Apostasy in the Church Part 8

The True Gospel

By Jim Allen

Les Feldick is a beloved television Bible teacher from Oklahoma, often telling his study class to turn to 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 for Paul's definition of the true gospel:
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel...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 the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.
After thinking about Les' explanation and about these verses in particular, he is correct but these verses only bring forward a "general truth" about the gospel and not the "entirety" of the gospel.

While the four gospels point forward to the cross, Paul's gospel points backward to the cross and explains why he calls it his gospel. While the "general theme" of the gospel is found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5, the "heartbeat of the true gospel" resounds from Genesis to Revelation.

It would appear the larger problem for some evangelicals is the tendency to pitch their "tent of understanding" about the gospel on a group of verses without taking into account the deeper truths embedded within those verses. I know it's easy to do because I've done it. It would appear Les believes any Bible doctrine, such as repentance, failing to align itself with the general definition of the gospel as scripted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 is in error and rightly put aside or glossed over as inconsequential and never taught.

As a case-in-point, while both John the Baptist and Jesus said "repent and believe," Feldick says the apostle Paul never taught repentance as a prerequisite to salvation, but as a result of salvation. According to 2 Corinthians 7:9-10, the apostle Paul spoke clearly about repentance preceding salvation; it is a verse that dovetails perfectly into the four gospels. Just to be clear, Paul said that "repentance" is the first step leading to salvation wherein he wrote: "Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For godly sorrow worketh repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted..." (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).

In flow with the preceding paragraph, evangelicals encountering conflicting doctrine appear to have what some Bible commentators identify as "cognitive dissonance," which is a fancy way of describing the attempt to bring into balance what appear to be two opposing truths. Theories about cognitive dissonance suggest, generally, that people resolve "conflicting ideas" by changing their mind about which of the two dissonant doctrines is correct.

They reason that both views on the same matter cannot possibly be true and reconcile the difference by dismissing one truth over the other, resulting in confusion and further division in the church. The doctrine of "repent and believe" is that both truths are different sides of the same coin, unique in meaning and different in purpose.

As an example of cognitive dissonance, post 7 of 8 in this series exposed evangelicals who readily dismiss any doctrine not supporting their view of the gospel. These evangelicals talk about believing the gospel but never about human wickedness, the need for recognizing one’s fallen condition, and need for salvation. Why? Because in their minds these doctrines conflict with their watered down, all-positive approach to the gospel. If you think about it, how can we ever come to comprehend the good news of the gospel unless we first come to accept the bad news? The entire eight-part series on Apostasy in the Church is, at best, a snapshot of how pastors, authors, and teachers have taken the gospel of Jesus Christ in directions never intended by the Lord of Glory.

This post is the launching pad for my next series of posts on the true gospel of Jesus Christ that goes beyond 1 Corinthians 15:1-5. Within the new series, the Keep Watch blog will focus on the deeper truths resident within the basic precepts of the true gospel while keeping watch for troublesome doctrines that lead to apostasy and mayhem in the church.

The true Gospel is a message of redemption found in the writings of the Bible, the inspired and infallible word of God written by human authors under inspiration from the Holy Spirit (Matthew 5:18; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; and 2 Peter 1:21). From Genesis to Revelation, the true Gospel is a message about the unfathomable grace and mercy of God poured out upon depraved humanity. The "true Gospel" message begins in Genesis 3 with the promise that the Savior would come at the appointed time to redeem humanity. The "true Gospel" message ends in Revelation when believers, redeemed from all nations and tribes, see their names written in the Lamb's Book of Life (Revelation 21:27).

The true Gospel reveals God to be Creator of all, one in being and yet revealed as three distinct persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Deuteronomy 6:4; Colossians 1:16; and 2 Corinthians 13:14). While God is eternal, infinite, and sovereign, he is also omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. God is everlasting and unchanging. God is holy, just, and righteous and extends grace, mercy and goodness to all humanity. God lives in unapproachable light with unimaginable power. He is able to cast forth the universe with a single word and yet able to heal a broken heart with a single touch. While God is immeasurably good and graciously forgiving, he is also just and will pour out his wrath on the unrepentant (Romans 1: 18-23).

The true Gospel reveals Jesus as God personified in human form, the visual and spiritual image of the Father, who without ceasing to be God, came to save us (Matthew 1:21; John 1:18; Colossians 1:15). Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin Mary, having the power to live a perfect and sinless life. Jesus' teachings are true (Isaiah 14; Matthew 1:23) and his ministry both anointed and divine. Jesus came to die a death like no other, to shed His blood on the cross for us as a substitutionary sacrifice (1 John 2:2; Isaiah 53:5-6). The true Gospel reveals that His death provides salvation for all who receive Him by faith as Savior (John 1:12; Acts 16:31); that our justification is grounded in the shedding of His blood (Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:17); that God resurrected Jesus "physically" from the dead (Matthew 28:6; 1 Peter 1:3); and, that he ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father as our High Priest and our Advocate (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).

The true Gospel reveals that God created man in the likeness of Himself (Genesis 1:26-27) and that our relationship with God was broken by sin. By Adam's unfaithfulness, spiritual death came upon all humankind with the exception of Jesus, who was born of a Virgin. The true Gospel reveals that sin is exceedingly offensive to God (Romans 6:23) and that humanity is utterly unable to undo their depraved, fallen state, making them helpless to save themselves (Ephesians 2:1-5, 12). As such, God gave His law to show you and me how sinful we are apart from Him (Romans 5:20)

The true Gospel reveals salvation is a gift from God given to those who, by faith, believe the true Gospel (Ephesians 2:8-9). Christ died in our place (Romans 5:8-9) and bore our sins in His own body (1 Peter 2:24). Christ's death fully accomplished justification through faith and redemption from sin. Moreover, the Gospel reveals the importance of persisting in truth until born again, being set free from the power of sin (John 8:31). A true believer reveals Christ "inwardly" by the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23) and "outwardly" as gifts of the Spirit (Romans 12). Good works and obedience are results of salvation and never preconditions for salvation. In view of the greatness, adequacy, and perfection of Christ's sacrifice, all those who have truly received Christ as Savior are born again and eternally secure in salvation, kept by God's power, secured and sealed in Christ forever (John 6:37-40; 10:27-30; Romans 8:1, 38-39; Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:5; Jude 24). Just as salvation cannot be earned by good works, neither can good works maintain or sustain salvation. Changed lives, obedience to the Spirit, and good works are the natural outcomes from genuine salvations.

The reality and power of the true Gospel is evident in those who undergo transformation from sinner to saint, becoming living epistles to be read of all men (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). Ironically though, the only epistle most people will ever read in this world gone mad is the one that walks before them who is Christ, abiding in you and me (2 Corinthians 13:5). Indeed, this is the good news of the true Gospel!

Published 10-17-11