You may wonder why we’ve written an article with this provocative title – after all, the gospel message is very straight-forward isn’t it? We feel there is a problem though – that the gospel message is distorted in many churches which can jeopardise the salvation of those who follow these teachings. We are living in days where deception has crept in the church and this trend is noticeable in many mainstream denominations, as described in our Are we living in the end-times? article – the discerning seeker of the gospel of Jesus needs to be on guard. So, what is the true gospel? Due to the eternal consequences that hinge on this question, it needs to be addressed!
The New Testament warns the gospel of Jesus Christ was quickly perverted in the earliest days of the church and we can be certain that deception will continue to feature, climaxing with the return of Christ:
This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. (Galatians 2:4-5 NIV)
Here, Paul states that he did not compromise in any way with false teaching in order that the “truth of the gospel” might be preserved. The church needs to be on guard against similar attacks today and we fear that the church is often half-asleep and not grounded sufficiently in the truth of Christ to withstand this subtle (and not so subtle!) deception.
The Bible teaches that the gospel message will save a person from an eternity in hell if it is accepted on an individual basis. If the message delivered is a different gospel – it cannot save. It is shocking and tragic to find significant parts of the mainstream church redefining the gospel message, very often in the form of a “social” gospel or a “works-based” message. It is sadly ironic that people, going to church hungry to find salvation and an eternity in heaven, are instead are given a distorted gospel that could rob them of that promise.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in 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 them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! (Galatians 1:6-9 NIV)
You would imagine that an individual could go to any mainstream church for the Sunday service and come away knowing how to find salvation in Christ through repentance, or at the very least know that Jesus Christ is pivotal to everything Christian. Instead, the message can often be a confusing variation of the truth – a watered-down version. Church leaders must present their congregations with Jesus’ uncompromising message and lovingly prompt a response to this. Instead, the church can become a place where entertainment is top of the agenda and the “offensive” or “unpopular” parts of the gospel message are diluted or removed altogether. Jesus was not very “seeker-sensitive” and the message was clear – however, Jesus was able to deliver the uncompromising message with sincere love and compassion. Compassion does not dilute the message, it is truthful.
It is quite astounding that it is now difficult to find a church where the clear message of salvation is taught and preached regularly – where the Bible is taken at face value and treated seriously.
Scripture clearly warns about this situation:
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them–bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. (2 Peter 2:1-3 NIV, emphasis added)
Here, Peter is talking about the situation in the last days and warning that the “way of truth” shall be corrupted and that this will happen INSIDE the church! The motivation by the teachers doing this will be covetousness and greed. We believe there are obvious signs of this across the spectrum of Christendom.
Concept of God
The concept of God as our Sovereign Ruler can be distorted with teachings that imply he needs our help to accomplish his purposes with humanity and that he has somehow lost control of the world. This often comes in the form of “Kingdom Now” theology and gives the impression that the church has a hand in ushering in world peace and setting the stage for Christ’s return. With this view, the church sees it’s objective as “Christianising” the world and winning it back for God through politics, government institutions, environmental issues, etc. Jesus Christ warned that the opposite would be the case before His return and implored believers to be on guard against deception within the church, particularly in the last days. Jesus warned in the Olivet discourse, Revelation and many other passages that the world would get worse and worse and that Jesus Christ Himself would return to put things right, not the church.
God can be described as having many attributes including the following:
- Omnipresent – God is present everywhere at all times (Isaiah 57:15; Psalm 33:13-14) (What does it mean that God is omnipresent?)
- Omnipotent – God is all powerful, over all things, in all ways (Job 42:2; Psalm 33:6) (What does it mean that God is omnipotent?)
- Omniscient – God is all-knowing, He knows everything (1 John 3:20) (What does it mean that God is omniscient?)
God is not dependent on our action to accomplish His purposes:
And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. (Acts 17:25 NIV)
It is true that God delights in our worship and obedience – furthermore, God does use his followers in the outworking of his plan. However, does not pace anxiously up and down the throneroom in heaven worrying about whether the church with Christianise the world – it won’t. God is in control and the focus of the church should be the glory of God:
Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. (Psalm 115:3 NIV)
Any church/ministry that promotes the idea that God “needs” man is in danger of elevating man’s status and reducing God’s – instead, we must make God bigger and ourselves smaller! God does have a purpose for humanity that is revealed throughout Scripture and he has not lost control:
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Who can fathom the Spirit of the LORD, or instruct the LORD as his counsellor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding? Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust. Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires, nor its animals enough for burnt offerings. Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing. With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken him? (Isaiah 40:12-18 NIV)
It is very dangerous to understate God’s sovereignty. God is not needy and reliant of us and nothing we do can alter the path that has been ordained. We must return to the Godly reverence and fear that is revealed within the pages of the Bible. One day, every human being will appear before God – we will not be able to bargain or “sweet-talk” our way around him. This judgment will be carried out on HIS terms – not ours. It is therefore vital we understand the gospel message as delivered from God through Jesus Christ and not reinvent a gospel that may be more appealing to us, but it powerless to save.
