The REAL Gospel
(Update November 20, 2012: I have a new FREE audio teaching series available in MP3 format entitled, The Fundamentals of the REAL Gospel, which goes into many of the topics covered within this 2008 article — but with more clarity and in more depth. It also contains many crucial teachings on related sbujects as well. You can download this MP3 series for free by clicking here.)
Apostle Paul stated that those who deviate from the true Gospel he preached will be damned. (Ouch!) Of course, some modern translations use the word “condemned” instead of “damned.” Nevertheless, regardless of the choice of words the effect is the same (and it isn’t fun). Thus, shouldn’t we want to know what that TRUE Gospel really is…and what it is NOT?
Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead…
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:1, 6-10, NIV)
Wow! What a strong admonition from the esteemed apostle to the Gentiles. Paul warns the church at Galatia that there is a true Gospel message…and then there are perverted fakes. The word “gospel” is actually a Greek word transliterated (vs. translated), which simply means “good news.” Paul’s bold word to the Galatian church declared unequivocally that a “different” good news is not really good news at all. (And since it will even send the preacher himself to Hell, I can certainly see why it is NOT good news for the hearer either!)
One must assume that Paul must have been regularly running across perversions of the true Gospel message during his missionary journeys. Some were even preaching “a different Jesus” altogether (2 Corinthians 11:2-4)—much like the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other pseudo-Christian cults do today, who have both a “different Jesus” and a “different gospel” from that which Paul preached (but more on these, perhaps, in another blog article).
Others were may have thought they preached the “same Jesus,” but they twisted some of the key core elements of the Gospel message itself. Whatever the case, this former “destroyer of the church” who met Jesus Himself on the road to Damascus, had no small word of condemnation for gospel-perverts—even if they were once “on track” with the true Gospel message previously. (Did you notice that Paul even said, “if we or an angel” preaches “another” gospel, let him be eternally condemned? Nobody gets a “free pass” to change what God has already Himself established.)
So the simple question comes to mind: What is the Gospel Paul preached? If deviating from his message can bring damnation even to “any man or angel,” then shouldn’t we make sure that our Gospel message is pure? As a Christian minister myself, I am very keen on ensuring that my “Good News” message is acceptable in the Lord’s sight. (I really don’t like that “damnation” stuff. It does not make for a joyful eternity. Know what I mean?)
There are various issues we could discuss here, and many other Christian ministers have faithfully directed their attention to dissecting many of these. However, there is a VERY KEY element of Paul’s Gospel that it seems is often overlooked—yea, even ignored—in many Christian circles. Yet, it was not only an inseparable element in all of Paul’s salvation sermons as recorded in the book of Acts, it was also a distinct and prominent element in EVERY one of the apostle’s recorded sermons in that same book written by Luke. That element of the Gospel is summed up nicely by Paul’s discourse to King Agrippa in Acts chapter 26:
So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. (Acts 26:19-20, NIV)
Three key elements found in every one of the apostles’ sermons as recorded in Scripture:
- Repent (i.e. Turn 180° around and do the opposite of what you were doing.)
- Turn to God (i.e. Not to “religion”… and definitely not “pop psychology.” Run to the One Who bought you with His Own Blood through prayer and by studying His Word.)
- Prove repentance by deeds (i.e. True repentance is evidenced by actual “good works” that confirm the Lord’s forgiving grace working in your life.)
Paul also confirmed that these three elements were KEY to his (and every) Gospel message in a few of the letters he wrote to the churches of his day. For example:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV, emphasis added)
(Note: Good works cannot save you. BUT, good works are one of the necessary elements that prove you are truly a Christian—and that you have actually repented.)
