Paul warns about false gospels in
two of his letters to churches in Greece and Asia. In his second
letter to the Christians in the Greek city of Corinth, he condemns
preachers and evangelists who "preach another Jesus whom we have
not preached ... or a different gospel which you have not accepted."
And in his letter to the churches of Galatia, Paul wrote, "I marvel
that you are turning away so soon from him who called you in the
grace of Christ to different gospel, which is not another; but there
are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ".
Paul became angry at what some men
were preaching, and he warned the Galatians: "But even if we, or
an angel from Heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we
have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before,
so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than
what you have received, let his be accursed."
That warning should make preachers
think twice about the gospel they preach, but many continue to preach
false gospels. Many religious leaders are confused about the gospel
of Jesus Christ. They think that the gospel is "You must be born
It isn't. Nor is the gospel, "You
must be filled with (or baptized by) the Holy Spirit."
And not, "You must be good."
In fact, the gospel of Jesus Christ
is not any of these things:
"You must be baptized."
"You must speak in tongues."
"You must confess your sins to a
"You can perform miracles."
"Expect a miracle."
"You must be saved."
"Let Jesus into your heart."
"You must have a personal relationship
(Or encounter, or experience) with Jesus Christ."
"You must believe what the Church
"Repent of your sons."
"Make Jesus Lord of your life.'
"Put Jesus on the throne of your
"Jesus was the best man who ever
"Jesus set an example for us of that
we may follow him to Heaven."
"You must attend Mass."
"Let go and let God."
"Draw near to God."
"Christ died for every person and
wants everyone to be saved."
"Jesus wants you happy, healthy,
"God wants you to be fulfilled."
"Tough times don't last; tough people
"You are a winner."
"God is too loving to punish anyone
"Decide for Christ."
"Christians should take dominion
over the Earth."
"Jesus is coming again."
All these messages, which are heard
on television and radio and in churches every week, are not the
gospel of Jesus Christ. A few of them are true because they are
taken from the Bible, such as "Jesus is coming again," but the gospel
is not about the second coming of Christ; it is about his first
coming to Earth 2,000 years ago.
What is the Gospel?
The word "gospel" means "good
news." The gospel of Jesus Christ is not about what you can do to
get into Heaven, not even about what God can do to change your life,
and certainly not about success, prosperity, health, or money. The
gospel is not advice about improving your own experience, raising
your self-esteem, or being good.
Jesus' disciples once made the mistake
of confusing the gospel with their personal religious experience,
and he tells them about it in Luke 10:
"After these things the Lord appointed
seventy others also, and sent them two by two before his face in
every city and place where He himself was about to go ... Then the
seventy returned with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the demons are subject
to us in Your name.'
"And He said to them, 'I saw Satan
fall like lightning from Heaven. Behold, I give you authority to
trample serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy,
and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice
in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice
because your names are written in Heaven."
These seventy men were chosen and
sent out by Jesus himself. The demons were subject to them. God
was doing wonderful things in their lives. Their evangelism was
a spectacular success. But Jesus solemnly commands them: "Do not
rejoice in this." Christ gave them a direct command not to rejoice
in their own experience, not because their personal experiences
were not cause for rejoicing, but because they were ignoring a far
more important fact, a fact that was not a part of their experience
at all: Their names were written in Heaven.
The disciples were focusing on their
own experience rather than on what God had done for them from all
eternity and what Christ was shortly going to do in carrying out
God's plan of salvation. Christ commanded them to rejoice in something
that they had never experienced, something that God had done wholly
outside of them before they were born. That is the good news; that
is the gospel.
Many so-called Christian books, essays,
television programs, and sermons today are little more than stories
about the wonderful experiences people are having. The football
players, the movie stars, the prominent lawyers, politicians, preachers,
and priests -- all tell their personal experiences and rejoice in
them. None of them tells the gospel. They use words like "feelings,"
"felt," "impression," "sensed," "excitement," "leadings," "emotions"
-- all centered on themselves and their experiences. But the gospel
of Jesus Christ has nothing of this self-centeredness and preoccupation
with personal experience in it.
The gospel of Jesus Christ does not
tell us to be spiritual navel watchers; it does not tell us to seek
emotional highs or to be guided by impressions or leadings. It does
not tell us to boast, except in what Christ has done on Calvary.
