What Is the True Gospel?


And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

~ Mt 28:18-20

In this section, often called the “Great Commission”, Jesus commanded His disciples to “teach all nations”.  Teach them what exactly?  You would think that this would be a self-evident question, but you might be surprised at what some may give as an answer!

Just what did Jesus teach them for 3-1/2 years?

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

4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

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

~ Mk 1:1, 4, 15

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

16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

~ Mk 16:15-16

So, Jesus wanted them to teach the Gospel! He preached the Gospel and made disciples of them, so now it was their turn to preach the Gospel and make disciples.

Which begs the question: “What is the Gospel?”

What Many Say the Gospel Is

In Christianity, the good news or evangelium (also translated as ‘gospel‘, ‘glad tidings’ and variants) is the message of Jesus, the Christ (the Messiah), specifically his atoning death on the cross and resurrection, the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as ‘helper’ (paraclete), and the resulting promise and hope of salvation for the faithful.

~ Good news (Christianity). (n.d.). Retrieved 9 July 2009 from Wikipedia:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_news_(Christianity).

The gospel is the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that provides full and free deliverance from the power and penalty of sin according to the grace of God alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

~ McKenzie, Rolaant L. (n.d.). What Is the Gospel? Retrieved 9 July 2009 from http://www.gospeloutreach.net/gospel.html.

To put it all together, many believe the Gospel is that Jesus came as a man to die on the cross for our sins, thus providing salvation for mankind. Some will go on to say that you must “accept Him into your heart” or some such wording, and then you will be “saved”. If they are truly astute, they might even mention repentance and baptism, but most don’t even get that far.

What Did Herbert W Armstrong Say the Gospel Is?

What is the one and only gospel of Jesus Christ? THE WORLD DOES NOT KNOW! It has not been preached for 19 centuries, strange as that may seem. Look into your BIBLE. Look at it from the very beginning!

‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ’ you’ll read in Mark 1:1. ‘Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel’ (Mark 1:14-15). It is necessary to believe that GOSPEL to be saved! And how can you believe it, unless you know what it is? And for 1,900 years, the world did not know. That gospel was suppressed and replaced by man’s gospel about Christ.

~ Armstrong, Herbert W. Chapter 7: Mystery of the Kingdom of God. Mystery of the Ages. Available from http://reluctant-messenger.com/HWA/Mystery/Chapter7.html#CHRIST%27S.

Herbert W Armstrong (HWA) taught that the Gospel was about the Kingdom of God. He saw that Jesus preached about the Kingdom of God. He read that Jesus told people to believe the Gospel, the Good News, about the coming Kingdom of God. He saw that very few were teaching about a literal Kingdom in his day, so he came to the conclusion that the others were a false gospel.

So, that settles it, right? Well, let’s not be so quick to throw the baby out with the bath water.

What Does the Bible Say the Gospel Is?

Let’s notice something Paul wrote:

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

2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

~ 1Co 15:1-4

Many Protestants would point at this and say, “See! There’s the Gospel!” They would then close their Bible and walk away. Unfortunately, they haven’t heard the rest of the story.

50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

~ v 50

Friends, can knowledge of the Kingdom of God save you?  We cannot be saved without this knowledge!  Paul says we are “saved” by the “Gospel”!  Then, notice the items Paul lists:

  1. Christ died for our sins.
  2. Christ was dead and buried.
  3. Christ rose again the third day.

This brings up an important point:  Is the Good News just that Christ is building a Kingdom?  Is the Good News only that it will be established on the earth?  No!  The really, really Good News is that we can be in the Kingdom!

What saves us is Christ!  He died for our sins so we can be in the Kingdom!  That’s the Good News!

The rest is the means to an end.

Let’s compare this to what John the Baptizer taught:

4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

~ Mk 1:4

What does the Great Commission say?

19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

~ Mt 28:19

46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:

47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

48 And ye are witnesses of these things.

~ Lk 24:46-48

Yes, part of the Gospel is repentance and baptism.  Christ died to justify us.  We realize we are sinners and repent and are baptized.

Why?  What’s the point?

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

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

~ Mk 1:14-15

So, yes, there is more to it than just “getting right with God”!

The problem is that traditional Protestantism has only told half of the story.  Yet, we cannot make it into the Kingdom of God without Christ dying for our sins.

What Is the Gospel of Peace?

There is no doubt that mankind has a problem with peace.  War tears nations apart, causes famine and disease epidemics on top of the death involved with the soldiers themselves.

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

~ Ep 6:15

We are called to peace (1Co 7:15).  We know the meek will inherit the earth (Ps 37:11Mt 5:5).

However, should we mistake these verses for the Gospel itself?  No, we should not.  It is a matter of cause and effect.

Firstly, those who are converted are more likely to know personal peace in their lives because they are living in the manner that God intended.  They will be humble, gentle and loving servants of God.

I should caution you, though, that this is no guarantee.  Jesus also promised His followers would suffer persecution.

Second, in spite of any lack of peace in this world or in this life, when Christ sets up His Kingdom, people everywhere will follow God’s Law.  Christ will come, in fact, to stop the carnage of war and other evils occurring during the time leading up to His return.  He will enforce peace with a rod of iron if necessary (Rev 2:27).