A different Jesus
Christianity is usually referred to as a religion, which is true in a sense, but with a crucial difference – it is centred on a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, rather than just a structured set of beliefs. Unlike other religious systems that can still work without their founders, a Christianity without a living relationship with Jesus Christ causes salvation to become impossible. Christianity is the ONLY religious system where God comes to us – every other system requires us to earn our way to God.
A glance at a phone directory we would reveal many people with the same name but we obviously know that these are different people. This works the same way for Jesus Christ. Many religions, cults, churches use the name of Jesus, but we have redefined him, a different person is being followed – it is not the real Jesus!
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God, part of a “tri-unity” in the Godhead consisting of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately, many churches are preaching a different Jesus. Tragically, it appears that many in the end-times will expect to be saved because they believe they “believe” in Jesus – however,
the only way to be saved is for Jesus to know you! This is a critical distinction – it is bewildering to see many church leaders only focusing on “knowing Jesus”. When we meet the Lord Jesus face-to-face, claiming to know him is not enough – surely it is only fair of him to permit us access into heaven if he knows you. You wouldn’t permit someone into your house without knowing them, would you?! To be sure of your salvation, do you know the true and living Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures? Never trust someone else’s interpretation of the Scriptures (that includes ours!). Read the Bible for yourself and never trust anyone who says special help is needed to understand it. Be sure you trust Jesus Christ alone for your salvation and that your understanding of the gospel has not been distorted by church history, tradition or ritual. We are not called to be followers of the church – we are called to be followers of a person!
The Gospel is hostile!
The gospel message is certainly good news but the true gospel is also a hostile and offensive message to many people. The gospel message tells us to repent and change our lives to live for Christ. It says that if we are not born again through faith in Jesus Christ then we will be going to hell:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)
Jesus delivered a very clear message during His ministry which he did not compromise for anyone! Nowadays it is rare to find the true gospel message preached. Hell is often no longer mentioned, even though Jesus often warned of it as a destination for the unsaved. Repentance no longer seems necessary, even though Jesus was at pains to stress that repentance underpins salvation. Churches even teach that salvation is not based solely on God’s grace, but that it can be earned or that we are somehow doing God a favour by professing faith in Him! We discuss this deception in our Are we living in the end-times? article.
Those who dilute the gospel message are often desperate not to offend anyone and are motivated by good intentions. Jesus Christ repeatedly stressed that His message would be difficult to accept for mankind and that those who choose to follow Him will suffer persecution. A failure to trust in the Jesus Christ of the Scriptures can have catastrophic consequences, as many will falsely believe they are saved when they are not. What makes this even more dangerous is that they are then “inoculated” against the true gospel if they do hear it as they think they are already saved anyway! It appears that on the last day, there will be those who believed they knew Jesus Christ and will be knocking on the doors of heaven expecting to be allowed in, but will be refused entry:
Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ (Matthew 25:11-12 NIV)
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV)
These two passages (and many others) provide a very serious warning to test our understanding of the gospel against the gospel message taught by Jesus Christ. It is NOT us knowing Jesus that saves us – it is Jesus knowing US that saves us! This is a vital distinction and one that often gets blurred in gospel delivery. Our acceptance into heaven will be on God’s terms – not ours.
Saved through grace!
We are saved solely by faith – salvation is not something we need to keep working for:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– (Ephesians 2:8 NIV)
Christ’s work on the cross was once and for all – we can add nothing to this. Our sins, past, present, and future are forgiven, all we need to do is confess and believe in Jesus Christ:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10 NIV)
This is the way to enter the kingdom of God – Jesus described this as being “born again”:
Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’ (John 3:3 NIV)
It would not be a gift from God if we need to keep working for it. Our salvation will lead to good works – however, it is not the good works that save us – they are just a result of our salvation!
The decision you make about the response to Jesus Christ will be the most important in your lifetime. We have all the evidence we need in the Bible given to us by eye-witnesses of the risen Christ. Jesus Christ lived a unique life where he performed an array of miracles, was sinless and rose from the dead. No other person in history can come close to these claims. Jesus Christ could not have done any more to display His message was authentic – will you take Him at His Word or will you choose a different path and risk a terrible mistake? See the How To Be Saved for a clear salvation message.