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin….In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.(Romans 6:1-7, 11-14, NIV, emphasis added)
Paul seems to have gotten “really into” this repentance thing. However, it was not Paul that originated the message of repentance within the Gospel he preached, for Jesus Himself explained to His disciples after His resurrection:
Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high. (Luke 24: 46-49, NKJV, emphasis added)
Notice the relationship in the passage above: Repentance and then remission (i.e. forgiveness) of sins. If there is no repentance, then there can be no forgiveness. Consequently, the person so fails to tell the sinner that he or she needs to repent of their sin, is not really preaching them the true Gospel as Paul did. The “feel good gospel” often preached today is perverted. Whenever someone only tells unbelievers that Jesus “loves them” and wants to “bless them” without also telling them their need to repent, all the Christian is doing is essentially inviting the unbeliever to “add” Jesus to their list of idols.
(Too Many gods, Too Little Grace)
I have talked with missionaries from around the world. One interesting thing they have noticed in places like India and elsewhere where bona fide pagan idolatry is practiced openly is that often they will come across someone who added a cross or crucifix among their idols. When asked about it, the idolater will typically answer, “Oh, a man came and told me about this Jesus who loved me and died for my sins…and who wants to bless me and heal me. I thought, ‘He is so nice. I’ll add Him to my collection of gods.'” In other words, whenever an idolater is not told he needs to repent of his idolatry, he or she simply adds Jesus to their “deity collection.” Do you think this ‘Kosher’ with God? Uh, NO!
(Can anybody remember the first of the Ten Commandments? “Thou shalt have no other gods besides me!“)
In today’s Western societies idolatry has taken on a more palatable appearance, of course, but is evident none the less. Paul wrote that “covetousness is idolatry” and nobody will argue that covetousness is not extremely prevalent in the West. Thus, even in the United States, the Americas, and the European nations, many of the people being “won to Christ” have never actually repented of their sins and idolatry. Thus, such people were never really saved—and the “fruit” of their lives from that point on typically reveals that fact. But, as we’ll see shortly, Paul never hesitated to tell the Gentile pagans that their gods were worthless idols, and that they needed to repent and turn to the only true and living God through Jesus. Likewise, we surely need to do so today too.
So… this “repentance” stuff is actually God’s idea…
(Where’s the Beef?)
Well, you may have noticed that this idea of repentance seems to be missing from many pulpits…and from just about ALL so-called “Christian” television programming. In this day where a minister can dump one spouse to pick up a newer model, and then appear the next day on television to “preach”…repentance seems to be long forgotten, and certainly not preached. (I would not want to be in that person’s shoes when the day comes to give an account. Remember that “damnation” stuff Paul talked about before?)
What about a case where a man is a member of a satanic cult, but claims also to be a Christian—and even an “apostle”—and then says that he is an active member of the cult just so he can “evangelize” the other members? Can such a one, who has not himself repented of the sin of satanism (which the Skull and Bones order Dan Stratton is a member of practices), then be expected that he preaches a true Gospel of repentance to his fellow “bonesman” members? (I think I have said this before…) Uh, NO!
Whatever Dan Stratton “preaches” to that group is certainly not in harmony with the message Paul preached. Such a man qualifies as a bona fide “false brother” and “false apostle.” He can certainly expect the damnation Paul warned about…unless he repents. (Note: If you haven’t heard about Stratton, see my blog Comments on “Bonesman” Stratton for more particulars.)
Or what about Joel Osteen, who diverges greatly from the unbiblical “feel good gospel” message preached by his own father (John Osteen), who at least said that Jesus is the ONLY way to be saved. In contrast, Joel actually refused to steadfastly proclaim that Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life…nobody can come to the Father but by Him” on Larry King Live—even when the man asked him!
Sure, Joel did state “that’s what I believe,” but he also worked hard to avoid saying that other religions (including Atheism!) cannot gain access to Heaven for a person. Now, don’t take my word for it. Watch the clip by clicking on the following video embed, and ask yourself “Is he really ‘Evangelism’s Rising Star’ as the CNN graphics proclaims that he is? Or is he merely another ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ as Jesus warned us about in Matthew 7:13-23?” :
(Note: If the video displays an error, or fails to load properly after a few moments, please refresh your browser and try it again.)