There are different aspects to the Gospel of the Kingdom, but these should not be confused with the Gospel of the Kingdom itself!  The Good News is that you and I can partake in the Kingdom!

The Church of God has always taught that what is normally presented as the Gospel is only part of the Gospel.  Forgiveness of sins, overcoming sin, living abundant and gracious lives, loving our neighbors as ourselves, being in peace with others, and more, are all well and good, but the fact is that it takes God to solve many of mankind’s worse ills.  Mankind cannot and will not solve any of these major problems.  He does not have it within himself.

The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.

~ Isa 59:8

Yes, it is a Gospel that contains a message of peace.  However, it also contains a message of healing, of love, of kindness and of harmony with each other and our environment.  However, all those things will require the Kingdom.  All those are effects of being in harmony with God and His will.  Unfortunately, the world is not in harmony with God and His will, and in fact many do not even acknowledge the true God of the universe.

Still, like the Fruits of the Spirit, we Christians who are called in this age must endeavor to whenever possible live at peace with others, just as we must strive to be honest, fair, full of conviction and be loving.

What Do the Larger COG Groups Teach?

It seems that from time to time, someone has to make a bunch of claims that so-and-so group isn’t preaching the Gospel or they are focusing on something different. Well, let’s look at some of their websites and see what they say the Gospel is and what they are doing.

PCG

Jesus of Nazareth … proclaimed the gospel: the good news of the future establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth (Mark 1:14-15), which will be made up of the family of God, administering the government of God, based upon God’s law.

~ Philadelphia Church of God. (n.d.).  Church Doctrines.  Retrieved 9 July 2009.

Not surprisingly, PCG adds in “government” to the mix, but what is a Kingdom but a form of government?  Obviously, PCG also has a focus on the family of God.

UCG

We trace our origins to the Church that Jesus founded in the early first century. We follow the same teachings, doctrines and practices established then. Our commission is to proclaim the gospel of the coming Kingdom of God to all the world as a witness and teach all nations to observe what Christ commanded (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20).

…The mission of the United Church of God is to proclaim to the world the little-understood gospel taught by Jesus Christ-the good news of the coming Kingdom of God-and to prepare a people for that Kingdom. This message not only offers great hope for all of humanity, but encompasses the purpose of human existence-why we are here and where our world is headed.

~ United Church of God, an International Association. (n.d.). Fundamental Beliefs of the United Church of God. Retrieved 10 July 2009.

UCG doesn’t focus on government, but instead on “preparing a people”.  Since Christ said to “make disciples”, it takes more than just dunking someone under water and telling them to have a nice day.  Their statement also mentions keeping Christ’s commandments, something that is undoubtedly influenced by the changes in WCG doctrine.

LCG

The Gospel of Christ is the ‘Good News’ of the forgiveness of our sins through Christ’s sacrifice, and of the soon-coming Kingdom and government of God. Christ’s Gospel of the Kingdom of God reveals the means by which we are to be qualified by God to be ruling members of His Kingdom (Acts 2:38-39; Mark 1:14-15; Matthew 24:14; Acts 8:12; 17:7; 28:30-31; Revelation 2:26-27).

~ Living Church of God. (n.d.).  “Official Statement of Fundamental Beliefs”.  Retrieved 9 July 2009.

There’s no doubt they are teaching about the Kingdom.  Also note the completeness of the description.  Not only do they preach the Kingdom, but they emphasize the means of getting there.  We also see “government” mentioned in this one.

COGWA

The Church of God is a spiritual body composed of believers who have and are being led by the Holy Spirit. The Church is not a denomination, a human organization or a building but the people God is working with in any age. The biblical name of this church is the “Church of God.” Its mission is to preach the gospel of the coming Kingdom of God to all nations and to make disciples of all who respond to God’s calling, assisting them in their spiritual development and reconciliation to God.

~ Church of God, a Worldwide Association. (n.d.).  Fundamental Beliefs.  Retrieved 26 February 2013.

Since COGWA formed out of UCG, it should not be surprising that they both have an emphasis upon discipleship.  We still, however, see that the Gospel is about “the coming Kingdom of God”!

All of Them Teach “The Kingdom”

So, it appears that two of them have a focus on government, one has a focus on the family of God, one has a focus on forgiveness of sins, one states we must keep Christ’s commandments and two have a focus on discipleship, aka “preparing a people”.  All state they preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God!

Where are these “large” and substantial differences, at least in this regard?  I submit to you that they only exist in the minds of those who make mountains out of molehills.

Can any of these organizations truly state that they alone are preaching the true Gospel?  Since all four claim to be preaching the “Kingdom of God”, I submit to you that none can make that claim.

The Laodicean Attitude

I submit to you that those who are judgmental of other COG organizations need to tread carefully.  “Laodicea” means “judgment of the people”, which is different than God’s judgments.  People are judgmental out of hypocrisy.  God is above that intellectually, emotionally and morally.

8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lordshall be thy reward.

9 Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;

~ Isa 58:8-9

Those who would criticize and state that other groups are not proclaiming the Gospel need to first pull the plank out of their own eye!

5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

~ Mt 7:5 (NIV)