, in which the author lists several points which he includes in that foundation, including repentance from dead works, faith toward God, doctrine of baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgement. Hebrews was written to Jews and it is probable that since it follows the prior discussion comparing the superior ministry and person of Christ with elements of The Law, that the “dead works” refer to the Jews’ attempt to justify themselves before God through observance of the Law. But the author identifies this “repentance from” as part of the foundation laid, along with the other points – baptisms, which the Jews understood as being washed from sin (Is 1:18; Ps 51:2; Rev 19:8) faith toward God, receipt of the Holy Spirit, and eternal judgment. As far as that author is concerned, these are the basics of the message, the foundation, beyond which he wants his readers to move into perfection or the fuller knowledge of the things of God. (click here for an article discussing repentance in the New Testament)

 

It is possible to believe something is true without having confidence in the thing believed. The devils not only believe, but know the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, that Jesus Christ came to earth as a man to teach correctly about God, and to die for the sins of the world, so that men may be able to be reconciled to God and justice be served, “…that God may be just, and the justifier of the one out of faith of Jesus.” (Rom 3:26) I have known two men who believed that the Bible is true, that the God of the Bible and the gospel were true, that there was only one truth, and it resided in Jesus Christ, but who did not choose to appropriate for themselves what was offered to them. These men did not lack belief – they knew that Christ’s sacrifice was for them, that it covered their sins completely, and they had only to have faith for Him to apply that sacrifice to their account – but they had no faith.

Believing who and how God is does not constitute faith, nor does believing the ‘facts’ of the gospel, as evidenced by:

Demons believe and tremble. (James) Devils have no problem with the simple facts about God; they know the facts and know they are true. However, they chose open rebellion against the God in Whose presence they originally dwelt, and Whose nature and character they knew first-hand. As with the people Paul describes in Romans 1, they did not approve retaining the knowledge of God.

Acts 19:17        “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?” Demon knew both Christ and Paul, but as a demon, was condemned.

See also Lk 4:24; 4:41

Consider the implications of Matthew 4:6, in which Satan is recorded to have quoted the prophecy of Psalm 91:11-12 in an effort to tempt Christ to “perform” a feat as the Son of God. Not only did Satan recognize that this prophecy referred to the Christ of God, but he knew that it applied to Jesus, which necessarily means that he knew that Jesus was Christ of God. There was no lack of belief; in fact, there was certainty; but as a rebel against God, he chose to renounce God as God – like those mentioned by Paul in Romans 1, he did not approve retaining God in his knowledge. Satan does not lack belief, but rebels in full knowledge of the truth.

Mark 16:17       the diviner who cried, “These are servants of the most high God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation!” She was not saved, nor the demons within her, though both knew the disciples were and their message, which they knew was the true gospel of salvation.

Romans 1 – the people referred to knew God – they knew who and of what sort God is, but did not find it convenient to ‘retain the knowledge of God’, so God gave them over to unapproved minds, to follow their sinful desires. Once again, they did not suffer from lack of belief – Paul says they knew God, and indeed the first 1000 years of humans on earth were all personally acquainted with God, or acquainted with those with whom God had directly spoken and to whom He had revealed Himself in signs and miracles. Mental assent with the facts of the matter were not lacking; the respect and faith toward God as God was what they did not have, and did not want.

In the Scripture, we see the origin of belief without faith as Satan, with his demonic minions – at no time did they doubt the ‘facts’ concerning God, concerning Christ, or concerning salvation, but they were unsatisfied with God as God, and chose early to rebel against God, and have passed through time without faith toward God; they do not trust God, they do not love God, they have no confidence toward God.

Mental agreement apart from faith is reflected in the lives of the millions of pseudo-Christian cults that also profess to believe Christ – LDS, Watchtower (JW’s), 7th Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, to name four. All the members of these religious cults would profess an agreement with the basic tenets of the gospel expressed by 1 Cor 15:3-4, along with some of the aspects inherent in those verses, such as Jesus being the son of God, God being one, etc. But they all embellish that ‘gospel’ with false ‘facts’, such as the nature and identity of God, of Christ, of the Holy Spirit, the true means of salvation (all religions other than Christ’s gospel require some aspect of works to be saved; the details differ between religious groups, but all are works-based), the nature of salvation, whose authority the church of Christ is under, and many other significant errors. In other words, while all would express agreement with 1 Cor 15:3-4 as it is written, their understanding of the doctrines inherent to those verses is so different from what is true that they cannot be considered to have received the salvation of Christ, despite their agreement with those verses. Simple “belief” of the ‘facts’ does not constitute faith toward God, Christ, or faith in the name and blood of Christ, and does not result in salvation, as evidenced by the fact that both demons and those following their blasphemies “believe” these basic ‘facts’ without knowing the living and true God, and His Christ.

The issue is not a ‘kind of faith’, but rather the characteristics of faith. Faith refers to confidence, assurance, and trust. When Paul wrote of the “hope” possessed by Christ’s saints, the Greek word translated as English “hope” is properly understood as “sure expectation”, rather than the sense of wishful thinking that most people mean by the word “hope” today. The Biblical “hope” equals confidence, assurance, and trust. This is the essence of faith, and faith is what the Scripture both states and describes as required for salvation.

Faith by definition is constant – or abiding. If we doubt, we do not have faith; faith and doubt are opposites. Because we are confident first in the person – Christ – so that we believe what Christ has said, while there may be circumstances that trouble our minds, we don’t doubt Christ Himself, or His gospel. Christ did not promise us earthly comfort, safety, success, or any other material thing, so doubting the outcome of earthly circumstances is not equivalent to doubting Christ and His gospel; we know we will have trouble in this world.

 

 

[THIS ARTICLE IS PRESENTLY A WORK-IN-PROGRESS. I HAVE CHOSEN TO POST IT INCOMPLETE, BECAUSE THE FREE GRACE MOVEMENT HAS BECOME VERY PREVALENT WITHIN THE PROFESSING CHURCH, AND SOME AMONG THEM ARE VERY AGGRESSIVE IN ACCUSING PEOPLE THEY BELIEVE TO BE FALSE TEACHERS BASED ON THEIR OWN DOCTRINES, AND URGING THEIR FOLLOWERS TO DISASSOCIATE WITH EVERYONE WHO PREACHES OTHER THAN THE GOSPEL THEY APPROVE.  THIS TEACHING IS IMPACTING THE BODY OF CHRIST, CAUSING DIVISION AND DRAWING THE UNLEARNED INTO FALSE IDEAS ABOUT THE GOSPEL, THE NATURE OF SALVATION, AND THE RESPONSIBILITY OF EACH CHRISTIAN TO KNOW THEIR BIBLES.

SECTIONS WILL BE POSTED AS THEY ARE FINISHED; IF ANYONE WISHES TO ASK A QUESTION CONCERNING THE SPECIFIC CONTENTS OF THE ARTICLE, OR THE SUBJECT MATTER, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO SEND ME AN EMAIL THROUGH THE CONTACT PAGE, AND I WILL BE HAPPY TO ANSWER AS I AM ABLE.]