Now, at first glance, Joel’s position seems to be, non-judgmental, religiously polite—and certainly not very confrontational. But is this a presentation of the true Gospel? Are we supposed to try not to offend anyone? Let’s compare Joel Osteen’s words in the video above with those recorded of Paul when he confronted men of other religions in his day:
Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them. (Acts 17:16-34, NKJV, emphasis added)
Notice: Paul was “provoked” in his spirit when he saw the idolatry surrounding him in Athens. Therefore, he “reasoned daily” with the Jews in the Synagogue, and with the Gentile worshipers in the marketplaces.
What did he tell them, however? Did he speak like Joel Osteen and say, “Well, this is what I believe…and you all can believe what you want to. Who am I to judge a man’s heart? I don’t know which of you are going to Heaven or Hell…Gosh…I just don’t know…” Uh, NO! (I know…but that two-word phrase just seems to beg repeating here.)
Mark this point: Seeker-sensitive ministers and messages are pure heresy, for they certainly not in line with the Gospel Paul preached.
Paul KNEW Him in Whom He believed! Paul had conviction. Paul knew where those people were going (HELL!), and wanted to save them from eternal torment. He did not mince words, he did not sugar-coat the truth. He told them quite frankly, “Those gods you serve are worthless idols, and the One True God not only loves you and wants you to know Him… He has also commanded you to repent!” (Here is that “repentance” theme again…)
However, Joel Osteen (and those like him) is apparently very confused, and extremely ignorant of Bible truth. Many Bible-believing Christians consider it apparent that either Joel’s father (John, who was a true soul-winner) failed to properly teach his son, or the son failed to listen when he did—or that at some point Joel compromised his faith by embracing foreign spiritual influences such as Freemasonry or the Council on Foreign Relations. (Which, frankly, too many “big-name” ministers in the United States already have.)
Regardless, Joel Osteen seems to clearly be in contradiction to the “Gospel which Paul preached” (and the video above is not the only one on YouTube that proves it). Thus, he can apparently expect that “damnation” Paul warned about in our opening Scripture. (Hey, I did not write that! Blame Paul!) This qualifies Joel Osteen as a bona fide “apostate” (one who has departed from the truth). Again, biblical repentance is Joel’s only hope.
Let me be quite clear where I stand: God has chosen for Himself one and only “path” to come to Him… and it is the ONLY way that offers forgiveness of sins and satisfies the judgment our sins had coming due to us. His sinless Son, Jesus, died on the cross for the sins of the world, and was bodily raised again from the dead three days later. He shortly thereafter ascended to sit at the Right Hand of God in Heaven to await the Day when He would return, at His Father’s command, and establish His Kingdom physically upon the earth. It is this same Jesus (Yeshua, in Hebrew) who will judge “the quick and the dead” at His return. Yet, through the Gospel of repentance, anyone can turn away from their sins and old way of life, receive forgiveness, and become a “new creation” in Christ Jesus. Jesus is surely the ONLY way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father but by Him… and by Him alone! And repentance is a necessary element to receiving God’s forgiveness and saving grace.
Action Point: Abandon your ‘gods’ of self-will, covetousness, sin, and if applicable, pagan idolatry. Repent of your sins, and turn to God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ (Yeshua, the Messiah). Ask Him to forgive you, wash you in His Blood, and give you a new life. Make Him your LORD (i.e. God, Top Boss, Commander-in-Chief, etc.), and give Him your full and undivided loyalty. Use your own words, right now, and pray to Him your own simple prayer from your heart. Then, through your repentance and turning to God, you will now be able to prove your repentance by good works through His own Spirit and empowering grace. Then, go and tell someone else how to do it too.
For more detailed information about how to be saved, please review The Supreme Value of Righteousness here on this website. Therein, I will have a chat with you, as if we were face to face having a warm conversation over a cup of coffee (or tea) about the welfare of your soul. I believe it will bless you.
Blessings to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with a sincere faith.