The Apostle Paul tells us what the gospel is in 1 Corinthians 15:
"Moreover, brethren, I declare to
you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received
and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold
fast that word which I preached to you (unless you believed in vain)
-- for I delivered to you first of all that which I also received:
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that
He was buried, and that He rose again the third day, according to
That is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In his letter to the Christians at
Rome, Paul explained the gospel further:
"By the deeds of the law no flesh
[no sinful human being] will be justified in his [God's] sight,
for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
"But now the righteousness of God
apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the
Prophets, even the righteousness of God which is through faith in
Christ Jesus to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference,
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified
freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
whom God set forth to be a propitiation [someone who appeases the
wrath of God] by his blood, through faith, to demonstrate His [God's]
"In forbearance God had passed over
the sins that were previously committed, in order to demonstrate
at the present time his righteousness, that He might be just and
the justifier to the one who has faith in Jesus ... Therefore we
conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of
Truth and History
In contrast to some false gospels being
preached today, the gospel is true, not legend or myth. Jesus Christ
was an actual figure in human history, as much as George Washington
or Abraham Lincoln. Some religious leaders say Christ was a myth or
a legend; he wasn't. He was born to a virgin, Mary, in the small town
of Bethlehem, 2,000 years ago. He lived about 33 years, was put to
death by the government, and rose from the dead three days later.
When he was whipped and crucified, his blood ran on the ground. Christ
is no myth.
The gospel concerns the past: It
is history. The gospel is the good news about what Christ did for
His people 2,000 years ago. He died for the sins of His people,
so that they would not have to die. Christ was buried, and on the
third day he walked out of His tomb alive.
All these events are wholly outside
of our experience. Just as all men are condemned by the disobedience
of our first farther Adam, a sin wholly outside of us, so are all
of God's people saved by the obedience of the second and innocent
Adam, Christ, an obedience and innocence which are wholly outside
The Bible teaches that salvation
has been achieved by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus
Christ -- by acts wholly outside of us. The gospel is not a subjective
experience but an objective truth.
The gospel is truth, not fiction.
The gospel is history, not personal experience. The gospel is what
Christ did for His people, not what they must do for Him. Sinners
can do nothing to merit or earn their salvation. They cannot even
prepare themselves for salvation, for they are dead in sin.
Certainty of Salvation
The gospel is good news because it is
the news that salvation is absolutely certain for God's people. It
is not merely possible salvation, not merely probable salvation, it
is certain salvation. Christ, in dying for His people, took the punishment
they deserve for their sins and actually achieved their salvation.
He did not merely open a door to Heaven that they might enter when
and if they please. He did not merely build a bridge across the gap
between sinful men and a perfectly holy God so that people might come
to God if they wished. He crossed the gap to take His people back
to Heaven with Him. When He said, "It is finished," he meant it. The
death of Christ actually accomplished the complete salvation of His
people. They can do nothing to deserve salvation, and they can contribute
nothing toward their salvation.
- The nineteenth-century hymn writer said it well:
- Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul.
- Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
- Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God.
- Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful
- Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin.
- Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
- Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord, to thee
- Can rid me of this dark unrest and set my spirit free.
- I praise the God of grace; I trust His truth and might.
- He calls me His; I call Him mine, my God, my joy, my light.
- 'Tis He who saveth me, and freely pardon gives.
- I love because He first loved me; I live because He lives.
Nothing we can do -- no prayers, no good works, no sorrow -- can save
us from the punishment we deserve for our sins. Nothing that happens
to us or in us can save us. Our salvation from sin and from everlasting
punishment in Hell comes from Christ alone. It is not the Holy Spirit's
work in us that saves us, but Christ's work for us, when He lived
a perfect life and died an innocent death 2,000 years ago in Israel.
Of His people and their salvation Christ said: "My sheep hear My
voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them eternal
life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them
out of My hand." Christ gives His people eternal life by giving
them faith: "If you confess with your month the Lord Jesus and believe
in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be
saved." He makes them believe the gospel: "Christ died for our sins."
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting
That is the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no other way to be
saved. Believe the good news about the Lord Jesus Christ today.